The Tarkine, covering nearly a million acres in northwest Tasmania, was named after the Tarkiner band of Aboriginal people who once roved here. It’s Tasmania’s largest unprotected wilderness area – stretching from the wild west coast to Murchison Highway in the east and from the Arthur River in the north to the Pieman River in the south – though conservationists have been pushing for a Tarkine National Park since the 1960s and the area was recommended for UNESCO’s World Heritage list in the 1990s. Of its 593,000 acres of forest, seventy percent constitutes Australia’s largest tract of temperate rainforest, second only in global significance to tracts in British Columbia. This “forgotten wilderness” of giant myrtle forests, wild rivers and bare granite mountains is the sort of place where the Tasmanian tiger, long thought extinct, might still be roaming. Dubbed by conservationists as “The Road to Nowhere”, the Western Explorer road through the Tarkine, from Arthur River all the way south to Zeehan, was constructed hastily and finished in 1996. A year before, an incredibly vast and ancient Huon pine was found in the area, as big as a city block and thought to date from around 8000 BC. With awareness of the area growing, the moratorium on logging of ancient native forest in 2011 could not have been more timely. The push for a national park seems unstoppable.Read More
The old gold-mining settlement of CORINNA sits on the shores of the beautiful Pieman River, deep in the Pieman River State Reserve. It’s hard to believe that 2500 people once occupied what is now just a few shacks surrounded by dense rainforest – the only surviving example of an isolated mining village in Tasmania. Corinna even had its own port, despite the difficulties of getting through the narrow Pieman Heads from the coastline. Before the goldrush, the reserve was a logging area and still holds one of the largest stands of Huon pine, saved because the water here was too deep to allow a dam to be built. This also means the river can be dangerous for swimming except from the pontoon or from river beaches – seek advice on conditions when you arrive.
There’s a series of boardwalked forest walks, from fifteen minutes to five hours. You can also lose a happy day or two on the river and its tributaries by renting a kayak, a superb way to experience the solitude and tranquillity of this river, lined by Huon pine, leatherwood and pandanus ferns. Alternatively, you can cruise downriver to the coast on the renovated Huon-pine MV Arcadia II.
A scattering of holiday homes at ARTHUR RIVER marks the start of one of the Tasmanian coast’s last great wilderness areas, where trees that have been washed down the Frankland and Arthur rivers lie crashed against the windswept shoreline. It’s a fabulously wild area, designated the Arthur Pieman Protected Area, part of the Tarkine, complete with a spectacular array of birdlife, such as black cockatoos, Tasmanian rosellas, orange-bellied parrots, black jays, wedge-tail eagles, pied heron and azure kingfishers. Trees on the steep banks of the never-logged river include myrtle, sassafras, celery-top pines and laurels, and there are giant tree ferns. From Gardiners Point – “The Edge of the World” – on the south side of the river mouth, the next land west is South America; it’s a great vantage point to gaze at the battered coastline. Forget about swimming, however. Even walking along the beach can be an obstacle course, but it’s possible to walk 9km to Sundown Point, where you can see Aboriginal concentric circles chiselled onto a rock slab on the beach. You can drive there or allow a day for a return walk from Arthur River.
The drive to Corinna south of Arthur River is on the Western Explorer road, the controversial “Road to Nowhere” cut through the Tarkine. Allow three to four hours for the trip on the rough unsurfaced road, and bear in mind there is no fuel until Zeehan 157km away – your nearest pump is back at Marrawah.