Tasmania has more than its share of rugged beauty. But for something a little more wild than Freycinet’s pristine beaches or tranquil Lake St Clair, the west coast is a wild frontier of World Heritage-listed rainforest and foreboding mountains. Comprising five main towns – Tullah, Zeehan, Rosebery, Queenstown and Strahan – about two and a half hours’ drive from Launceston, the best way to explore is by car. From rafting raging rapids and hiking among millennia-old Huon pines to sampling exceptional local produce, here are the best things to do on a road trip of Tasmania’s west coast.
Spot glow worms in a mining tunnel
Known as “the Silver City” during the 1900s mining boom, Zeehan is home to the Spray Tunnel, a dark 100-metre-long passageway that’s dotted with glow worms and leads to an abandoned mine. You can also visit the eclectic West Coast Heritage Centre and watch a silent-era film at the Gaiety Theatre while you’re in town.
See Tasmania’s highest waterfall
Following an old tramway past leatherwood and giant tree ferns, this easy 11.5-kilometre track near Rosebery takes you to the base of Montezuma Falls – the state’s highest, at 104 metres. Stop for a photo op on the gently swaying suspension bridge before heading back; the round trip should take about three hours.
Ride a heritage steam train
Built during the 1890s to transport copper through the mountainous rainforest, the West Coast Wilderness Railway is an icon of Tasmania’s locomotive legacy. On the four-and-a-half-hour Rock and Gorge round trip from Queenstown, passengers travel in restored timber carriages with food and drinks service available in the Wilderness carriages and historical commentary along the way.
Go white water rafting
Adventure seekers won’t want to miss the King for The Day trip from King River Rafting. Departing from Queenstown, the one-day tour kicks off with exhilarating grade-three rapids (narrow passages with high, irregular waves) before flattening out on the river’s tree-lined lower reaches, where you might glimpse a timid platypus.
Cruise the Gordon River
Marvel at the Gordon River’s famous rainforest reflections – ancient sassafras, myrtle and Huon pine, mirrored by the eerily calm waters – on a six-hour Gordon River Cruise aboard the state-of-the-art Spirit of the Wild. Setting off from Strahan, upper deck tickets include two walking tours, canapés and a long-table lunch paired with Tasmanian wines.
Where to eat on the west coast of Tasmania
Fresh seafood takes centre stage at Risby Cove, a rustic-chic restaurant and boutique hotel overlooking Macquarie Harbour in Strahan. Think Little Swanport oysters grilled with miso butter and Tasmanian scallops baked in the shell.
Also on the hit list: the National Trust-listed Empire Hotel in Queenstown, which serves up top-notch pub grub such as crunchy panko-crumbed parmi.
Where to stay on the west coast of Tasmania
A cosy one-bedroom Airbnb, Captains Rest lies on the waterfront in the sleepy village of Lettes Bay. The Instagram-worthy interiors nod to its fisherman’s cottage heritage, with moody landscape paintings hanging on the walls and antique timber furniture filling the rooms. Rustle up a regional grazing platter in the compact kitchen, soak in the claw-foot tub or unwind in front of the fire overlooking the jetty.
If hobnobbing with other guests during a local wine tasting If a grandiose retreat is on your wishlist, Franklin Manor in Strahan is your beat. Initially built for the harbour master in 1896, the boutique property boasts 13 elegantly appointed rooms and grand gardens.
For a spot of glamping, head to Zeehan Bush Camp. Bell tents kitted out with comfortable beds, furniture and private fire pits cater to couples and families from November through April; no-nonsense self-contained cabins are available all year round.
Image credits: Emilie Ristevski; Jess Bonde; Pierre Destribats; Tourism Tasmania/Nick Osborne; Tourism Tasmania/Nick Osborne; Tourism Tasmania/Rob Burnett; Tourism Australia; Tourism Tasmania/Rob Burnett; Emilie Ristevskil