Note: It appears that last week’s blog did not get picked up for distribution for some reason ? We use Mailchimp, which has, hitherto, reliably distributed each weekly update that we produce but seems that last week it had a hiccup of sorts. Anyway, for those that did not get last week’s, this week you get two. Enjoy…….!

Travels of late…….
Wild coastline near Arthur River.

Given its proximity to Arthur River and multiple other traveller reports of it being a worthwhile detour, we opted to drive the “Tarkine Loop” just prior to heading south of the Western Explorer highway. Well worthwhile with some great hikes, sink holes, lakes, and panoramic viewpoints to checkout.

Arthur River, from bridge on the Tarkine Loop.
Already bumping into folks we’d met on the ferry coming over. Here with Paul and Tanya on the Tarkine Loop

One of the real highlights of driving the west coast, though, is taking a route known as the “Western Explorer” – a remote, hilly, windy, and VERY dusty track between Arthur River and Zeehan. We’d expected far more traffic than we saw and ( quite happily ) had the “road” ( I use the term generously !) almost to ourselves. It can get very beat up after rains and heavy use but timing helped us here as the route had just been graded in advance of the expected influx of summer traffic. With steep hills, sharp corners and dust often obscuring visibility it can be hazardous – as always, driving to conditions is key. In order to tame drivers’ appetite for speed ( 80km/h would be fast on this road ) distances are given in terms of “time” to destinations, rather than the usual kilometres.

Red dust in the outback, white dust in Tasmania ! Western Explorer “highway”.
In Tassie, we’ve seen lots of “live” wildlife but there’s also been a lot of roadkill.

The only settlement of any note between Arthur River and Zeehan is Corinna – not so much a “settlement” even as a ferry crossing with a pub, gift shop, and campground. Being the point where the punt crosses the river though, it is incredibly lush, scenic and a real travellers crossroads – we’d love to have spent a night even, but inquiries as to campsite availability yielded a polite “Sorry, full for the season!”.  Popular place !

The hotel at Corinna, a beautiful little oasis on the Western Explorer.
The Corinna ferry, just one vehicle at a time.

Zeehan was  at one point a major mining location but its mining glory days are long gone. Remnants of the mine ( a tunnel carved from rock  ) are visible and the road in and out to the tunnel was, well “exhilarating”, shall we say – one lane only and definitely THE narrowest dirt road we’ve been on in Tassie so far. Not for the faint of heart ! Our first time camping at a golf club, but not to be out last, with nearby Strahan offering up the same arrangement the following day ( thankfully this time on grass, not mud ! ).

The Spray Tunnel, Zeehan. No glow worms when we visited sadly.

Strahan is more or less the major town on the west side of Tassie, and a beautiful port with a scenic mountain backdrop. A bit like Arthur River in that it is primarily noted for its great hikes and river cruises ( the Gordon River, in this case ), but unlike Arthur River, where the weather was spectacular, in Strahan it was not – sadly just too misty and windy to enjoy any of its outdoor pleasures. Now, not that we are suddenly becoming “culture vultures” ( as my sister called us ) but, given the inclement weather, we thoroughly enjoyed a little indoor entertainment while there – Strahan’s legendary play “The Ship That Never Was” – in fact, it’s Australia’s longest running play, and based on a true story. Not what we expected in Tassie, but highly recommended !

Strahan port.
Saw this topographic map of Tasmania in Strahan – now it makes sense why it takes so long to cover what seem like very short distances…!
Macquarie Heads, near Strahan.
The play was hilarious. It’s an institution in Strahan.
“The Ship That Never Was”.

The hiking path to Hogarth Falls, Strahan.

Strahan is as far south as you can go ( by road ) on the west coast and at this point the highway turns eastward towards historic Queenstown. Like Zeehan, Queenstown was originally primarily a mining town ( copper, mostly ) – while it’s still got a solid mining base it’s now morphed into some pretty serious tourism endeavors, with nearby hiking and mountain biking trails bringing tourists from far and wide. Its steam train had been a big draw but track repair means the route is currently a shadow of its former self, only running a fraction of its normal route. We passed.

Street art, Queenstown.
Iron Blow, an abandoned open pit mine, Queenstown

I’ll close this week on a somewhat bizarre note. Not sure whether to laugh or cry, actually. All Australians know of the Tasmanian Tiger – a wild dog like animal native to Tasmania that became extinct when the last known specimen died in a Hobart zoo in 1936. Rumors of sightings appear in the media occasionally but it’s generally accepted that, sadly, they are gone forever. I’ve included a picture of one of the last surviving examples below:

Just as we were about to leave Queenstown, we wandered around the campsite and came upon ….wait for it – a Tasmanian Tiger ( or so it appeared ) ! We absolutely did a double take, both of us knowing there were none known to exist, either in captivity or in the wild. Turns out our camping neighbours must have really wanted one and used a vegetable dye to make their kelpie look like a Tasmanian Tiger. Hmmmmmmm……!

As close to a Tasmanian Tiger as you will get these days !

From Queenstown our route onwards will take us across some pretty spectacular scenery, famous lakes and rivers, indeed some of Tassie’s very finest ! More on that next update.

Till next week…..