Exploring Northwest Tasmania: Tarkine Drive

The Tasmanians address the Tarkine region as their backyard and it’s an ideal place to get up close with nature and wilderness. The Tarkine drive, located on the northwest of Tasmania,is accessible from either Smithton (38Kms) or Stanley (60Kms). Having booked our stay in Stanley the previous night, we decided to do a day trip here after the very helpful lady at the Wynyard information centre had recommended it.

If you’re looking for a crowd, or a lot of activity, you probably wouldn’t enjoy this drive as much. But if you relish calm and quiet, and find delight in connecting with nature, or appreciate historic culture of a land, then you’re in for a treat.

One half of the drive is packed with coastal landscapes, while the other with rainforests. Having already experienced rainforests elsewhere, we chose to do just the the coastal destinations. The main loop is an easy drive on sealed roads but you’ve gotta take diverted unsealed roads to reach each of the points.

Map on the online brochure

West Point Reserve

The first point on the loop is the West reserve, an aboriginal heritage site. A long drive brings you to a serene walk, with gigantic waves splashing over bright orange rocks that give them quite a fiery appearance. One could spend hours here musing on the roaring waves, the gusty winds or the life here thousands of year ago.

West Point Reserve
West Point Reserve

Bluff Hill Point

Here is a vantage point from beside a lighthouse, with a great view of the coast and a walk to the coast.

The rugged coastline and small hillocks all around

Edge of the world

One can especially appreciate what’s called the roaring forties, or the strong westerly winds almost yanking you back on your walk to the Edge of The World. This rough coastline happens to be on the path of blustering winds blowing at forty or fifty degrees latitude.

Edge of The World
Edge of The World

Sarah Anne Rocks

Named after a watercolourist in memory of her exemplary work on the indigenous flora of Tasmania, these rock formations are beautifully textured by the action of waves.

There are ancient rock carvings at sundown point reserve, a 2.5 hours walk. We found it hard to locate the starting point of this walk, despite having the map with us and you can barely find people around to ask. The walking track appeared covered by shrubs and was not clearly marked, so we chose not to spend time checking if it was the right one. You might want to ask specifics before you set out for the trip.

Sarah Anne Rocks
Sarah Anne Rocks

Couta rocks

This is a small but scenic fishing settlement with less than 10 shacks and a Bay close by with a native pied oystercatcher who’s almost always present here.

Drive to Couta rocks
Couta Rocks

Kanunnah Bridge

The road at this bridge divides into a fork to either continue ahead on the Tarkine drive to the rainforests or back to Stanley/Smithton. Having left Stanley at around 8am, we got here at 2pm and headed back to Stanley to get to the chairlift before it closed at 3.30.

View from the Kanunnah bridge

Some of the points on the drive take 2-3 hours to visit so plan accordingly. Be mindful if you are driving after sundown as the Tasmanian devils gallivant the roads around this time. It is important to remember that the roads are built on their territory and it’s not them encroaching our paths.

Tarkine Drive

If you have not experienced rainforests before, it may be worthwhile exploring rest of the drive as well, but that may take up another day out of your itinerary.

Tips:

  • There’s just one take away place to eat on the drive located just before the Arthur river Bridge called the Arthur River store and take away with basic local snack meals. It’s always advisable to stock up with some food and water before you leave.

  • The diversion from the main drive are all unsealed roads but suitable for 2WD. Some of the roads can be bumpy but nothing that a 2WD can’t survive if you drive carefully.

  • It’s easy to miss the turns to the actual sites, it’s handy to have the map on you before you head out. It’s on the online brochure.

  • And you can never go wrong with carrying adequate sun protection.

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