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Hidden wonders down under: The Tarkine

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Tarkine wilderness area in Tasmania's far north-west is Australia's largest rainforest area and the second largest in the world after British Columbia. It contains the southern hemisphere's largest temperate rainforest, wild rivers, exposed mountains, magnesite cave systems and large coastal heathlands.

One of the world's great archaeological regions, the Tarkine has over 1000 Aboriginal sites as well as remnants of early European use. Sand dunes extend several kilometres inland, some containing ancient Aboriginal middens.

The Tarkine is bounded roughly by the Southern Ocean to the west, the Arthur River to the north, the Murchison Highway to the east and the Pieman River to the south. The Pieman River was named after Thomas Kent, a baker transported to Macquarie Harbour as a convict. The 447,000 hectare wilderness area can be accessed from several points, but the most convenient is the town of Wynyard, which has an interstate airport and sealed roads.

Until recently the forests of the Tarkine were inaccessible for walkers, but in collaboration with the Tarkine National Coalition, Tarkine Trails has opened a forest trail. There are three tours to choose from. Guides prepare incredible meals of Tasmanian seafood, cheese, Indian curries and Asian dishes, served with local wine.

Another way to appreciate the vastness of Tarkine is with Tom Osborne. For 10 years he has been flying his helicopter from Stanley and cruising over the wilderness. Even locals who have lived here all their lives love the different perspective. Bookings may be made through Beachside Retreat West Inlet.

Deep in the Tarkine is Corinna, an old mining camp on the banks of the Pieman River. In the late 19th century gold boom, it was home to more than 2000, but became a ghost town at the end of the rush. In 2005 a Sydney consortium leased the township, restored the few remaining structures and built accommodation in the original style. It is now an eco-village, run on solar power and using rainwater. There are no televisions or microwaves but loads of Rufus wallabies, eagles and sea eagles, swans, ducks, owls, lizards and Tasmanian devils (which are gradually being relocated to Maria Island).

Accommodation includes four original miners cottages with one or two bedrooms, an old pub with single and double rooms and 14 new cottages built in the original style.

Rooms are heated, beds are comfortable and showers are hot. There are barbecues and cook tops and the general store has basic provisions, as well as Tasmanian beer and wine. The store, old guest house and original buildings bring the history of Corinna alive. It is a self-drive, self-cater experience.

The northern banks of the Pieman form the northernmost tip of the Huon pine region. These are the world's oldest trees — one has been dated at 10,000 years. Within easy walking distance of Corinna are 2000-year-old Huons.

The 17-metre Huon pine ferry Arcadia II was built in 1939 and after a busy working life, including service in PNG during WWII, has been fully restored and cruises the Pieman River.

Beachside Retreat West Inlet in Stanley has three types of self-catering accommodation. The three-bedroom spa lodge sleeps up to five, has a fully equipped kitchen, adjoining lounge-dining area, bathroom with double spa and shower, sunroom and decks. Eco cabins in the sand dunes overlook the sea. Each is environmentally designed and self-contained, with queen bedroom, ensuite, combined lounge/dining/kitchen and private deck. The Luxury Nature Cabin is the latest addition. It is on the frontal sand dune overlooking the sea, has a full kitchen and lounge/dining area, queen bed and large bathroom. It has elegant European appliances, pebbled slate and rainforest myrtle timber flooring.


Tasmania's north-west wilderness.


Tarkine Trails tent-based walks start at $1549 per person. Accommodated walks start at $2499 per person. Accommodation, transport, meals and two guides are included. They run from mid-October to the end of April.

Osborne Aviation Services one and a half hour flights are $2570 for up to five passengers. Bookings must be made in advance.

Four hour Pieman River Cruises aboard Arcadia II are $79 for adults and $37 for children. Lunch at Pieman Heads is $20.

Beachside Retreat West Inlet eco cabins are $188 a double a night. The Spa Lodge starts at $258 and the Luxury Nature Cabin with private pool is $368 per person a night.

Prices correct as at August 7, 2008.

For more information

Tarkine Trails
148 Davey Street
Hobart 7000
Ph: (03) 6223 5320

Osborne Aviation Services
Bass Highway and Main Road
Stanley 7331
Ph/Fax: (03) 6458 3434

Ph: (03) 6446 1170
Fax: (03) 6446 1180
PO Box 105
Zeehan 7469
Ph: (03) 6446 1170

Beachside Retreat West Inlet
253 Stanley Highway
Stanley 7331
Ph/Fax: (03) 6458 1350

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