Boat Harbour is in fact two settlements - one beside Bass Highway on the rise above the ocean; the other is Boat Harbour Beach. This may well be the most beautiful village and beach on the whole north coast of Tasmania. It tumbles down the side of a gentle hill to a superb white beach with rocky headlands on either side. The sea is green and blue, the beach so clean, the village is sleepy and peaceful. Furthermore, the village exists in a microclimate which is removed from the surrounding weather patterns. Frosts are unknown and plants from the tropics can be seen in local gardens. It sounds like paradise!
Where Is it?: Boat Harbour is a 10-minute drive from Wynyard, and 30 km west of Burnie.
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This may well be the most beautiful village and beach on the whole north coast of Tasmania. It tumbles down the side of a gentle hill to a superb white beach with rocky headlands on either side. The sea is green and blue, the beach so clean, the village is sleepy and peaceful. Furthermore, the village exists in a microclimate which is removed from the surrounding weather patterns. Frosts are unknown and plants from the tropics can be seen in local gardens. It sounds like paradise.
Boat Harbour Beach is not only notable for its exquisite location but also it fine white sands which have been weathered from the quartzite rocks that are common along this section of the coastline. The beach here is often named among Australia's Top Ten beaches. The clarity of the water is exceptional, attracting swimmers, snorkellers and scuba divers; good fishing is to be had from the rocky points. At low tide, you may see abalone on the rocks. Precious stones have been found in the rocks.
The area has two small population centres - the town, high above sea-level, and the beach community below, nestled between rocky headlands. Boat Harbour (the township) is often confused with with Boat Harbour Beach (the holiday resort). To get to the beach it is necessary to drive west from the town and follow the signs which say Boat Harbour Beach.
Boat Harbour was first settled by Europeans in the 1830s when it became known as Jacob's Boat Harbour. It is presumed that "Jacob" was Captain John Jacobs, a local who sailed the schooner Edward along the north coast from Stanley for the Van Diemen Land Company. Local lore has it that Jacobs fell asleep and his boat drifted into the small harbour. By the end of the 19th century a small jetty had been built and potatoes, grown in the district, were being shipped along the coast to Burnie and Devonport. At the time there were no roads. The harbour was developed as a port in the 1880s but was soon found to be unsuitable. The tracks down to the harbour were steep and dangerous and the harbour itself was poorly protected from the huge seas which periodically pounded the coastline.
A foot track, The Stone Walk, leads from the beach up to the road at the top of the hill. Passing along cliffs at the eastern edge of Rocky Cape National Park, it was originally part of the Postman's Track. In the early days of the coastal towns of Burnie and Stanley, this track was the shortest land route between the two. It was only suitable for people on foot or on horseback. The Postman's Track here was later used to deliver telegrams to neighbouring Sisters Beach; it also offers safe swimming and more crystal-clear waters.
In The Area
Experience sweeping views of Bass Strait from the Rocky Cape Lighthouse, banksia dotted hillsides, and dramatic cliffs and coastal caves, combined with cultural history, as Rocky Cape has strong links to the Aboriginal community. Many of the bays along the coast are sheltered and tranquil, while the headlands experience the full force of the sea and wind.
Much of the vegetation in the park is low lying, wind and salt tolerant coastal heath. These heathlands flower during spring and summer, giving colour to the surrounding hills.which run down to the water where there are caves with a history of Aboriginal occupation.
Rocky Cape National Park, although small, offers visitors a varied experience on Tasmania 's coast. Here you can learn about Aboriginal life on the north-west coast. Swimming, fishing, boating and walking are popular activities. There are pleasant day and half-day walks over the hills from either Sisters Beach or from the lighthouse at the western end of the Park. Rocky Cape s unpolluted waters regularly attract dolphins and seals. At low tide on a calm day, the rocky foreshore reveals numerous rock pools inhabited by a variety of colourful fish and plants.
Within the park there is a picnic area with tables and a gas barbecue at Mary Ann Cove. Toilet facilities are available at Burgess Cove and Mary Ann Cove in Rocky Cape National Park. Drinking water is not available in the park.
Swimming, fishing, boating and bushwalking are popular activities. The park offers a fascinating variety of walks, ranging from less than 20 minutes to a full day. These take in Aboriginal rock shelters and caves, scenic hills full of wildflowers and birds, and tranquil beaches, bays and rocky headlands.
A quiet seaside village, Sisters Beach is located within the Rocky Cape National Park and is situated on the old horse trail known as the Postman's Track that once formed the only connection between Emu Bay (now Burnie) and the Van Diemen's Land outpost of Stanley. The village has a boat ramp, you can do quiet bit of fishing or catch a squid off the jetty. It is also possible to scuba dive around Rocky Cape. However, conditions can be treacherous and diving is recommended only for experienced divers. Sisters Beach has electric barbecues, toilets and drinking water provided by the local council.
Though a very pretty location, Sisters Beach is quite small and the building of new homes is currently restricted, due to the surrounding national park. A unique aspect of Sisters Beach is the prevalence of giant Banksia serrata. It is the only place in Tasmania where they occur.
Where Is it? Access is via the Boat Harbour Beach road (Irbys Road).
Visitors flock to see Table Cape, an extinct volcano with views inland along the north coast and out to Bass Strait. Tours of the Table Cape lighthouse can be booked. The Lighthouse was commissioned in 1888 and was manned by three keepers until 1920 when it was automated. It has rarely been open to the public, until 2010, after decades of lobbying by the local council and tourism authorities. The cape is actually a volcanic plug which rises to about 190 metres above sea level. The cape is planted with tulip fields that are a blaze of colour in spring. The area is also famous for its lily fields.
Ten kilometres east of the Stanley turn off, head south to the Dip River Forest reserve. The Dip Falls are 26 kilometres from the Bass Highway junction, on a good sealed road, apart from the last few kilometres, which are gravel. There are well appointed barbecue, picnic and rest room facilities. 152 steep steps descend to the bottom of the cubic-basalt formed falls, which are impressive during the winter months. The track to the accessible viewing platform is beyond the falls. The Big Tree is a couple of kilometres further on. This spot is well worth visiting and is a good family trip.
A delightful wayside stop on the Murchison Highway south, the streeply winding gorge of the Hellyer River (44 km south) is filled with rainforest of tall myrtle beech, encrusted with mosses, fungi and epiphyte orchids. A number of walking tracks along the banks of the Hellyer River (near the rest area) provide a pleasant walk to refresh before journeying on. It is situated in the heart of a mountainous and heavily forested area, near one of the visually most impressive sections of highway in Tasmania.
The Murchison Highway passes through the area with many sharp and steep bends. Being subject to 'black ice', this portion of road has now been bypassed by the newer Ridgely Highway. Nevertheless, the area is quite picturesque and some bush-walking tracks have been blazed for tourists.