A small timber milling and apple growing town, Geeveston is the gateway to the rugged Hartz Mountains National Park. Some of the tallest hardwood trees in the world (up to 95 m high) grow here. Geeveston is also the stepping off point for the Tahune AirWalk and cruises on Port Huon.
Australian Paper Mills pulp mill at Hospital Bay was opened in 1962 and its deep sea wharf is capable of loading two ships simultaneously.
Where Is it?: 62 km south west of Hobart, 12 km west of Cygnet, in the Huon Valley.
The Forest & Heritage Centre, which details the history of the timber industry in the area, is located in Geeveston. Outside the Centre is one of many chainsaw-crafted statues of some of the region's memorable personalities dotted around town. A sportsman who has been honoured this way is dual silver-medal winning Olympian, rower Simon Burgess.
The town's most overt symbol (it is impossible to miss as you drive through town on the Huon Highway) is the huge trunk of a Swamp Gum (eucalyptus regnans) logged in Arve Valley on 10 December 1971. A sign on the side of the trunk proudly declares that the length is 15.8 m, the girth 6.7 m, it weighs 57 tonnes and its volume 56.7 cubic metres.
Kermandie is a southern area ofGeeveston that runs along the side of the Kermandie River. The name preserves the name of Huon Kermandec, second in command of the expedition in 1792 by the French Admiral Bruni D'Entrecasteaux.
Castle Forbes Bay
Geeveston lies to the south of Franklin on the western bank of the Huon River. Huon Highway provides road access to Geeveston and the Lower Huon region to the south. On its way it passes through the small settlement of Castle Forbes Bay, built around the bay after which it is named.
Built in 1928 as the local schoolhouse, Castle Forbes Bay House is a delightfully informal guest house is situated right on the banks of the majestic Huon river, amidst the picturesque apple orchards that gave Castle Forbes Bay its world famous reputation as the home of the Huon Apples. In 1856, James Reid, a pardoned convict, planted the first apple trees at Honeywood, now Castle Forbes Bay. Reid Fruits, the business which grew from Reid's early plantings, still operates though it has relocates to the Derwent Valley as part of a move from predominantly growing apples to growing cherries.
Castle Forbes Bay was named after the sailing ship Castle Forbes, 440 tons register, launched in 1818 from building yard of Robert Gibbon & Sons, Aberdeen, Scotland. The ship was named after Castle Forbes, an historic castle that was (and still is) located in Aberdeenshire, and is the seat of the Forbes clan.
Although the ship was designed for the Indian trade, she was later used as a convict transport to Australia. In 1836, she was used to convey Irish free immigrants to Van Diemen's Land, bound for Hobart. Whilst sailing up d'Entrecasteaux channel, the mouth of the Huon River was mistaken for the mouth of the Derwent River near Hobart, and the ship sailed by mistake up the Huon River. Having passed what is now Port Huon, the ship encountered rapidly shoaling water, and the ship's draft made it impossible to proceed further. The passengers disembarked, and the bay was named after the ship - hence the name Castle Forbes Bay.
In later years, the properties around Castle Forbes Bay were all apple orchards - leading to Tasmania being known as 'The Apple Isle'. With the British entry into the European Common Market in the 1960s, apple orchards on this scale became uneconomic, and agriculture became more diverse. The Huon valley is now home to a thriving variety of rural pursuits, including vineyards, berry farms and orchards. The early immigrants who disembarked from the Castle Forbes in 1836 would be amazed to see what has happened in the valley over the last two centuries.
Just a few kilometres north of Geeveston where the Kermandie River enters Hospital Bay is Port Huon, which was once the most important port in the district. Shipwrights Point and Whale Point on opposite sides of Hospital Bay, give an indication of some of the industries that were once based here. Port Huon became a busy trading port and the destination for international apple boats that transported and exported the region's famous apples to the world. The development of containerised shipping and the reduction in timber exports has resulted in its decline.
The original port remains and is a quaint reminder of the glory days of apple growing. Today, Port Huon is a departure point for boat cruises up the Huon River. It's also a great place to stop and take in the views. The Kermandie Hotel has been providing food, drink and a rest stop for travellers since 1932. The hotel also has its own marina - perfect for boating types to rest their vessels.
Hartz Mountains National Park
Hartz Mountains National Park is a window into the south-west wilderness, offering views of remote mountain ranges as far as the southern coast. As well as spectacular views of a landscape which has been shaped by glaciers during past ice ages, the park offers a variety of unique features. Waterfalls tumble off the dolerite range that runs through the centre of the park and small glacial lakes dot the plateau. The park contains a wide variety of vegetation from wet eucalypt forest and rainforest through to alpine heath on the exposed mountain tops.
The park was included in Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area in 1989, in recognition of its spectacular natural and cultural values. Take your time and enjoy short strolls out to the glacial lakes in the area, or try the more challenging walks up to the range top. Its highest point, Hartz Peak (1255 m), provides panoramic views into the heart of the southwest.
Wildlife: Most animals in the park are nocturnal, however echidnas and platypus are sometimes observed during the day. In the evening Bennetts wallabies, Tasmanian pademelons and brushtail possums are often seen.
Day visitor facilities: The park facilities are basic, with a toilet, water and picnic shelter available near the entrance to the Waratah Lookout track. The shelter has an open fireplace, free gas barbecue, and tables. Firewood is supplied and a recycling station is provided for rubbish collection.
The Hartz Mountains experience typical south-west weather conditions. This can be a wild, inhospitable and isolated place. Rain falls on more than 220 days of the year so it is necessary to carry waterproofs and warm clothing with you at all times. In all seasons there can be snow, high rainfall, extremes of temperature, strong winds and sudden weather changes, which can provide a dramatic contrast to conditions in the forested lowlands you have just passed through. The current weather forecast should be checked before heading to the park.
It is important to register your walk, even the shortest one, at the registration booth next to the carpark. Don t forget to sign out at the end of your walk. But remember that this book is usually not checked by rangers until a group is reported overdue. The raised boardwalk on many tracks can become difficult when covered in ice or snow.
There is an array of short walks to do in this park to help you experience its special features. You won't need special footwear for the short walks, though comfortable and solid walking shoes are a good idea. Thise are all highly recommended.
Waratah Lookout (5 minute return walk): This walk is a great introduction to this park, giving you a look out over the forests you have just driven through. Starting near the Waratah Picnic Shelter, a very easy gravel track leads to a viewing platform overlooking the Huon Valley. Old myrtle forest grows immediately below the lookout, with views of forest across the Huon Valley to the Wellington Range. But don t forget to stop to look at the interesting plants beside the track. On visits in December and January you will be treated to a blaze of red from the Tasmanian waratah in flower.
Arve Falls (20 minute return walk): A leisurely walk follows the path of the Arve River through alpine herbfield and snowgum woodland to the edge of the plateau where the Arve Falls tumble into the valley below. Signs along the way tell you about the landscape and its special plants. This walk starts from a small car park about 1 km past the Waratah Picnic Shelter.
Lake Osborne (40 minutes return): If you want to experience the many varieties of forest and moorland then this walk is an ideal start. A gentle uphill climb through forest takes you across the Hartz Plateau to this picturesque glacial lake. You will pass through a grove of young rainforest, containing myrtles, sassafras and pandani. Beyond the forest look out for the Devils Marbles, large boulders dumped onto the plateau by glaciers. A section of woodland and open moorland then leads you to the lake which is fringed with ancient King Billy pines. You can also learn, from signs along the trail, the story of how fire and ice have shaped this landscape and its vegetation.
For the adventurous walker, there are numerous walking trails on which you may encounter steep terrain and sections of track which are wet, muddy or rough underfoot. You will need good footwear, preferably walking boots. A warm hat and gloves, as well as gaiters and overpants, should be worn or carried in addition to your usual walking gear.
Lake Esperance (2 hrs return): A fascinating walk through woodland and snowgums, up to the high country where cushion plants and ancient King Billy pines encircle the lake. You may hear the haunting call of the mountain currawong as you wander along the plateau. A short distance along the track you will pass a memorial to Sydney and Arthur Geeves, who perished near here in 1897 in the harsh blizzard conditions that can occur here at any time.
Hartz Pass (3.5 hours return): This is an ideal place to get a view into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, but is a steep uphill climb. You will need to be a reasonably fit walker.
Hartz Peak (5 hours return): Hartz Peak is the highest point of the Hartz Mountains, and in fine weather the summit offers one of the best views of the south-west. The jagged outline of Federation Peak can be seen on the horizon. This is a relatively easy walk compared to some in the area, and perhaps the best to experience the mountains, glacial lakes and alpine moors of Tasmania s World Heritage Listed South West Wildnerness region without having to embark on a multi-day cross country hike. Credited with having the highest view/effort ratio of any walk in Southern Tasmania, you will see Federation Peak, Precipitous Bluff, Eastern Arthurs, Mt Weld, Snowy South, and Frenchmans Cap on a clear day. All walking paths are wintin Hartz Mts National Park. Access to the mountains is via Geeveston.
How to get there: In Geeveston turn right on the Arve Road (C632), which is clearly signposted for Hartz Mountains National Park. Much of the C632 is a winding, steep, but good quality sealed road. A sign marks the turn-off to the park. The last section of the road continues for 10.5 km and is unsealed and can sometimes be closed by snow. Check the local road conditions by phoning (03) 6264 8460 if in doubt.
Tahune Forest AirWalk
Tahune Forest AirWalk is a spectacular aerial walkway through the rainforest canopy on the banks of the Huon River. It offers breathtaking views of the forest canopy from spine-tingling swinging bridges across the Huon and Picton Rivers. With breathtaking views of the forest canopy, spine-tingling swinging bridges across the Huon and Picton Rivers, and Tasmanian food and wine in the licensed cafe, there's a full day of fun for the whole family.
Whether you're looking for a peaceful forest ramble or are up for a more challenging hike, one of Tahune's trails is sure to fit the bill. Pick your own path to the AirWalk by taking time out to enjoy one of the many forest walks en route, all clearly signposted along the Arve Road.