The tiny settlement of Arthur River is situated at the mouth of the Arthur River on Tasmania's rugged and isolated west coast. Surrounded by dense rainforest and named after the wild river that runs from the mountains to the sea, it is an ideal base for walking (both in the bush and along the coastline), horse riding, fishing, off road driving, cruising the river and picnics in this remote, beautiful area.
Named after Sir George Arthur, Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemens Land (1824–36), the town draws its name from the river. The river is fed by several tributaries including the Frankland River, which was named after its discoverer, George Frankland, then the colony's surveyor-general. The region has been exploited commercially for timber and fisheries, but today is mostly a centre for tourism. Around 100 people call Arthur River home, however the population in the area ebbs and flows, peaking during the summer months when shack users come here to enjoy the weather and serenity.
The area is popular with four-wheel drivers and the Western Explorer leads to Corinna and the Pieman River to the south. With a regular population of around 25, there's plenty of peace and quiet, even when the holiday shack dwellers arrive in summer. Accommodation ranges from good campsites to holiday homes with picnic, barbeque facilities and meals at the local tavern.
Where Is it?: 16 km south of Marrawah, 308 km west of Launceston, 85 km south west of Smithton.
Gardiner Point - 'The Edge of The World'
Just to the south of Arthur River, Gardiner Point has been dubbed The Edge of The world as the sea here stretches uninterrupted all the way to Argentina, 15,000 km away. The sea west of Tasmania is in fact the longest uninterrupted expanse of ocean on the globe. From Argentina the currents known as the roaring 40's sweep unimpeded more than halfway around the planet until they hit this point.
These ocean currents mix with the river flow, creating a washing machine effect. Foaming waves push ancient logs up onto lonely beaches, having been carried by floodwaters up to 100km away down the river from the heart of the Tarkine Wilderness. As a result, five hundred year old forest giants of Tasmanian oak, Blackwood, myrtle, or sassafras, became the foundation of coastal dunes, having laid buried in the sand for perhaps 1000 years. Those near the waterline are revealed by scouring tides from time to time. Some of the timbers scattered across the rocks appear to have been carried across the world from South America with the currents as they are from trees not found on Tasmania's shores but are native to South America.
The Edge of the World is an incredible spot, well worth visiting, the beachfront at sunset is an unforgettable sight. To get there from Arthur River township, cross the bridge and take the second street past it and make your way to the car park at Gardiner Point. A cairn explains the significance of the locality.
Arthur River Cruise
The Arthur River is one of the State's seven major rivers, but it is the only one which is completely wild, having never been logged, dammed or had a hot fire through the rainforest for almost 650 years. One of the best and most convenient ways to experience the river is on a cruise from the settlement of Arthur River. The MV George Robinson leaves Arthur River daily at 10.00 am and travels upstream for 70 minutes. The cruise includes lunch and a walk in the riverside rainforest, before returning to Arthur River by 3.00 pm.
In The Area
West Point State Reserve
Though not far from Gardiner Point, West Point State Reserve is markedly different, no doubt due to the amount of lichen-covered rocks there. Rather than just small rocks scattered here and there on the beach, there are huge orange-stained boulders everywhere. It’s just a great place to go for a walk.
The West Point lighthouse, overlooking Lighthouse Beach, was built in 1916 and demolished when it was replaced by the Bluff Hill Point Lighthouse (located further south) in 1982. All that remains is the base of the old lighthouse. Access is via Nettley Bay Road.
Numerous Aboriginal engravings are located at Sundown Point State Reserve, 8km south of the mouth of the Arthur River near Nelson Bay. There are over 40 separate rocks slabs of laminated mudstone in the Reserve, many have clearly defined Aboriginal motifs comprised of concentric and overlapping circles, grooves or lines of pits. Engraving sites are very rare in Tasmania, and at least one panel shows the same complexity as engravings found at Mt Cameron West, further up the coast.
Nelson Bay River Falls is a small but very pretty cascade that flows on Nelson Bay River. Situated right next to the bridge that crosses Nelson Bay River, some unofficial parking areas are established, south of the bridge. The walk will take you a couple of minutes to see the picturesque cascade. Other waterfalls nearby include Elver Falls that can relatively easily be accessed by kayak.
The Tarkine Wilderness is Tasmania's largest unprotected wilderness area. It is hugely diverse extending from thundering west coast beaches, through giant sand dunes, across rolling button grass plains, to towering eucalypt forests. It hosts the only wilderness landscape dominated by rainforest in Australia. Its rainforests form the largest continuous tract of rainforest in Australia, they being the largest temperate rainforests in Australia.
There is a rich pioneer/exploring history of the Tarkine region, which was regarded as one of Tasmania's toughest and most impenetrable regions. Prospecting and Mining was one of the biggest drawcards to the region for early settlers, with tin mining set up at Balfour, Gold at Corinna, and Tin at Waratah also. Prospectors often searched the rivers in years between 1850 and 1950 quite unsuccessfully.
Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area
The Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area stretches along the spectacular North-West coast, being the coastal portion of the much larger region known as the Tarkine. Covering over 1,030 square kilometres, much of the reserve is between the Arthur River in the north, the Pieman River in the south (hence its name) and the Frankland and Donaldson Rivers to the east. It is a dynamic landscape which is being continually reshaped by wind, fire and water. It is known for its rugged wild coast, ocean beaches and vast dunes, beautiful heathlands Rare and endangered flora & fauna.
The area has a rich Aboriginal heritage which has left markers in the landscape, such as middens, hut depressions, artefact scatters and rock art. These special places and their associated cultural landscapes show that Aboriginal people in the past had a special relationship with the land - a relationship which continues with Aboriginal people today. Its profusion of Aboriginal sites has led to it being hailed as the world's greatest archaeological areas.
Pieman River at Corinna
Regarding the Pieman River's unusual name, there is debate over whether the river was named after Alexander Pearce or Thomas Kent. Alexander Pearce, “the pieman”, was a convict transported to Macquarie Harbour, who escaped, and killed and ate his companions to survive. Thomas Kent of Southampton, was a pastry-cook nicknamed the Pieman, who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1816. Both men had escapes that led to the Pieman area as far as many accounts are concerned.
The Pieman River is more pristine and intact than any other that is easily accessible in Tasmania even though there was industry on the river in the past. There has been gold, osmiridium mining and huon pine logging with possibly more than 31 million super feet (A super foot is 12 inches by 12 inches by 1 inch and is a lumber term.) of huon pine being taken before 1931 (when a reserve was proclaimed) but that is nothing when compared to the Gordon River and Macquarie Harbour. The main reason that there was less industry on the Pieman is the inaccessibility of the river due to the river mouth being a treacherous channel to navigate and there were no roads to the area in that era. There is nowhere else in the world that you can see the amount of huon pine that you can on the Pieman River. The Gordon River had convicts stripping pine for thirty years and then loggers for one hundred years.
Preminghana (Mt. Cameron West)
Preminghana, formerly known as Mt. Cameron West, covers an area of 524 hectares and was declared an Indigenous Protected Area in 1999. Most noted for the splendid Tasmanian Aboriginal cave etchings, it is a unique destination for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people alike. The Preminghana artwork is the finest example of Tasmanian Aboriginal art, and one of the finest displays of hunter/gatherer art in the world. Preminghana is also a popular fishing and 4WD spot.
Tarkine Forest Drive
This 205 km drive commences and finishes at Smithton, and is without doubt the easiest way to get a taste of what Tasmania's Tarkine Wilderness Area is all about. You can travel in either direction - allow a full day as there is plenty to see along the way. It's a sealed road all the way these days, is easy to negotiate and covers an amazing diversity of landscapes. Its a good idea to take a picnic lunch as there are not many shops along the way, unless you stop at Arthur River where there is a nice cafe.
If you choose to travel inland from Smithton rather than follow the coast first, initially the drive is through mixed farming country and forests before entering the Tarkine Wilderness. You are then driving throiugh and past temperate rain forest, mountain ranges, button grass moorlands and much, much more. Allow time to admire the view from Sumac Lookout and to have a rest and forest walk at Julius River Reserve. This walk on a raised boardwalk is easy and allows you to get a real feel for the forest. After working your way south, the road heads towards the coast, meeting it just north of Couta Rocks and Temma. Drive north to the coastal settlements of Arthur River and Marrawah when you re-join Bass Highway for the final leg of the drive back to Smithton.
Some of the places you will encounter on this drive are detailed below. Keep in mind, this is a drive through virgin rainforest, so the beauty here is the pristine, untouched condition of the landscape that is disected by isolated, fast flowing rivers, and not snow-covered mountains, cosy beaches or picture-postcard vistas that are found elsewhere in Tasmania.
Little more than a collection of fishermen s shacks, Temma is one of the most isolated localities in Australia. For around 20 years it was the sea port for the 700 residents of the copper and tin mining town of Balfour after tin was first found in the area in the 1870s. A horse-drawn wooden tramway connecting the town and port. Balfour is one of the most mineralized copper districts in Tasmania; copper workings occur intermittently along a 35km track between the two localities.
The origin of the name Temma is not known. Mary Hopkin's 1969 hit song of the same name is not about this locality. Its name did inspire the song, however, but the songwriter, Philamore Lincoln, states the name was selected randomly from a map while looking for a place name that sounded romantic. "catch a fish and light a fire, drink some wine with me" - it sounds like Temma to me.
Trowutta Arch and Caves
The Tarkine region of North West Tasmania contains a number of unique cave systems. There are a series of extraordinary magnesite karst systems, including unique cave and pinnacle formations at Lyons River and the Arthur River-Victory Springs area, including warm springs. These cave systems are not only unique in themselves, but are also home to extraordinary cave dwelling creatures, such as the bizarretroglodyte (cave dwelling spider) and other fascinating creatures.
Trowutta Caves are located south of Smithton, beyond the beautiful Allendale Gardens, Trowutta and Milkshake Hills. The Trowutta Arch track begins soon after the Trowutta Caves State Reserve is reached. A short 10 minute easy well defined walk leads to the park s most interesting geological feature - the Trowutta Arch. The reserve protects an area of sinkholes covered in temperate rainforest full of myrtles, sassafrass, blackwoods, massive manferns and a variety of other ferns.
Don't let the name of this place put you off - going there might have been a dismal experience for the surveyors who named it back in 1828, but for today's visitors it offers a unique eco-tourism adventure. Dismal Swamp is actually a sink hole created over time with the dolomite slab dissolving in the wet area. Early last century its timber was used for making kegs and more recently was on a logging, clearing and draining list. Locals realised its importance and fought to preserve its destruction. In 1976 they had success.
The Circular Head region boasts Tasmania s finest Blackwood swamp forests. Viewing these forests from above and below the canopy of the trees will be possible through the construction of a Visitor Centre and Maze at Dismal Swamp, located 20 km west of Smithton on the Bass Highway.
Enjoy a coffee or light snack at the Visitor Centre where tickets may be purchased for entry to the maze. Either slide or stroll to the maze entrance and lose yourself in the blackwood forest. Try and spot the homes of the small burrowing crayfish. Free picnic and barbecue amenities will be available at the entrance to the Visitor Centre. Opening Autumn 2003, please call 6434 6345 to confirm operating hours.
South Arthur Forest Drive
The South Arthur Forest Drive is a safe and easy way to have a taste of the Tarkine region of Tasmania's north west with a minimum of fuss and without having to do the whole 4-wheel drive thing. The drive begins at Smithton and is an easy 130 km round trip. A mix of sealed and gravel roads give access to a number forest reserves on the way. To begin, take the turnoff which indicates South Arthur Forest Drive from the road between Stanley to Smithton. Brown trout have been released into the Arthur River and are a popular target for anglers.
View from Sumac Lookout
Along the way is Sumac Lookout, that has expansive views over the Arthur River and forests. Just after the Kanunnah Bridge, a dirt road climbs to the lookout. You'll be greeted by a large carpark and a massive wooden sign to let you know you've arrived. The lookout features a sturdy wooden rail and the trees are cut back to give you uninterrupted views of the valley and river below.
A hidden gem, Lake Chisholm (60 km west, partly unsealed road) is a flooded limestone sinkhole, one of the many sinkholes in the area, but one of only two filled with water. A gentle half hour return walk meanders through a majestic old myrtle forest to the tranquil waters of the lake. This can be a fantastic photo opportunity, especially in the early morning, so remember to bring your camera.
Tayatea Bridge Picnic Area (38 km south) provides easy access to the Arthur River - a great opportunity to fish, picnic or even launch a raft or kayak and paddle down medium rapids to Kanunnah bridge.
Milkshakes Hills Forest Reserve
Milkshakes is a magical picnic spot. Picnic facilities are nestled among the eucalypt and rainforest trees. There are two walks, a basic 10 minute nature walk through the forest which is relatively flat, or you can climb to the top of one of the Milkshake Hills (45 minutes return). Shelters, picnic area and barbecues are available at the car park. A signposted track leads to the lookout on the Milkshakes Hills; a worthwhile climb.
The Milkshakes Forest Reserve free campsite is located app. 26 kilometres to the north of the Julius River campground, some 6 kilomtres south of the Tayatea Bridge. Turn off, follow the well signposted area for just over 3.5 kilometres where you will find this very appealing free camping ground. Make sure you walk through the rainforests on the tracks provided. Please note, this site is not ideally suited for tent-based camping; recommended for campervans, campers, motorhomes and caravans. For further information please contactForesty Tasmania - 03 6452 4900.
How to get there: Travel south from Smithton on the B22 to Edith Creek through excellent, fertile, dairy country. Take the C218 to Kanunnah Bridge over the Arthur River. Travel east via Julius River and the Rapid River Road and follow the signage to the Milkshakes Forest Reserve. Total distance is 80km.
Julius River Forest Reserve
This site has recently been upgraded and has excellent picnic facilities. A half hour return walk winds through the cool temperate rainforest. Interpretive signs provide an insight into the nature of this forest.
Julius River Rainforest Walk: From Milkshakes Hills, continue on to the 30 minute Julius River Rainforest Walk, situated in a beautiful reserve, set in sinkhole country. There are two easy walks into the mossy, myrtle forests, found throughout the Tarkine. BBQ facilities, picnic shelter and a toilet are provided.