Tasmania's westernmost community and the furthest settlement from Hobart, Marrawah is the most popular surfing spot in Tasmania's north. The small town services the surrounding rich dairy farming area. Beyond the town the farmlands undulate down to the sea at Green Point and West Point where the cold and inhospitable waters of the Southern Ocean crash against the lonely coastline.
There’s a lengthy beach walk from Bluff Hill Point to West Point (four hours one way) and a coastal walk from Bluff Hill Point to the mouth of the Arthur River (two hours one way). There’s also a highly scenic walk north along the beach from Green Point to Preminghana (around three hours return).
Marrawah is the most popular surfing spot in Tasmania’s north. Marrawah is accessed from Tasnania's north west region. Marrawah's three beaches - Ann Bay, Mawson Bay and Green Point - have hundred-metre-long rides when the swell is westerly and the wind offshore. The record wave in this area was measured at almost 20 metres with wind and surf rolling in uninterrupted for almost 17,000 kilometres.
Marrawah is the venue for the National Wave Sailing Championships; a highly sought after title worth $22,000 and held over 5-days in February that combines wind and wave skills to attract competitors and visitors. The West Coast Surf Classic, an amateur surf carnival that has been going for the past 30 years, follows this event each March long weekend and attracts up to 1000 spectators and competitors.
Green Point (known as taypalaka in Aboriginal dialect), about 2km from the town centre, has a break that’s impressive in southerly conditions. Nettley Bay, along the road from Green Point/taypalaka, is also a surfing area. Lighthouse Beach at West Point, south of Marrawah, has good surfing in an easterly. I is reached by taking the left-hand branches of the road from the turn-off on the C214. Bluff Hill Point has great reef surfing in easterly conditions. The surf beach is to the right of the lighthouse off Bluff Hill Point Rd.
Besides surfing, the major activities in the area include walks along the coastline, viewing the important Aboriginal carvings at Mt Cameron West and Sundown Point, and cruises along the beautiful reaches of the Arthur River. Fishing is popular - in winter you can catch Australian salmon at Nettley Bay or off the rocks at West Point, while in summer you can catch black-backed salmon off the beach at the mouth of the Arthur River, or estuary perch in the river itself.
Bluff Hill Point
Bluff Hill Point, a small community of shacks, cabins and apartments on the coast is 9.4 km to the north of the Arthur River townsite. There’s a lengthy beach walk from Bluff Hill Point to West Point (four hours one way) and a coastal walk from Bluff Hill Point to the mouth of the Arthur River (two hours one way). The surf beach is to the right of the lighthouse off Bluff Hill Point Rd. Bluff Hill Point has great reef surfing in easterly conditions.
Visitor Centre: Tarkine Forest Adventures, Bass Hwy, Smithton. Ph (03) 6456 7199
Where Is it?: 491 km north west of Hobart and 292 km north west of Launceston, 50 km south east of Smithton, via the Bass Highway.
A settlers home in the Marrawah forests, c.1922
Prior to European settlement the coastal region around Marrawah was occupied by members of the Peerapper Aboriginal language group. Unlike today, the area in and around Marrawah was heavily timbered at that time. Clearing of the forests took place progresively over many years. By the 1880s, sof of the land had been cleared, resulting the the few remaining Aboriginal people in the area being forcibly moved from their lands. Marrawah had developed as a farming community, and Cobb & Co. used the Marrawah Hotel as both a terminus for services to the north-west, and as a resting station.
Marrawah township, c.1907
The Marrawah Tramway was a 28 miles (45.1 km) long narrow gauge forest railway near Marrawah with a gauge of 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm). The construction was initiated around 1911 to harvest timber in the Mowbray Swamp. The tramway was bought by the state government in October 1913 and the steel rails extended to Marrawah. It was decommissioned in 1961.
The first sod of the new line was turned by the Governor, Sir Harry Barron, at Stanley on 4 May 1911. After the winter break the work resumed in August 1911. Iron rails for the line and a new locomotive were delivered by November 1911. At the annual meeting of the Tramway Co., held on 22 February 1912, Mr. Geo Allen was elected a director, at a time when F. F. Ford, the founder and also the largest shareholder in the company, had just passed away.
The first tramload of cheese, butter and wool to Smithton on the Marrawah tramway
By this time, the line had been laid as far as the 13½ mile peg, and the formation completed to the Montagu River, 15½ miles out. It was well-laid with 30 and 40lb. rails, and sleepers not more than one foot apart in most cases, so that it could carry loads of up to 70 tons. The grades were less than 1 in 40 (25 ‰). The section from the 19 mile to the 22½ mile peg was also ready for the laying of the wooden rails, and it was anticipated that the line would be at Marrawah by the end of the year.
Early in February 1913 the tram had progressed so much that it could be to used it for freight transport, and by the first week in February a weekly service was commenced. The first regular rail service between Smithton and Marrawah started on 5 February 1913. The tram ran once a week, on Wednesdays, for freight and passengers, but from the 17 mile peg the journey was made by horse tram. Goods and passengers had to be transferred at this point. The estimated cost of the tram was £259,592, at an average cost of £2,998 per mile. The tram left Smithton at 9 a.m. every Wednesday for the 17 mile and at the same hour the horse tram left Marrawah to connect with the steam tram at this point.
In the four years from 1916 to 1920, the railway's income from the timber industry had doubled, while produce from Marrawah has gone up one-third. By 1922,timber valued at £4000 and produce worth £1000 was being carried each year on the line.
In The Area
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.
Woolnorth (44 km north) is located near the northwest extremity of Tasmania on Cape Grim where the Great Southern Ocean and the Roaring Forties collide with Bass Strait. It is still owned by the Van Diemen s Land Company which acquired the land in 1825. It is the last Royal Charter Company in the world. Visitors can explore the 22,000 hectare property on full day and half day guided tours, taking in the old farm buildings, the wind farm and Cape Grim, where large turbines harness energy from the Roaring Forty winds.
Woolnorth Tours Website
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.
Situated 16 km south of Marrawah at the mouth of the Arthur River, the tiny settlement of Arthur River 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.
'The Edge of The World'
Gardiner Point, to the south of Arthur River, 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.
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. The state's top designers have created magical and moving artwork to enhance the power of the environment. Local artist Roz Langford used tree knolls to create tree spirits representing her Aboriginal ancestry. Moss and railings that make sawing sounds when touched give a very spiritual feeling to the walk.
The modern visitors' centre, with its pleasant cafe, is perched on the sinkhole rim overlooking the forest and blends in perfectly. Entry fees apply. Either slide or stroll to the maze entrance andlose 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.
A hidden gem, Lake Chisholm 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.
Allendale Gardens (10 km south of Smithton), located on the road to Edith Creek, are an interesting mixture of rainforest, botanic gardens and pleasant walkways. There are 2.5 hectares of landscaped gardens set in 26 hectares of rainforest. Paths weave through lovely tree fern glades, eucalyptus and blackwood trees. In the gardens, 16th and 17th century roses are featured. This is a hidden gem, a beautiful, tranquil and fragrant paradise away from the everyday stress. Here you can take in the tranquillity and silence and the sensory delights of fragrant flowers, roses and the rainforest walk is a delight. Open Open from Tuesday 6th October until the last Saturday in April, 10am until 4pm. Ph (03) 6456 4216.
How to get there: At Smithton take the B22 just inside the Smithton town boundary via Irishtown or the C217 two kilometres further on at the roundabout on the Marrawah road.
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 contact Foresty 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.
Dodds Creek Falls
These falls are in the Wes Beckett Reserve, 61 kms south of Smithton. The walk is short and the 1.2 kms return track is barely definable in has steep rocky sections and is sometimes close to the edge of the ravine. The falls are small, but pretty and the walk takes 30 - 35 minutes. It is not suitable for small children. Wes Beckett Reserve is 61 kms south of Smithton. After turning left at Kanunnah Bridge onto Sumac Road, drive 16 km before branching left onto Mount Bertha Road. There are five more signed intersections in the final 10 km. Take a left turn at each one.
Water Wheel Creek Timber Heritage Experience
Water Wheel Creek Timber Heritage Experience is located on 20 hectares (49 acres) of forested land at Mawbanna, community 25 minutes south east of Stanley (27 km), en route to Dip Falls. Here you can take a guided tour to see Tasmania's only working example of a timber tramway. Discover the spirit of early pioneers in the Heritage Museum and browse the displays of restored pioneer machinery, artefacts, photographs and memorabilia to gain an insight into life in the early timber communities of Tasmania s north west.
You can also take a guided Forest Experience Walk. On this gentle, tracked walk through native forest you will discover a complex eco-system and the diverse wildlife it supports. See Tasmanian rainforest trees including blackwood, sassafras and myrtle and walk in the shade of giant tree ferns. You may even catch a glimpse of an elusive platypus or giant Tasmanian freshwater crayfish.
Visit the Bushman's Cafe to try freshly made cakes and scones, sustaining snacks and steaming tea and coffee. Soak up the atmosphere of the surrounding forest on the outdoor deck. 1314 Mawbanna Road, Mawbanna, Tas.
The Big Tree
Another attraction in the forest near Mawbanna is The Big Tree, a 400 year old browntop stringybark tree standing head and shoulders above all the other much smaller trees in the surrounding rainforest. The Big Tree is 62 metres tall, and at 16 metres, it definitely has the widest circumference of any tree in Australia.