The Tarkine

Pieman River

The Tarkine is Tasmania's largest unprotected wilderness area. 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.

Current historical areas include; Balfour (former mining town, now ghost town), Magnet (ghost mining town), Corinna (former gold mining boom town), and Waratah. Emu Bay Railway, regarded as possibly Tasmania s most spectacular railway, was built nearly a century ago, and winds through spectacular rainforest gorges in the eastern fringes of the Tarkine.

On a global scale, the Tarkine contains one of the world s most significant remaining tracts of temperate rainforest (second only in size to those in western Canada  British Columbia). Temperate Rainforest is the rarest of the rainforests, and more highly threatened even than tropical and subtropical rainforests. outside of The Tarkine, Temperate Rainforest only remains in fragments in New Zealand, Chile and Western Canada and US. The tall rainforest of the Tarkine exists largely on an extensive basalt plateau which still retains its native vegetation. The word 'Tarkine' comes from one of a number of bands of Aboriginals that lived in the North-West Region. The 'Tarkiners' were a group who were based at Sandy Cape (Tarkine Coast).

The Tarkiners seasonally travelled throughout the Tarkine region, travelling as far as 140 km north to the Hunter Islands hunting for mutton birds and fur seals, and as far as 100 km east to the Surrey Hills for wallabies and emus.

The word Tarkine was first recorded in the 1800s, by George Augustus Robinson. In his diaries 'The Friendly Mission' which give an account of several trips made to the North-West to meet and then remove the North-West Aboriginals, Robinson talks several times about the Tarkine and the Tarkiners.

Where Is it?: The Tarkine Wilderness is a region in North West Tasmania, bound roughly by the Bass Highway to the North, the Pieman River to the South, the Murchison Highway to the East, and the Southern Ocean to the West.

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In The Area
The Tarkine Coast

Conical Rocks

The Tarkine contains a wide variety of spectacular landscape features, may of which can be explored with relative ease with a 4-wheel drive vehicle. One of these is the Tarkine Coast, a spectacularly wild coastline, battered by the winds of the roaring 40s. The purest air in the world. Huge dunes that stretch inland up to several kilometres. Rocky, jagged coastal stretches. Incredible Granite Tor formations (especially at Conical Rocks south of the Pieman River), extensive long sandy beaches, lagoons, grassy woodland, coastal heathland, marshes and swampland. Sandy cape forms a dominant and spectacular feature of the Tarkine's coast.

Rivers of The Tarkine

Arthur River

The Tarkine contains two of Tasmania s Grandest Rivers, the Arthur River (which is the only complete river system in Tasmania that has no dam), and the Pieman River. The Arthur River is characterized by steep gorges and rapids, valleys blanketed in rainforest, and stretches of giant eucalypt forest.

It is fed by the Hellyer, Keith, Lyons, Rapid, and Frankland rivers. The Pieman River is most famous for its reflections. Like the Gordon, the Pieman, on a good day, gives spectacular mirror like river reflections. The section from Corinna to the coast is broad and flat and is flanked by rainforests, and Tasmania s most northerly stands of Huon Pine. The Whyte, Savage and Donaldson rivers feed the Piemans lower stretches. The Upper Pieman river is dammed, and is fed by the Tarkine s Huskisson, Wilson and Stanley rivers.

The Tarkine also hosts Tasmania's greatest density of wild rivers. The major rivers remain remote and largely inaccessible. These include; Thornton, Lagoon, Pedder, Wild Wave, Interview (coastal), Donaldson, Little Donaldson, Keith, Lyons, Rapid, and Upper Savage (rainforests), Huskisson and Wilson (Southern Tarkine).

Tarkine Rainforests

The vastness of Australia s largest tract of temperate rainforest is impressive, and reaches/covers the Arthur, Pieman, Rapid, Keith, Donaldson and Savage River valleys. The densely rainforested upper Savage River is exceptional due to its deeply incised gorge system.

There are a number of spectacular known as well as barely known waterfalls within the Tarkine s rainforests (including Philosopher s Falls, McGowan s Falls, lovers Falls).

Tarkine Cave Systems

Trowutta Arch

The Tarkine contains globally significant magnesite cave systems. They are potentially the most significant if not the only significant system of magnesium cave systems in the world. They are most significant in the upper Lyons River region. There are also a number of small cave features that show evidence of Aboriginal occupation within the Savage River Rainforests. Due to there remoteness, there are no lit show caves with guided tours.

The Tarkine also contains dolomite cave systems in the Trowutta/Sumac/Black River region which features hundreds of sinkholes, including the outstanding sinkhole, Lake Chisholm. These cave systems are not only unique in themselves, but are also home to extraordinary cave dwelling creatures, such as the bizarre troglodyte  (cave dwelling spider) and other fascinating creatures.

Trowutta Caves
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.

Norfolk Range

Norfolk Range distinctively rises above coastal plateau, to over 700m. It contains a belt of sub-alpine rainforest. This region is blanketed in a tapestry of heath and buttongrass, moorland, pockets of varying forest types, and gorge-like drainage lines.

Although contemporary records are sketchy, high grade but small deposits of pyrite, chalcopyrite with minor bornite, chalcocite, tenorite and native copper were reported during geological surveys by the Mt Lyell Mining and Railway Company between 1907 and 1911. Parts of the Norfolk Range Sandy Cape area have been held under exploration licence at various times but, perhaps deterred by difficulty of access, only a few companies have undertaken significant grass roots  fieldwork. No significant mining has subsequently taken place.

Meredith Range

Meredith Range (reaching over 900 metres) is an undulating granite plateau, the largest exposed area of granite in the south of the Tarkine region. It affords spectacular views of Cradle Mountain, and the South-West. Pockets and stretches of tall, implicate and sub-alpine rainforest exist amongst the granite pillars and plates of the Meredith Range. Access to Meridith Range Regional Reserve is by four-wheel drive vehicles only.


Corinna is a tiny historic mining town, set in pristine rainforest of the Tarkine region on the banks of the majestic Pieman River. One of the most fascinating spots in Tasmania, Corinna is now popular as an area of spectacular wilderness scenery with short bush walks and good trout fishing in the Pieman River.

Corinna is the heart of The Tarkine. 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.


An isolated former mining town deep in the heart of the forests of north western Tasmania, Balfour features an historic cemetery and numerous old mine sites. Mt. Balfour Mine, a copper and tin mine, was one of the westernmost mines in Tasmania. The Balfour mining field was the scene of the greatest activity in the western zone from 1901 when copper was discovered. The largest mine was the Murray Brothers Reward Mine, yielding 1286 tons of copper, iron pyrites and alluvial tin up to 1910.