Part 2 – Walks for your Tasmanian West Coast Road Trip

Part 2 – Walks for your Tasmanian West Coast Road Trip

Walks to include in your West Coast road-trip.

If you’re planning a memorable road trip along the picturesque West Coast of Tasmania, don’t miss the opportunity to visit these towns and National Parks. Starting at Rocky Cape (OK, not technically on the West Coast) and allow time to include these walks.  Also, added in a “must do” cruise and rail journey.  

Rocky Cape National Park

Distance: from Launceston 2hr 30min/188km. 

This national park is a nature lover’s paradise with diverse landscapes and captivating walks. Here’s your guide to making the most of your visit:

  • Banksia Grove/Caves Circuit (Approx. 1.6km – 1 hour return): Begin your adventure at the Sisters Beach boat ramp, following a well-defined track into the heath-covered hills. Discover Banksia Grove, home to spectacular saw banksias with large cylindrical flowers that eventually transform into unique seed capsules. These capsules are reminiscent of the “bad banksia men” famously featured in May Gibbs’ stories. Continue along the link track towards the coast to find Lee Archer Cave, an Aboriginal shelter perched dramatically above the rocky shoreline. Please be respectful and stay on the designated platform to protect the midden material. Afterward, descend to Wet Cave and then make your way back to the boat ramp via a short rock-hop.
    Banksia Grove, Rocky Cape N.P. – Image credit Tourism Tasmania, Jess Bonde 
  • Postman’s Track (Approx. 2.1km one way – 1 hour, 2.5 hours return): Named after the historical postal delivery route, this track circles the easternmost section of the park near Sisters Beach. It begins near Lake Llewellyn, climbing east into the wooded hills known as the Two Sisters. Enjoy sweeping views of Walkers Cove before returning to the eastern end of Sisters Beach. You can choose to leave cars at each end for a comfortable walk or opt for a longer circuit by continuing along the beach until you reach the road.
  • Rocky Cape Circuit (Approx. 10km – 2.5 hours return): This scenic walk starts from the Pinmatik/Rocky Cape area and winds through heath-covered hills, offering extensive coastal views. Don’t miss the side track to Tinkers Lookout (291m) for breathtaking vistas. The trail is surrounded by a variety of flowering plants and shrubs, including the spectacular Christmas bells in spring and summer. To complete the circuit, follow Blandfordia Spur towards the coast and take a left turn after Tinkers Lookout. Access to the coast can be found via the side track to Cathedral Rock, and return inland via Postman’s Pass.

Stay – Rocky Cape Tavern and Caravan Park 

Stanley

Distance – from Rocky Cape NP 50min/60km

Explore Stanley Town: While in the area, take some time to explore the charming town of Stanley. Its well-preserved cottages and public buildings create a nostalgic atmosphere. The self-guided Stanley Heritage Walk is a delightful way to delve into the town’s architecture, history, and culture. Don’t forget to visit the Highfield Historic Site, which harks back to the 1830s, when the chief agent of the Van Diemen’s Land Company built this Regency-era property on a vast farm. The Stanley Discovery Museum, staffed by volunteers, offers fascinating insights into the area’s history and stories.

Stanley Village. Image Credit Tourism Tasmania, Adrian Cook.

The Nut State Reserve: No visit to Stanley is complete without exploring The Nut State Reserve. This iconic geological formation rises dramatically from Bass Strait and provides outstanding views over the town, across Bass Strait, and towards Rocky Cape National Park. You can take a scenic walk to the summit of The Nut or hop aboard the chairlift for panoramic views. Once atop the summit, explore the plateau on foot via the scenic circuit walk. The reserve is not only a visual wonder but also a haven for nature enthusiasts. It protects endangered species and provides essential breeding sites for various birds.

Stay – Big4 Stanley Holiday Park 

Arthur River

Distance – from Stanley 1hr 10min/85km

The Edge of the World: As you continue your journey along the West Coast, make sure to stop at Arthur River. Here, you can stand at the “Edge of the World” and inhale some of the freshest air on the planet. The Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area, stretching from the Arthur River in the north to the Pieman River in the south, offers a glimpse into the ancient homelands of the North-West Aboriginal people, who have lived in this region for at least 35,000 years. Explore the vast middens, hut depressions, and rock art that bear witness to this powerful, cultural landscape.

Edge of the World.  Image credit – Tourism Tasmania, Sean Scott.

Strahan & Gordon River. 

Distance – from The Edge of the World 3hr 30min/200km

World Heritage Cruise, Gordon River.  Image credit – Tourism Australia, WHC

Discovering the Wilderness on the award-winning Gordon River Cruise. Departing from Strahan, this cruise takes you deep into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The cruise on the purpose-built Spirit of the Wild is a serene experience powered by electric motors. Sail across Macquarie Harbour to Hell’s Gates, the narrow entrance into the Southern Ocean. Continue to the Gordon River, where you’ll have the best chance to witness the famous reflections, especially on the first cruise of the day aboard Spirit of the Wild. Step ashore at Heritage Landing and take a walk through the rainforest to see ancient Huon Pines. You’ll also have the opportunity to disembark at Sarah Island, a 19th-century penal colony, and hear captivating stories of the convicts who toiled there.

Stay – Big4 Strahan Holiday retreat

Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park

Distance – From Strahan to Queenstown 42min/42km

A Wilderness Oasis just an hour from Strahan, the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is a sanctuary of untamed beauty. Along the Lyell Highway, easily accessible short walks provide glimpses of the park’s most famous feature: the majestic Franklin River. 

Franklin Nature Trail

Begin your journey of exploration with the wheelchair-friendly Franklin Nature Trail, an ideal stopover for a brief respite, picnic, and even a toilet break. This 25-minute return walk covers a smooth, even surface with no steps or steep sections, making it accessible to all, including wheelchair users with assistance.

As you follow the partially board walked path, you’ll find yourself immersed in a pristine mossy rainforest. In late summer, the air is filled with the delightful fragrance of leatherwood flowers. The highlight of this short loop track is undoubtedly when you reach the banks of the Franklin River. This once-famous river was at the center of a controversial dam project that threatened to submerge its entire course. However, the river was saved, and today it stands as a tranquil testament to the wild beauty of nature.

Exploring the Franklin River

The Franklin River is one of the most renowned waterways in the Wild Rivers National Park. A walk along its banks provides a glimpse into the cool temperate rainforest that thrives throughout the park. Along the way, you’ll encounter informative interpretation signs that shed light on the park’s many natural values and the rich history of the region.

Donaghys Hill

Donoughys Lookout. Image credit – West Coast Council, Ollie Khedun.

A Photographer’s Paradise and those seeking captivating wilderness views, the 40-minute return journey to Donaghys Hill is a must. Suitable for most ages, this track features a compacted surface, occasional steps, and a gentle hill section. As you ascend the 1.1 km one-way track through forests and scrub, you’ll eventually reach the high lookout perched on rocky Donaghys Hill.

From this vantage point, on clear days, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas that extend down into the Franklin River valley and out to the impressive Frenchmans Cap and its neighboring peaks. Your camera will be your best companion on this picturesque journey.

Nelson Falls: Nature’s Spectacle

Nelson Falls. Image credit – Tourism Tasmania, Graham Freeman.

Nelson Falls, a delightful set of cascading waterfalls, awaits visitors on a 20-minute return walk from the Lyell Highway. This is the final stop between Derwent Bridge and Queenstown, making it an ideal leg-stretching point.

The mossy forest surrounding the falls features sassafras, myrtle, and an array of ferns, hinting at the region’s abundant rainfall. These falls are a sight to behold year-round, but they become a roaring torrent of beauty after heavy rain. Your return journey follows the same track, allowing you to soak in the mesmerizing scenery once more. As you stroll along the boardwalk to Nelson Falls, you’ll encounter interpretation panels that reveal the secrets of the ancient plants that adorn the path. Learn about at least seven species of ferns and embark on a journey back in time when Tasmania was part of the great supercontinent of Gondwana.

Among the towering forest trees, you’ll encounter ancient species that once dominated the Australian landmass. Today, these species are confined to the wetter regions of Tasmania and southeastern Australia. The park’s cool temperate rainforests are a living testament to the enduring legacy of these ancient botanical wonders.

Image credit – Google Maps

West Coast Wilderness Railway

Like the Gordon River Cruise the West Coast Wilderness Railway is an ‘must do’ on your West Coast road-trip. Pick it up in Strahan or Queenstown. 

West Coast Wilderness Railway.  Image credit – Tourism Australia. 
 
Brands of Camper suppliers available in Tasmania – Maui, Britz, Apollo, Cruisin, Mighty, Go Cheap, Cheapa Campa, Star RV, TasmaniaCampers, Spaceships.  Search the DriveNow.com.au site for comparisons of the best deals available for when you want to travel.
As you enjoy Tasmania, don’t forget to pay your respects to the traditional custodians of Lutrumita, the land on which you travel. 
Travel lightly in these fragile environments – Take only photo’s and leave only foot prints. 
 
Credit – Images Tourism Tasmania,  Tourism Australia, thl and Google Maps 
 

Links to related articles and itineraries: 

Walks in Tasmania for your Road-Trip Itinerary – Part 1 – The North 

Tips for picking the right Campervan or Motorhome in Australia

General information for hiring a Campervan in Tasmania

Shelley Richardson

Shelley Richardson

Shelley has been working in the travel industry for over 30 years, in aviation, for tour operators and since 2016 for DriveNow. Having travelled extensively worldwide, alone, as a couple and with her family, Shelley has experience to share about how to make the most of your holiday, especially road-trips to amazing destinations.

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