West Coast Of Tasmania: Things To Do And Accommodation For Road Trippers
There are some amazing west coast Tasmania attractions from the West Coast Wilderness Railway to exploring the Gordon River and the old penal colony of Sarah Island to the West Coast Heritage Centre. Just the drive in to this part of Tasmania through kilometres of old rainforest helps to add to the feeling you have been transported somewhere else and this area is perfect for a west coast Tasmania road trip.
Add in the fact that the main roads are in good condition, it’s easy to escape other tourists and there are some great west coast accommodation Tasmania options and you should be excited to head off on your trip!
Below, we give you full information about everything the west coast of Tasmania has to offer including the top west coast Tasmania things to do, west coast Tasmania accommodation, west coast Tasmania camping, a Tasmania west coast map and more.
An Introduction To West Coast Tasmania
The wild West Coast of Tasmania is where you’ll find famous wilderness, stunning national parks, historic mining towns and rich convict heritage. Remote, yet easy and safe to visit, this is one of Australia’s true wilderness frontiers. The gateway to Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage Area, ancient rainforests and picturesque mountains that draw visitors from all corners of the globe.
Less than one hundred years ago the only way in or out to this isolated west coast was by sea, with many a sailor having lost his life on the rough waves. It’s left a coastline littered with wrecks. However, the introduction of the mining industry in the 1800’s soon changed the lay of the land with roads and a railway quickly established.
The region became the focus of explorers and prospectors, with the mining of gold, silver, zinc and copper. And by 1823 the Sarah Island Penal Settlement in Macquarie Harbour was completed, where convicts worked in chains providing Huon Pine logs for whale ships.
Forests were cleared for agriculture, larger settlements, and demand for the timber grew with shipments to the United Kingdom and other colonies. Some control was introduced by the 1920 Forestry Act that brought regulation to the exploited Tasmanian forests, but even today the landscape around Queenstown still bears the scars.
These days visitors enjoy twisty roads that connect the old mining settlements – now modern-day rural towns – such as Queenstown with its unique gravel football oval, the coastal town of Strahan on the iconic banks of the Macquarie Harbour and Zeehan full of heritage charm.
Yet this is outdoors country… Sail beautiful harbours, kayak on lakes, cruise the majestic Gordon or Arthur Rivers, ride the West Coast Railway steam-powered locomotive, camp in remote wilderness regions, hike through age-old rainforest – with 1,000 year old Huon Pines – or toboggan massive sand dunes!
Immerse yourselves in one of the most beautiful and remote places on earth…
West Coast Tasmania Map
The west coast region of Tasmania on this site covers the mining towns of Strahan, Queenstown, Zeehan, Roseberry and Tullah as well as areas that are also generally covered by the north west region with the Arthur River area. Below is our map of Tasmania west coast which shows everything covered in this guide.
Top West Coast Towns To Visit
There are some great places to visit on the west coast. Here are full guides to the top options.
Top Things To Do On The West Coast Of Tasmania
There are some great things to do in west coast Tasmania while visiting this region. Below, we describe our top picks of the west coast Tasmania tourist attractions.
The Edge of the World
Gardiner Point, on the banks of the Arthur River, is aptly named as this is the starting point of the longest uninterrupted stretch of ocean in the world. ‘The Edge of the World’ sums up the feeling as you stand looking out across wild seas towards the faraway shores of Patagonia, the south east coast of Argentina over 15,000km away. A truly unfathomable journey!
Around 3-hours from Tullah, the scenery is well worth the long drive. Rugged and beautiful, this is mother nature showing off. Endless waves explode against the jagged rocks, and the ‘Roaring Forties’ winds batter the area almost without a pause. Wild, often wet, it’s a coastline that’s littered with salt-bleached trunks of massive trees, tossed onto the sandy shore to lay half buried for hundreds of years.
From the car park, follow the boardwalk that brings you towards Gardiner Point. At the split, walk straight on to find a rocky outcrop that overlooks where the stormy seas meet the surprisingly calm Arthur River. Alternatively, take the left fork in the boardwalk to reach a lookout point that offers panoramic views over the mouth of the Arthur River and on down the western coast of Tasmania.
You’ll find some information boards at the lookout with facts about the Tasmanian Aboriginal people who first inhabited the area, along with details of the region’s history.
A long journey but this is definitely a Tasmania bucket-list adventure!
Open 24 hours, there is no entrance fee. Wrap up warm as weather can be rough and windy!
Take An Arthur River Cruise
Sure to be one of the standout tours of your vacation, a cruise along the Arthur River takes you on an iconic Tassie wilderness adventure.
Considered as perhaps the last truly wild river of Australia – which has never been logged or dammed – it winds its way through the Tarkine Wilderness rainforest. Centuries-old forest giants such as tree ferns, blackwoods, laurels and myrtles cover the densely forested river banks which are reflected in the calm waters. This is epic scenery!
Just over 30 years ago a local bushman – Turk Porteus – realised the uniqueness of the river and built a boat from scratch creating the first Arthur River Cruise.
Today, visitors enjoy the serenity of the river and the unhurried pace of the cruise. Taking approximately 6 hours for a roundtrip from the small settlement of Arthur River, there’s a stretch of legs at an idyllic lunch spot deep inside the Tarkine Wilderness.
Guests have the chance to explore the rainforest and nearby Warra Waterfall, keeping an eye out for platypus, white-bellied sea eagles, orange-bellied parrots, kingfishers, the Tasmanian devil and more!
With a BBQ lunch, the stillness of the rainforest, magical river views and a boat with a full flybridge giving 360-degree viewing, it’s no wonder this is one of the top west Tasmania attractions.
Remember to pack some warm clothing and suitable footwear. Bookings are essential and more details can be found here
Ride Wee Georgie Wood Steam Railway
Once the only lifeline to the outside world for Tullah, a small settlement located in the mountainous temperate rainforests of Tasmania’s west coast, the historic 2ft narrow-gauge railway of the North Mount Farrell Tramway opened in 1902. Built to transport high grade lead silver ore from a mine to Rosebery and Mole Creek, the Wee Georgie Wood was one of only two steam locomotives that operated for the tramway from 1924-1962.
Originally built in Leeds, England, the locomotive was named after a popular actor and comedian of the time, George Wood. Today, fully restored to its former glory, the locomotive takes visitors along 1.6km of the former Tramway route from Tullah towards Lake Rosebery. Operating only on scheduled weekends over the summer season, enjoy a twenty minute ride that takes you through breathtaking scenery.
This heritage steam railway has been maintained by volunteers since it reopened in 1987, ensuring that this nostalgic experience survives and reminds people what it was like to live in this isolated region of the West Coast back in the early 20th century.
Found on the Murchison Highway in Tullah, the train operates on selected Saturdays and Sundays from October to April. Outside of these months visitors can drop by to view Wee Georgie and a further collection that includes a Fowler loco, a partly restored Krauss locomotive and a Lake Margaret tramway carriage. Check here for details.
Visit Lake Roseberry
This man-made reservoir – which plays an important role in Tasmania’s hydro-electric system – is found in the northern part of Tasmania’s West Coast range, fed by the dammed Mackintosh and Murchison rivers. The Bastyan Dam constructed across the Pieman River was built by the Hydro-Electric Commission back in 1983, creating Lake Rosebery near to the village of Tullah.
A peaceful former mining town, Tullah is surrounded by a beautiful landscape of rivers and mountain ranges. Extended in the 1970s to house workers from the Hydro Electric Power Scheme, today it’s a quiet lakeside village full of quirky attractions such as the Wee Georgie Wood Steam Railway.
A picturesque setting, Rosebery Lake’s reflections will astound you as eucalypt, myrtle and sassafras forests stretch down to the shores. The peaceful silent atmosphere can leave you feeling as though there’s no one else in the world but you!
Hike the walking tracks along one side of the lake or rent a kayak to get out on the water, where you might spot playful platypus. Boating and fishing are popular pastimes with the lake managed as a wild trout fishery and being one of Tasmania’s premier water-skiing locations. Or, perhaps, just relax by the shore with a picnic and enjoy the views.
Explore The West Coast Heritage Centre
Located in the “silver city” mining town of Zeehan – which thrived in the early 1800’s after silver and lead were discovered – The West Coast Heritage Centre is your one-stop location to discover the history of this mining region.
Marketed as a “museum”, it is much more – combining a mixture of indoor displays with a sprawling outdoors area that has buildings set up as a freemasons lodge, police station, courthouse, a blacksmith shop, wheelwright workshop, powerhouse and more! You’ll also find old mining machinery, locomotives and carriages, and a machinery shed.
This large centre was, back in 1894, the School of Mines and Metallurgy. Over the years it has spilled into the neighbouring buildings and now offers a real insight into the life of Zeehan, the miners and townsfolk.
Within the main museum you’ll find a large display of minerals, alongside lots of photographs and documents that take you through the highs and lows of Zeehan, a community relying on the mining industry.
Adjacent and part of the complex is the old Gaiety Theatre, built in 1898, that was once the largest concert hall in Australia. Explore this glorious building and catch a silent movie,
This is one of the top west coast Tasmania tourism attractions and you can easily spend a half day exploring the site. The West Coast Heritage Centre is open daily except Christmas and Good Friday, and there is an admission fee which includes entry to everything.
Walk Through The Spray Tunnel
After learning about the mining history of the town at the West Coast Heritage Centre of Zeehan, travel just outside of town to the Spray Tunnel. Definitely a more unusual attraction, this 100 metre long key-shaped tunnel is part of an abandoned railway that was used in the 1900s to transport silver from a Zeehan mine.
These days visitors come to see the thousands of glow worms that have made themselves at home in the dark corners and ceiling of the tunnel. Small pin-pricks of light glitter throughout the tunnel as you make your way along a well maintained boardwalk. Short enough that light filters through at each end to sufficiently light your way, the tunnel has a rocky interior that glows a rainbow of colours when illuminated by your camera’s flashlight. Some top Insta chances here!
A torch can come in handy though as the tunnel is home to a few other critters aside from the glow worms including the Tasmanian cave spider. With a leg span of up to 18 centimetres, you won’t find it too hard to spot!
Making your way to the tunnel is half the adventure, as (leading up from the rear of the town’s golf course) there’s only a single-lane gravel road. Passing cars heading in the opposite direction is rather tricky and don’t consider taking this road in a caravan or similar sized vehicle.
For those who have the time, there’s a lovely hike – also from the rear of the golf course – that follows the old tramway route. Noted as one of the more easy west coast Tasmania walks, it’s approximately 6 kilometres.
A highly photogenic area, the Spray Tunnel is well worth a visit during your Zeehan exploration.
Go Sandboarding In Henty Dunes
Only ten minutes north of Strahan, the Henty Dunes – one of the most fun west coast of Tasmania attractions – are a sight to behold! Stretching 15 kilometres up the coast – linking with the longest beach in Tasmania, Ocean Beach – the dunes can reach up to 30 metres in height.
This strange desert landscape set in the middle of rainforests is just another example of how west coast Tasmania can take you by surprise. Formed over decades by the constant winds that blow in across from South America, the Roaring Forties, the dunes rise up with pine plantations on one side and the ocean of the remote west coast on the other.
And how best to enjoy the dunes than by tobogganing down them! You’ll find operators in Strahan renting out toboggans, and we recommend packing a picnic (don’t forget water as there are no vendors at the dunes) and making an afternoon of it.
Grab sunglasses – to protect both from the sun and the sand blown on the wind – and sun protection. Climb to the top of a dune to chill or enjoy the exhilaration of the toboggan ride down!
Enjoy A Scenic Gordon River Cruise
Another of Tasmania’s famous wilderness cruises and an iconic must-do adventure is the Gordon River Cruise.
Departing from the beautiful Macquarie Harbour in Strahan, this standout of west coast Tasmania tours takes you deep into the UNESCO Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Glide quietly past ancient rainforests whilst listening to historical stories and fables, filled with colourful characters and convicts who once called this part of the world home.
Stop off to explore Sarah Island, established in 1821 as a penal settlement where convicts worked under harsh conditions cutting down Huon Pines for what was one of the largest ship building yards in Australia. Windswept, barren, the island is covered with impenetrable rainforest that today is a beautiful yet chilling reminder of the past.
The highlight of the cruise is the stopover at Heritage Landing, with a boardwalk stroll through ancient forests. With rolling mountains, pristine waters and native wildlife, plus a delicious buffet lunch, it’s no wonder these cruises sell out fast!
Book in advance here and enjoy a journey into the heart of the Tasmanian wilderness. Relax in comfort aboard a specially-designed vessel with a spacious viewing deck, allowing you the best possible views of the Gordon River and Macquarie Harbour.
Wander Pretty Strahan
Only 700 people call Strahan home, yet this picturesque town is slowly growing as tourism increases to this remote part of the world. The gateway to many Tassie tourist attractions, ensure to incorporate a day or two in your schedule to explore Strahan and the nearby attractions.
Established around Macquarie Harbour, there was once a time when this was a major port for mining settlements and the logging industry. But these days you’ll find a scenic town with a buzzy tourist vibe and a few local fishermen working on their boats.
The starting point for the popular Gordon River cruise – one of the best Tasmania West Coast tours – in recent years an eclectic mix of shops has sprung up in Strahan. Artisan wares and trinkets are sold, alongside cafes specialising in deliciously fresh local produce.
After exploring the harbour area, dive into the West Coast Reflections Exhibition. Locals such as architects, writers, gardeners and historians have come together to tell the story of the people of the West Coast.
Stretching back to Aboriginal times, 35,000 years ago, the exhibit walks you through the years covering the convict era, mining and forestry industries. There’s also a focus on the importance of the rainforest, an exploration of local caves, and interesting oral histories that bring to life what it was like to live through the last decade.
You’ll also find Australia’s longest running play, ‘The Ship That Never Was’, that relates the dramatic and rather hilarious story of the last Great Escape from Sarah Island.
Head back into nature by exploring the local waterfall, taking what is noted as one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks, from the People’s Park in Strahan to Hogarth Falls. Alternatively, drop by Cove Gallery which focuses on contemporary art, or simply people-watch at any one of the cafes enjoying the scenic harbour views.
Explore On The West Coast Wilderness Railway
In 1893 someone came up with the crazy idea of cutting a railtrack through thick rainforest along rugged terrain that drops and climbs at ridiculously steep inclines… and so the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company came to be!
Built to drag heavy mining loads down to the coast at Strahan, the track was especially engineered to manage the steep inclines with a cog-and-teeth rack design that is still in operation today.
Refurbished in 2002, with nothing short of a $20 million overhaul, the West Coast Wilderness Railway is now a top-draw attraction, with steam trains running a couple of routes departing from Queenstown.
Carriages are uniquely designed to maximise viewing and photo opportunities, such as the Wilderness Carriage (definitely worth the upgrade cost!) with its open-air section that seems to transport you right into the centre of the rainforest.
Interesting stopovers along the route include rainforest walks and panhandling gold. But perhaps the most unusual is at the turnaround point where the steam locomotive is manually turned on a swivel 180 degrees ready for the return journey.
Back at Queenstown Station take time to checkout the West Coast Wilderness Railway Museum filled with many artefacts and displays from this historic mining track.
Regularly voted one of the best Tasmania West Coast tours, booking ahead is essential.
Take A Second Look At Queenstown
A great location to base yourself for West Coast Tasmania tours, being only 30 minutes from Zeehan and less than an hour’s drive from Strahan, Queenstown is famed for its damaged landscape. Sitting on the western slopes of Mount Owen, part of the West Coast Range, lunar-like hills surround the town that were left almost for dead by the brutal mining and logging industries of the early 1900s.
As you arrive into the town, along a spiraling road with more than 90 bends, the stark hills are a strong contrast to the lush rainforest vegetation of the rest of the West Coast. Mother nature is working her magic and slowly vegetation is returning, but the damage was so brutal that it will still take decades to recover.
Europeans first arrived in 1860 and discovered gold, silver and copper, causing Queenstown to spring up, quickly home to over 5000 residents. Over the decades the town prospered but by 1969 most the mines closed and many departed.
Today, Queenstown is a tourist town full of historic buildings from the mining era, an eclectic community of artists, and a rather unusual football pitch!
The Gravel Football Oval was, in the mining heydays, home to 12 burly Aussie-rules teams. Due to the heavy rainfall in the region a grass oval was out of the question, thus someone had the crazy idea of creating a gravel pitch. Ripping to shreds anyone who dares to play on it, the pitch has become one of the most legendary and infamous sporting grounds in Australia!
Within the town, the Paragon Theatre is one of the stand-out buildings. Built in 1933, this fabulous art-deco theatre was originally one of the first “talkie theatres” in Tasmania, with crowds flocking to see old classics.
Today visitors can still enjoy the theatre, with classic movies such as Breakfast At Tiffany’s shown on special date-nights that include a drink at the bar and a delicious meal. But, if you’re only passing through in the daytime, still take the time to visit as there’s a self-guided tour behind the scenes that showcases the history of this classic theatre.
Found inside what was Queenstown’s first brick hotel, the Eric Thomas Galley Museum is another noteworthy attraction. More than 1000 photographs take you through the history of the West Coast, alongside artefacts and personal effects from the mining era.
The famed West Coast Wilderness Railway departs from Queenstown and is perhaps the primary attraction in the town, with rides down to the coast through thick rainforest along tracks that once pulled mining trains.
There are a couple of splendid lookout points around the town – the Iron Blow Lookout and Spion Kop Lookout. Both give splendid views and have information boards that highlight the mining activities of the region. And from Iron Blow Lookout, you’ll find a trail to Horsetail Falls which is well worth the effort. Spectacular scenery surrounds you on this short 1-kilometre walk, and takes you around the side of the bare hills of Queenstown.
Close to Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness Area, Queenstown is the starting point for walks to disused mines, tunnels and scenic lookouts. Plenty here to keep you busy!
Tasmania West Coast Road Trip
The main roads are in good condition but it can take longer to drive around than you may think thanks to some very curvy roads. The mining towns, Queenstown, Strahan, Zeehan, Roseberry and Tullah are all relatively close together, however.
Getting between these towns and up to Arthur River does take longer – it’s about 3 hours drive from Zeehan to Arthur River.
I recommend you at least spend a few days in this region, based in Strahan. In this time you can:
- Take a Gordan River cruise. In the afternoon you can explore the waterfront including West Coast Reflection. In the evening, watch The Ship That Never Was.
- Head to Queenstown and take the West Coast Wilderness Railway. Explore Queenstown in the afternoon.
- Head to Zeehan and visit the Spray Tunnel and West Coast Heritage Centre. Visit Henty Dunes on the way back.
You can find a 7 day itinerary visiting the west coast here.
West Coast Tasmania Accommodation
There are some great accommodation west coast Tasmania options from west coast Tasmania luxury accommodation to caravan parks west coast Tasmania.
Big4 Strahan Holiday Retreat Review – Caravan Park
The Big4 Strahan Holiday Retreat is the perfect place to head for families or people who want to camp with facilities close by.
With a range of cabins and cottages from one to four bedrooms, you can chose to stay in self contained accommodation or on a site with your own set up. The cabins are well equipped, comfortable, clean and quiet.
There are a range of facilities at this Big4 including a games room, coin-operated laundries, BBQ and picnic facilities and amenity blocks. The park is set on 5 hectares with bush and a creek complete with a platypus. For something a bit different, there is also a hut with the Alexander Pearce Story where you can learn the infamous history of this escape convict gone cannibal.
With a shop/café and bottle shop on site, the Big4 Strahan Holiday Retreat has everything you need.
Wheelhouse Apartments, Strahan – Luxury Accommodation
Looking for somewhere unique to stay? Check out these two fully self-contained apartments, with cantilevered lounge rooms that have huge ceiling to floor windows overlooking the gorgeous Macquarie Harbour of Strahan.
Perched on the cliff’s edge, both apartments have an upstairs master-bedroom with spas and separate ensuite, whilst one has a second bedroom downstairs. They come with a fully equipped kitchen, with stainless steel appliances and granite bench tops. Flat screen TV, Blu-ray player, washing machine and air-con are also included along with free WiFi and a double carport for off-street parking.
But the pièce-de-résistance are the french doors from the lounge that open onto your own private deck, complete with BBQ. Light the grill, pour a glass of wine and sit back to enjoy the ever-changing harbour views.
This is modern architecture that showcases rare Tasmanian timbers. Splurge a little, as you won’t regret it!
Penghana Bed and Breakfast, Queenstown – Heritage Accommodation
Penghana is a homey bed & breakfast accommodation, set in a stunning National Trust property that is centrally located in Queenstown.
Guests have the option of staying in one of the four ensuite queen rooms or in a two-bedroom self-contained apartment which has two guest lounges.
You’ll find outdoor dining and a picnic area, BBQ facilities, a terrace and garden area. There’s free onsite parking, and the included breakfast is delicious!
Near the start of the West Coast Wilderness Railway, and with terrific hilltop views of the town, this is easily our top recommendation for staying in Queenstown.
Read more about some the best options below.
West Coast Tasmania Camping
Luckily camping is a favourite activity of Tassie locals, so you’ll find plenty of commercial camping grounds to choose from. Mostly very affordable and in good condition, campsites are friendly places that offer lots of space for you to pitch your tent.
An affordable way to explore the region, overloaded with natural beauty at almost every turn, you’ll find free camping west coast Tasmania sites and motels that will let you pitch your tent in their grounds.
The north west region of Tasmania is dominated by the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area which is managed by the Parks and Wildlife service. Gain a permit to access this region and a camping permit. Rangers will provide information on the track conditions and about the campsites in the area.
Also check out the awesome location of Sandy Cape, with its two main camping areas of Sandy Cape and Pedder River. Corinna, on the Pieman River, also has a nice camping ground and is a particularly picturesque town.
Lake Rosebery campground, with no facilities, is another option for those looking for a peaceful lake-side stay.
If camping West Coast Tasmania don’t forget to take along sufficient food, waterproofing canvas tents, drinking water and basic supplies. And remember that mobile phone coverage is sparse once you’re away from the major towns.
West Coast Tasmania Weather
Tasmania experiences four distinct seasons, with the summer months of December to February/March being the ideal time to visit. West Coast weather Tasmania remains rather cool though even during summer, hitting highs of only 17-23 degrees celsius. But January and February are the driest months and therefore ideal for exploring the region.
Temperatures in winter will leave you shivering on the West Coast, with coastal Strahan recording figures of 5 or 6 degrees celsius. Being exposed to the west wind brings frequent rains and unstable weather patterns, but a healthy rainforest doesn’t come without a heavy annual rainfall!
Regardless of the time of year, weather West Coast Tasmania will often leave you ducking under umbrellas or into the nearest cafe to avoid a shower. But it’s all part of the adventure! Just always be prepared for sudden temporary weather changes by carrying additional warm clothing and a waterproof outer layer.
West Tasmania With Kids
The western part of Tasmania is perfect for families and we explored everywhere with our three kids. Our kids particularly like the West Coast Wilderness Railway, the Henty Dunes and spotting glow worms in the Spray Tunnel. They also enjoyed the whole concept of being at the edge of the world 🙂
There is some great family friendly accommodation in this region. We particularly enjoyed the Strahan Big4 and staying in a four bedroom cottage there.
We hope you love exploring the western wilderness Tasmania as much as we did. Find more places to discover and explore in Tasmania here.