Walking the Tarkine Coast – Tasmania

This is a trip report from a mate of our’s, Mark.  He headed off to Tasmania with his wife Jenny, had a couple of days around Hobart and then traveled up to the  north west to explore the Tarkine Coast.  He highly recommends the area and had a great time exploring it solo. The trip was in August which is late winter in Tasmania.

Bushwalking the Tarkine in Tasmania

Over to Mark:
This walk along the Tarkine coast involved the hire of a car for a week which was left at the start of the walk, a small fishing village called Temma for the five day duration of my solo trek. Before heading off I dropped in at the Parks Tasmania office at Arthur River. This was a very useful exercise as I was given plenty of first hand and up to date information and tips from the two rangers. They advised me to follow the coast and not the 4wd track which is rough and boggy and is out of sight of the coast for much of its length.

They also suggested that any river / creek crossings were best made as close to the sea as possible, while timing the crossing to avoid incoming waves. Some of the dunes and river crossings have patches of quicksand but I found these to be rare (the quicksand at the foot of the dunes is apparently due to the freshwater behind the dunes seeping through to the beach).

Tasmania Tarkine hiking

The local wildlife I was advised have not become tame to the point of raiding tents for food but boots left outside at night are in grave peril of being pinched.

The gravel road from Arthur River to Temma is a well maintained road suitable for 2wd vehicles. I parked the car and headed along the coast which had much birdlife such as oyster catchers, sandpipers, pacific gulls and even the odd osprey(it was a bit early for the migratory birds though). Wombats grazing in the sand dunes were also a wonderful sight as the day involved some long stretches of beach walking. I found a nice camp spot on top of high sand dunes, with many small perched ponds providing good drinking water. A nosey Quoll came quite close to camp lured by the smell of dinner cooking no doubt but then it bounded off.

Saturday

Jenny and I woke up early (5.00am) to catch our 8.15am Jetstar flight from Tullamarine to Hobart. The plane was only half full and we had seats next to the exit for extra leg room. The flight was smooth and we picked up the Barina hire car from Avis at the airport. before driving to our accommodation at Shippies. Our budget room had been slept in overnight and was not made up so we were upgraded to an en suite room in the new accommodation wing of the pub. We walked to Salamanca market where Jenny bought some licorice for the kids and I sampled some curry wurst and weisswurst. Jenny settled on doughnuts and a baked potato for lunch after which we walked back uphill to Shippies.

Next up we drove along the Derwent to Mona where we spent the three hours wandering around the many exhibits. At the end we became separated for 20-30 minutes before eventually locating one another. There really was just too much to see in just one visit we decided. Entry to Mona is free for Tasmanians but we had to pay $20 a head. We finished our day with a lovely meal and bottle of Cab Merlot at Shippies. The Tasmanian oysters natural were as good as any I have eaten anywhere

Sunday

We had never driven the highway from Hobart to Launceston before and were very fortunate to have a gloriously clear and sunny day to enjoy the magnificent scenery.

We stopped briefly at an historic town called Ross which had many beautiful sandstone buildings on display. I bought a second hand book at a market which was held in a community hall.  The stretch from Ross to Launceston followed a wide fertile valley which had mountain ranges on both sides and many views of snow capped mountains such as Ben Lomond and Cradle Mountain.

I dropped Jenny off at Launceston airport and from there drove to Devenport where I did the food shopping for the hike. The scenery on this stretch had again been spectacular as I drove past undulating paddocks of freshly ploughed chocolate coloured soil interspersed with rolling green paddocks and then the mountains in the background. It had been a long day of driving by the time I arrived at Arthur River at 5.15pm and the parks office was closed. I decided to try my luck at the Arthur River cabin park which was deserted. There was a wall phone outside at the reception whereby the owner, Darryl gave me instructions on starting the HWS. Apart from a Pademelon I had the place to myself so I pitched my tent and after dinner got an early nights sleep.

Monday

After a good nights sleep I had a hot shower and then drove to the Parks Tasmania office in town. I got there at 9.15 and spoke to Mel (an aboriginal lady) with whom I had spoken on the phone about 2-3 weeks ago when she had started her first day on the job at Arthur River. She got the head ranger, Cal to talk to me and he suggested that I follow the coast and not the 4wd track which he advised was very boggy. He also suggested that I cross any rivers or creeks as close to the sea as possible. There are only minimal tides he explained and any tidal movements were more “barometric tides” which are influenced by low pressure systems out to sea.

I also queried Cal on whether the local wildlife were a pest when it came to pinching food from tents and campsites. He assured me that in this part of the world the quolls and devils had not become tame to that extent, but that they would pinch a pair of boots if left out.

I drove the Barina hire car through to a small coastal fishing village called Temma along a good gravel road. From Temma the road becomes purely 4wd so I parked the car, organised my pack and headed off at approximately 12.00 following the coast. Cal had informed me that there were petroglyphs on the north side of Greenes creek but I could not locate them (some of the petroglyphs have been dated to 4000 years).

Coastal bushwalk Tarkine  Tasmania

There was lots of bird life on the coast although it was a bit early for the migratory birds at this time. I saw many pied and sooty oystercatchers, sandpipers and Pacific gulls and even an osprey. I tried to photograph a wombat which was grazing in the dunes but I scared it off. At this stage it started to rain heavily and this continued on and off for the rest of the day. When I climbed off the beach and on to some high sand dunes between Pedder River and Wild wave River I was very tired and decided to set up camp. I cooked up three kransky sausages with mashed potato, peas and gravy which went down a treat.

As night fell I spotted a quoll nearby which quickly bounded away (I can only surmise that it had smelt the food). Some of the sand dunes along the coast have quicksand due to the fresh water behind the dunes seeping through. I also encountered some patches while crossing a river. In the evening the rain has stopped and I ventured out of the tent to view the magnificent display of stars.

Tuesday
Tasmania Hiking
I awoke hoping to catch the sunrise so that I could get the right light to photograph the myriad of sand sculptures, shell middens and perched freshwater ponds that cover the top of the sand dune on which I am camped. The frogs were still croaking away madly as they had been all night. It took a while for the sun to rise above the low cloud but eventually it did and I got a heap of photos.

It was a late get away for the days walking as I followed the 4wd track with its fresh motorbike tracks to the outlet of the Pedder River. Due to the large amount of rotting seaweed in the lower reaches of this river it was the colour of dark tea and very much on the nose. I kept my boots on as the bottom was very rocky. The depth was knee height and it was flowing quite swiftly. I rung my socks out on the other side and then continued to follow the white gravel 4wd track to Sandy Cape.

There were many other creek and river crossings for the day but none as deep as the Pedder. Native Well Bay provided a good lunch spot with the now empty holiday shacks close by on my right. From here on the weather started to deteriorate so I trudged on in the cold wet conditions along the 4wd track which became more sandy but still had many deep and wide water holes that were difficult to get around.

Trekking Tarkine Tasmania

As the daylight started to fade I decided to set up camp next to a large sand dune where stands of coastal wattle provided good shelter from the prevailing north-westerly winds. I am not sure of my exact location but it is somewhere near Italian River. I was dead tired and the soles of my feet ached from the hard gravel track walking. As I prepared to hit the sack the tent was subjected to the onslaught of a thunderstorm and I was pelted by wind and rain all night. I used my new sleeping bag as an unzipped doona which provided a more comfortable nights sleep than using it in zipped up cocoon mode as I had on the previous night.

Wednesday

I awoke to see the sunrise and started snapping away madly with my camera especially when a full length rainbow appeared over the ocean. Today is a rest day and I am camped next to a large sand dune which is covered in shells and the stones and rocks which were used by the aboriginal people as kitchen aids. There are numerous freshwater ponds around the base of the dune which have good drinking water. The entire coastline so far seems to be almost one continuous midden. These people must have eaten well with plentiful fresh water and numerous idyllic camp sites.

This place really is a photographers paradise with seabirds in abundance and wombats, kangaroos and pademelons grazing the grassy flats. The weather has been perfect all day with clear blue skies and a slight breeze giving me the opportunity to wash my clothes and get them dry. I even have my own private sheltered bay with a sand beach. About ten minutes walk east of my campsite is the start of a long section of beach, with high dunes that stretches all the way to the Pieman River (another day maybe). It is a spectacular view especially with the large swell that is running today.

I am writing this as the sun sets and a wombat has just appeared to my left not more than twenty meters away feeding on the dune grasses. This really is the most magical campsite with views stretching to the lighthouse at Strahan. I took some more photos of the light from the setting sun bathing the midden covered dune and then watched the sun set as a beautiful orange ball over the sea.

Thursday

The sunrise heralds another beautiful sunny morning as I pack up the camping gear for the trip back to Arthur River. This time I take the opportunity to walk along the coast avoiding the 4wd track, as suggested by the parks people at Arthur River. After walking for approximately half an hour I encountered a low flying Orion aircraft from the RAAF which is heading north and hugging the coast (I hope that I haven’.t set off the EPIRB accidentally).

The coastline looks simply magnificent in the sunshine as I pass many perfect small sheltered bays all with their own beaches, freshwater streams and numerous potential campsites.

I honestly haven’t seen a better coastline for hiking and camping than this.

With the fine weather continuing I decided to follow the coastline around Sandy Cape. Half way around the cape I stopped for lunch and had the company of a beautiful red robin feeding close by on a saturated grassed area.

Tasmania bushwalk Tarkine

The rocky beach was covered in rotting giant kelp as is a lot of the coastline here. During lunch the inevitable change hit and the weather deteriorated (the ranger, Mel had told me that it is rare to get an entire day of bad weather in this part of the Tasmanian coast). I followed the coast around to Pedder River which was higher and swifter flowing than on my last crossing. The water was up to the top of my legs and I again had the inconvenience of having to ring out my socks. I decided to set up camp at the same location as on Monday night as it was the best available option and got hit by a severe rain squall, which was the first of many that I would have to endure for the night.

Friday

This was the day that the Tasmanian weather would throw everything at me but the kitchen sink. I was battling a head wind all day and constant bouts of hail and rain. The surf was huge and violent with three metre swells. I was glad to get back to my hire car at Temma and drove back to Arthur River for another night at the cabin park with its magnificent hot shower. It was also a good opportunity to dry everything out and do some clothes washing.

Saturday

I caught up with the owners of the Arthur River cabin park (Darren and Helen) this morning as they were down for the weekend. Then I headed off for the long drive to Launceston airport stopping off first at Stanley which has magnificent beaches and then lunching and refuelling in Devenport. I then drove to a small town near the airport called Perth for my final refuell and was surprised to receive driveway service. Then it was back to Melbourne with Jenny picking me up from Tullamarine.

All in all this is great walking country and I will definitely return in the future to do the full one way walk from Temma to the Pieman River.

Comments

  1. Diane Campbell says

    Agree the NW beaches much more interesting than the beaches at Bay of Fires, but if I’m in the Tarkine I’d like to see some of the forest too! Sad to hear that Geoff King had passed away. We had a lovely evening walk from Arthur River to Kings Run to join him for supper and an evening watching Devils tear into the roadkill he’d staked out for them, then he ran us back.

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