It isn’t often you’ll be searching for a place to escape the heat and fires in Tassie. But the Arthur River on the West Coast provides a haven for canoeing, camping and even a cheeky bit of skinny dipping.
- Paddling down the Arthur River
- Your own private campsite
- Skinny dipping
Dizzy Spell On The Arthur River
‘Why can’t we stop spinning?!’ we bellowed at each other for 45 minutes, while literally twirling upstream (or downstream?) in a double canoe.
After a lot of laughs, a few obligatory Instagram story snaps, lots of experimental paddling techniques, and a final seating rearrangement, we made it to our private campsite on the bank of the Arthur River.
My mate Brooke and I have a three year long tradition – every Australia Day we take off somewhere ‘overseas in Australia’ for a multi-day hiking trip. It started with the Overland Track in Tasmania, then the Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail, and in 2019 we ventured back to Tasmania in the hopes of tackling both Frenchman’s Cap and the Walls of Jerusalem.
Unfortunately, Tasmania was on fire. Not ‘lit’ like Gen Z might describe a new 24hr drink-n-draw bubble-tea cat-cafe, but literally ON FIRE. There were over 70 bushfires blazing in Tasmania when we landed, with temperatures over 30 degrees and high winds forecast for later in the week.
The Walls of Jerusalem National Park was closed before we arrived, and whilst Frenchman’s Cap was still open, ‘Please don’t do it’ was the consistent response to our many calls with Tasmania National Parks and Wildlife.
Nevertheless, we landed in Launceston (Brooke’s bag didn’t get the memo), collected our hire car, and headed north-west to camp near the Tarkine Forest. We did as much on-the-road Googling as possible, desperately researching hikes and activities to fill our next six days.
The airline-who-must-not-be-named dropped the missing bag off to our tent in Marrawah at close to midnight, and we rose bright and early to start the Tarkine Drive.
While hunting for coffee we stumbled across a Google-pin for ‘Arthur River Canoe & Boat Hire’. YAS! With no linked website or information, and the most recent review being from two years ago, we headed to the Arthur River to enquire.
Ten minutes later we were in the boatshed with Barry, packing our supplies into air-tight barrels and dragging our double-canoe to the riverbank to begin our first ever overnight canoe and camp experience.
Our (False) Start
The owners, Barry and Jaynee, told us that after 7km of paddling up the winding river we’d spot some pink tape in the trees, marking our home for the night.
Proud as punch that we’d found an overnight adventure to continue our tradition, we set off. With Brooke in the front seat setting the pace for our strokes (and me trying to match them) we made it about 20 metres before realising we weren’t going straight.
We stopped and started again, trying for more synchronised strokes. No luck. We tried alternating – Brooke’s stroke on the left matched by my stroke on the right. Success! For five seconds. What about two strokes left, two strokes right? Negative ghostrider.
By this point we were actually spinning in circles with zero control of the canoe. Front person alternates strokes, back person steers? Nope. What about the opposite? Fail. We were slowly floating backwards up the river, facing the boatshed we’d just left. It was actually more productive when we didn’t paddle, and just let the river take us.
We had successfully travelled 100m in 45 minutes. Admitting defeat and ready to call Barry to rescue us, we navigated over to a clear section of the riverbank. I suggested we try the only thing we hadn’t yet – switch places.
We paddled in silence for what felt like forever, scared that commenting on our success would undo it. Ninety minutes later, pink ribbon in the trees on our left indicated we’d made it! With our fingers and toes crossed, we (rather expertly) pulled up on the riverbank and hi-fived. We had the place to ourselves.
The campsite is public but has been wonderfully maintained by Barry; equipped with a wooden bench, tree stump stools, and a makeshift clothesline. We set up camp, hung up our clothes to dry, and skinny dipped into the Arthur River. The water was surprisingly warm; like a giant natural bathtub. We floated around in silence, stoked that we’d stumbled across this little piece of heaven. After capping off the day with mi-goreng for dinner (Brooke’s first – what’s up with that?), a few sing-a-longs and photos, we hit the hay with sore arms and smiling faces.
With winds forecast to increase to 80km/h by mid-morning, we were up, packed and paddling by 7.00am, tacking somewhat clumsily across the river and back at the boatshed by 9.00am.
Barry and Jaynee were there to greet us, laughing at their memory of our spinning departure the day before. Tired, sore, but completely satisfied, we packed up the car and thanked them. We’ll never forget their parting words of wisdom – ‘Always seat the scrawny one in the front’. Turns out they’d even left a voicemail telling us, as they watched us spin down the river the day before.
- $90 for canoe hire
- Camping kit – Tent/sleeping bag & mat/headtorch/clothes etc
- Bug repellent
- Stove/food/water (Barry says you can boil and drink the river water… Don’t. It’s gross.)
- Towel, bathers (or not)
- Even with Telstra, we had no phone signal – so prepare to be off-the-grid
How To Get There
Luckily, it’s hard to miss this place – there’s only one main road heading down this section of Tassie’s West Coast. Heading south from Marrawah, follow Arthur River Road towards the Arthur River. Before the crossing you’ll see a sign on the left for Arthur River Canoe & Boat Hire. Barry and Jaynee are almost always there – but it might be worth calling ahead. If you cross the Arthur River and find yourself on Temma Road, you’ve gone too far!
- Spinning uncontrollably down the river
Intermediate (mainly because of the paddlin’ distance and tacking across in high winds)
7km of paddling
Tassie’s got a tonne of gems to get your mitts on