Tasmania is full of hidden gems and Kelly Basin earns a spot on the list. Lush rainforest, more fungi than you can imagine and the chance to explore an abandoned mining town made this an unmissable detour on Kayne’s West Coast roadie.

 

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which these adventures take place who have occupied and cared for these lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

The Kelly Basin track is a 10.8km out and back day walk just over an hour’s drive from Queenstown on Tassie’s West Coast. The 3-4 hour hike is rich in Tasmanian history, following an old train line through the bush to the abandoned mining town of East Pillinger.

About Kelly Basin

Kelly Basin is a small bay on the east side of Macquarie Harbour, a beautiful fjord steeped in Tasmanian settler, convict, and mining history. The only non-boat access to Kelly Basin is the 3-4 hour hike along the Kelly Basin track, providing a quintessential West Coast experience.

The 10.8km return hike follows an old train line out to the abandoned mining town of East Pillinger. Once home to hundreds of people, the town has been left to ruin with the rainforest reclaiming its territory over the past century.

Exploring the town’s remains is the cherry on top to an easy and stunning walk through mossy West Coast rainforest. A fungi fan’s dream, time your trip for mushroom season to see the track filled with hundreds if not thousands of different varieties of mushrooms. You’ll want your camera ready and plenty of spare time to capture all that’s on offer.

Read more: West Coast Tasmania: Home to Hiking, Biking & Rafting

 

Most of them even strike a pose

Kelly Basin History

Kelly Basin is home to the historic mining town of East Pillinger. The town’s main asset was a train line owned by North Mount Lyell Mining Company which brought in copper from Queenstown to be exported via Macquarie Harbour. In its heyday, the now abandoned town included 85 homes, multiple businesses, hotels, a library, and even a cricket club.

In 1924, the mining company was sold to a rival company who already had a trainline which ran from Queenstown to Strahan, the now famous West Coast Wilderness Railway. Not needing two train lines from Queenstown, the Kelly Basin line was ripped up and the town quickly died.

How to Get to Kelly Basin

The hike to Kelly Basin starts at the end of Kelly Basin Road, an hour out of Queenstown. Once in Queenstown, drive south down Driffield St and past West Coast Wilderness Railway. You’ll eventually find yourself on Mount Jukes Road which you’ll stay on for about 30 minutes until you hit the right hand turn to the Bird River Track which will take you to the trailhead.

The last 20km is a gravel road, with the last 5km supposedly being 4WD only. If you’re in a rental, you might want to be careful if you’re keen on keeping your excess as there are a few branches overhanging the road. Otherwise, we found the road to be fine for our trusty Subaru Outback and should be sweet for most 2WDs if the weather isn’t too nasty.

 

Hands inside the vehicle folks

Where to Stay Near Kelly Basin

Being a reasonably short walk, we made a detour to Kelly Basin on our way to Strahan at the start of our West Coast road trip from Hobart. However, if you have time, I highly recommend spending more time in and around Queenstown which offers plenty to do and heaps of places to stay if you’re looking for more of a weekender.

Read more: 12 Things To Do On Tassie’s West Coast

Skill Level

Beginner

This is a great walk for all experience levels as it stays pretty flat with an easy to follow track for the full 10.8km, as you follow the path left by the old train line. Being a rainforest, there are some areas that are pretty wet under foot, but it wouldn’t be the West Coast of Tassie if you finished a walk with dry socks.

Distance / Duration / Elevation

10.8km / 3-4 hours / 384m elevation gain

Essential Gear for Kelly Basin

  • Trail runners / hiking boots
  • Rain jacket
  • Swimmers
  • Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Gaiters (if you’re really not into leeches)
  • Camera

Read more: 10 Essentials Every Day Hiker Needs

What it’s Like to Walk the Kelly Basin

The first day of our West Coast roadie started from Lake Saint Clair as we made our way to Strahan for our first night on Tassie’s West Coast. Full of excitement, we’d already knocked off four other Great Short Walks before cruising into Queenstown for lunch and the main event of the day.

 

Enjoying the last few minutes of dry socks

The Drive

The views from Mount Jukes Road were spectacular and offered plenty of places to stop and take in a few lookouts. Our world quickly got a lot smaller as we got closer to the car park with the road turning into a tunnel of trees and moss covered walls providing slight Jurassic Park vibes.

This was the perfect entry into the rainforest we were spending the afternoon in as we pulled up at the trailhead around 1pm. In true West Coast fashion, some light rain hit as soon as we got out of the car.

 

Kelly Basin - Exploring an abandoned mining town hidden in the Tasmanian rainforest, Kayne Wilkinson, West Coast Tasmania, Rainforest track, tall trees, moss

Oh it’s lush alright

 

Kelly Basin Track

The rain only made the greens greener as we crossed the bridge over Bird River and started the 5.4km hike to East Pillenger. The track was nice and flat, and easy to navigate, thanks to the fact it follows where the old trainline used to be.

The huge trees, mossy logs, and fern-covered cliffs were more than enough for us to fall in love with this walk, but then we saw the main reason we planned our West Coast Roadie for the middle of autumn. The fungi.

Everywhere we looked there were multiple varieties of strange and interesting mushrooms, a real mycophile’s dream. Mushrooms of all shapes, sizes, and colours littered both sides of the track. We had to remember to keep looking up to enjoy the surrounding bush, river, and birdlife, as well as dodge a few puddles and fallen logs.

East Pillenger

We hit a fork in the road at around 2.30pm and realised we’d made it to our destination. Continuing straight, we quickly met the water’s edge and a jetty stretching out into Macquarie Harbour, offering perfect views of the bay.

Following the path around, we explored the remains of the abandoned East Pillenger. Walking through buildings that were slowly but surely being reclaimed by the rainforest was a truly unique experience, with information boards filling in the details of what life used to be like when the buildings had more of a purpose.

We had a quick look inside an old boiler, and other equipment reminiscent of the history of the area, before heading back the way we came. With Bird River on our right and lush West Coast rainforest on our left, we got back to the car far too soon at around 4pm.

Tips For Hiking to Kelly Basin

  • Give yourself plenty of time. With so much to take in on this track, you don’t want to be in a rush
  • Bring spare socks for afterwards. With the dense rainforest and West Coast rain, I doubt the track is ever dry so you’re gonna get your feet wet
  • Make sure to pack your camera and fungi identification book. There’s plenty of use for both of them with such an array of different mushrooms on offer

 

Not kidding. Look how spicy this one is!

FAQs Kelly Basin

Where is Kelly Basin located?

Kelly Basin is located on Tasmania’s West Coast, around an hour from Queenstown within a World Heritage Area.

Do I need to book my visit to Kelly Basin?

Nope! No need to book, but it is worth checking the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife website before arriving to ensure the trail is open.

Does it cost anything to visit Kelly Basin?

Nope! The Kelly Basin track doesn’t reside in a national park, so a parks pass isn’t necessary and there are no other fees.

When is the best time of year to visit Kelly Basin?

The best time of year to visit Kelly Basin is summer as there’s the least chance of rain and mud on the trail. However, a bit of rain does make the rainforest glow even greener.

How many days should I spend at Kelly Basin?

Half a day is enough time to complete the hike at Kelly Basin.

Is Kelly Basin good for beginners?

Yes! Kelly Basin is great for beginners as it’s a nice flat route.

Do you need a 4WD to get to Kelly Basin?

According to Tasmania Parks and Wildlife, a 4WD is required for the last 5km of road to the Kelly Basin trailhead, however we managed the road just fine in a Subaru Outback. If you choose to attempt the road in a 2WD or AWD do so with great caution and best to avoid it if the weather has been wet!

Can I swim at Kelly Basin?

You can definitely have a swim when you get to East Pillinger – there’s even a jetty to jump off into the harbour!

 

Feature image by Tourism Tasmania and Rob Burnett