The Tarkine Drive winds through Australia’s largest tract of unprotected temperate rainforest, situated in Tasmania’s North West. The 60km loop snakes through 447,000 hectares of mountain ranges, sacred Indigenous sites, raging rivers and rugged coastline.
Named after one of the 4 original Indigenous clan groups, the Tarkiner people, this incredible landscape is begging for respectful tourists.
I write this piece not to send troops of littering, turf-tearing, party-goers, but to send those who are cautious of wild spaces and reverent of the Aboriginal custodians who kept it pristine for tens and thousands of years.
I’ve put together the things that make the Tarkine Drive spectacular and worth adding to your Tassie road-trip itinerary; particularly if you’re after a trip that will enhance your appreciation of the natural world.
Driving, Just Driving
You know that part of a road-trip when you slip into a peaceful silence, and everyone simply gazes out their window and watches the landscape passing by? It’s a silence fed by wonder, a wonder that often triggers existential questions like: “What are we doing here? Are we as insignificant as we feel sometimes? Do we have the power to make a genuine difference in the world, or have we gone too far?”
Somehow these thoughts don’t seem so depressing when you’re tunnelling through trees that look like pipe-cleaners and running out of the car to a spectacular view while the wind whips your face and your hair gets caught in your mouth. Somehow, we feel free to ponder life’s great mysteries and our dissatisfaction in the lack of answers finds a home in the burrows of furry creatures, rather than the dark burrows in our minds.
For those that take long drives when they’re upset or mad or confused, you’ll know what I mean. There is something about movement and open spaces and the colours that blur that make us think a little clearer. The Tarkine Drive promises space to think.
Visiting The Indigenous Sites
The Tarkine (takayna in the local language) is tattooed with significant and highly sacred Aboriginal sites. These encourage travellers to pause and reflect on the rich and ancient culture of Indigenous Australians and the impact that colonisation had on them. What an honour it is to visit these sites and be reminded of the history of our country. Read the placards and imagine communities that, for 40,000 years, lived side by side with nature.
It’s important to be respectful and acknowledge the Traditional Owners both past and present when exploring these sites. Whether you’re visiting massive shell middens, rock carvings or even the remains of ancient huts, these are special places for the Tarkiner people and their relationship with the land continues to this day.
Soaking Up The Natural Wonders
The Tarkine is home to over 60 species of rare, endangered and/or threatened species. It also boasts a number of incredible natural spaces and activities, all of which are mapped and detailed on the Tarkine Drive Guide. Here are a couple of favourites:
Bluff Hill Point is phenomenal, especially at sunset. The way the ocean kisses the rocky peaks in the afternoon glow is breathtaking.
Trowutta Arch is a rare geological feature that frames a sinkhole in the middle of the forest, it’s otherworldly.
Lake Chisolm is a beauty if you’re looking for a quick dip in a flooded sinkhole (aren’t we all?) Keep your eyes out for a platypus, they’re hard to spot, but they make their home there!
Camping For Free
For those passing through, free camping is accessible and hassle free, provided you leave nothing but footprints. If you’re left with no choice but to go to the bathroom in the bush, make sure you know how to do it properly.
The freedom of free-camping is a luxury that mainland city-goers aren’t familiar with. Instead, they’re met with rangers tapping on van windows, seeking out lovers curled beneath the sheets, or those who have escaped the pressures of landlords.
If you’re happy to spend a few dollars however, a Parks Camping Permit opens up a bunch more places to pitch a tent. You might even get the luxury of a few amenities.
Sliding Into A Sinkhole
Slide into the largest sinkhole (640 hectares!) in the Southern Hemisphere at Tarkine Forest Adventures, locally known as Dismal Swamp. The slide is 110 metres in length and you’ll top speeds of over 50km/h. With a 1.2km boardwalk maze at the bottom and plenty of local flora and fauna, it’s worth a pit stop on the Tarkine Drive loop.
The historic village of Stanley is the perfect place to stop for a breather and a few nights’ rest, especially at the end of the journey when you’re not quite ready to head home yet. This town is beautiful with plenty of old settlements and weatherboard houses. If you need convincing, check out some of these cottages in town.
The beaches are massive and are quite a stunning sight when the tide is low. It can get pretty windy though, so make sure you’re prepared with a wind jacket if you want to go for a beach walk in the late afternoon.
Stanley is also home to The Nut, the remains of an ancient volcanic plug. It’s worth a climb (or chairlift) for the view of the coastline and the flora and fauna. There’s a 1-hour circuit track on the plateau as well, which you can use to justify an ice-cream reward at the café at the bottom.
The Tarkine Drive took my breath away, but it reminded me to consider and research locations prior to travel to ensure that I would exercise respect for the first peoples, and for the land.
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