TAsmania is full of amazing scenery, an array of history and some bloody awesome four-wheel driving. I wanted to try to get to the NE corner of the state on this trip completely off-road from Hobart, and with a few bits of local knowledge, I did just that.
My starting point was Sorrel, just outside HobartWhere there are plenty of food and fuel supply shops. I was given a tip that if I went 20km up the Tasman Highway and found the Woodsdale Road, I could hit the dirt and stay there until the Cape – and an easy and natural bitumen to the turn point. The race engulfed me. drain for travel. Woodsdale Road is a well-used dirt road that feeds fields and a few wineries, and leads into the woods. Nevertheless, I was down for the trip.
Passing along the Prossers Ridgeline and turning towards Mt Hobbs it was the typical bush I was used to on the mainland, with great views and a growing anticipation of what the next few days had in store.
A local told me about the Swanston Track and where it follows the northern part of Buckland Military Training Area, and it’s a very easy track to find at the end of Swanston Road. It was interesting that where I crossed Little Swanport Creek was the old convict transit town of Swanston. These days, it is nothing more than a sign indicating that it was back in the 1830s, where convicts rested on their way to the Oatlands, 40km inland from Little Swanport. Oatlands has over 150 sandstone buildings and is one of Tassie’s oldest settlements.
How’s that for a moment… Steady as they go!
The Swanston Track is about 30km long and is quite a challenge on land as it follows military property, but you need to follow all the warning signs along the way. The track is considered tough and you need to allow up to three hours as it is a combination of steep rock climbs and bog holes, interspersed with several steep switchback creek crossings. I wouldn’t say it was too hard but I wouldn’t. Don’t recommend it for a soft rudder as you’ll need some decent ground clearance and decent low range.
The track ends at Little Swanport, where I only have to head north on the Tasman Highway for 5km before turning left onto McKees Road. There are many unpaved roads in Tasi and the logging operations were no different, but in most cases the main roads are open with caution.
A special thing Tasmania Due to the high rainfall and steep terrain of the island there are a large number of waterfalls, and I discovered the lost waterfall about 50km along McKees Road. It’s a 10-minute walk from the car park but well worth the effort, as the water cascades over several drops to wash away the basalt rocks. Crossing the Lake Road intersection back to the dirt, Meetus Falls was another port of call and a blast to stop over – it’s one of the higher falls along the Cygnet River on the island.
McKays Road continued for about 60 km, with Douglas-Apsley National Park on one side and pine plantations on the other. There are high peaks in every direction, and you’ll need snow chains in the winter because of the icy roads.
At the end of McKee’s Road I took a left onto Valley Road, and once again the mountains lined the road until they gave way to the Break O’ Day Plains, where the rich fields of the English film Some have been copied. Imagine stone walls and curved trees used as wind breaks to allow cattle to graze in dense, green paddocks.
I had to turn right onto the main road – a short 11km tar section – before heading north to Barnes Road and beyond that north to Evercreech Road and Mt Albert Road. These grand, narrow streets are lined with groves of cypress pine and blue eucalyptus forests, grown for sustainable harvesting.
The pub in the paddock
Very close to Pyengana is St Columba Falls, the second highest in Tassie with a drop of 90m – and I wasn’t disappointed after a short walk along the tree-lined path. The valley here is rich in history dating back to 1875, when the Cotton family (mother, father and 10 children) settled down to live as farmers. The story goes that their boys became more invested in drinking than farming and, as the years went by, the town grew and more people began to socialize in the family home. So instead of building a hotel, the boys licensed their family home as the Columbia Falls Hotel, known today as the Pub in the Paddock. If you read the signs near the falls and follow the directions, you can still see the remains of the 45km water race that was used to transport water to the tin mine near St Helens.
Leaving Pengana via the highway, I headed towards Luta on Langar Road. On the way I stopped at Halls Falls, which did not disappoint with its wide drop over the rocks. Just above the falls is a man-made weir when Chinese miners worked the tin in the 1880s.
One of my goals on the trip was to find the Anchor Stampers and it’s another 30 minutes on the road through Lootah, following the rough map near Halls Falls car park. The area was so rich in tin that by the mid-1800s it was considered the largest in the world, with the locals calling the place ‘The Mountain of Tin’. There was that moment on a short hike to the Stampers, which made me shake my head as I read about the district’s accomplishments and history.
The Anchor Mine Company had the largest water wheel in Tassie – 20 meters in diameter and weighing around 20 tonnes – but the water supply was insufficient to run it at full speed and it could only drive 30 of the 40 stampers. was Over the years, the mine has had several owners with varying degrees of success.
In 1904, air transportation replaced the horse-drawn system to other mines above the processing plant, but the mine closed 10 years later. Further attempts to reopen the mine were tested until 1996, but failed to generate profits. The last owner could not remove the last two stampers and they were left as souvenirs.
Along the walking track you can still see one of the old trolley carts, wheels and dams. Up the road, the Blue Tier Reserve was once a mining center where a small town called Pomena survives. After the tin was found, dense rainforest was cut down and creeks cut for water – but the tin soon began to run out and by 1954 the last building had been moved to St Helens.
Little Blue Lake
The Councils Road that leads north from Pomena soon turns into the Taberkoona Road, and both are good dirt roads to visit. I intended to stay on dirt all the way to Cape Portland, but I heard of an unusual blue lake nearby – so at the end of Ogilvy’s Road, I followed Gladstone Road to Little Blue Lake. The lake was once a tin mine that littered the area but has since been flooded and is accessible for swimming (not advised) and kayaking. The bright blue color comes from minerals in the white clay that coats the lake’s shores and bedrock.
It’s easy to head back to the dirt and follow the Great Musselroe River through the forest, and even here there is evidence of deep open pit mines and remnants from the mining days. At the end of the road you can either turn to the east coast or head upstate. The journey to the East Coast and Mount William National Park is an hour-long drive through farmland until you enter the park and exit along Eddystone Point Road, with more history to explore. In 1642, Abel Tasman sighted the coastline but was unable to map it accurately due to adverse winds and rock outcrops. It was in the late 1800s that the lighthouse was finally built from the local pink granite along with several cottages.
The road north to Cape Portland passes through typical coastal plains with wind-swept trees and low-growing scrub adapted to the conditions. In the middle of the peak, Rishi Lagoon Farm has most of the land. This mega property runs thousands of sheep and cattle and has a small community to manage. There are also several wind farms dotted across the landscape. Camping at Petal Point at the end of Cape Portland Road is quite special, with sea views towards Bass Street and access to the beach along Rangarumba Bay. Camping is permitted at the mouth of the Little Musselroe River in the Little Musselroe Bay area, on the eastern side of the Cape.
After digging around with a little local knowledge and some maps, I tackled the Hobart to Cape Portland off-road drive. It’s a trip that can be done in just five hours on bitumen, but off-road it’s a four-day journey exploring waterfalls, mine ruins and maritime history. I just wonder what else I missed.
Five things to see and do
About 80km north of Hobart on the Midland Highway is the historically significant town of Oatlands, which has Australia’s largest collection of sandstone Georgian buildings. The town was established around a military precinct in the late 1820s, with 150 of these mostly convict buildings still standing.
2. Tumbling water
Blessed with abundant rainfall, Tasmania hosts an abundance of waterfalls. Notable among the many waterfalls are Lost Falls near Pyengana, Meetus Falls on the Cygnet River, and St Columba Falls 30km west of St Helens, which is one of the highest.
3. Tons of men
The tin miners’ influence is undiminished on the NE corner, with plenty of information highlighting old industry points of interest such as the remains of a few Keys anchor stampers from the Halls Falls turnoff.
4. Little Blue Lake
Speaking of tin, check out the flooded former Endurance Tin Mine near Gladstone. It is now known as Little Blue Lake, named after its bright blue mineral-rich waters. Officially there is no swimming here, but apparently people do in the summer. Hmmm, you can have it.
5. Free camping
One of the great things about Tasmania is the amount of free campsites, and this adventure trail had plenty to choose from in the jungle, by the lake or near the beach.