The Hobart

OFF SEASON: Excursion: Venture West And North West

by Stephanie Williams
OFF SEASON: Excursion: Venture West And North West

Heater on, music up, a hot coffee in the cup holder. It’s time for an Off Season road trip to experience the north west and west of Tasmania. With a mix of adventurous discovery and snug relaxation, a getaway here will take you through the ancient rainforests of takayna / Tarkine, moody beaches and charming historic towns. Inhale a sharp intake of the super fresh air, let’s get on the road.

Tasmania’s third-largest city, Devonport, is the gateway to the north west and a top starting point for a northern journey in winter. The port where travelers on the Spirit of Tasmania arrive, Devonport has a rich maritime history, which you can find more about at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre (bassstraitmaritimecentre.com.au). From there, take a brisk walk to the red-and-white candy-striped Mersey Bluff Lighthouse with views out to the sometimes calm, sometimes wild Bass Strait. It was built in 1889 and put a stop to a long history of shipwrecks in the area. Taste a warming gin or two at Southern Wild Distillery’s (dasherandfisher.au) cellar door, or make your own bottle of gin to take home in an experience held once a month during winter. For lunch, melt the cold away with Southeast Asian eats at Mr. Good Guy (mrgoodguy.com.au), indulging in their curated winter menu for the Off Season. Spend the night in a self-contained tiny house at Compass Hut (compasshut.com.au) 10 minutes out of town. $2 from every booking is donated to the Tasmanian Arboretum, a botanical tree park nearby.

Just a short drive west of Devonport is Ulverstone, a seaside town at the mouth of the Leven River. Explore the impressive Hive Tasmania (hivetasmania.com.au), a museum and the largest planetarium in the state – perfect for learning about dark sky gazing in winter. Embark on a Leven River Cruise (levenrivercruises.com.au), a watery journey bush-walking, wildlife viewing, and relaxing. Check in for the night at BIG4 Ulverstone Holiday Park (big4ulverstoneholidaypark.com.au). For families, if you stay for two nights, children stay for free, with a kids welcome pack including games and hot chocolate. You also get a bottle of local wine, a voucher for dinner at The Bowls Club, and a discount on the Leven River Cruise.

Sheffield is a small dairy farming town with an artsy side – over 160 murals adorn the walls of the town as a fascinating outdoor gallery. Slow it down but cover ground – view the iconic murals on a horse-drawn carriage with Almost Heaven Clydesdales (almostheavenclydesdales.com.au), snuggled up with a blanket and hot drink. In the distance, the stunning Mount Roland stands proud. If you’re feeling it, embark on an invigorating four to six hour return hike up this 1233 metre tall beauty for incredible views of the region’s plains and plateaus. Sleep at nearby Manna Hill Farm (mannahillfarm.com.au) who will share a hamper of local treats and mulled wine for stays four nights and longer. Alternatively, bunker down at Paradise Road Farm (paradiseroadfarm.com.au) for a two night stay and meet the friendly local goats and cows, and take a guided tour of the paddocks, ending the nights with soup made from farm produce.

Pay a visit to nearby Gunns Plains, a small, unassuming area with a wild underbelly. This is the site of the Gunns Plains Caves (gunnsplainscaves.com.au), a series of caverns and passages home to platypus and giant freshwater lobsters. On select dates this Off Season, enjoy a moving didgeridoo performance as it echoes through the caves. Then pop into Leven Valley Vineyard (levenvalleyvineyard.com.au) with panoramic views of the Leven River. Sample a glass or two as you BBQ your own winter feast.

Travel deeper into the winter wilderness to Cradle Mountain, part of the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. This classic Tasmanian peak is the base for numerous mountain activities and often sees snow in winter. Enjoy one of the many hikes, or take a kayak journey in a hand built King Billy Pine kayak on Dove Lake with Cradle Mountain Canyons (cradlemountaincanyons.com.au). To learn more about the local wildlife, visit Devils@Cradle (devilsatcradle.com), a peaceful refuge dedicated to Tasmanian devils and quolls. For a darker foodie experience, try Dessert with the Devils one evening and enjoy sweet local treats as the devils feast on their dinner. Spend the night at Cradle Mountain Hotel (cradlemountainhotel.com.au) – as part of the Off Season there will be wine on arrival, daily breakfast, a National Parks and shuttle bus pass, dining credit at the Altitude Restaurant, and entry to the Wilderness Gallery.

On the edge of takayna / Tarkine, Smithton is a stone’s throw away from a huge tranche of pristine Tasmanian wilderness. It’s a great base for winter exploration of the north west – from here you can travel to legendary surf spots at Marrawah to spot some hardy winter surfers (perhaps join them yourself!), or to the wind farms of Cape Grim. Fan of heights? Book with Tall Timbers Hotel (talltimbershotel.com.au) for their Tarkine Wilderness Helicopter Tour to get a bird’s-eye view of the north west. If you prefer to stick to the ground, join their four-wheel drive tour through the dramatic and breathtaking wilderness – there’s also complimentary woollen beanies and a Hellyer Road Whisky tasting.

Stanley is a charming town on the north-west coast lined with well-preserved cottages. Taking the self-guided Stanley heritage walk is like stepping back in time. Towering over the town is The Nut, an ancient volcanic plug that stands 143m high, which you can walk up or take a chairlift. Taste award-winning local seafood at Hursey Seafoods (hurseyseafoods.com.au) as you gaze out at the choppy ocean. Try their signature popcorn crayfish, made from Southern Rock Lobster, paired with hot sauce, chips and salad for $25. Stay two nights at the Stanley Hotel Bistro & Bar (stanleytasmania.com.au) to get a $70 Stanley Hotel voucher (hello dinner by the roaring fire), or a two night cosy cabin stay at BIG4 Stanley Holiday Park (big4stanley.com.au) for a complimentary dinner for two at Hursey Seafoods.

On the rugged and wild west sits Queenstown, a former mining town full of history and cultural riches. Because of its mining legacy, the landscape sur-rounding Queenstown feels otherworldly, almost like a beautiful moonscape. Board a heritage train with the West Coast Wilderness Railway (wcwr.com.au) to explore the surrounding cool temperate rainforest, celebrating Christmas in July with decorations and festive nibbles. On 3 and 17 August, join a small group and immerse yourself in the magic of night train photography at Carswell Park. Book the Ride & Stay Package with the historic Empire Hotel (empirehotel.net.au), built in 1901, where you can spend two nights accommodation, and enjoy a 20% discount on the West Coast Wilderness Railway.

 

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