10 insider tips from Tassie locals

Tasmania may be small but it’s big on natural beauty, tourist attractions and things to see and do. That’s why it regularly tops baby boomer travel wish lists. You’ve all heard of or visited Port Arthur, MONA, Wineglass Bay and Freycinet, but the locals recommend the following places for a true Tassie experience.

Spiky Bridge

Credit: Tourism Tasmania and Rob Burnett

Built by convicts in 1843 using field stones laid without mortar, Spiky Bridge is a distinctive colonial construction with a colourful, if somewhat, enigmatic history.

Legend has it that the bridge was built after Edward Shaw, who at the time was lobbying for improvements to the roads between Swansea and Little Swanport, took the local superintendent on a hazardous high-speed ride to highlight the dodgy surfaces in the region. According to Ancient Origins: “Needless to say, the bridge was erected shortly after.”

There’s also a mystery about the reason for the spiky stones on the bridge. Some say it was to prevent cattle from falling off, others say it was to stop humans from jumping off. Our favourite explanation is that the convicts stuck the rocks in the wrong way as a bit of a ‘stuff you’ to their supervisor.

Either way, it looks quirky and cool and, being situated just opposite Great Oyster Bay, it provides stunning foreground views for the Freycinet National Park mountains in the background.

Dip Falls

Credit: Tourism Tasmania and Jason Charles Hill

This two-tiered waterfall is one of the most beautiful in the state and while the falls retain water all year round, the best time to visit is in winter after a big rain, when raging torrents gush over the unique cubic-basalt formed rocks of the Dip River.

A short walk from the car park will take you to a platform with unsurpassed views over the top of the falls, or you could take the path that leads down to the base of the falls and its unique rock formations. A fine-minute walk will also get you to the Big Tree – famous flora with a base nearly 17m in diameter and definitely worth a look.

Credit: Tourism Tasmania and Jason Charles Hill

Dip Falls is between Stanley and Wynyard in Tasmania’s North West, 27km up a quiet and mostly sealed road that passes through pleasant countryside.

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The White Knights of Evercreech

Credit: Tourism Tasmania and Geoffrey Lea

Enjoy a picnic or barbecue in the shady canopy of the world’s tallest white gums at Evercreech Forest Reserve. Known to the locals as the ‘white knights’, these Manna Gums stand over 90m tall and some are over 300 years old. Take your time to explore the short bushland walking tracks through forest and alongside the headwaters of the South Esk River, where you see spectacular trees, large ferns and mountain streams aplenty, many of which dramatically over falls deep in the forest.

The Mathinna Falls Forest Reserve and the Griffin Camping Area are also nearby – both attractive spots to break your journey on the A4 between the Midland Highway and the east coast.

Donaghys Lookout – Western Wilds

Credit: Jess Bonde

This easy 40-minute return walk offers one of the best views into Tasmania’s western wilderness. Located between the Franklin and Collingwood Rivers is Donaghys Lookout, where you’ll have breathtaking views of the Franklin River Valley and Frenchman’s Cap after an easy walk to a heath-covered hill with a lookout platform.

The track passes through cool temperate rainforest and the trees are complemented by moss and lichens that thrive in the cool, damp environment beneath the canopy. The car park is on the south side of the highway and well signposted, but keep an eye out just the same.

Penitentiary Chapel

Credit: Supplied Courtesy of National Trust Tasmania

For a fascinating lesson in Hobart’s dark history, make sure you take a tour of the ‘Tench’ – one of the most significant convict sites in Australia.

Built in 1830, the Penitentiary Chapel began life as barracks for convict prisoners and included a chapel with 33 solitary confinement cells situated below.

Following the end of transportation, the barracks became the Hobart Gaol until 1961. Sections of the chapel were converted into two Supreme Courts connected by tunnels to the solitary confinement cells and an execution yard was added.

The Tench is a short walk or bus ride from the Hobart CBD. On your tour, you’ll hear stories of the inmates as you wander through the court, the tunnels, the tiny solitary cells and the spooky execution yard and gallows.

Spray Tunnel in Zeehan

Credit: Jess Bonde

Just outside of Zeehan in Tasmania’s west is the Spray Tunnel Loop, an easy one-hour return walk that passes through a long-abandoned train tunnel that leads to what was the Spray Silver Mine. Carved through the hill to transport ore from the mine, the Spray Tunnel is an unusual keyhole-shaped tunnel, carved as such to allow the passage of the huge steam boilers that were brought through the tunnel to the mine. On the other side of the tunnel you’ll find relics of buildings and abandoned boilers in what was once one of Tasmania’s most successful mines in the state’s then-third-largest town.

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The Dog Line

Credit: Tourism Tasmania & Kathryn Leahy

Eaglehawk Neck is a narrow 30m wide isthmus that joined Port Arthur prison to a peninsula connected to the rest of Tasmania. The isthmus was once guarded by a line of ferocious dogs that would alert the soldiers and prevent convicts escaping across the Neck from the nearby penal colony.

Eaglehawk Neck has some great accommodation options and while you’re there, check out the mysterious Tessellated Pavement. A nearby footpath also takes you to Martin Cash’s lookout near the top of the hill at the southern end – the convict bushranger who got past the Dog Line twice.

The only remaining building to survive from the period of military occupation in the area is the Officers’ Quarters – the oldest timber military building still standing in Australia. Today, it houses a museum that depicts life on the Tasman Peninsula during the 1800s.

Henty Dunes

Credit: Dietmar Kahles

Formed by winds uninterrupted from South America are the Henty Dunes – a vast expanse of giant sand dunes and sand that reaches several kilometres inland and extends 15km along the coast. Reaching heights of around 30m, the Henty Sand Dunes are a desert amid the rainforests of Tasmania’s west coast. The area is also home to Tasmania’s longest beach – Ocean Beach. The more adventurous can hire a toboggan in Strahan and speed down the dunes (but you’ll have to climb back up the dunes yourself), and shaded picnic areas provide a top spot for a nibble.

Fossick for Killiecrankie Diamonds

Credit: Dietmar Kahles

Okay, so Killiecrankie Diamonds are not actually diamonds, but a type of topaz commonly found with tin, feldspar and quartz. Still, they’re incredibly pretty and occur in a wide range of colours, such as clear, ice blue and pink gold, and can be found in certain spots on Flinders Island.

The best places to fossick for these ‘diamonds’ are Mines Creek and Diamond Creek, and smooth pebbles of the topaz can also be found in Tanners Bay and Killiecrankie Bay on the northern end of Flinders Island. The best time to find them is at low tide by digging and sieving the beach below the high-water mark. Good luck finding these precious rocks – legend has it they have the power to protect the wearer from illness and accidents.

Written with information supplied by Tourism Tasmania.

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Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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