Fifty minutes away is access to The Tarkine Wilderness, 370,000 hectares of north-west Tasmania, home to the last of the world’s gondwanic old-growth rainforests, including the 2000-year-old Huon pine. The area is flanked by the Arthur and Pieman rivers and the southern ocean. It’s a great drive, with many river cruises and guided tours operated by experienced tourism operators. The ecology and natural heritage significance of The Tarkine is best canvassed by the WWF – Australia website wwf.org.au/ourwork/land/tarkine.
Tours, cruises, maps and operators are best accessed at www.parks.tas.gov.au. We recommend as a starter a one day tour encompassing Dismal Swamp, a 600-hectare sinkhole ecosystem and the South Arthur Forest Drive. Head west along the Bass Highway to Smithton to pick up the Dismal Swamp signs. Dismal Swamp (03 64567199 www.dismalswamp.com.au) is the world’s only Blackwood sinkhole forest (opening hours 9am – 5pm November to March; 9am – 4pm all other months) with 40 species of fungus, 22 species of ferns and mosses, one species of crayfish and one very special tree. There’s an information centre, quite a good licenced restaurant on an award-winning platform (coincidentally constructed by John De Jong who also built The Winged House) and an exhilarating 110-metre slide down to the swamp and its labyrinth of raised boardwalks.
About 30 minutes south of Smithton the South Arthur Forest Drive ( (0364524900 www.tasforestrytourism.com.au) is a loop that will take you through seven different forest experiences. You’ll need a full day to do Dismal Swamp and the South Arthur Forest Drive but by the time you get back to The Winged House you will know what the Tarkine is all about. This is a self-guided tour by travelling along the C218 or alternatively take the C214 (via Dismal Swamp and Arthur River. Drive carefully as many of the roads on the drive are unsealed. There are many picnic spots, view platforms and short walks. You can stop at the Sumac Lookout, the Julius River Forest Reserve, Lake Chisholm, Dempster Plains, the Milkshake Hills Forest Reserve and the Kanunnah and Tayatea bridges.