Friday, 15 Jan 2021

North-West Tasmania

How to grow Dick
North-West Tasmania
- A man with a seven-inch (18 cm) penis may proudly compare his organ to the average man’s five to six inches (12-15 cm) but be intimidated when learning another wields an eight-inch (20 cm) rod.

North-West Tasmania

     North-West Tasmania is a perfect place if you want to crack a volcanic ‘nut’, explore cracks in Earth’s surface, climb a mountain or rock-hop along wild beaches. North-West Tasmania is home to some of the most spectacular landscapes, and it is the perfect place for activity lovers to hike, abseil, kayak and mountain bike. But don’t be fooled by it’s undulating peaks and magnificent views, there’s more to this region than meets the eye. It’s also home to some of the Apple Isle’s most delicious producers, including wineries, breweries, farms and more. North-West Tasmania.


     Bag a Tasmanian massif on a leg-stretching day out to a sub-alpine plateau with 360° views. ‘Because it is there’ is as good a reason as any to climb Mount Roland in North-West Tasmania, on the northern edge of Tasmania’s Great Western Tiers. North-West Tasmania. For although it has little else in common with Everest, which George Mallory famously said he wanted to summit ‘because it’s there’ and died trying to in 1924, Mount Roland has presence. With mounts  in North-West Tasmania Van Dyke and Claude, Mount Roland is an impressive landmark.

North-West Tasmania. From far and near, its dolerite cliffs appear impregnable but there are several permutations and combinations of routes to the top. A tough, day-long through-walk from the Mount Claude (south-west) end of the range bags all three peaks. The shortest way up Mount Roland is a challenging climb-and-clamber up the vertiginous Face Track from Kings Road in Claude Road village in North-West Tasmania. The walk described here is an easier but longer out-and-back with kilometres in forest.

The track starts off O’Neills Roa in Gowrie Park in North-West Tasmania, 15km from Sheffield and 75 minutes’ drive from Launceston. Take the A1 out of Launceston to Elizabeth Town, then the B13 to Railton and B14 to Sheffield, from where you follow the C136 to Gowrie Park via Claude Road, departure point for the Face Track in North-West Tasmania. Turn left immediately after Gowrie Park campground into O’Neills Road. The trailhead and parking are 1km up. North-West Tasmania.

North-West Tasmania. Fill in your trip intentions at the walker registration shelter, beyond the white-on-blue Mount Roland Regional Reserve walking tracks sign, and set off on a disused, sealed vehicular track towards Mount Van Dyke, immediately to the right of taller, broader, flatter Mt Roland. To Van Dyke’s right is Mount Claude in North-West Tasmania. Note how much greener it is than the others, with foliage reaching all the way up its cliffs and only small patches of bare rock. Mount Van Dyke in North-West Tasmania shows more rock and Mount Roland is treed only half-way, the rest suggesting a huge, bald head – albeit a wrinkled one.

North-West Tasmania - photo 1

North-West Tasmania. Cradle Mountain. 

About 300m in, the track runs into a gravel forest road; turn left and follow this from tea treed flats into eucalypt forest with banksias and bracken, the gentle climb a warm-up for what’s to come. A magnificent, old gum – multiple metres around – stands beside the track. North-West Tasmania.

North-West Tasmania. Cross Fossey Creek and continue uphill to a junction, at about 940m altitude, where mounts Van Dyke and Claude are signed right. (To spice up this walk you could turn right and climb North-West Tasmania Mount Van Dyke before Mount Roland, extending the walk by at least two hours.) Keep left and keep climbing; the top of Mount Roland still looks a long way off.

After crossing two ferny creeks, guarded by tall eucalypts, you pass a small landslip revealing the looseness of the soil’s grip on the mountain. North-West Tasmania. Hills and valley show through the trees at Misty Rise in North-West Tasmania (almost every bend on the walk is named – presumably it’s often misty here); and as you traverse Van Dyke’s lower slope you get a full-face view of Mount Roland’s vertiginous cliff face in North-West Tasmania.

The vehicle-wide track ends about four kilometres into the walk at a log bridge over fern-filled O’Neill Creek, beyond which, steep steps start up rougher track in thicker forest, with Mount Van Dyke now looming behind. Past a huge boulder with a ferny mop-top, and over a creek flowing through a fern grove laced with shadows, it’s up a rocky creek gully to a platform where the Mount Van Dyke track comes in on the right. North-West Tasmania.

A less steep climb puts you on a high plateau carpeted with tea tree and button grass that unrolls north to Mount Roland in North-West Tasmania. Mount Van Dyke is behind you, with valley and mountain ranges to your right; and a string of mini peaks, high points of the seeming impassable dolerite ramparts seen earlier, on your left. Star pickets with red reflectors and/or orange arrows mark the track. If bad weather or cloud rolls in, ensure you can see the next post before proceeding or retreating. North-West Tasmania.

North-West Tasmania. Boardwalk and track cross the plateau, climbing steadily but not enough to leave you puffing. Watch out for coppery skinks sunning themselves on the boardwalk; don’t tread on them. Part-way across is a lookout deck with picnic table and bench seats, a perfect lunch spot with a view reaching from Mole Creek to the Great Western Tiers in North-West Tasmania.

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North-West Tasmania. Mount Roland

North-West Tasmania. Continue uphill and skirt a rise, passing a memorial plaque for Matthew Lee Bell (died 2006) and Brock Bell (died 2010) that gives no curiosity-satisfying details. When a scree slope comes into view ahead, look left along and up the ridgeline behind to the Mount Roland  in North-West Tasmania trig point. Reaching it takes you across a saddle above the scree slope; wind can whip up and over here so you might be glad you brought a jacket!

About 2.5km across the plateau you reach a junction where the steep Face Track comes towards you from the north. Note the position of this junction among pink-and-white-flowering boronia and weather-pruned tea tree, so you can head for it coming down. North-West Tasmania. Turn left and clamber to the top (1234m).

If you’ve got any breath left when you summit you’ll probably lose it to the view: an all-points-of-the-compass spectacle, with Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff to the south-west; the Great Western Tiers to the south; Sheffield, Devonport and Bass Strait to the north; and Launceston and, on those perfect blue-sky days, the impressive Ben Lomond plateau to the east. North-West Tasmania.

Wind permitting (it can blow a gale up top), spend some time on the summit before backtracking down the mountain, because you’re a long time in forest on the descent. Unless, that is, you are up for some adventurous climbing and descend the steep Face Track. North-West Tasmania. You need to plan for this shorter harder option, to ensure safety and to avoid several kilometres of road walking back to your car; don’t do it on the spur of the moment!

North-West Tasmania. Leven Canyon

North-West Tasmania - photo 3

 North-West Tasmania. Griffiths Ridge is a limestone blade slicing up and away from the riverbed

     North-West Tasmania. In a state famous for mountains, walk to the edge of a primeval gorge and down into its bowels where the water continues to chisel, chip and smooth. Think ‘bushwalking’ and ‘Tasmania’ and you probably envisage mountains and alpine moors, sheer coastal cliffs and white beaches. Too few visitors dip into the island state’s deepest limestone gorge!

Fed by run-off from the north–south Black Bluff ranges (the first place in north-west Tasmania to get winter snow) the Leven River is an integral part of a wildlife corridor between Cradle Mountain and Bass Strait in North-West Tasmania. Over time the river has cut an astonishing zigzag gorge hundreds of metres down into the Loongana Range’s layered, buckled and tilted limestone. This walk takes you to the gorge’s lip and floor and offers dramatically different perspectives of the river and the geology it has exposed. North-West Tasmania.

North-West Tasmania. The fun kicks off from Leven Canyon Regional Reserve picnic and parking area, 42km from the coastal town of Ulverstone. Take the B15 (Main Street then Castra Road) south to Nietta, continuing on the C128 (Loongana Road) to Leven Canyon Road in North-West Tasmania, which climbs about 800m through eucalypt forest to the car park.

North-West Tasmania - photo 4

North-West Tasmania. Leven Canyon

A wide, flat walking track disappears into trees of North-West Tasmania from the grassy reserve’s north-east corner, just beyond the toilets, instantly surrounding you with eucalypts and tree ferns and mossy logs that testify to the area’s high rainfall. North-West Tasmania.

After a slight 300m climb with a bench at the top, an almost flat stroll to the soundtrack of running water puts you on Cruikshanks Lookout among Smithton peppermints (smooth-branched eucalypts) that tower over orchids thrust from the poor cliff-top soils from winter to spring. You are now on the lip of Leven Gorge, 275m above a spectacular V-bend. To your right the river snakes along the base of treed slopes and into the distance. Down to your left it cuts along a massive cliff with the Black Bluff range behind. In front is Griffiths Ridge, a limestone blade slicing up and away from the riverbed. ‘It’s not a bad little view,’ is an Australian understatement that could be expressed here. North-West Tasmania.

North-West Tasmania. Tear yourself away from this geology-in-the-raw and retreat to the Forest Stairs, on your right coming off the lookout, and start downhill. Six-hundred- and-ninety-seven steps (you could count them!) nose-dive through lush mossy forest, with regularly spaced benches for catching your breath or just watching and listening to the forest. North-West Tasmania. The reserve is home to all but one of Tasmania’s 12 endemic birds and while many are camouflaged, you might spot blue-cheeked green rosellas or a yellow-throated honeyeater.

North-West Tasmania. The steps end at a footbridge over a creek tangled with ferns and fallen trees through which the water pours after heavy rain. Turn right across the bridge towards Edge Lookout and walk downhill, passing a huge-girthed tree, the root ball of another fallen giant, and a rock with a fern mop-top.

North-West Tasmania - photo 5

North-West Tasmania

North-West Tasmania. Clinging to the gorge wall about 140m above the river, Edge Lookout gives another great view of Griffiths Ridge. Cruikshanks Lookout is up to your right and the river has drilled multiple holes in its rocky bank down to your left. Back at the track junction and footbridge, walk straight on, up the creek’s west bank through tree ferns grown to 5m tall over 150 years. Benches are positioned for resting and enjoying the sounds, smells, hues and textures of this exquisite fern forest.

North-West Tasmania. Most people are content with the lookout loop but venturing down to the bottom of the canyon completes the experience. If time’s no issue and you’re happy treading an additional 3.4km on gravel road through tall trees, walk down the entry road and a kilometre north-west on Loongana Rd to a gravel parking area backing onto forestry plantation. Otherwise drive, but don’t leave valuables in your car.

A wide, gravel walking track starts gently enough from across the road, offering views through the trees, of Griffiths Ridge  in North-West Tasmania as you descend cleared ground, passing a gate and a rocky outcrop. Narrower track then steps more steeply downhill, gifting glimpses of gorge floor. The sound of rushing water accompanies you down a roped section and under a ferny overhang that looks like it’s made of sandwiched clay and coal. Clearly visible below are the hollows carved into the river’s rocky bank by years of swirling and pummeling water.

Steps lead to a metal footbridge spanning the gorge and a natural rock chicane through which water roars and foams and eddies; 45-70 gigalitres of water barrel through the gorge daily.  This is the turn-back point for most walkers. North-West Tasmania. But park maps and notes describe a one-hour-return walk downstream (right) to the Devils Elbow, the first white-water rafting rapid (Grade 4) below the footbridge, where the Leven River  in North-West Tasmania turns hard-right around an ancient landslip that rerouted the river. Two attempts ten months apart brought me to a stop at the same spot, about 75m short of the Elbow, but it’s worth venturing even this far and you might be surefooted enough to continue.

Across the bridge you are on the Penguin Cradle Trail, a 76km walk from the north-coast town of Penguin to Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park. It’s most spectacular section (experienced hikers only) is the seven-kilometres-in-seven-hours leg between Blackwood Camp (to your right – the sign directs you to Gunns Plains, beyond Blackwood Camp) and Loongana (to your left).

North-West Tasmania. The walking this side of the river is rougher and marked with orange arrows. It meanders through bracken forest on a steep slope above the river, passing huge rock slabs that presumably crashed down from the cliff. A short but steep descent on root steps lands you on the gorge rim above the river. A faded scrap nailed to a tree, the only visible track marker, and scuff marks from other walkers’ feet, suggest you squeeze behind some trees and traverse a loose, steep, crumbly slope to continue. Or you could turn back from here and retrace your steps to finish.

North-West Tasmania. Rocky Cape

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 North-West Tasmania. Morning sun reflects in the waters off Rocky Cape

     Aboriginal rock shelters, fantastic geology, abundant flowering plants, wind-swept beaches, protected coves and Bass Strait views – who could ask for more of a day walk? Human history in the Rocky Cape environs on North-West Tasmania coast dates back millennia, to when rising sea levels last separated the island state from mainland Australia. Cave middens testify to 8000 years of continuous occupation by Aboriginal people who fished and hunted the bounteous sea and land. North-West Tasmania.

Aboriginal Tasmanians still regularly visit and are involved in managing Rocky Cape National Park in North-West Tasmania but their ongoing connection to this country is a blip on the geological timeline of one of Tasmania’s smallest national parks. This all-day walk visits Aboriginal shelters and brings you face-to-face with hundreds of millions of years of sedimentation and overlaying; uplift, tilting and buckling caused by extreme pressures and temperatures; and erosion by wind and water. North-West Tasmania.

Rocky Cape National Park is about two hours’ drive from Launceston and 75 minutes from Devonport. North-West Tasmania. Follow the Bass Highway north-west (Highway 1 to Burnie, then A2). Turn onto Rocky Cape Road (C227), 30km beyond Wynyard, and stop where it swings left to Rocky Cape lighthouse and Mary Ann Cove in North-West Tasmania (where there are holiday ‘shacks’, toilets and picnic tables). The other road runs 400m right to Burgess Cove (where there are toilets).

North-West Tasmania. At the junction there’s a small parking area (no facilities) and information shelter. Picture boards introduce Aboriginal names for the plants and animals of Tangdimmaa (Rocky Cape) and local landmarks. Martula, the distinctive flat-topped upthrust visible to the west is also known as The Nut.

The walk starts 50m back along the access road: look for a blue sign on the right driving in. Initially climbing towards exposed rock, you traverse a slope, rough-stitched with green-and-red grasses and flowering coastal heath. Tabelak (banksias), stunted by salt, wind and poor soil, hug the ground, making the meter-high tea tree you pass seem tall. As you go, a string of coves and headlands unfurls to the east. North-West Tasmania.

Cathedral Hill in North-West Tasmania (112m), to the left early in the walk, is a rewarding short detour on a blue-sky day. Rocky Cape lighthouse is visible below and behind. About 1.5km into the walk you reach Postmans Pass. Turning left here would take you down to Cathedral Rocks (about 30 minutes) but you will walk up from there on this track to finish – so walk straight on for now. North-West Tasmania.

North-West Tasmania. The easterly view drops behind a hill and a vista taking in the Nut opens up to the west as you continue on the high track, rockier now, across hillside bristling with yamana (grass trees) and past occasional stunted eucalypts. Cathedral Rocks in North-West Tasmania, the red promontory below, looks like a twin-humped camel from here.

North-West Tasmania. An hour or so into the walk a footpad leads inland to Tinkers Lookout. This 600m-return add-on rewards with even broader views than the rolling hills and farmland seen walking the 200m to the next junction; turn left here to Cathedral Rocks via Blandifordia Hill for a shorter loop back to your car.

Staying high, traverse a button-grass plain; cut through eucalyptus and snowdrifts of tea tree; descend into a valley boggy with rivulets and climb out through coral fern, bush pea, banksias, boronia and fringe myrtle. Hundreds of plants have been recorded in the park, including more than 40 orchid varieties; watch for delicate blooms and look-at-me red Christmas bells. Ignore the Doons Falls track (left) in North-West Tasmania but, in good weather, detour up Broadview Hill at the next side track for another overview. North-West Tasmania.

North-West Tasmania - photo 7

North-West Tasmania

In early summer you might meet people training for the annual 101km Gone Nuts ‘fun’ run from Stanley to Wyndham as you snake through the button grass on Broadview’s flank. Don’t feel inadequate: they don’t have time to enjoy the wildflowers or the views – such as Sisters Beach as you round the hill. Descend into taller eucalypts (all of eight metres) with the same-named village curling around the beach below. North-West Tasmania.

Turn left for Anniversary Bay  in North-West Tasmania (or right for a dash to the foreshore toilets) at a wooden-signed junction and walk through massed grass trees into gnarled, wrinkly banksias. Distinguishable by their shiny, serrated leaves and large, yellow summer flower spikes, these saw banksias (B. serrata) are one of the four original banksia species Sir Joseph Banks collected in 1770. Saw banksias are common on mainland Australia but are found in Tasmania only in Rocky Cape. North-West Tasmania.

Lee Archer Cave, one of numerous caves in the park, is a must-see detour. Stepping off the main track among banksias, tread sandy track to another junction. Turn right for Wet Cave, descending to where another track climbs up from the beach (the best route if you ventured down to the toilets earlier). North-West Tasmania. Wet Cave opens under overhanging rock a few metres further on. The local Aboriginal people request that you not enter.

North-West Tasmania. Back at the last cave junction, follow Lee Archer Cave track to the lip of a rocky cove and – with stratified, uplifted stonework either side – step down towards a massive slab of slanted, layered rock thrust out of the sea. Clamber uphill below the projection to Lee Archer Cave. Formed by the fracturing and neat breaking-away of several rock layers, this angled slot is only a few metres wide and looks as though it were precision-cut. Several thousand years of Aboriginal use have been recorded here. It may be possible to rock-hop around to Anniversary Bay in North-West Tasmania from here but there is no trail or markers so return to the main track and head right along the cave cove’s rim.

North-West Tasmania. A steep zigzag down a headland lands you on Anniversary Bay beach, where fingers of grey, black, yellow, brown and white-layered rock reach out into the sea and back in time. Any interest in geology and/or photography will slow your progress along the next kilometre of sand and stone. Two wooden poles just shy of the end of the beach mark the resumption of the walking track, over Anniversary Point to another bay.

The next 1.7km or so is designated ‘route only’ because there is no track. Walk over, between, along, and around rock running down the beach, stepping carefully to limit damage to protruding paper-thin layers. The going is slow and tiring, and walking poles come in handy. North-West Tasmania. It’s also fascinating and fabulously beautiful. Two posts, one with a yellow marker, mark where you leave the beach, just before sand runs into an outcrop like a huge crocodile’s snout. You immediately climb, through dense tea tree, sometimes pushing through prickly branches, with the beaches and bays you’ve just trod now behind you. North-West Tasmania

Keep right and inland at a junction with a collapsed wooden sign where the shorter loop via Blandifordia Hill comes in left. At the next junction you can detour down to Cathedral Rocks (allow more than the suggested 10 minutes return) or continue towards Rocky Cape Road (50 minutes), crossing a series of rivulets as you climb back up to Postmans Pass. North-West Tasmania. Turn right and retrace your steps to the car park, high above the rugged cliffs that forced the track inland.

North-West Tasmania. The Nut

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 North-West Tasmania. There’s no better view of The Nut than from historic Highfield

     Colonial history and a geological oddity make for a fun and fascinating walk on Tasmania’s north-west coast. This walk is about cracking the Nut in Stanley of North-West Tasmania, 130km north-west of Devonport in North-West Tasmania. Name not ring a bell? It’s the unique flat-topped formation seen so often in Tasmanian travel promotions. North-West Tasmania.

The unmistakable landmark was officially named Circular Head by English navigator Matthew Flinders but is better known as ‘The Nut.’ North-West Tasmania. One story suggests this nickname derives from its likeness to a walnut when viewed from the beach; another that onlookers declared it a hard nut to crack when large amounts of explosives failed to loosen the predicted amount of basalt from its cliffs during the construction of the town’s breakwater.

Now a state reserve frequented by resident and migratory birds, The Nut was part of the original land grant to the Van Diemen’s Land Company, founded in London in 1824 to produce merino wool in the convict colony. The arrival at Circular Head in October 1826 of an overland party of company personnel was the first European attempt to settle North-West Tasmania.

North-West Tasmania. Fine-wool production failed but the Van Diemen’s Land Company  found success selling land for agriculture and the settlement thrived. The Australian Handbook of 1875 described Stanley as an important ‘port of entry and clearance’ with frequent ‘steam communication’ with Melbourne. Modern-day Stanley’s main industries are cray fishing and tourism.

This easy walk explores the town and its geological oddity. You can start anywhere along the route but the easiest parking is at Godfreys Beach (at the north end of town). From here, walk along the foreshore towards the Nut, passing playgrounds and barbecue facilities, and crossing another parking area towards the white picket-fenced cemetery. The pedestrian gate on the left opens onto The Nut State Reserve (no dogs or camping allowed) where, at dusk and early evening during spring and summer, you’ll see little (fairy) penguins returning to their burrows to rest and feed chicks. North-West Tasmania.

Wander around the cemetery beneath shading Norfolk Island pines, reading headstones dating back to 1828, then continue up the road. North-West Tasmania. You’ll shortly see the chairlift strung up The Nut; it operates daily, weather permitting, but that’s too easy. Turn into the parking area and pass the weatherboard shop and café (the chairlift base is behind) to the sealed footpath that zigzags up to the plateau (430m). Look across the bay as you start; atop the next-north headland is the once-isolated Colonial outpost of Highfield, well worth a visit.

North-West Tasmania - photo 9

North-West Tasmania

Pademelons graze the Nut’s slopes and stopping to watch these cute, wallaby-like marsupials is a good excuse to catch your breath on the short, sharp climb. North-West Tasmania. Up top, head left at the track junction immediately behind the chairlift station, and walk clockwise around the plateau. Stay on the broad gravel track to protect birds’ nests in the coarse carpet of grasses and reeds.

North-West Tasmania. You’ll pass a seat looking across to Highfield and over the Southern Ocean. A trig point identifies the Nut’s highpoint (143m above sea level) in North-West Tasmania, the altitude gain so minimal you would otherwise not realise you had climbed at all. Beyond it is a lookout, just shy of the Nut’s easternmost point; this is the place for watching dawn over Stanley. The view opens up to include Stanley Harbour as you veer south along fenced cliff.

Step down to Fishermen’s Wharf Lookout and then into the Nut’s only stand of trees, a mix of American pines dating back to European settlement (planted as a wind break for a vegetable garden) and eucalypts, banksias, blackwoods, prickly wattle and more, part of an ongoing tree-planting program begun in the 1970s. The trees are full of birds – and pademelons hop across the track, which continues through a colonnade suggestive of a slightly neglected English garden. Highfield Lookout, passed as you complete the loop, presents a Southern Ocean panorama of Stanley, bay, Highfield and the chairlift. North-West Tasmania.

Descend the Nut in North-West Tasmania, exit the parking area and look right: the route into town starts at the white posts about 50m down on the left. Descend a bitumen track to Alexander Terrace and turn left. Historic cottages line Alexander Terrace. At the time of writing, the attractive weatherboard at #48, with a huge palm tree out front, was home to Odd Job Bob. Exquisite iron lacework trims the Harbour Master’s Cottage in North-West Tasmania. at #42. The stone Captain’s Cottage with dormer windows in the roof (#30) was built in 1835. Bayview Guesthouse, at #16, dates from 1849 and is again providing heritage accommodation. The simple stone cottage at #14 was the birthplace and childhood home of Joseph Lyons, former Tasmanian premier and the state’s first Prime Minister of Australia, from 1932 until his death in 1939. North-West Tasmania.

North-West Tasmania. Continue down the road and U-turn right onto Lower Wharf Road, passing the old lighthouse in the park. The two-storey bluestone building on the right was convict-built in 1843 as the Van Diemen’s Land Company’s wool warehouse. Having been a customs house, detention centre, fish processing factory and art gallery, it’s now a boutique hotel.

When the road divides, take the right hand Upper Church St, just below Alexander Tce, with The Nut in North-West Tasmaniasitting high on your right. This is Stanley’s main street. Walking along it, you pass galleries and restaurants and The Stanley Hotel in North-West Tasmania, founded in 1847 (visitors are welcome to look around the pub’s cellar, purportedly the oldest on the coast). The Plough Inn, further on, was established in 1840. Pass the Anglican church, and just before the road swings left, turn right into the Godfrey’s Beach car park to finish. North-West Tasmania.

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