Pictures and story by Bodey Dittloff
The newly refurbished Tarkine Drive provides an outlet to the naturally pristine gems in Circular Head’s tourism crown; a unique combination of coastal landscapes and rainforest walks.
A number of starting points means flexibility when planning your Tarkine trip, but many points of interest on the route’s map – available at information centres and online – can be comfortably explored within a day or two.
Here, the Chronicle has explored the drive first-hand, beginning at Marrawah and travelling south along the coastline before driving around the inner-forest loop from the Kannunah Bridge turnoff.
Most vehicles will have little difficulty navigating the main roads and though caution should be taken (drive slowly) on the unsealed tracks, travelling in a relatively low two-door coupe was comfortable for the most part of the journey.
Dress comfortably with steady boots and take a waterproof jacket depending on the weather; rainforest walks can become quite humid under the canopy and some surfaces can become loose underfoot.
For a copy of the Tarkine Drive brochure, head to www.stanley.com.au/stanleyedge/wp-content/uploads/TarkineDrive-web.pdf
WEST POINT RESERVE
An important Aboriginal heritage site and a popular surfing location, West Point Reserve is one of a number of entry points along the route onto the western coastline of the Tarkine. From the large stone segments sitting peacefully among the dense bush, the view of huge waves crashing against the sand is almost meditative. From Arthur River Road, a 10-minute drive along the gravel track takes you to an open viewing point.
EDGE OF THE WORLD
Five minutes from the township of Arthur River lies the Edge of the World observation point: a thought-provoking view into the vast openness of the Indian Ocean. Currents are said to travel unimpeded more than halfway across the world from the next closest land mass in Argentina – a surreal notion which would be mirrored by the people standing on the shores of the South American country.
Park your car and take the short few steps to the Sumac Lookout, which provides a relatively unhindered and breathtaking view along a stretch of the Arthur River. Often referred to as the largest area of cool temperate rainforest in Australia, the Tarkine is filled with a mix of myrtles, sassafrass, blackwood and giant eucalypts among other tree species. The landscape of the contrasting forest with the lake at its centre makes this location one of many great photo opportunities along the South Arthur Forest Drive.
The trickling sound of the Julius River is a calming backdrop to two colourful rainforest walks, which take roughly half an hour and an hour respectively. Be careful to stay on used tracks and follow signage where possible; it can be easy to get lost on offshoot paths that appear to go somewhere, but finish at an abrupt dead end. A separate location for caravans and motorhomes is located just up from the main stopping point – not a bad spot to immerse yourself in the surrounding wilderness if planning to explore for a few days.
Touted as ‘one of the finest examples of a flooded sinkhole in Australia’, Lake Chisolm sits eerily still among its vibrant surroundings. The reflections of trees and fallen branches covered in moss shine on the water’s surface, with the discreet sounds of native birds echoing around the forest like a symphony. Even before you get to the large inland body of water itself, the preceding forest walk – full of giant eucalypts and rainforest species – makes the head spin, craning the neck to admire the sheer size and breadth of the overbearing environment. A short five-minute drive inland from the loop; be careful to drive slowly on the narrow track that leads to the parking area.
WES BECKETT FALLS
This stunning waterfall is similar in many ways to Mawbanna’s Dip Falls, but completely different in others. A slightly smaller-scaled formation, the beauty of Wes Beckett Falls is in its almost hidden location and the unmatched sound of pure, rushing water crashing against rock – at least the case in winter. It’s best to take it nice and slow along the 11-kilometre unsealed track off the main loop, which includes rocky sections and a soil-and-grass surface towards the end; intimidating for non-four-wheel-drive vehicles but manageable if you’re confident in your ride. Also, signs warn of slippery surfaces and an untamed track to the falls. For the adventurous, heed these warnings and the short, steep trek down will be worth the end spectacle.
Aside from the amazing rainforests and other flora that inhabit the Tarkine, one of the drive’s biggest drawcards is the animals that call north-west Tasmania home. While sightings are often a matter of chance (unless you’re actively seeking out a particular animal), the need for a keen eye can be crucial to see the abundance and diversity of fauna on offer through this drive alone. In this instance, the Chronicle spotted a wombat casually feeding on the side of Arthur River Road just past the dip, and it seemed relatively undisturbed by passing cars and the approach of a curious photographer. Many bird species – from smaller canvas-dwellers to the more-noticeable cockatoos – inhabit the Tarkine and can often be heard before they are spotted. Cautious driving is a necessity along the Tarkine Drive as is signed and encouraged, particularly during fading light when pademelons and Tasmanian devils can scamper across the road at a moment’s notice.