Dismal, grim and devil are not words you may type into Google to search for your next holiday. They usually conjure up bleak, dark thoughts. That is until you enter Tarkine Tasmania.
Dismal becomes totally memorable; devils are soft and cute (except when they are eating, then it’s a different story); and grim is an amazing landscape producing some of the finest seafood and beef. Tasmania’s Tarkine has astounding views and the cleanest air on the planet.
Welcome to the north-west of Tasmania where close-up encounters in the wild are guaranteed.
Base yourself at Smithton, the commercial hub of Tasmania’s north-west. This is the gate-way to the Tarkine and from here explore this remarkable corner of Australia’s southernmost and smallest state.
Nigel, our guide on a Woolnorth Property Tour tells us the property – the largest dairy enterprise in Australasia – is home to an estimated 3,000 Tasmanian devils (high on my bucket list to see), 2,000 quolls and 72 turbines generating 10% of Tasmania’s power and where we’ll breathe the purest air.
This is all within 10 minutes of being with Nigel. The facts keep rolling and the day commences its adventure.
Nige (as he prefers to be called) and his wife Laura run Woolnorth Tours and offers visitors an enlightening introduction to Australia’s most southern state’s wild west.
‘You know the charter still exists today. The property is smaller now covering more than 20, 000 hectares and primarily focused on dairy. 13 diaries average milking 1000 and 1500 head,’ says Nige.
Take the property tour – these are offered as various packages and can be tailored with prior consultation – and you’re led to more than dairy cows.
You’ll stand under one of the soaring 60m high turbines of Hydro Tasmania’s first wind farm.
The blades continually rotate providing power for Tasmanians. Each turbine is taller than Wrest Point Casino’s 15 stories and generates power for up to 500 homes around Tasmania.
The ‘breeze’ reaches land uninterrupted from Patagonia some 20,000km away.
There’s an information centre and lookout with engineering, indigenous, wildlife sign boards and displays. Next stop is the rugged cliffs leading to Cape Grim and the Baseline Air Pollution Station.
You can’t get up close and touch the monitoring station at Cape Grim but you can see it whirling and examining your exact current air intake.
‘Now you can really breathe in deep,’ Nige says.
Below three crayfish boats shelter up against the dramatic cliff faces.
Islands eroded by millions of years dot the seascape and bays reveal blow holes and secluded beaches.
It’s a magical vista and we take some time to sit and really appreciate the view.
From here Nige takes us to the Director’s Residence on Woolnorth via some of the station’s original buildings.
We have a cuppa, check out the memorabilia and watch the clouds travel rapidly across the sky before taking the short walk from the residence to the lookout for sunset.
Standing on mainland Tasmania’s northwesternmost point and watching the sun go down has got to be one of the best things to experience on earth. What makes it even better is seeing devils in the wild while walking back to the homestead.
I almost missed my first sighting. Nige pulled me back by my jacket and not whispering a word he pointed straight down the track.
In front of us was a Tasmanian devil. We saw another two on our short walk back to the residence and they weren’t our last.
We toasted our day on our return with Laura before delving into their Dinner and Devils night. After dinner the lights are dimmed and wild Tasmanian devils come in to visit.
These are the purest of all in Tasmania and so far not affected by the malicious facial tumour.
Woolnorth is a working property and can only be accessed by a private tour.
Tours can be customised (as we chose) or you may book a spot on any of their existing range of tours. Half- and full-day tours to the Dinner and Devils dining experience are available all year round.
There are two ways to start your adventure into the heart of Dismal Swamp south-west of Smithton.
Either by the 110m slide or a leisurely walk. Once at the bottom, a timber walkway leads past huge rainforest trees, burrowing cray fish, through replica dinosaur skeletons and past timid wallabies.
Not quite so dismal at all, the swamp is a gigantic sinkhole, possibly the largest of its kind in the world.
Surrounded by the only Blackwood forest known in the world, it’s interspersed with sculptures and signs on interesting facts and a fascinating introduction to the region.
The slide operates during business hours. A top tip for our adrenalin addicts: the warmer it is the faster your run will be.
So how did the name come about? Word has it, it’s from the experiences recorded by the early surveyors and the times they endured in the early 1800’s.
Blackwood, a timber prized by furniture makers, artists and designers, was once harvested from the region. Look closely and you’ll see the fine seeds littering the walk ways.
Along the pathways are eight sculptures by Tasmanian artists inspired by the region.
Visiting Simon Archer’s, The Living Room is a must. Wooden ribs rise from the walkway giving the feeling you are walking through the skeleton of a prehistoric creature.
Today an architecturally designed Visitor Centre gives you background information on the timbers of Tasmania. See the magnificent curved Blackwood wall.
There is a dining area offering coffee, meals and snacks and souvenir shop. Guided tours are available or a visit to Dismal Swamp can be combined on a Woolnorth or Tall Timbers Adventure Tour.
Tall Timbers Adventure Tours
You may have already read our article about Rob Saltmarsh’s secret spots. Rob is a tour guide with Tall Timbers Adventure Tours, a company that offers a variety of tours from helicopter rides over the vast north-west Tasmania’s wilderness to 4WD day drives.
You can visit Balfour, a ghost town and mine site, Aboriginal Heritage sites and the rugged Tarkine coast plus venture deep into the Tarkine’s bottomless wilderness.
The Tarkine is the largest cool-climate rainforest in the southern hemisphere and home to one of the true wild rivers.
The Arthur River runs an uninterrupted 175km to the sea. The forest edges the river and its contributing rivers and creeks provide rainforest walks, lookouts and opportunities to view flora and fauna of the area.
Tours can be tailor-made to whatever you’d like to discover and the local guides know their region well. There is a choice of premium and low cost tours available. We can highly recommend their gourmet picnic lunches which include premium local Tasmanian food and wine.
Dismal Swamp’s opening times
0900 – 1700 December and January.
1000 – 1600 during other months.
Closed June – August, Christmas Day and during hazardous weather conditions.
Admission: Adult: $20.00, Child: $10.00