Welcome to the Tarkine!

Welcome to the Tarkine!

The sign said “Welcome to the Tarkine, a wild and sacred place”. It also said I wasn’t going to see a gas station for a long time. Or a cell tower.

Last week we were in Stanley, Tasmania visiting The Nut in our anti-clockwise (as the Aussies call it) journey around the island of Tasmania. This week we’ll travel into the remote west of Tasmania, an area known for its wild rivers and temperate rainforests.

My goal for this day was to travel from Stanley in the northwest to Strahan on the central west coast by way of the town of Corinna. While only a distance of 290 km (180 mi) by my intended route, it would require almost five hours of driving, much of it over unsealed (gravel) roads, and even involving a small ferry barge. This route would take me through the heart of the Tarkine. I didn’t have to go this way, but there was something about the remote little town of Corinna with its ferry that drew me in.

Welcome to the Tarkine, Tasmania, Australia

A sign at a lookout points out the wildness of the Tarkine, a remote region in western Tasmania, Australia.

The last town I traveled through of any size, and the last place I saw a cell tower, was Waratah, population 298 in 2011, apparently the last time anyone checked. The town is named after an Australian-endemic genus of shrubs with beautiful flowers, one of which is the state emblem of New South Wales. (I’m going out on a limb here in assuming that the flower was not named after the town. OK, actually, “Waratah” was the Aboriginal name for the plant, and was adopted by the European settlers. How often does that happen?)

Anyway, soon after leaving Waratah the pavement ended. Fortunately, the condition of the road was good, much better than the ones that gave me a flat tire back on the more populous east coast.

The Tarkine Expressway, Tasmania, Australia

The B23 Waratah-Corinna Road is the only highway through the Tarkine, in Tasmania, Australia.

I stopped along the way to get a couple of photos for context. Mainly I was just enjoying the drive, the beauty around me, and the relative remoteness of it all. I don’t believe I passed a single vehicle on the entire drive between Waratah and Corinna.

The Tarkine, Savage River, Tasmania, Australia

Mountains are visible in the distance across the Tarkine wilderness, near Savage River, Tasmania, Australia.

I knew I was getting close to the outskirts of Corinna, population 20, when I saw the rusty sign nailed onto a tree beside the road. Corinna might not be much now, but it once reached a population of over 2,500 at its peak from the mid 1870’s to the early 1890’s. As you might expect, it was gold that caused the excitement, particularly when the largest nugget of gold ever discovered in Tasmania (7.5kg) came from a few km upstream of Corinna.

Corinna, 1894, Tasmania, Australia

A rusted sign nailed to a tree welcomes visitors to the small town of Corinna, in Tasmania, Australia.

Now it’s the only surviving remote historical mining settlement in Tasmania, but also is a successful eco-tourism haven and home of the newly-built Tarkine Hotel and Tannin Restaurant. And it’s known for its river cruises aboard the Arcadia II, built in 1939 of Huon pine, a wood highly prized for its golden yellow color, fine grain, and natural oils that resist rotting. The 20 km day-trip along the Pieman River claims to provide the opportunity to experience pristine wilderness on one of the most isolated coastlines on earth. Unfortunately, this day-trip did not fit my schedule. In fact, I really wanted to take one of the longer hikes in the area, but knew I needed to reach Stanley that evening to stay on schedule, for reasons we’ll discuss in a future article.

I decided that I had time for one small hike along the river, and a quick tour of the town. After my hike I walked around checking out the historical signs in front of the historical buildings, then headed back to the river. There was a beautiful campground with wooden tent platforms built right along the Pieman River, and the best part is that there was not an RV within 50 miles of the place.

Jim Beam in a Can, Corinna, Tasmania, Australia

Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Cola come pre-mixed in a can, in Corinna, Tasmania, Australia.

The entire time I was there I just kept thinking, if I ever come back to Tasmania, I’m going to spend way more of my trip out here in the Corinna area. And if I were looking for a romantic, secluded place, this would be it. Just then a car pulled off the ferry barge, all decked out with “Just Married” decorations, and a young newlywed couple got out and headed for the hotel. Well, what do you know? I’m not the only one with that idea.

I decided it was a good time to go check out the hotel and restaurant. The restaurant was closed, but there was a bar that seated about six people that was serving drinks right next to the eco-tour desk, and I saw a few guys from a work crew enjoying a can of Jim Beam and Cola. I had seen these cans in Tasmania before, and decided it was time to see what they were all about. And guess what? They were pretty good! Well, you really can’t go wrong with bourbon, I always say. I grew up on the bourbon balls my mom made for her parties, you know.

Well, it was time to get going, so I went out to the barge and read the instructions for crossing the river:

HOW TO GET ON BARGE

  1. Drive up and down Car Park looking for Bridge.
  2. Park at Information Centre.
  3. Then park in Car Park.
  4. Drive to kiosk and ask is Barge Operator still in Bed, or how do you get across on Barge if there is no Operator?
  5. The Quickest and Easiest way is when you are ready, Park on road at STOP SIGN and (press button) Operator will come.
How To Get On Barge, Corinna, Tasmania, Australia

An amusing sign describes the process the typical tourist might go through to cross the river, at Corinna, Tasmania, Australia.

Huh. Cute. I’m sure the locals have witnessed this ritual once or twice.

Just about that time another car pulled up for a ride across, and noting that the barge could carry two cars at once, I ran back and grabbed my car. The operator was already on the barge, so we didn’t have to go wake him up.

Welcome to Corinna, Tasmania, Australia

A sign on the barge lists the features of the town of Corinna, in Tasmania, Australia.

I paid the operator, who can easily issue tickets and pilot the barge at the same time, since it just runs back and forth across the small river on a cable.

As I looked back towards the town, I noticed a Corinna welcome sign on the barge itself, this one much fancier than the one I saw nailed to a tree when coming from the other direction. The newlyweds’ car was parked in front the hotel, as they began their life adventures and I headed off for more of my own. But I couldn’t help thinking to myself, this is a place I could visit again. Someday, Corinna, I’ll be back!

Boardwalk along the Huon Pine Walk, Corinna, Tasmania, Australia

This boardwalk, like most in Tasmania, is covered in chicken wire to prevent slipping when wet, on the Huon Pine Walk near Corinna, Tasmania, Australia.

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5 Responses to “Welcome to the Tarkine!”

  1. Max says:

    Ed,
    Thanks for the virtual trip to Tarkine!
    Max

  2. Dave says:

    Good blog entry. This is the first time in a while I remember laughing several times as I read it. Plus I really liked the relative grunginess of that area. Or maybe a better way to put it: I liked that it wasn’t touristy. And I kept thinking I’d see Mad Max’s beat up old black Trans Am (or Firebird or Camaro – whatever it was) appear on the road. I know it’s the wrong island, but the look is right.

  3. Sue-Z says:

    Great story!

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