9 Facts You May Not Know About Western Tasmania

Iron Blow / Jason Charles Hill

Tasmania's west is different: it's quirky, it's untouched and untamed. Here's what you may not know about the Western Wilds.

1. Gravel football oval

A gravel sports oval
Gravel oval / Ollie Khedun

Ever played football on a gravel oval? Don't slip, it hurts! Due to Queenstown's high rainfall, a gravel oval was built instead of a grass oval so the locals could keep playing footy. Have a look around and you'll no doubt see the scars on those brave enough to do it.

2. The Confluence

Junction of two rivers
Confluence of the King and Queen River / The Unconformity

Where the King and Queen Rivers meet is an incredible sight. The alpine waters of the King River rise from the nearby mountains while the Queen, which passes through Queenstown, is the colour of pumpkin soup. This is because the Queen is dead. More than 100 million tonnes of mining waste has been dumped into its waterways from 1922 to 1995. These rivers swirl together in a display of the dead and the living, the old and the new, untouched wilderness and wilderness devastated by man.

3. A missing tiger

Old photo of a Tasmanian tiger
Tasmanian tiger / Tasmanian Archives and Heritage Office

Believed to be extinct, the thylacine – also known as the Tasmanian tiger – is thought by some to still roam the west today. The button grass plains of Tasmania's west were its hunting grounds. Declared extinct in 1930, there have been reported sightings since, the most recent in 2017. Keep an eye out when you're travelling the Lyell Highway near Derwent Bridge. You never know what you might see…

4. Highest commercial abseil

Person walking across top of a dam wall
Gordon Dam wall / Matt Cherubino

In the middle of the World Heritage Wilderness Area, the Gordon Dam demonstrates a stark contrast of human engineering feat against the untamed Tasmanian wilderness. This massive 140-metre high double-walled dam holds back more than 12 million megalitres of water. The water drops over 180 metres underground into a power station where turbines generate enough energy to power 13 per cent of Tasmania. It’s also home to the highest commercial abseil in the southern hemisphere. Are you brave enough?

5. A Wall in the Wilderness

Large carved panels
Wall in the Wilderness / Brian Dullaghan

The Wall in the Wilderness is a bold creative undertaking of giant proportion. At Derwent Bridge, artist Greg Duncan is carving three-metre high Huon pine panels – wood that can’t be found anywhere else in the world – to commemorate the people who shaped the history of the central highlands.

6. The edge of the world

Three children playing on a sand dune
Henty Dunes / Dan Fellow

The Henty Dunes form a vast expanse of sand amid the rainforests of Tasmania's west coast. The dunes extend several kilometres inland and 15 kilometres along the coast north from Strahan. The dunes were formed by the Roaring Forties that blow uninterrupted from South America, gaining speed all the way to Tasmania. It's an easy 1.5-hour return walk from the picnic area through the dunes to Ocean Beach, Tasmania's longest beach. Sliding down the dunes has been a favourite activity for locals and visitors over the years. Take a toboggan.

7. An historic wilderness railway

Steam locomotive in the bush
West Coast Wilderness Railway / Nick Osborne

The historic West Coast Wilderness Railway travels 35 kilometres from Strahan to Queenstown through mountainous terrain and lush wilderness inaccessible by any other form of transport. With stops along the way for gold panning, wild honey tasting and rainforest walks, this steam railway journey offers a unique insight into Tasmania's wilderness and the people that made it their home.

8. The world's largest stretch of ocean

Ocean Beach
Sunset at Ocean Beach / Pete Harmsen

Watch the sunset over beautiful Ocean Beach, which stretches north from Strahan to Trial Harbour. The closest landfall from here is South America to the west, making it the largest stretch of ocean on earth. In serious weather, the swell is known to reach up to 20 metres.

9. Iron Blow

Open cut mine filled with water
Iron Blow / Jason Charles Hill

Ever seen inside an open cut mine? Venture on to the cantilevered lookout at Iron Blow at Mount Lyell and get a view into the unique landscape of one of the first open-cut mining ventures on Tasmania's west coast.