The Lyell Highway
Lyell Highway / Jason Charles Hill
Into the Western Wilds
Prior to 1931, getting to the west coast mining town of Queenstown from Hobart was only possible by railway, tramway and sea. It was a long and arduous journey and required a tough constitution. Thanks to the Lyell Highway, Queenstown is now easily accessible by car.
The highway, a 248-kilometre road between Hobart and Strahan, is unlike anything you’ve driven before with remote towns, alpine lakes and stark, snow-topped mountain ranges. Evidence of the perilous expeditions undertaken prior to 1931 comes alive in the ghost towns, mountain huts and overgrown tramways you can visit on walks branching from the highway.
Carve your own path as you make your way through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. The boardwalks to Franklin River and Nelson Falls allow you to stretch your legs under ancient trees and towering ferns. At King William Saddle, you can even see the vivid change in vegetation and geology that separates Tasmania’s east and west.
The bridge across Lake Burbury will take your breath away as you’re greeted by a mesmerising replica of the mountain range on the mirrored surface of the water. From there, circle your way around the base of the mountains all the way to the forgotten town of Linda, before winding your way up to the bare hills of Queenstown.
As you navigate the abundance of hairpin bends into Queenstown, aptly titled ’99 Bends’, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of a rugged landscape tinted in similar tones to the copper contained within. These coppery hues come alive when sunset hits the mountain tops highlighting an out-of-this-world moonscape.
Just outside Queenstown, the boardwalk to Horsetail Falls wraps around the barren mountainside in a masterful display of engineering. You’ll be rewarded at the end with a 50-metre waterfall that cascades down a steep cliff face, giving you a magnificent view of Queenstown and beyond.
While the Lyell Highway is more about the journey than the destination, arriving in Queenstown and exploring the area is an adventure in itself with its heritage buildings and abandoned remnants of the mining boom, and Mount Owen as a backdrop.