The wild, wild west
A visit to the remote rainforest arcadia at the southern end of the Tarkine wilderness is like stepping into an ecological time machine.
As our kayaks slice through the inky, tannin-stained, waters of the mighty Pieman River, it feels like we’re paddling back in time. Ancient Gondwanan rainforest covers the hills around us and evaporative clouds cling to treetops, completing a scene that would have looked much the same several hundred thousand years ago. The increasingly rare privilege of what I’m experiencing isn’t lost on me.
A visit to remote Corinna on Tasmania’s wild West Coast is one of the easiest and most rewarding ways to visit takyana (The Tarkine), in the heart of the southern hemisphere’s largest temperate rainforest. With the brilliant Corinna Wilderness Village waiting at the end of an impossibly scenic drive, it’s the most accessible way to experience this remnant patch of Gondwanaland.
Having driven in from Burnie and settled into our ‘eco-retreat’ cottages, squeezed into a gap in the rainforest, my travel buddies, Tracy and Alice, stroll with me down to the adorable Tarkine Hotel to enjoy hospitality and meals perfectly matched to the exquisite landscape of remote Tasmania. Soaking up the last light from the pub’s veranda, we plan to burn off tonight’s dessert calories tomorrow by taking advantage of the Wilderness Village’s kayak-bushwalk service. We nominate a designated kayak drop-off point and a hiking trail back into Corinna, knowing the staff will collect the kayaks later. We settle on a plan: we’ll paddle downstream to Lover’s Falls, then back to the mouth of the Savage River, where we’ll hike for two to three hours back through the rainforest.
Early the next day, sea eagles and black cockatoos guide us towards Lover’s Falls. Arriving at what looks like a door into the rainforest, we secure the kayaks and enter another world. The rainforest is damp, intensely green and full of miniature life forms, including mosses, liverworts and colourful fungi, which tumble lace-like over an escarpment into an amphitheatre of tree ferns. A honeymooning couple reputedly found a gold nugget near the falls in the 1930s and they’ve been called Lover’s Falls ever since.
It’s only a short paddle back to the surprisingly calm Savage River. Before leaving our kayaks, we paddle around the wreck of the SS Croydon, lying just beneath the surface. Full of timber, the ship sank in 1919, when there was a bustling mining and logging settlement here. Suspicion raged that the crew sabotaged the ship, keener to drink at the nearby pub rather than head back to sea. Scanning the rainforest, there’s no sign of the settlement or pub. Nature wins, I think to myself.
Tying the kayaks to the jetty, we dodge slippery roots up the hill, under a canopy of huge myrtle, sassafras and blackwood trees. Following the ridgeline, we catch glimpses across the vast green blanket of rainforest, before the trail takes us back to the banks of the Pieman and we enjoy an easy stroll past ancient Huon pines into Corinna.
Not yet lunchtime, we head to the pub for a coffee. Manager Matt Coxan tells us he moved to Corinna from South Australia’s Flinders Ranges. “Corinna ticks a lot of the boxes for Tasmania,” Matt says. “You’ve got a river and a rainforest,” he dryly adds. “It’s off-grid and nature tourism at its best.”
Matt might just be right. Developed around the remaining buildings of what was once a booming gold mining town, Corinna has been sensitively expanded into a sustainable eco-resort, with a range of accommodation, including riverside camping, making takayna accessible to almost anyone. With solar power and a focus on low impact environmental practices, treading lightly is taken very seriously at the Wilderness Village. As is giving visitors the opportunity to unhook from their devices and re-charge in nature. Corinna is free from mobile and internet coverage, which Matt says guests actually “love the most”. With the nearest alternative accommodation an hour away in either direction, this really is ‘outback’ Tasmania
After being lulled into deep sleep by breezes running through the treetops, we wake early to spend our final day at Corinna heading back down the Pieman in a different kind of vessel. Joining fellow guests aboard MV Arcadia, a Huon pine motor launch built in 1939, we cruise at a leisurely pace down to the Pieman River heads. Around bend after bend the majestic Pieman reveals a remarkably intact natural landscape. Staring into the myriad shades of green is almost hypnotic.
At the heads, we’re given the opportunity to wander down to the log-strewn beach, where the Pieman meets the Southern Ocean. It’s a slightly surreal, edge-of-the-world feeling out here. It’s also along this coast that the tarkiner people flourished for over 40,000 years. I try to imagine them paddling the river in their canoes as we head back up the Pieman.
3 other must-do Tassie rainforests
Corinna is a remarkably accessible way to visit takayna, but at 3.5 hours’ drive from Launceston and over five hours from Hobart, it may be a stretch for the average weekend getaway. Fear not, Tasmania has many options for enjoying some quality rainforest time.
Mt Field National Park
Only an hour from Hobart, Mt Field National Park encompasses various wild landscapes including alpine, tall eucalypt and beautiful waterfalls tumbling into rainforest. There are plenty of accommodation options if you’re keen to make it a weekend adventure.
In the north, Liffey Falls are set in a magical rainforest less than an hour from Launceston. There’s a short walk down to the first sets of falls, but the real reward is in hiking down to the campground and back. Better still, camp overnight and do the return walk from your tent or camper.
Not far from Liffey and along the same slopes of the Great Western Tiers, you’ll find a multitude of walks around the upper reaches of the Meander River. The 10km return hike through mature rainforest into the 130m Meander Falls is spectacular, as is the shorter walk to Split Rock Falls. With the beautiful country town of Deloraine close by, you could do a couple of walks over a weekend, while enjoying the town’s pubs, restaurants and heritage accommodation.