It’s been ages since we’ve had the opportunity to go out for a drive that didn’t involve going to a doctor or a supermarket so last Sunday Naomi suggested that we go out just for fun. We decided against visiting the coastal towns, as much as we love Stanley, Penguin and Ulverstone we felt that on a sunny long weekend those towns would attract a lot of visitors to their beaches, it would be hard to get a park anywhere and we didn’t want to be queuing for food at the shops. Instead, we decided to explore some of the inland areas that we still don’t know very much about.
We headed out of Wynyard towards Yolla, a name we knew but had little idea about. It turned out to be a tiny place and as not much was open, I took a couple of photos and, as it was still early, we decided that we would continue going to Waratah, 56 kilometres away.
I had been wanting to visit Waratah for some time. I had a brochure about it and it sounded interesting. It is an old tin mining town and there seemed to be some nice old buildings including a nice looking pub and a waterfall right in the middle of town.
The route we took from Wynyard took us through the Hellyer Gorge. I wish I had some photos of my own to share of this drive. It is on the fringe of the Savage River National Park and it is several kilometres of winding road. There were some very tight turns. The scenery is amazing as the road takes you through cool temperate rainforest. You can see huge ferns, fungi, and trees eucalypts, myrtle beech, acacia and other rare plants whose names I can’t pronounce so I’ll provide a link. We did pull into the rest area for a few minutes but it was chock a block full of caravanners and picknickers. I’ve never seen such a crowded rest area, there was even a game of cricket going on. If we take that route another time, I hope we can stop and explore as I believe that there are a couple of short walks you can take. As it is we just let some cars who wanted to go faster than us pass and then continued on.
The Savage River National Park itself is inaccessible by road. It is completely wild and if you want to see it you need to be an experienced hiker because there are no facilities in the park at all. The fringes of the park are State Reserves which you can visit to get a feel for what the area is like.
Not being intrepid hikers ourselves we continued to follow the road to Waratah. There is a bit to see there and we will definitely return another day to visit the museum, the Stamper Mill and the Athenaeum Hall which all house historic material and exhibitions. We may also travel a little further to visit the site of the old tin mine and the Philosophers Falls. This time we were content to have a walk around the town looking at the main attractions. It is nice to find a town you want to come back to.
The pub is the largest building in town and a reminder that Waratah at its peak was home to 5,000 people. At the 2016 census the population was 248 I believe.
This restored hall is now home to the Tarkine Visitor Interpretation Centre which provides information about the Tarkine forest – one of the largest cool temperate rainforests in the world.
This is a replica miners hut created in 1988 as part of a Bicentennial project.
Philosopher Smith’s Hut
Located next to the Waratah Museum this simple, rectangular building was opened during the 1988 Bicentennial year. It “commemorates the discovery of tin at Mt Bischoff by James ‘Philosopher’ Smith in December, 1871 and the founding of Waratah.” The interior is laid out to give an idea of the equipment a prospector would have possessed in the 1870s when he was searching for minerals. The hut is a replica of a typical miner’s hut from the 1880s and 1890s.https://www.aussietowns.com.au/town/waratah-tas
James ‘Philosopher’ Smith (1827–97), prospector and mining investor, sparked Tasmania’s mining industry, which invigorated its economy and widened its economic and political base.https://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/S/Smith%20philosopher.htm
The Stamper Mill houses a piece of mining equipment from the old Mt Bischoff tin mine. I believe it is possible to see it working so I will try to do that on our next visit.
After our walk around Waratah Naomi and I drove to Burnie, taking the alternative route, Ridgley Hwy. We were back there in time for a late lunch at the Burnie Maccas before heading for home to feed the pets. Although Waratah is not that far from Burnie until 1963 when the Murchison Hwy was opened it was a very isolated little town. Prior to the construction of the highway, the west coast of Tasmania could only be accessed by the Emu Bay Railway, or by ship to Regatta Point or Strahan in Macquarie Harbour.
We intend to do a trip to Zeehan taking the Murchison Hwy sometime this summer but rather than go through Hellyer Gorge again we’ll probably take the Ridgely Hwy route to Waratah and rejoin it there to make the drive a bit easier for Naomi. Negotiating all those tight turns in a big car like the Chrysler 300C is a lot of work.