- Tasmania’s rainforests have prehistoric ancestors. They’re all great, but Tarkine is special.
- Here, you’ll get soft sand, dense forests, wild rivers, adventurous treks and rare wildlife … all together and far from crowds and cities.
Time machines come in many shapes and forms. You can travel back decades sitting on a bench in one of London’s many Victorian houses or thousands of years standing by Egypt’s pyramids, but if you are looking to travel really deep into history, Tasmania’s prehistoric rainforests — with some trees having ancestors dating back 60 million years — are hard to beat.
Walking along these forests’ trails is a transcendent experience. You’re enveloped by a palette of greens, the smell of mist under the sharp blue sky and fluorescent-looking leaves hugging the wet bark of ancient, taller-than-life trees — all to the soundtrack of chatting birds. Here, Mother Nature is queen. There really aren’t many photos or videos that can truly do these gems justice.
Among the many rainforests Australia’s most famous island offers, my favorite is Tarkine. The region, located in the northwest of Tasmania, is nested roughly between the Pieman River in the south, the Arthur River in the north, the Southern Ocean to the west and the Murchison Highway to the east.
Home to the largest patch of cool, temperate rainforest in the country, this area has something for everyone. Like the feel of soft sand on your feet? Can’t say no to the sound of a wild river? Love mountain trekking? Tarkine has you covered. What’s more, spend a bit of time in this paradise and you are guaranteed to catch a glimpse of some of the cutest and craziest animals in the world (yes, including the Tasmanian devil). No wonder Indigenous communities have had such a deep connection to this corner of the world for more than 40,000 years.
Although Tasmania’s winters are not as cold as other places in similar latitudes, summer (between January and May) is definitely the best time of the year to make your way here. As soon as Australia reopens its borders, head to the city of Melbourne and jump on an eight-hour ferry journey to the magical island (flights are also available, but this ride is the adventure of a lifetime). At less than $200 for a return ticket, you can travel in a reclining chair with a water view — quite a bargain! (Pro tip: If you go at night, make sure you book a double room for $300 return and take some motion sickness pills — the gigantic waves can make for a shaky experience).
You will dock in the city of Devonport. Rent a car and head straight west to the coastal town of Stanley, passing the wild surfing beaches of Marrawah and following the road around the west coast. Make sure you take in some of the out-of-this-world cliff views toward the Southern Ocean before you go all the way inland to meet an array of lush greens, eucalyptus forests, fresh rivers and cave systems.
Sadly, it is not only nature lovers who have been drawn to this unique corner of the world. Mining and logging companies also want a piece of the action. The latest threat came from MMG, a company keen to build a new tailings dam to store the byproducts of a local mine in an area inside the Tarkine. Although a group of determined activists managed to stop the project, they are still worried about the future of one of the most environmentally diverse areas of the country.
But you don’t need to be a local Tasmanian to want to protect this landscape. At 370,000 hectares, there’s plenty to keep you coming back to the Tarkine if you’re ready to submit to the majesty and magic of nature. Day travelers can take relatively short walks (how about playing hide-and-seek with the local devils?) and check out giant sinkholes. But if a badass adventure is what you are after, you can also dive straight into an amazing 28-mile, six-day, five-night expedition across the forest.
What’s the catch? You might need to give up 24/7 cellphone reception for a while. But in Tarkine, you won’t regret that one bit.