Tasmania’s achingly beautiful Central Highlands are often missed off the classic tourist guide book as a region (most rather too obviously dividing it into north, south, east and Western Wilderness) probably because the area is simply too diverse to write about with any ease. From the land of three thousand lakes (hence it is also known as The Lake Country - and therefore a fisherman’s heaven) including Australia’s deepest fresh water lake, Lake St Clair, and Australia’s largest freshwater lake, The Great Lake, to bubolic pastures – the source of much of the world’s purest organic merino wool, and villages that arguably resemble the Cotswolds (until you take in the vast mountain ranges that form their backdrop) to the raw wilderness of the World Heritage listed Walls of Jerusalem National Park and bordering with the iconic Cradle Mountain, this area doesn’t fit an easy description. Nor does it fit into any straightforward weather map – here, more than anywhere else in Tasmania, are you likely to witness four seasons in one day. Watch Willem Dafoe in the hauntingly wonderful film The Hunter, based on Juliet Leigh’s novel, for a clear indication of what you might expect.
As they say in Tassie if you don’t like the weather, come back in five minutes, or more accurately perhaps, put another five miles on the clock.
Many visitors, unless they are specifically in Tasmania to fish or to walk the world famous 65 km Overland Track will miss out on most of the Central Highlands – which can with some justification also be viewed up as the heart of Tasmania - because they will either meander up the East Coast to Launceston on ‘the scenic route’ or they will take the fast Midlands Highway from Hobart to Launceston, or they will head west along the Lyell Highway towards Strahan and skirt past it. As always, by taking the fastest, easiest or most written about options, they will miss out on some of Tasmania’s most remarkable landscapes.
One of the most surprising and remarkable tourism attractions in the Central Highlands, apart from the scenery, is the Wall in the Wilderness at Derwent Bridge. This magnificent, giant wooden sculpture by artist Greg Duncan tells the story of the region’s history from the indigenous people to the Tasmanian Tiger and the hydroelectric workers. The Wall in the Wilderness is planned to be 100 metres in length at its completion and should be on everyone’s list to visit.
Tasmania's showcase trout waters are found in the lakes of the Central Highlands. Essentially these are wild trout fisheries dominated by naturally spawned brown trout, though wild rainbows are common enough. The wily nature of the trout, the confusing diversity of the waters and the variability of the weather has led to a reputation of demanding trout fishing, hence the on-going fascination and world-class image.
Keen golfers should also pinpoint this region as worth exploring with Australia’s oldest and highest courses to be found in the Central Highlands, both of which owe more to Wallabies and Wombats for maintenance than they do to man! As one of the UK’s most pre-eminent golfing writers once said to me: “Susie, if you ever want to put Tasmania on the map as a golfing destination, it is there for the taking. But remember, it isn’t just about Barnbougle Dunes (the links course of international repute at Bridport in the north east) no matter how wonderful that course is, it is about the lovely nine hole courses with honesty boxes that you stumble across. Golfing in Tassie is like it was in England fifty years ago.”
Nowhere sums this up better than Bothwell, in the high country of Tasmania’s highlands and gateway to the lakes. Ratho, in Bothwell, is the oldest course in Australia, and possibly the oldest golf course outside Scotland, in a region that is steeped in early settler history. Separate fact from fiction if you can, but it is a very special part of Tasmania, gives a clear indication of what golfing was like in the 1800s, and has Australia’s top golfing museum and a terrific whisky distillery – Nant – to boot.