Tasmania's World Heritage Western Wilderness is a land that time forgot, and a triumph of a few early and quick thinking eco-warriers who recognised the need to protect our planet over man's desire to destroy and develop for short term gain. No one should visit Tasmania without including the magnificent west coast in their itinerary but it takes time and planning for you are truly venturing into one of the world's last frontiers.
Day 1 and 2
Land in Tasmania - ideally land in Hobart and depart from Launceston, or the other way round, in which case you can simply reverse this itinerary. Spend a few days in Hobart and if it is a Saturday, the Salamanca Markets are a must. Visit the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) for a fantastic insight into Tasmania's flora, fauna and cultural heritage, and for a culture shock visit Mona, the Museum of Old and New Art. Restore your equilibrium at the delightful Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary where you will meet all Tasmania's endemic wildlife species and more crucially discover what to do if you come across an injured animal on your travels west. If you have a spare couple of hours, take to the skies with Tasmanian Air Adventures to see the Port Arthur Historic Site and Tasmania's breathtaking coastline or, if you have an extra day, take one of the Pennicott Wilderness Journeys out to the edge of the Great Southern Ocean for a marine adventure with a difference. Enjoy boutique accommodation close to Salamanca, a little B&B, or convict built cottages a short walk from the centre and make the most of Hobart's reputation for being the gourmet capital of Australia.
Heading out of Hobart on the Lyell Highway you will climb steadily leaving the backdrop of Mt Wellington behind and watch as the landcape changes in front of your eyes. If you didn't get the chance to visit Bonorong Wildife Sanctuary, this is a good time to do it. Take your time - don't try to do the drive to Strahan all in one go - it is long and windy although visually stunning, but there is much to see along the way and the weather can change at the drop of a hat. You are about to cross more eco-zones in a couple of hundred miles than anywhere else on earth. The Mt Field National Park is a very worthwhile stop - you will walk among the Giants of the Forest - trees that grow to 104 metres - and see the Russell Falls. Platypus are often seen here.
Stop at Tarraleah for the night, the former hydro electric workers village, and enjoy cottage accommodation and nocturnal wildlife spotting. Another favourite spot for the Platypus.
Shortly after leaving Tarraleah you will come to Derwent Bridge and Lake St Clair, Australia's deepest freshwater lake and one end of the famous Overland Track. This is a lovely place for a walk. The Wall in the Wilderness is a must-stop too, as artist Greg Duncan is single handedly creating a 100 metre wooden sculpture that tells the story of Tasmania's Central Highlands. Drive on, and now the road begins to get really slow and windy with jawdropping vistas all around as you drive through the Franklin-Gordon Rivers National Park. The spooky lunar landscape of Queenstown will give you a jolt - a stark reminder of what Tasmania might have become - before you descend precipitously - never at night - into the west coast fishing village of Strahan.
Day 5 and 6
Look west across a vast stretch of water that hits no landmass until South America. The Roaring Forties winds can take your breath away on Tasmania's west coast, but Strahan is a pretty, protected little fishing village that sits on a harbour six times the size of Sydney's. This is where the most brutal penal colony broke the strongest of convict labourer as he battled the elements to log the Huon Pine. This is where men and women chained themselves to bulldozers in their ultimately successful fight to save the mighty Franklin River and its surrounding rainforest valleys. Take to the water on a Gordon River Cruise, take to the skies in a seaplane to see the magnificent tract of rainforest and land under the rainforst canoy among ancient Huon Pines, or take a little boat to tiny Bonnet Island to see a colony of Fairy Penguins that return home from fishing in the Great Southern Ocean every evening.
Leave Strahan and take the Road to Nowhere - the Western Explorer - along the Edge of the World. The road is unsealed for the most part and mobile reception is non existent so make sure you are prepared! You will cross the Pieman River on the Fatman Barge and drive through the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area on your way to the mysterious Tarkine, the largest and most precious tract of ancient temperate rainforest left on earth - and home to the the last stronghold of healthy Tasmanian devils. Finally you will reach the pretty town of Marrawah, where civilisation meets remoteness, almost at the northwestern tip of Tasmania. Breath deep - this is where the cleanest air in the inhabited world is consistently recorded.
Explore this little visited corner of the world, which has some of the most important Aboriginal heritage in Tasmania.
Leave Marrawah and continue your journey north towards Stanley, the pretty and buzzing little fishing village on the north west of Tasmania with the volcanic plug of rock, The Nut, that rises out of the Bass Strait. Enjoy the maritime history and some more heritage including historic Highfield House overlooking The Nut.
Day 10 and 11
Your trip to Tasmania's World Heritage Wilderness wouldn't be complete without a stay near the iconic Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake, set in glacial alpine splendour and the start point for many walkers who spend six or more days walking the Overland Track. You should spend at least two days in the region to experience the magical scenery, the abundance of animals by dawn and dusk, the warm cabins with log fires which welcome you home after a day's bushwalking - when you might well experience four seasons in one day! Meet more devils at Devils@cradle, a very special sanctuary where they can be bred safely without fear of contracting the Devil Facial Tumour Disease.
There is lovely accommodation within a short drive of Cradle Mountain itself, or those who like to avoid tourists (for Cradle is one of Tasmania's icons) might want to stay at one of the charming B&Bs that are just an hour or so away - choose from rustic cabins on a wildlife reserve with Platypus in your stream, or a delectable little bit of French luxury where heavenly cooking wouldn't be out of place in a five star Parisien hotel.
You are now just a two hour drive from the city of Launceston. Spend a couple of days in or near the city exploring the Tamar Valley wine route, continue your Tasmanian Odyssey to the East Coast or say farewell and prepare to plan for your return trip to Tassie.