Tasmania’s North West is thriving.
With interstate and international visitors increasingly drawn by the spectacular scenic coastlines, characterful towns, and some of the state’s freshest and most delicious produce, this oft-overlooked region is finally getting the attention and accolades it deserves.
Easy to reach – with regular flights into Devonport and Burnie from Melbourne, as well as the Spirit of Tasmania ferry link between Geelong and Devonport – this is an area that is perfect for road trips. Spend a quick weekend touring farm gates and wineries, or take a week or more to venture off the beaten track and into the wilderness.
Devonport and Ulverstone
Devonport is Tasmania’s third largest city, and as the port for the Spirit of Tasmania ferries it’s where many visitors start their Tassie adventure. Don’t hit the road right away, because there are plenty of things to see and do in this historic maritime city. Climb aboard the tiny heritage train at Don River Railway, explore the treasures at the Bass Strait Maritime Centre, or take a stroll to Mersey Bluff Lighthouse.
There are some great food and drink options in Devonport, including Southern Wild Distillery, which produces beautiful gins flavoured with native Tasmanian ingredients; Mrs Jones, a restaurant above the Devonport surf club offering a contemporary seasonal menu; and Nourish Me Café, which serves a dual role as healthy eating spot in the day and a Nepalese restaurant at night.
Less than 20kms west of Devonport is the seaside town of Ulverstone – a great spot for a leisurely walk that takes in galleries, antique shops and plenty of casual eateries and providores. Windows on Westella is a quirky local favourite – a licensed café co-located with a pickled onion factory!
Burnie and surrounds
Burnie is a popular base for people who want to explore the North West because it offers easy access to the entire region. With a bustling container port and a proud industrial past, the city is tucked into the shores of Emu Bay. Enjoy a walk along the lively waterfront before tucking into fish and chips at The Foreshore, or download a map and follow the self-guided tour of Burnie’s astonishing art deco architectural gems. Attractions near Burnie that are worth a visit include Hellyer’s Road Distillery, Guide Falls, Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden, and the quaint little town of Penguin. No visit to the North West is complete without a photo beside the giant penguin sculpture!
Wynyard and Table Cape
If you enjoy a relaxed pace, the coastal town of Wynyard will appeal. Built at the mouth of the Inglis River, it offers pretty walks and bike rides along the riverside, a fabulous vintage car collection at the Wonders of Wynyard Exhibition, and heaps of friendly cafes and casual restaurants. Head to The Vault Café Bar – a heritage listed bank that has recently been converted in an eatery – or Bruce’s Café, which offers wonderful views of nearby Table Cape. Table Cape is probably Wynyard’s most well-known landmark – a dramatic plateau that is formed from the plug of an old volcano. Visit the lighthouse, admire the colours of the famous Table Cape Tulip Farm, keep an eye out for whales passing in the waters below during migration season, and finish off with a trip to Fossil Bluff, where you’ll discover prehistoric fossils in the towering sandstone cliffs.
Boat Harbour and Rocky Cape National Park
Truly one of the prettiest little beaches in Tasmania – if not all of Australia – can be found tucked away at Boat Harbour, about halfway between Burnie and Stanley.
This is definitely no Bondi Beach: you won’t find crowds of people, film crews, or pounding surf. Instead, you’ll find pristine white sand, shallow waters perfect for families, and a close, cosy seaside community. Enjoy the breathtaking views and a fun day building sandcastles, hunting for shells, and dolphin-spotting, before ending with a hearty meal at the local surf club.
Nearby, you’ll find Rocky Cape National Park – ideal for a day’s exploration. There are extensive walking trails, striking geological formations, and secluded beaches where you can enjoy a swim or some fishing. The Park is rich with Aboriginal Heritage, including rock shelters and caves that have been used for many generations. Please respect the wishes of the Aboriginal community and do not enter the caves.
Nestled at the base of a 150-metre-tall volcanic plug called The Nut, Stanley is a charming historic fishing port and an enormously popular destination for visitors to Tasmania’s North West.
The views across Bass Strait from The Nut itself are spectacular: you can either walk, or take a chairlift to the summit. But there’s far more to Stanley than that. Wonderfully well-preserved cottages line the streets of the town; there are plenty of cafes, independently owned shops and galleries; and the fresh seafood is an absolute delight. In the surrounding area, you can visit Highfield Historic Site, head out after dark for penguin viewing at Godfrey’s Beach, or try for a different kind of birdie on the Stanley Golf Club’s nine-hole links course.
Smithton is the last major stop on the road before you reach takayna/Tarkine – the spectacular wilderness area that stretches across much of far North West Tasmania.
If you just want to peek your head into takayna/Tarkine, there are 4×4 day tours available from Tall Timbers in Smithton, or self-drive maps available from the Discover the Tarkine website. Don’t underestimate the variety of landscapes and activities in this unique region though: you could easily spend weeks exploring on foot, by boat, or by air, and still come away feeling like you hadn’t seen it all.
Not only does takayna/Tarkine contain Australia’s largest expanse of cool, temperate rainforest; it also takes in buttongrass plains, a rugged coastline much loved by surfers, geological wonders, waterfalls, wild rivers, and rich Aboriginal heritage. Take the time to relax on an Arthur River Cruise, go off-grid at the old gold mining town of Corinna, kayak on the Pieman, walk the endless trails, and enjoy some of the abundant native flora and fauna. This is Tasmania’s true North West.
– Ruth Dawkins ( commissioned by Freycinet Resort)