Paul Fleming
Paul Fleming
7 Day Trip

Northern Exposure

A town of topiary, a fella with a pet alpaca, sliding down sand dunes and searching for wombats – take a road trip through the quirky west coast.
Day 1

Launceston

You’ve arrived in one of Australia’s oldest cities. Look up, there’s some serious heritage architecture going on. Feed your curious and visit the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery  for a collection they’ve been growing since 1842, then grab a blanket (from the oldest woollen mills in Australia) and have lunch with the monkeys in the park. Those monkeys are from Japan. They’re not local.

An aerial view of industrial buildings that make up the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at Inveresk, Launceston
Rob Burnett
QVMAG at Inveresk

If you’re up for a particularly eerie evening, join a ghost tour and head down alleyways most haven’t ventured. The city is old and has some fascinating tales to tell.

Day 2

Sheffield and Railton

From Lonnie (as the locals call Launceston) head towards Sheffield. On the way, when you get to Railton, a town known for its topiary, ask where Seven Sheds is? They’ll have a craft brew at the ready for you. Try a Willie Warmer, it’s perfect for winter.

When you arrive in Sheffield, you may come across a man with an alpaca or depending on the day, he might have his llama. He loves visitors. Clearly, otherwise he wouldn’t be standing on the street with an alpaca on a leash. If you don’t see him, at least belt out a tune on the footpath piano. There’s lots of murals there too – with lots of history.

 

Man standing in the street with an alpaca on a leash
Rob Burnett
The Alpaca Man in the street at Sheffield

Between Sheffield and Cradle Mountain you’ll pass through Gowrie Park. There’s a big mural on the right that shows the history of the hydro-electric scheme. It’s impressive. The road then winds down into a steep valley to cross Forth River. Look left to see the Cethana Dam wall.

Day 3

Cradle Mountain

It’s hard not to be astounded when you see Cradle Mountain for the first time. You can understand why Gustav Weindorfer, a botanist and the pioneer of Cradle Mountain National Park, stood on its summit and proclaimed “this must be a national park for the people for all time.”  Head to Waldheim, Gustav’s hut, and hear his story. There’s an enchanted walk nearby and so many wombats to meet. Well, we can’t promise that, but usually they’re eating with their head down so you can get quite close.

A historic wooden cabin surrounded by trees at Cradle Mountain National Park
Tourism Australia & Graham Freeman
Waldheim Chalet

Later in the day when the clouds descend, escape the elements and head for Waldheim Alpine Spa. There’s a sauna, a spa, and a plunge pool. Take your pick. Later, the devils call. Join Devils@Cradle for an after-dark feeding tour at 5.30pm. These little carnivores put on quite a show when it’s time for a group feast.

Tonight, head back to the lodge for a hearty meal by the fire. Pick a pinot from the tasting (wine and cheese tasting at 4pm, if you made it before the devils) before retreating to your highland cabin.

Day 4

Cradle

This morning walk the Dove Lake Circuit. There’s a forest called the Ballroom with a leafy ceiling that keeps the Ballroom dark. Envelope yourself in that mossy trunk village and walk out to see ever-present Cradle Mountain.

There’s Altitude Restaurant waiting for you tonight. Order your steak seared on a 360°C volcanic stone, sealing in all the natural juices. After dinner, head back to Cradle Mountain Highlander Cottages. Tucked away, opt for the spa cabin. The seclusion here tends to bring out all the local wildlife.

Day 5

Zeehan

There’s lots to see in Zeehan. It might not feel the case when you drive in, but the curious will enjoy this town. Take a look at the West Coast Heritage Museum and you’ll find an operating table from back in the day. It’s so slender and so petite you’ll wonder who the patients were? It’s one of the many curiosities that call this west coast outpost home. There’s lots of rocks too – the area attracts geologist’s from around the world.

A woman standing in front of brick building in Zeehan
Wai Nang Poon
West Coast Heritage Centre

Drive on to the Gaiety Theatre. It opened in 1898 and seated a thousand people every night. Speaking of historic theatres, be sure to go to the Paragon in Queenstown, the next town to the south. They’re now doing old-time movies and dessert. Ask nicely and you might even get a peek upstairs.

Day 6

Strahan

Time for some fun. The locals use the sides of old washing machines to slide down Henty Dunes, but you can hop on a quad bike. They operate through the winter and will give you a whole new view of the coastline. These dunes are BIG!

Get sand in your shoes or hop aboard the West Coast Wilderness Railway from Strahan to Dubbil Barril and back. Be sure to book ahead. The river and rainforest journey is a great way to experience the romance of steam train travel, leaving from the original harbourside Regatta Point Station. Hear about the hardy souls behind the railway and check out engineering feats along the way, including the great iron bridge, worthy of a nod from current-day engineers.

A man leaning out the side of a moving steam train
Hype TV
West Coast Wilderness Railway

Enjoy a Risby Cove seafood feast right down by the water and tonight stay at Wheelhouse Apartments with beautiful views over the harbour.

Day 7

Launceston

The west coast roads bend and wind. If you’re catching a flight later in the day, allow time. Also, the Murchison Highway has some glorious views. You’ll want to stop on the way and admire them, for sure.

Availability of experiences in this itinerary may be subject to opening times, seasonal operation or booking requirements. Please call ahead to plan each day.