The west coast of Tasmania is one of the most accessible wilderness areas in the world. Because of its location on Macquarie Harbour, which fringes Western Tasmania's wilderness country, the village of Strahan enjoys a booming eco-tourism trade. As well as exploring Macquarie Harbour and the river that flows into it, visitors to Strahan are treated to the freshest of seafood, while having access to accommodation facilities to suit every budget and requirement. This drive takes in Strahan, the mining town of Zeehan to its north, and the historic villages on the main road between Hobart and Tasmania's wild west. The trip requires a considerable amount of driving, much of it along winding, mountainous roads, but the scenery and interesting places along the way make it well worth the effort.
Lyell Highway Wild West Drive
Starting at Granton it winds along the southern side of the Derwent River in a generally north westerly direction to New Norfolk. This section has in the past been susceptible to flooding At New Norfolk it crosses the Derwent River and winds its way through hilly terrain to Hamilton. Just prior to Hamilton is the turnoff to Bothwell via a sealed route that passes Arthurs Lake and ultimately goes on to Launceston.
After Hamilton, the small town of Ouse is the only other population centre on the highway until the former Hydroelectricity town of Wayatinah. When the highway was first constructed, it made use of existing tracks and roads in the Victoria Valley area, directly north of Ouse, leaving the Ouse and Derwent River valleys and climbing the hilly country through the towns of Osterley, Victoria Valley and Dee before rejoining the present highway near Bronte. This route closely skirts Dee Lagoon, and runs close to several other lakes, particularly Lake Echo.
The road is narrow, and unsealed. When the hydro-electric system was expanding and their works were under construction at Tarraleah in the mid-1940s, the highway was re-aligned to follow the Derwent River until it passed Tarraleah to provide better access to the area for construction vehicles. After Tarraleah the road climbs steeply out of the Nive River gorge until it re-joins the original route near Bronte. At Bronte the Marlborough Highway (B11) turns off the main road and leads to the Great Lake, where it joins the Lakes Highway and eventually runs to Deloraine.
A common short-cut is the '14-Mile Road' (C601), a gravel road which cuts across the Nive Plains just after Tarraleah, by-passing the steep Tarraleah Gorge section, re-joining the highway several kilometres past Bronte. It is not a safe alternative as it is a narrow, unsealed road, and can be frequented by log-trucks. In wintry conditions the whole of the Central Highlands section is susceptible to black ice, and it can be exceptionally bad in the heavily forested section west of Ouse, but it can be encountered all the way to the west coast. Snow is usually encountered in the Derwent Bridge area during most winters and may force closure of the road occasionally for several days. This applies to both the newer Tarraleah section and the older Osterley-Lake Echo-Dee section. As the highway enters Derwent Bridge it strikes a midpoint between Lake St Clair to the north, and Lake King William to the south.
The western section of Lyell Highway runs through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, and through the West Coast Range before reaching Queenstown. There has also been a state reserve along the highway. The highway did not reach Queenstown until the 1930s and was not properly surfaced for some time after that. In post cards of the 1940s and 1950s it is called the West Coast Road. Due to its altitude, the section of the highway over the plateau between Derwent Bridge and Mount King William is often closed during winter due to ice and snow. It can also be affected by rockfalls.
Tasmanian Road Distances