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  • Writer's pictureHelen Avaient

Cruise in the Tarkine Wilderness of north-west Tasmania, Australia

Cruising on the Pieman River in the middle of the Tarkine Wilderness was definitely a glorious experience. It has been described as remote, beautiful, magical, memorable, wild, peaceful, serene and more. The air here is one of the cleanest in the world.

We set off from near the Corinna Wilderness Lodge at 10am and arrived back at 2.30pm. The 53m long vessel started its sailing career in1939 as tourist boat, built in Hobart and consisting of a hardwood frame. The original owner, George Rometech, also owned the Arcadia Hotel in Hobart and a tourist stage coach. When the war came, the Navy bought the boat. Refurbished, it saw in the 1970s on the Pieman River to tow logs to the sawmill, as well as running as a tourist boat. The Arcadia II is the only huon pine river cruiser still operating anywhere in the world.

My hosts for the day were husband and wife team of Skipper Norm and Lorraine. Tea and coffee was served throughout the trip, with a lunch provided. On the return journey we indulged in a cheese and biscuit platter, with cold drinks available for purchase.

Norm kept guests informed along the journey with interesting details of history, fauna and flora. He pointed out where hotels had been in the old days. In such a pristine and seemingly unsettled area, there were around 2000 people noted in the 1890 census. However, this number was larger as the census only counted men of working age. It did not count aboriginals, children or women.

The houses and hotels were transported away to various other towns, once the mining and logging ceased. The once highly sought after Huon Pine is now protected and cannot be logged. Nature has reclaimed its rightful place.

This temperate rainforest does not host birdlife as the tropical rainforests do. We were fortunate to spot one beautiful eagle on our trip of 18kms along the river.

We arrived at Pieman Heads near the mouth of the river and tied up alongside the jetty. The old, no longer used, jetty was picturesque and a favourite of all the photographers in the group.

At Pieman Heads fishing shacks are home to 25 local residents. They can use any driftwood washed up on the shore, but only in the immediate area, it cannot be removed. Most of the shacks are constructed using recycled materials.

There is a camping ground nearby with a convenient long drop toilet.

It tickled my funny bone to see the "gum tree". A dead tree with discarded gumboots decorated its limbs.

As I wandered along the sands, it was a negotiated path, to avoid the waters lapping the shore and navigating around or over driftwood.

The Roaring Forties generate enormous waves that break on the rocks at the Heads, a sharp contrast to the calm river waters. Access on the river, by ferry, can be undertaken almost year round. The nearest landmass due west of Pieman Heads is Argentina, over 18,000kms away!

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area covers 15,800 square kilometeres, around 25% of Tasmania.

The Pieman can be 7-8 metres deep at the Heads, with an average river depth of 20 metres, and a one and a half metre tide range. Brown trout and Canadian salmon were introduced to the river in the 1970s and make for excellent sports fishing. Native black fish and eels are also found here, plus any seafish that are swept into the river.

The density of the bush surprises people, they don't expect to see such a wilderness. The vegetation is thick and grows right into the river. This area has been a reserve since the 1930s.

The day cruising on the river was indeed splendid. To be so close to the pristine temperate rainforest (the second largest in the world) is a gift and one that many people will remember fondly. I thoroughly recommend staying at Corinna for an extended period, taking forest walks, and regenerating your inner peace in the north-west wilderness of Tasmania.

Happy Travels!

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