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A Complete Guide to the Tarkine Drive in Tasmania

A Complete Guide to the Tarkine Drive in Tasmania

Olly Gaspar

By Olly Gaspar, full-time traveler for 6 years. I visit every place I write about & share real tips, photos, & advice from my trips.

Explore the global treasure of Takanya, Australia’s largest body of temperate rainforest on the Tarkine Drive.

Looking to explore the ancient beauty of Tasmania’s Tarkine region? This guide covers everything you need to know about the famous “Tarkine Drive”. After driving the full circuit in our big van, I’ve written this guide covering all of the highlights to prepare you for your self-guided road trip itinerary in Tasmania’s wild northwest.

What to Know About The Tarkine Drive

There are plenty of stops along the way on the Tarkine route but fitting them all in on a single day would be a big ask. That said, here's what you need to know to make it happen.

  • The Tarkine Drive follows sealed and easily accessible roads on a roughly 130-kilometre route through dense temperate rainforest and wild coastal plains.
  • It's best to begin the drive from Smithton, which is located on the northeast coast approximately 21 kilometres from Stanley.
  • I recommend following a counter-clockwise route from Smithton, heading through the rainforest areas of Sumac and Trowutta before finishing up on an afternoon drive to watch the sunset on the wild West Coast.
  • Most visitors tend to head down the Tarkine Drive on a single day trip and choose the stops that appeal to them most.
  • If you'd prefer to take your time and camp in the Tarkine, then I've got information on that below.

Tip: Keep in mind that while the main route is completely sealed, there are certain segments to some of the highlights that are unsealed. However, these are all fairly well maintained and manageable by any regular vehicle.

Julius river track

The Tarkine Drive Map

Here is the official map for the from the Discover Tarkine website. I've also included a custom map below showing the entire route from Smithton and return. Click the map and it will load all of the highlights listed in this blog post in your Google Maps app.

Since this is a self-drive adventure, you'll need your own car. If you don't have time to drive here yourself, then a good chunk of The Tarkine is covered in this highly rated 5-day Tassie tour from Hobart.

The tarkine drive map
The tarkine drive map, tasmania

Drive Distances

Before we get into all of the highlights and must-see stops on the Tarkine Forest Drive, here's a quick table showing the drive distances so that you know what to expect.

These are the official lengths but we took a little longer between each place in our self-converted campervan.

SmithonTrowutta Arch30 mins
Trowutta ArchMilkshake Hills35 mins
Milkshake HillsDempster Plains35 mins
Dempster PlainsLake Chisholm19 mins
Lake ChisholmJulius River15 mins
Julius RiverSumac Lookout8 mins
Sumac LookoutKanunnah Bridge3 mins
Kanunnah BridgeCouta Rocks35 mins
Couta RocksEdge of the World15 mins
Edge of the WorldBluff Hill Point13 mins
Bluff Hill PointSmithton45 mins

Must-Do Stops and Highlights on the Tarkine Drive

Alright, let's get into it. This is the most comprehensive guide to Tasmania's famous Tarkine Drive that you will find online.

Remember, you'll be stretched to do it all in a day. As you can see, there's also a fair bit of driving involved. My tip is to start early and pick the must-see stops ahead of time from the list below to prepare yourself for a full day of adventure!

1. The Trowutta Arch

If you're following this self-drive itinerary then this will likely be your first stop of the day. Coincidentally, the Trowutta Arch walk is one of my personal favourite short walks in the Tarkine.

This beautiful rainforest track is only 30 minutes return and leads to an awesome collapsed cave and sinkhole.

If you've come to the Tarkine to check out the raw nature, this is a good one for you.

Trowutta arch and sinkhole
Trowutta arch track in tasmania

2. Tayatea Bridge

There are plenty of historic wooden bridges to cross on the Tarkine Drive. One of the first that you'll likely encounter is the Tayatea Bridge. This one crosses the Arthur River and there is adequate space to pull over and take a quick break.

The Tarkine is known for its unique wildlife. So, if you're stopping at the Tayatea Bridge, keep an eye out for wallabies, platypi, echidnas, wombats, bandicoots, possums, gliders and even the famous Tasmanian Devils.

The tarkine drive, tayatea bridge tasmania

3. Milkshake Hills

Most of the walking tracks on this itinerary are fairly short. They kind of have to be since there's just so much to try to squeeze in! However, the Milkshake Hills is one of the longest options, offering two tracks, one at 15 minutes and one at 1 hour.

If you've left nice and early, then I do recommend checking out the Milkshake Hills. The hill lookout return track is really rewarding and you'll get great views of the button grass plains and the Tarkine rainforest from the top.

Milkshake hills tarkine tasmania

Additionally, visitors will also find a BBQ and picnic area here. Even if you don't take the walks, the Milkshake Hills is a nice quiet spot to enjoy the serenity of the Tarkine.

Milkshake hills picnic area tarkine
The tarkine drive, milkshake hills tasmania

4. Sinkholes

The Tarkine region is full of algae-covered sinkholes that seem to pop up everywhere in the rainforest. Don't worry though, you're not exactly going to drop off into oblivion. These sinkholes are all well-off the road and well-established. Think of them as tiny little lakes.

If you stopped at the Trowutta Arch, then you've already seen your first one. However, I would recommend stopping at the Sinkhole on the way through to the Rapid River picnic area as it's literally just beside the road.

Sinkhole on the tarkine drive tasmania

5. Rapid River Picnic Area

The Rapid River makes for the perfect spot to stop and enjoy lunch. If you continue on a little further from the pin on the above map, you'll also end up at another bridge with yet another clearing that is less popular but equally as pretty.

Rapid river on the tarkine drive

6. Dempster Plains Lookout

The Dempster Plains is a unique stop offering a short wooden boardwalk to a lookout over the rolling button grass plains. The walk is only about 2 minutes from the large car park and the views are well worth the effort out here.

However, while I did mention that most of the roads to the Tarkine Drive stops are well-maintained, the Dempster Plains is a notable exception.

This road is a little worse for wear, with plenty of potholes and sometimes some fallen trees. However, don't let that dissuade you from checking it out. We managed without any issues in our big van, so as they say, you'll be right, just take it slow!

Dempster plains lookout
Dempster lookout tarkine

7. Lake Chisholm

Lake Chisholm was yet another one of my favourite stops on the Tarkine Drive. While the lake itself (it's actually another large limestone sinkhole) is quite beautiful, it's the short rainforest track that really makes this one stand out.

The track to the sinkhole is roughly 30 minutes return and traverses through some of the most picturesque forest scenes in Tasmania. You'll get to spot some giant, ancient eucalypts, remnants of what once dominated the northwest region of Tasmania.

Tarkine rainforest
Lake chrisholm track tarkine

This one is also a circuit loop, so you won't need to double back. Keep an eye out for platypus when you arrive at the lake. We managed to spot one ducking and diving for food on our visit.

Lake chrisholm in tasmania
Lake chrisholm tasmania

8. Julius River

Next up on this Tarkine Drive self-drive itinerary is the Julius River picnic area. Julius Rive offers a good alternative for a lunch stop as there are loads of brand-new tables and BBQs set up here.

What also makes this one great is that there are two recently overhauled walking tracks through the forest. There's not much information about these tracks online as of yet, but I do recommend checking them out. There are a couple of really scenic bridge crossings over the Julius River. These tracks are also really easy, with only a short climb at the end.

Also nearby: The Julius River free motorhome campsite

Julius river picnic area
Julius river bridge track tarkine drive

9. Sumac Lookout

Nearing the end of the scenic Tarkine rainforest loop is another clear highlight. The Sumac lookout is a quick pull-over viewpoint offering an unparalleled vantage of the incredible Arthur River and the surrounding dense rainforest.

This lookout is quite high on the mountain slope which often results in heavy fog and cloud cover. Either way, the Sumac Lookout was a standout for me on the Tarkine Drive and I'd highly recommend it to anyone.

Sumac lookout tasmania

10. Kanunnah Bridge

The final stop is the Kanunnah Bridge, just 3 minutes down the road from the Sumac Lookout. This marks a crossroads for those taking the circuit drive through the Tarkine, with an option to drive back up to Smithton or continue the adventure down to the West Coast.

At the bridge, you'll find a large car park to get out and yet again stretch the legs. The bridge is historic and has long served as a service road for loggers. Its name derives from the indigenous name for Tasmanian Tiger.

Kanunnah bridge on the tarkine drive in tasmania
Kanunnah bridge on the tarkine drive in tasmania
Hiking the freycinet peninsula circuit, wineglass bay campsite, things to do in freycinet national park, tasmania

How to Save Money on Tassie Tours & Experiences

Looking to save some travel money on tours in Tassie?

I've partnered with Backpacker Deals to offer $5 off all tours and experiences in Tasmania using my code OLLY5 (and you don't have to be a backpacker to save).

11. The Edge of the World

The truth is, there are loads of different spots to pull over once you arrive on the coast. However, many of them require fairly long unsealed roads and are quite similar to each other. Therefore, I recommend spending more time checking out the diverse stops above and making a stop at these two on the coast.

The Edge of the World is one of the most iconic attractions in Tasmania. While not technically the furthest point west (this title goes to Bluff Hill Point), the lookout is awesome.

Looking directly west, your line of sight would continue far into the horizon. If our sight had no physical limit, you'd eventually spot landfall on the eastern coast of Argentina, all the way around the globe. It truly is the edge of the world.

If you have more time, you'll find more stops on the official map above.

Edge of the world, tasmanian west coast

12. Bluff Hill Point

The last stop on this list of things to do and see on the Tarkine Drive is Bluff Hill Point.

As mentioned above, this is Tasmania's westernmost point. While there's not much to see but an endless ocean and a jagged coastline, I recommend the stop to wind down the day or to bask in those ideal west-coast sunsets.

There are cabins here for rent on Airbnb if you would like to stay here. They have awesome reviews and the owners are incredibly friendly. Rates are quite affordable but you'll get an additional $40 credit using my link.

Bluff hill point

Camping Along the Route

Besides the awesome hotels, lodges and cabins listed below, there's only one suitable overnight camping spot for those in a van or caravan. This one is located at the Julius River Motorhome campsite.

There are approximately 8 spots here but as you might expect, they tend to fill up quickly. You'll need to be self-contained, which means your own toilet, shower and cooking facilities.

The location is marked on the map at the start of this article, just a short drive from the Julius River picnic area. It's well-signed and accessible by large 2WD vans.

Camping in the tarkine, rapid river campsite

Where to Stay in Tasmania's Northwest

If you're planning your trip, consider picking an accommodation option up here as a base, at least for a few days. That way you'll have time to explore highlights like the Nut in Stanley, the Edge of the World lookout, or the famous Tarkine Drive.

Stay near the Edge of the World - Arthur River

A rugged northwest coast is a great place for adventurers to base themselves. However, there are only large houses or villas available in this area due to its remote location.

Sunset view at arthur river spa cottage, tasmania

2. Arthur Spa Cottage

Set along the Arthur River this cottage can accommodate large groups of up to 10 people. It offers an entertainment deck which is perfect for watching the sunset.

Bedroom suite at sunset holiday villas

3. Sunset Holiday Villas

Just a short walk from the ocean with views over the River this fully equipped villa is perfect for families & couples passing through.

Protecting The Tarkine Rainforest

Unfortunately, The Tarkine region doesn't have an official National Parks designation. Instead, it is managed by Sustainable Timber Tasmania, which is not known to be very sustainable. This means that much of the region, which is the world's second-largest body of temperate rainforest, has various logging designations.

I'm sure after you've experienced the beauty of this region for yourself, you'll have a strong urge to protect it. This is especially true when you discover that the Tarkine is under threat right now! Luckily, there are brave men and women on the front lines defending the future of this global treasure daily.

To find out more about protecting the Tarkine rainforest and to donate to the cause, visit the Bob Brown Foundation website.

Tarkine giant tree


How Long is The Tarkine Loop?

The Tarkine Drive follows a scenic circuit route that is roughly 130 kilometres long.

Are Roads sealed?

The Tarkine Drive is sealed for the entire route. However, there are highlights and side trips that require short drives on well-maintained unsealed roads to reach.

How Long Does it Take to Drive the Tarkine Loop?

You can easily drive the entire Tarkine Drive route in a single day. However, there are just so many great stops including short walks, lookouts and picnic areas to explore. It would take more than one day to explore everything on this list.

Things to do at strahan tasmania, west coast

I hope that it has been useful for you. If you have any questions or updates, let me and other travellers know by leaving a comment below.

For now, why not check out some more travel articles from Tassie to expand your ever-growing list of things to do and see in this incredible part of Australia?

Thanks for Reading

I'm Olly Gaspar, adventure traveler from Australia. I’ve spent the last six years traveling the world full-time, sharing my first-hand experiences & photography in over 700 travel guides on We Seek Travel. I visit every destination I write about to bring you unique travel itineraries, epic hiking routes, fun tour ideas, travel & photography gear ideas, & interesting places to stay.

I only make genuine, worthwhile recommendations based on my experience, expertise, & research. If you buy through my links, I may get a commission, supporting this website at no extra cost to you. Read my Publishing Ethics Statement.