Explore the global treasure of Takanya, Australia’s largest body of temperate rainforest on the Tarkine Drive. Read this complete guide covering all of the highlights to prepare you for your self-guided Tarkine day trip in Tasmania’s wild northwest.
Looking to explore the ancient beauty of Tasmania’s Tarkine region? This guide covers everything you need to know about the famous “Tarkine Drive”.
I’ll aim to answer all of your questions and provide you with an epic self-guided drive itinerary to help you make the most of this breathtaking region.
- About The Tarkine Drive
- Must-Do Stops and Highlights on the Tarkine Drive
- Camping Along the Tarkine Drive
- Protecting The Tarkine Rainforest
- Common Questions About Driving The Tarkine Forest Loop
- How Long is The Tarkine Loop?
- More Epic Travel Inspiration Ideas for Tasmania
About The Tarkine Drive
The Tarkine Drive follows sealed and easily accessible roads on a roughly 130-kilometre route through dense temperate rainforest and wild coastal plains. There are plenty of stops along the way on the Tarkine Drive but fitting them all in on a single day would be a big ask.
In saying that, 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.
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 rainforests areas of Sumac and Trowutta before finishing up on an afternoon drive to watch the sunset on the wild west coast.
Tip: Just 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.
Alternatives to the Tarkine Drive
Since this is a self-drive adventure, you'll need your own car. If you're visiting, Tasmania is known for expensive car rentals. I recommend comparing prices on RentalCars Australia. Otherwise, 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.
Below I've also included some of the best experiences in Tasmania to help you out with the rest of your trip.
The Tarkine Drive Map
Here is the official map for the Tarkine Drive 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.
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 big campervan.
|Smithon||Trowutta Arch||30 mins|
|Trowutta Arch||Milkshake Hills||35 mins|
|Milkshake Hills||Dempster Plains||35 mins|
|Dempster Plains||Lake Chisholm||19 mins|
|Lake Chisholm||Julius River||15 mins|
|Julius River||Sumac Lookout||8 mins|
|Sumac Lookout||Kanunnah Bridge||3 mins|
|Kanunnah Bridge||Couta Rocks||35 mins|
|Couta Rocks||Edge of the World||15 mins|
|Edge of the World||Bluff Hill Point||13 mins|
|Bluff Hill Point||Smithton||45 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!
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.
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.
Most of the walking tracks on this Tarkine Drive 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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Related: Duckhole Lake in the Far South
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
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.
Related: Leven Canyon Lookout
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 to loggers. Its name derives from the indigenous name for Tasmanian Tiger.
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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.
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.
Camping Along the Tarkine Drive
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.
Where to Stay in NorthWest Tasmania: A Quick Guide
Tassie's northwest has a lot to offer. If you're planning your trip, consider picking an accommodation option up here as a base, at least for a few days. Below are my recommendation options in the best areas to help you out.
Stay near the Edge of the World - A rugged northwest coast is a great place for adventurers to base themselves.
Stay in Stanley - Famous for the iconic nut but offers great seaside accommodations.
Stay in Boat Harbour - One of the most beautiful and underrated beach towns in Tasmania. A must-visit!
Stay in Penguin - A quaint coastal town with a unique name.
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.
Common Questions About Driving The Tarkine Forest Loop
How Long is The Tarkine Loop?
The Tarkine Drive follows a scenic circuit route that is roughly 130 kilometres long.
Are Roads on the Tarkine Drive 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.
RELATED POST: 7 Awesome Things to do at Strahan & the West Coast
More Epic Travel Inspiration Ideas for Tasmania
That wraps up this ultimate guide to the Tarkine Drive in Tasmania. 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?