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Tasmania’s Stories

West Coast revival

Edition 194_WestCoast

Moves are underway for a West Coast revival to take this stunning part of the world back to the top of Tasmania’s tourism pile.

The region is being re-branded and already things are starting to happen: an ‘iconic’ new drive, a new wharf and boat, and maybe even a new airport runway.

There is no doubt that Tasmania’s West has its own unique beauty. A world heritage wilderness full of ancient forests and untamed rivers, historic mining towns, and a rich convict past.

There was even a time when the rugged West was one of Tasmania’s biggest tourist drawcards, second only to Port Arthur. That was back in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

“Definitely our heyday,” West Coast Mayor Phil Vickers reminisces.

“In the aftermath of the Gordon-below-Franklin Dam our world heritage area was huge, and the Gordon River cruise taking visitors into that wilderness was an enormous tourist attraction.

“All this also coincided with the development of Strahan Village which was a game-changer.”

That was then, this is now.

Since 2002 tourist numbers have been slashed by half, and the population is down to a touch over 4,000 people.

“We have lost our way in the last 15 years,” Mr Vickers admits.

“We used to be second but now we rank eighth or ninth on the list of Tasmania’s most popular tourist drawcards.”

A 2014 report by the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania warned the West Coast was being left behind as it “has not had a significant level of investment in visitor-generating tourism products or attractions in the past decade.”

However, determined to turn that around and get a greater slice of Tasmania’s tourism pie, the local community and stake-holders have banded together and hatched a plan for a West Coast revival.

Just before Christmas they launched an ambitious project to re-brand the region: putting the identity and future direction of the West Coast under the microscope.

“This is not about a new logo or a new name: this is about a new beginning,” the Mayor explained.

“I have been in politics for 25 years and in all that time we have never sat down and looked at our brand and what needs to be done and where we are at.

“I think there is a lot of confusion in the market-place as to who we are. Are we wilderness? Are we mining?

“We really need to refresh how people see the West Coast.”

A consultant’s report is due shortly. But in the meantime, the Mayor has his own views on how this part of the world should be branded.

“We are still beautiful and untouched,” Mr Vickers said.

“But, I would like people to see us as a nice place for families to visit; safe and with lots of things to do that don’t cost money, like walking along miles and miles of unspoilt beaches without seeing another person.”

In the meantime, the first green shoots of a West Coast tourism revival are sprouting.

In mid-April the State Government unveiled the Western Wilds calling it, “Tasmania’s next iconic drive.”

Acting Tourism Minister, Jeremy Rockliff, described Western Wilds, the stretch of Lyell Highway between New Norfolk and Queenstown, as “a unique driving experience that will encourage visitors to explore and experience the wildness of Western Tasmania.”

He likened it to the hugely successful Great Eastern Drive, which led to “a 20 per cent increase in visitors to Tasmania’s East Coast since its development.”

Mayor Phil Vickers is excited by the prospect: “Tourism is booming in Hobart, and we need to find a way to feed on that and draw visitors out of the capital and to the West Coast.

“The drive here has always been one of our biggest obstacles, but the Western Wilds has great potential to turn that negative into a positive.”

There is also good news on the water as well.

A $6.5 million upgrade to Strahan’s wharf and cruise ship terminal has just opened.

And soon an impressive new boat, ‘Spirit of the Wild’ which replaces the 12-year-old Lady Jane Franklin II, will be pulling out from this wharf and taking tourists along the Gordon River and into the world heritage wilderness. 

However, one of the biggest game changers may well just happen at Strahan Airport.

A feasibility study has recently been commissioned into the viability of an airport upgrade, which could allow more direct charter flights in and out of the region.

“We have talked about this for a long time,” Mr Vickers said.

“But we have never had any evidence about the demand for extra flights or the cost of any upgrade. Hopefully this feasibility will give us some of those answers.”

Many of the answers may still be coming, but the West Coast it seems is already starting to re-claim its place at the top of Tasmania’s tourism pile.

“We are not just a mining community in the wilderness,” Mr Vickers points out.

“We should be a place that people want to come to.

“And that is starting to happen – again.”

Image Courtesy of The Mercury

8 May 2018, Edition 194

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Facts about Tasmania


Tasmania is the southernmost state of Australia, located at latitude 40° south and longitude 144° east and separated from the continent by Bass Strait. It is a group of 334 islands, with the main island being 315 km (180 miles) from west to east and 286 km (175 miles) north to south.


Tasmanians are resourceful and innovative people, committed to a continually expanding export sector. In 2012–13, international exports from the state totalled $3.04 billion. USA, China, Taiwan, India, Japan and other Asian countries account for the bulk of exports, with goods and services also exported to Europe and many other regions.


Tasmania is similar in size to the Republic of Ireland or Sri Lanka. The Tasmanian islands have a combined coastline of more than 3,000 km.


The main island has a land area of 62,409 sq km (24,096 sq miles) and the minor islands, taken together, total only 6 per cent of the main island’s land area. The biggest islands are Flinders (1,374 sq km/539 sq miles), King, Cape Barren, Bruny and Macquarie Islands.


About 250km (150 miles) separates Tasmania’s main island from continental Australia. The Kent Group of Islands, one of the most northerly parts of the state, is only 55km (34 miles) from the coast of the Australian continent.


Twice named ‘Best Temperate Island in the World’ by international travel magazine Conde Nast Traveler, Tasmania has a mild, temperate maritime climate, with four distinct seasons.


In summer (December to February) the average maximum temperature is 21° Celsius (70° Fahrenheit). In winter (June to August) the average maximum is 12° C (52° F) and the average minimum is 4° C (40° F). Snow often falls in the highlands, but is rarely experienced in more settled areas.

Annual Rainfall

Tasmania’s west coast is one of the wettest places in the world, but the eastern part of the State lives in a rain-shadow. Hobart, the second-driest capital city in Australia, receives about half as much rain as Sydney.

Annual Rainfall

Annual rainfall in the west is 2,400 mm (95 inches), but hardy locals insist there is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing. If you travel 120 km east to Hobart, you experience a much drier average of 626 mm (24 inches) a year.


The 512,875-strong community spreads itself across the land; less urbanised than the population of any other Australian state. Hobart, the capital city, is home to more than 212,000 people.

Capital City

Hobart nestles at the foot of kunanyi / Mount Wellington (1,270 m / 4,000 ft) and overlooks the Derwent Estuary, where pods of dolphins and migrating whales are sometimes seen from nearby beaches. Surrounded by thickly forested rolling hills, the city is home to the state parliament and the main campus of the University of Tasmania.

Capital City

Its historic centre features Georgian and Regency buildings from colonial times. Hobart is home port for coastal fishing boats, Antarctic expeditions and vessels that fish the Southern Ocean.

Land Formation

Mountain ranges in the south-west date back 1,000 million years. Ancient sediments were deeply buried, folded and heated under enormous pressure to form schists and glistening white quartzites.

Land Formation

In the south-west and central highlands, dolerite caps many mountains, including Precipitous Bluff and Tasmania’s highest peak, Mt Ossa (1617 m / 5300 ft). More than 42 per cent of Tasmania is World Heritage Area, national park and marine or forest reserves.


Vegetation is diverse, from alpine heathlands and tall open eucalypt forests to areas of temperate rainforests and moorlands, known as buttongrass plains. Many plants are unique to Tasmania and the ancestors of some species grew on the ancient super-continent, Gondwana, before it broke up 50 million years ago.


Unique native conifers include slow-growing Huon pines, with one specimen on Mt Read estimated to be up to 10,000 years old. Lomatia tasmanica, commonly known as King’s holly, is a self-cloning shrub that may well be the oldest living organism on earth. It was discovered in 1937.


Tasmania is the last refuge of several mammals that once roamed the Australian continent. It is the only place to see a Tasmanian devil or eastern quoll (native cat) in the wild and is the best place to see the spotted-tailed quoll (tiger cat), all carnivorous marsupials.


The eastern bettong and the Tasmanian pademelon, both now extinct on the Australian continent, may also be observed.


The Tasmanian tiger, or thylacine, was Australia’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is a modern day mystery. The last documented thylacine died in captivity in 1936 and although the animal is considered extinct, unsubstantiated sightings persist.

History and Heritage

Aboriginal people have lived in Tasmania for about 35,000 years, since well before the last Ice Age. They were isolated from the Australian continent about 12,000 years ago, when the seas rose to flood low coastal plains and form Bass Strait.

History and Heritage

Descendants of the original people are part of modern Tasmania’s predominantly Anglo-Celtic population.

History and Heritage

Tasmania was originally named Van Dieman’s Land by the Dutch explorer Abel Janszoon Tasman in 1642. The island was settled by the British as a penal colony in 1803 and the original name was associated with the convict era. It was changed to Tasmania when convict transportation stopped in 1853.


A resourceful island culture has generated leading-edge niche industries, from production of high-speed catamaran ferries and marine equipment to lightning-protection technology.


Tasmanians produce winches and windlasses for some of the world’s biggest ocean-going pleasure craft; large-scale inflatable evacuation systems and provide specialist outfit-accommodation services to the marine industry.


The Wooden Boat Centre at Shipwrights Point has re-established the skills and traditions of another age and attracts students from around the world.


Tasmania is a world leader in natural turf systems for major sporting arenas and in areas of mining technology and environmental management. Its aquaculture industry has developed ground-breaking fish-feeding technology and new packaging.


Tasmanians sell communications equipment to many navies and their world-class fine timber designers and craftsmen take orders internationally for furniture made from distinctive local timber.


The state is a natural larder with clean air, unpolluted water and rich soils inviting the production of 100 varieties of specialty cheeses, as well as other dairy products, mouth-watering rock lobsters, oysters, scallops and abalone, Atlantic salmon, beef, premium beers, leatherwood honey, mineral waters, fine chocolates, fresh berry fruits, apples and crisp vegetables.


Tasmania is a producer of award-winning cool-climate wines, beers, ciders and whiskies. Other export products include essential oils such as lavender, pharmaceutical products and premium wool sought after in Europe and Asia. Hobart is a vital gateway to the Antarctic and a centre for Southern Ocean and polar research.


The industries in Tasmania which made the greatest contribution to the State’s gross product in 2010–11 in volume terms were: Manufacturing (9.4%), Health care and social assistance (8.2%), Financial and insurance services (7.2%), Ownership of dwellings and Agriculture, forestry and fishing (each 7.1%).

Getting to Tasmania

Travel is easy, whether by air from Sydney or Melbourne, or by sea, with daily sailings of the twin ferries Spirit of Tasmania 1 and 2 each way between Melbourne and Devonport throughout the year.

This site has been produced by the Brand Tasmania Council © 2014

Brand Tasmania

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