Beautiful, remote and rugged. Motorcycle riding doesn’t get much better than this
Riding the rugged west coast is a quintessential Tasmanian motorcycling experience, with all the awesome scenery and unpredictable weather that the region is renowned for. The only catch is that almost the entire length of this particular route is unsealed, so you will need a bike that has some dirt road capabilities to enjoy this ride, although we would rate it as easy going dirt.
The Western Explorer Road (C249) runs from the Bass Highway in the northeast of Tassie through to the small community of Corinna. It passes through the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area and offers some stunning views across the Tarkine Wilderness Area as it snakes southward on well-maintained dirt roads. The northern section of road from Arthur River is fast and open gravel as it follows the line of the coast south, past several small beachside villages. There are several detours on offer here if you want to explore closer to the water but some of the fire trails can get tricky in sections, and are definitely not to be attempted if you are travelling alone. Further south as you climb the range towards Mt Vero the road and the scenery get more interesting with some nice sections of mid speed bends, before you descend back down the other side of the hill towards the Pieman Reserve and the township of Corinna. This is a good central point for exploring the Tarkine area in more detail, either on foot, or on water with a cruise on the motor vessel Arcadia II.
Most dual-sport tourers with open tread tyres and reasonable ground clearance will be suitable for this trip, as it only really becomes tricky in sections after heavy rain. Most of the distance is on a good all-weather surface though, and the section either side or Corinna itself is noted for the pure white Silica used in the road construction. This route is sometimes referred to by locals as the ‘Road to Nowhere’, and has been the subject of heated debate over the years as environmental groups lobby to close it off for eco-tourist use only. It hasn’t happened yet and is unlikely to. Corinna can also be accessed from the northeast through the town of Waratah, and the unsealed road through Savage River also makes for an enjoyable ride. Once at Corinna you need to cross the Pieman River via the Fatman Barge, to continue south. It is a short crossing which attracts a small fee per vehicle. There are accommodation options at Corinna ranging from camping spots to comfortable cabins, or even self-contained wilderness retreats with open fires, if you want to treat your pillion to a bit of luxury.
Once over the river it is only a short hop on an unsealed road to the bitumen, where you can turn right for Zeehan and continue south, or turn left and ride out past Lake Pieman to the Murchison Highway at Tullah. The western edge of Tassie contains some of the best scenery in the country, which is fed by a higher than average annual rainfall, so take your wet weather gear with you.
Fuel, including PULP, is available in Smithton and Waratah, but nothing along the route itself, until you get to Zeehan. So fill up beforehand. There is a café/restaurant and bar at Corinna, as well as a general store.
There are no mechanical workshops on the Western Explorer so make sure you have enough tools and tyre changing equipment to be self-sufficient. We generally travel with company and carry a tow strap in remote areas like this.
The Bischoff Hotel in Waratah is a great stop for accommodation and food. It is renowned for being motorcycle friendly to the max. In fact they have now converted their old stable to provide covered parking for bikes, and even have a drying cabinet in case your gear is wet! The hotel has a range of overnight accommodation starting at $29 for a single. They also have en suite rooms and a spa room if you can afford a bit more luxury. They also encourage motorcycle groups to use them as a base to explore from, and offer meal discounts for multiple riders. You can call them on (03) 6435 0614 or email email@example.com, or just turn up.
Corinna Wilderness Retreat has several good options for accommodation from camping through to luxury cabins. (03) 6446 1170
Waratah Roadhouse – 11 Smith St, Waratah. (03) 6439 1110
BP- 125 Main St, Zeehan 1300 130 027
The Bischoff Hotel serves breakfast, lunch, and is well known for their ample servings at dinner time. Ask Kel Buckley about the Bischoff Burger…
The Tarkine Hotel at Corinna offers good quality meals and wines.
Things to do
Activities in the area include kayaking or canoeing, cruises on the Pieman River, a tinnie ride up the Savage River, or just taking a walk along some of the well-formed trails through the Tarkine Rainforest.
Sports bikes are well catered for at the southern end of this route as well. The loop ride from Tullah, past Lake Pieman, and through to Zeehan, is an excellent ride with a mix of open sweepers combined with several sections of tighter corners, all on a good sealed road surface. This can provide a good loop ride back up towards the roads leading to Cradle Mountain and some of the larger towns around the region. It is easy to just spend a day zigzagging your way around the area.
Words & photography Tim Munro