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Tarkine Travels

The wild west coast of Tasmania offers off-road adventure and untouched natural beauty

Riding the rugged west coast of Tassie is a quintessential motorcycling experience. It offers a mix of awesome scenery and unpredictable weather that will both challenge and reward you. The only catch is that almost the entire length of this route is unsealed, so you will need a bike with dirt road capabilities to really enjoy it.

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 further, either on foot, or on the 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. Even then, most of the distance is on a good all-weather surface, and the section either side of 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.

Corinna can also be accessed from the northeast through the town of Waratah, and the unsealed road through Savage River 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.

Story & photography Tim Munro