August 2nd 2021 Accommodation bookings at Tin Dragon Cottages were looking scant after the latest round of COVID-related cancellations, so we headed north west to Penguin. We love exploring Tasmania and winter is the best time of year to view rugged pristine rivers and waterfalls. Of course, we really enjoy staying with other small accommodation providers, too!
Chasing waterfalls in North West Tasmania
First-up, I started our getaway plans with some internet research. I like to follow Tasmanian small accommodation businesses on Instagram, so I assembled a short list. In particular I was looking for cottage accommodation in the mid-north west, close to the coast. Also, I have a definite preference for businesses that don’t advertise with OTA’s (Online Travel Agents) such as Air BNB or Booking dot com. So I was looking for accommodation with their own direct-booking page.
Rustic Bush Hut Retreat
The Rustic Hut Bush Retreat near Penguin ticked all my research boxes!
Their four self-contained timber cottages face outwards towards the picturesque Dial range. Although the cottages are not far apart, the owners, Tania and Phil, have been careful to position each cottage for maximum privacy. The cottages feature timber milled on the property.
On one evening we met with Tania and Phil for a short chat. Well, we chatted away for a couple of hours. As accommodation providers, we have much in common and exchanged many ideas and stories.
Tania and Phil’s well-maintained farm is located on Ironcliffe road in the hills above Penguin. In the warmer months and in non-covid times Tania and Phil offer an organised farm experience for their guests. You can read more about the farm tour on their web page. Guests even get to make their own butter to eat with damper baked on a camp fire!
We were cozy and warm while we enjoyed the peaceful surroundings. I was looking for a relaxing stay, so knitting and reading were my favoured activities during our four-day stay! That, and staring out at the tree-covered Dial Range.
The cottages don’t have television or good internet coverage. But really, we didn’t miss either of these!
Each cottage has a basic kitchen. There is an induction-style single hot plate, with two saucepans, microwave, toaster, small under-bench fridge and a hot-water jug. While the kitchen is suited to minimal cooking or heating of pre-cooked meals, guests can use a gas bar-be-que–utensils provided–on the front verandah to prepare a more substantial meal.
After a lazy start to each day, we ventured out for a scenic drive. On our first morning we drove to Dip Falls on Mawbanna Road.
This waterfall on the Dip River cascades over cubic-formed basalt rock. In August the water was thundering down the rocks and through the canyon beyond. It was wild, powerful and beautiful.
You can see from the above photo that there is a well-formed stair case down to a viewing platform. In August the platform was getting an icy blast from the spray off the waterfall.
There is a picnic shelter with tables, bar-be-que fire and well-maintained toilets at the car parking area. If you take a short walk over the bridge (or drive), you will find a trail suitable for wheel chairs, too. This track takes you to another look out platform above the waterfall.
We were impressed by all the sealed roads in this part of Tasmania. In fact, part of the pleasure in getting to the waterfalls is the drive itself. The country roads take you through rich productive farming land and areas cleared by recent forestry activity.
Blue Hills Honey
When you leave the main drag (highway) onto Mawbanna Road, there is a large sign advertising The Colony (licensed) Cafe 18.7km. This seemed too improbable. But after winding our way along the narrow country road, there it was. What a gem!
The café has an extensive menu. However it was early afternoon, so we enjoyed a simple but well-presented lunch with great coffee. Naturally, we also purchased a few kilos of pure leatherwood honey, too.
On the second morning we chose to drive more than walk. We took a short drive out of Burnie to Guide Falls, then came back via Hellyer Gorge.
A short drive out of Burnie to Ridgley gets you to the Guide Falls. This waterfall is easy to find – just follow the road signage. It is an example of another great (sealed) road and well-maintained tourism destination in the North West Tasmania. (Can’t you tell that we are just too used to the unsealed gravel roads of the North East?)
Because the Guide River meanders peacefully around the neat picnic area, our first impression was that this waterfall wouldn’t be much to look at.
But, what a surprise when the short walk to the top viewing platform revealed a deep ravine and a spectacular rush of water!
I have driven along the Murchison Highway to Queenstown on many occasions. (The most memorable being the first time I met Graham on a Pandani bushwalking event). Anyway, I had been noticing the turn-off to Hellyer Gorge and wondering what it might be like. Of course, on these occasions I was always needing to be somewhere else and didn’t have time to go exploring.
This time, we decided to find Hellyer Gorge. So off we set using Google to take us along unsealed muddy forestry roads from Guide Falls via Oonah till we came out on the Murchison Highway. The turn-off to the Gorge takes you down a sealed windy narrow road through majestic stands of temperate rainforest. To be honest, this visit to the Hellyer Gorge camping ground was more about the drive than the destination.
Graham tells me that this picturesque road once formed part of the main highway down to the west coast. It looks a little neglected now, as does the camping ground.
The track leading away from the camping ground looked promising. But we quickly came out at the road beside the Hellyer River bridge. I imagine there are other walks that lead in to the forest reserve, but there is no signage near the camp ground.
After our brief stop at the Hellyer Gorge camping ground, we took the Mt Hicks road, through Yolla. Again, we saw more of the rich productive farming land of the North West on this enjoyable drive back to Burnie.
Our third morning at Rustic Bush Huts saw us driving inland to the Leven Canyon.
We have visited this amazing wild place before, but one visit could never be enough to soak up the beauty of this canyon.
The walking track that makes this experience so accessible started as a community project, with one man building a steep set of about 700 steps down into the valley. The tracks and facilities now appear to be funded by the State Government and maintained by the local council. There is plenty of car-parking space, picnic tables and bar-be-ques and well-maintained toilets – perfect for a day out!
After a fourth night of deep and peaceful sleep, we headed home relatively early on our final morning.