The town of Queenstown in Tasmania counts as the gateway to the West Coast which has a mining history and amazing scenic views. Close-by is the World Heritage Wilderness Area and there are many fishing lakes. Queenstown is the largest town on the West Coast. It is fascinating to see that the copper mining and mass logging that went on here in the early 1900s has created a kind of unusual and rocky “moonscape” of bare colored conglomerate. When driving to the town there is a scenic drive down a spiraling road that has more than 90 bends. Visitors can arrange for an underground mine tour, there is a local history museum and the town also has a growing creative community comprised of artists and makers.
Queenstown is home to the historic West Coast Wilderness Railway, running between the town and Strahan. This is a world-class steam railway which makes you feel like you have stepped back into history once you climb aboard. There are comfortable, fully refurbished carriages which will take you on a journey into the wilderness and a rainforest. The rainforest is home to the ancient Huon pine. The steam railway travels past cavernous gorges, rushing rivers and toy-town stations. A return trip takes four hours.
When looking for a place to stay you might like to take a look at The Empire Hotel which has a National Trust listed staircase made of Tasmanian Blackwood.
Visitors can see memorabilia and other kinds of artifacts at The Eric Thomas Galley Museum. There are extensive photo displays of West Coast history and interesting literature from a different era. The museum has over 900 photos displayed in 23 rooms. Here you’ll also find household equipment and personal effects, old documents, coins, cameras from the 1930s and many other interesting items. There is also a video available on Mount Lyell, Queenstown and the Abt (West Coast Wilderness) Railway.
You can take the famous Mt. Lyell tours – Queenstown Heritage Tours. Taking the tour you’ll learn the history of the mine and the town and see the open cut. Also available is the Lost Mines, Ancient Mines tour south of Queenstown taking people to visit relics in the rain forest. There is also a tour of the preserved Lake Margaret Hydro Power facility.
Mining in Queenstown started at the Iron Blow in 1883 and it was worked as a gold mine for ten years before the discovery of large deposits of copper. There are fantastic views from the open cut mine, surrounding mountains and down into the Linda Valley. You can also see the deserted mining towns of Gormanston and Linda.
It’s interesting to visit Bradshaw’s Sawmill/Tasmanian Special Timbers Pty Ltd where you can see the mill at work and can purchase some fine timber. The mill specializes in Huon Pine, Sassafras and Blackwood.
Twenty minutes outside of Queenstown is Lake Burbury. You can take in the sights or do some trout fishing. Camping is available for overnight stays. The lake was created in the early 1990s when they dammed the King River for hydro-electric power. Today the lake is a very popular place for relaxation and fishing. Looking across the lake you’ll see Mt. Owen and to the right the Linda Valley with the Mt. Lyell Mine. Here is also Mt. Owen, Thureau Hills and part of Mt. Jukes.
Visitors enjoy taking the Mt Jukes Scenic Drive south of Queenstown along which you can visit Lake Burbury and the Bird River and take a great walk along a railway embankment to the ghost town of Pilinger at Kelly’s Basin. The sawmill previously mentioned is located on Mt. Jukes Road specializing in rainforest timber such as Huon pine, blackwood and sassafras.
Golf players will enjoy visiting the Queenstown Golf Course. This is a nine hole course where mixed competitions are held every weekend. There is a bar for relaxing and socializing.
Spion Kop was named by soldiers who were returning from the Boer War. There are fantastic views after you have taken the steep short walk, passing mining heritage exhibits as you go. Spion Kop overlooks the famous Queenstown gravel football oval. There is a rhododendron-lined track and at the top of the hill you’ll find a pithead. Views here are particularly impressive at sunset when the bare hills become flaming orange.
The Queenstown Football Oval has become the most famous football field in Australia. It is heritage listed.
Internationally renowned Tasmanian artist Raymond Arnold runs the Landscape Art Research Queenstown or LARQ Gallery. The gallery has exhibitions by local and visiting artists as well as community workshops in printmaking and painting. The mission of the gallery is to inspire art from the awesome natural landscapes of the West Coast.
Opposite the museum, on the site of the original train station, is the Miner’s Siding. This is a public monument that features a giant mining drill, a water race and sculptures that commemorate the area’s mining heritage. The bronze sculptures depict 21 facets of the evolution of the Mt. Lyell Mines and the surrounding areas. These are the artwork of sculptor Stephen Walker. The locomotive once located here has now become part of the West Coast Wilderness Railway.
The Nelson River Falls is located besides the Lyell Highway which connects Queenstown and Hobart. There is a 1 km gravel path that leads to the Falls and all around are lovely rain forest surrounding with trees like myrtle, leatherwood and sassafras. There is a lovely viewing platform at the base. Interpretive signage along this trail offers an interesting look into the geological history of the site.