Early mornings at Corinna, on the west coast of Tasmania – Australia’s island State -are the best for me. When mist drapes the surrounding wilderness, finally sweeping aside to reveal ancient rainforest mirrored in the pristine Pieman River. An emerging bright blue day in the Tasmanian wildness. Take a slow deep breath, draw it all in, and fall in love.
You’ll find Corinna on the edge of the pristine Pieman River in Tasmania’s spectacular West Coast Tarkine, an area with the largest cool temperature rainforest in Australia and the second largest in the world.
Think gold in the 1800’s, and Corinna is where you might have headed to try your luck in finding your fortune. People flooded into the area to pursue the gold dream. In its heyday, the then thriving gold mining town had two hotels, a post office, shops and a population of 2500 people.
Today your luck might be better by dropping a fishing line into the Pieman River to catch a nice big trout or some spring whitebait for dinner!
Corinna today is a tiny tourist settlement sitting alongside the Pieman, with limited camping and van sites, a small tavern and a cluster of simple timber cottages for holiday rent.
With careful planning and a mindset for eco management, it has retained an intimate wilderness feel. No tv, no radio, no internet, no phone coverage. It’s a chance to get away from the stresses of life in this pandemic era (for emergencies, there is a phone in the settlement office).
You can walk from one end of Corinna to the other in less than ten minutes. Bush tracks, like open doors, lead tantalisingly off into the wildness. It doesn’t take much to persuade you to put your bushwalking boots on!
Remarkably, this remote location also was once a hub of the Australian movie industry! No, this isn’t a Tasmanian bush yarn! It’s true.
Australia’s first motion picture, Jewelled Nights, was filmed in Corinna in 1925. It was adapted from a novel by Marie Bjelke-Petersen, an aunt of former Australian Queensland Premier Joh Bjeke-Peterson.
The film’s writing, directing and lead role was undertaken by Australian born Hollywood actress Louise Lovely, one of Universal Studio’s early stars. Lovely made it big in America as a movie star long before Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett.
I admit that I hadn’t heard of Corinna when I was growing up in Tasmania in the 1950’s and 60’s. My Dad’s old car would regularly break down delivering me to school, so travel to the remote tough West Coast wilderness was not a family drive for us!
In 2005, Corinna’s name became more known again as the Tarkine Wilderness company began developing tourism, initially with cruises on the Pieman, and later, opening the Tarkine hotel. The idea was to open the area up to visitors, but at the same time minimise the human footprint.
Further north is Tasmania’s more famous Cradle Mountain, where tourism these days seems to run rampant. Big tourist buses disgorging name labelled visitors, and small bus shuttles delivering tourists to the edge of Lake St Clair because the shoreline car parks are chockers with visitor vehicles.
Cradle has lost a lot of its magic for me. I prefer the peace, intimacy and tranquillity of Corinna.
I was amazed to read a complaint on Trip Advisor that there was nothing to do at Corinna. There’s everything to do. You just have to manage your own fun! Bushwalking, paddling the river, fishing, photography, a barbecue, river cruising, or simply relaxing and drinking in the beauty of the place.
It’s the wilderness. It’s not laid on. It requires a little effort.
There is a tiny store at Corinna with limited supplies. I suggest you bring plenty of your favourite food, nibbles, books and anything else you might want to occupy you. The tavern serves good meals in summer, and there’s also communal barbecues. I understand the meals aren’t available in winter, but frozen chef packs are available. The cabins have small kitchens.
There are plenty of ‘do it yourself’ bushwalks available from your Corinna base, from a five minute amble to 8 hour return challenges. They include the Huon Pine Walk, the Savage River Walk, the Whyte river walk, or for the more agile, a climb up nearby Mount Donaldson.
If you like paddling a kayak, – bring your own or hire there – Corinna has ten suggested routes. You can paddle down the Pieman, and be picked up by a ferry if you don’t want to do a return journey.
Cruises are available on the river. Most people favour the beautiful old Arcadia 11, built from Huon Pine wood in 1939. It’s believed to be the only Huon Pine cruiser in the world, and takes you from Corinna to Pieman Heads, where you can connect up with adventure tours in Granville Harbour.
I prefer the smaller vessel, the ‘Sweetwater’. It’s a shorter, less expensive cruise on the Pieman, and can access the nearby Savage River and a few other spots the larger vessel is unable to visit.
On the day I went on Sweetwater we moored at the boardwalk to Lover’s Falls. A steep long wooden staircase leads up from the River’s edge to the bottom of the waterfalls above, where we were treated to morning tea – hot drinks and cake. Why does cake always taste so much better out in the wilderness?
Corinna is a place of changing weathers. It can even snow in winter. You may not be as lucky as I was with the weather. Be prepared for anything and everything when out exploring or camping here. That includes warm clothing and wet weather gear, even if you plan to visit in summer.
The camping and van sites are in demand, so definitely book ahead. The tent sites are on elevated wooden platforms, protecting the rainforest floor, and probably you from snakes! I did see one quietly sunbaking by a nearby track. He wasn’t at all bothered by me passing. He knew I was on his turf!
You’ll see plenty of other wildlife at Corinna. Platypuses can be sighted in the Pieman River. Watch out for white breasted sea eagles. Superb blue wrens dart about everywhere, and of course, you’ll see plenty of Bennett’s wallabies in and around the town. Don’t forget frogs, particularly at night. And looking to the ground, you’ll be delighted by the colourful fungi to enjoy and photograph.
Boat ramps are provided for people keen on fishing, with a trailer parking facility.
The Tarkine hotel in Corinna doesn’t have accommodation, operating as a tavern with food and drink. I had a few meals there. They were not fancy, but good value and enjoyable.
You can reach Corinna from the north or south. The easiest route is from the north via Savage River. The southern approach is via a small ferry crossing on the Fatman barge. A small part of the southern approach coming into Corinna is unsealed. We found it good enough for our two wheel hire car, but it’s narrow, so great care should be taken, particularly keeping in mind oncoming traffic.
A few kilometres of the northern approach are also unsealed and has a very good surface. Allow around six hours to drive from Hobart to Corinna (345 kilometres/215 miles), three hours from Devonport or one and a half hours from Strahan.
You will find up to date information on the Corinna.com.au site.