Tasmanian Road Trip Part 1: Trowutta Arch

A road trip and a truly astonishing short walk. Trowutta Arch was one of our favourite bits of a week long road trip in northern Tasmania. Also memorable as it was quite unexpected. This hidden geological marvel is 31 kilometres from the town of Smithton, in north west Tasmania. Although this region is remote from any large cities, the roads are good, and there are plenty of excellent accommodation options for all budgets. Trowutta Arch is one of the best pit stops on the 180 kilometre long Tarkine Drive.

Trowutta Arch lies in a secluded gorge, deep within a cool climate rainforest in the Tarkine region of Tasmania

The gravel road that shoots off the Tarkine Drive to Trowutta Arch is well signposted. Once you arrive at the small car park, its an easy ten minute walk through the lush cool temperate Tasmanian rainforest down to the arch. It is an easy walk for people and families of all abilities. We saw a couple taking a stroller down through the forest with a baby: this is possible for the majority of the walk as it is level (assuming that it is also dry).

The forest is truly astounding and peaceful with old growth trees like myrtles, blackwoods and sassaffras mixed with tall man tree ferns. These forests feel really ancient as they are relatively quiet. At first I thought this may be due to the green moss that grows everywhere – like a carpeted natural wonderland. Although there are some smaller mammals in the Tasmanian forests, birdlife is almost non-existent (or really evasive when they encounter humans, perhaps). It’s quite different to other forests I’ve visited in sub-tropical and tropical regions that are alive with the deafening sound of birds and insects.

Tasmania rainforests date back to the time of Gondwanaland – timeless fern trees grow beneath the huge trees.

Exploring these forests by foot is a truly humbling experience. The forests have a common history from the ancient super continent of Gondwanaland, as some of the dominant tree species found here are also common to other forests New Guinea and South America. Myrtle beech trees (Nothofagus cunninghamii) can live for over 500 years with heights in excess of fifty metres. Man-tree ferns grow under the dark canopy of this refreshingly green world. They too can live for hundreds of years.

An area of 66 hectares around the arch was protected as Trowutta Caves State Reserve in September 1976, given that the geological formations within the reserve are quite unique and spectacular. However, its a sad fact that the poverty experienced by local people in rural parts of Tasmania have led to the ongoing continuation of logging in old growth forests in this part of Tasmania, in addition to many other parts of the state. It seems incredible that the politicians in Tasmania and Australia’s national parliament have been unable to assist regional Tasmania with developing new industries that do not rely on the destruction of the natural environment. It’s a truly tragic situation when first world countries are destroying old growth forests – this is happening on the edge of this small remarkable reserve, in addition to most of the Tarkine Wilderness area.
Clear felling of ancient forest in the Tarkine Wilderness of Tasmania – within a 15 minute drive of Trowutta Arch.
Lush fern trees are protected within this unique cool forest.

The tree ferns are iconic symbls of the cool temperate rainforests of Tasmania and Victoria. Temperate rainforests are largely destroyed in most parts of the world – it’s amazing to see how huge trees create a dark under canopy. If you observe the understorey carefully, you can see how the tree ferns grow in curved shaped to capture the limited light that filters through the taller tree canopy. This happens over long timeframes as the tree ferns grow very slowly.

Tree ferns and filtered sunlight make a wondrous walk. This curved tree trunk has formed as the fern struggles to caputre as mich light as possible in the forest understorey.

The end of this walk leads down to the natural arch, which also has a mysterious murky green pool at its base. Visitors can wander around freely. The formation has resulted from the collapsed caves, some of which are still located in other parts of the reserve. Although plenty of people visit the reserve every day, when it was quiet, I felt like I was the first person to see this place since the dinosaurs millions of years ago.

Murky waters of a deep pool at the base of the arch.

Two large dolines (or ground depressions) are found on either side of a large natural arch bridge in the middle of this lush forest. A deep pool has filled one of the sinkholes directly under the archway. The scientific name for the pool formation is a cenote – or steep sided sinkhole. Apparently this pool is about 20 metres deep. Its a truly remarkable peaceful place.

Eerie lagoon – home to a creature from the deep, perhaps?

The deep pool that has filled one of the sinkholes must have interest to cave diving scientists. Given it’s isolated location deep within a temperate rainforest, I think there could be a good chance of quite unique species living within and under the greem murky waters. Although there was a gentle peaceful beauty, you can’t help but speculate what would happen if you took a slip and ended up in the water. Not a nice thought! This element of danger reminded me of old Doctor Who episodes like “Planet of Evil” or “The Creature from the Deep” – it doesn’t take much imagination to conjure up scaly aliens rising from the depths of this pool.

Uselful links and Travel Practicalities

Accommodation: We stayed at VDL in Stanley – a convict built storehouse which has been converted into a luxurious apartment. Highly recommended as Stanley is a great little seaside town with good restaurants and scenic beach headlands.

Driving Directions: Trowutta Arch is 53 kilometres (47 minutes) drive south of Stanley, or just about three hours’ drive from Launceston Airport, which is the main gateway for visitors to northern Tasmania.

Other resources:

The Tarkine Wilderness: details on the 180km drive and other places to visit in the region.

Save the Tarkine: a community campaign to raise awareness of the Tarkine forests and save them from senseless exploitation.

Broadsheet – North West Tasmania: great overview of the highlights of the region, including good restaurants.

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