The Huon Trail
No trip to Hobart and Southern Tasmania is complete without a drive along the Huon Trail. Taking in the the fruit growing district of the Huon River valley, Port Huon, Bruny Island and the vast expanse of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, the Huon Trail incorporates busy towns and sleepy villages, serene boutique farms and World Heritage Wilderness areas accessed by roads that wind through a world of extensive and beautiful valleys and waterways.
The Huon Valley and the coasts of Port Huon and the D'Entrecasteaux Channel are places of natural beauty, perfect for a relaxing holiday, a short break or even a day trip from Hobart. Rich in maritime and rural heritage and populated friendly creative people, the region is known as much for its gorgeous scenery as it huon pine, apple orchards and boutique wineries and gourmet specialities. By big city standards, the roads are always quiet and there is something different around every corner.
Location: South and south-west of Hobart, Tasmania, beside the D'Entrecasteaux Channel, Huon Rover and Port Huon.
Length: Short loop (Hobart - Gordon - Huonville - Hobart) - 132 km; full loop (including Cockle Creek) - 304 km. If you intend to travel the full loop and include the Lower Huon Drive, follow this route as far as Huonville. Upon reaching Huonville, turn left towards Franklin and follow the Lower Huon Drive (link below). Otherwise, turn right and head towards Hobart.
- Lower Huon Drive
Minimum Duration (one way): short loop (Hobart - Gordon - Huonville - Hobart) - 3 hours; full return loop (including Cockle Creek) - 6 hours
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What You Will See
The loop taken by day trippers leaves Hobart via Channel Highway, passing through Sandy Bay (Wrest Point Casino), Taroona (historic shot tower) and Kingston. A side road to Dennes Point via Blackmans Bays offers panoramic views of D'Entrecasteaux Channel. From Kingston, proceed south through Margate and Snug (Snug Falls). The car ferry to Bruny Island leaves from the village of Kettering. Bruny Island is well worth a visit - allow at least a full day for a brief exploration of the island.
From Kettering, continue south along Channel Highway beside the channel, passing through Woodbridge and Gordon. At the tip of the peninsula, the road winds back northwards alongside the lower Huon River to the pretty village of Cygnet. Continue northwards via the Highway, or follow the coast road to Petcheys Bay for a more scenic drive.
Huonville is the main town and the region and most facilities can be found here. If your visit to the Huon Valley is a day trip, complete the loop by heading back to Hobart via the Huon Highway from Huonville. At Huonville you can visit the Huon Apple & Heritage Museum, take a jet boat ride up the river, or a more leisurely cruise on the MV Southern Contessa.
Lower Huon DriveThe drive south from Huonville to Southport is well worth the effort if time permits. The road the eastern bank of the Huon River to Franklin (wooden boat centre) and Geeveston (Forest & Heritage Centre). The latter is a timber milling town and gateway to the rugged Hartz Mountains National Park. Some of the tallest hardwood trees in the world (up to 95 m high) grow here. Geeveston is also the stepping off point for the Tahune AirWalk (a spectacular aerial walkway through the rainforest canopy on the banks of the Huon River) and cruises on Port Huon.
To the south of Geeveston is the fishing port of Dover, with its quaint cottages and English trees was once a convict station. A trip out to three islands in the bay - named Faith, Hope and Charity - is recommended and includes a visit to convict graves on Faith Island. Southport is a sleepy coastal village off the main road. In the early 1800's Southport was a convict station, bustling mill town and international port. Being Tasmania's second largest town at that time, it was proposed as the capital of the colony.
The small town of Hastings is famous for its limestone caves (Hastings Caves; Mystery Creek Caves), thermal springs, Adamson's Falls and Adamson's Peak and local gemstones (Lune River; its post office is the southernmost in Australia). Also on Lune River is the Ida Bay bush railway, originally built to carry limestone.
At the southern end of Recherche Bay where Cockle Creek enters it, a sign marks the southernmost point in Australia to which a motor vehicle can be driven. A walking track from the locality passes through the South West National Park and leads to South East Cape, Australia's most southerly point. It was on the shores of Recherche Bay that French explorer Bruny D'Entrecasteaux repaired his storm-battered ships in 1792. Fish were caught, firewood gathered, charcoal made and a small garden planted. D'Entrecasteaux returned to the bay in January 1793 for more supplies ahead of his long journey home. The bay later became a base for whalers and is today Australia's most southerly settlement.
If you intend to travel the Lower Huon Drive, follow this drive to Huonville. Upon reaching Huonville, rather that right towards Hobart, turn left towards Franklin and follow the Lower Huon Drive (link below).
Taroona is a major residential suburb approximately 15 minutes drive from the centre of Hobart, Tasmania on the scenic route between Hobart and Kingston. Although on the edges of the City of Hobart, Taroona is actually part of the municipality of Kingborough.
Taroona is an Aboriginal word meaning sea-shell, specifically that of a 'Chiton'. The traditional owners of the lands now known as Taroona were the Aboriginal people of the Derwent estuary known as the Mouheneener people. Relatively little is known about the indigenous people's use of these lands, although some shell middens are said to have been found along the shorelines.
The first European settlement at Taroona took place in the early 19th century, when land was granted to settlers who had relocated from Norfolk Island. For the remainder of that century, the area was largely used for farming, and was sparsely populated. In the first half of the 20th century, more large and elegant residences were built, as well as beach shacks and cottages which were used for seaside holidays by the residents of Hobart.
On the foreshore above Taroona Beach there is the grave of a young sailor, Joseph Batchelor, who died on the Sailing Ship Venus in the Derwent Estuary in 1810, and was buried ashore on 28 January 1810. It is reputed to be the oldest European grave in Tasmania, and it is a declared Historical site.
After World War II, significant subdivision of Taroona was undertaken, and the suburb's population rapidly expanded. Having been developed mainly in the "era of the automobile", Taroona was from the beginning a commuter suburb, and it has a notable absence of commercial or retail premises, many of the early retail enterprises having lost the battle with larger supermarkets elsewhere.
Taroona was the childhood home of Tasmanian-born Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, who attended the river-side Taroona High School before completing her high schooling at Mount Nelson's Hobart College and embarking on her tertiary degree at the University of Tasmania.
Lead vocalist of The Seekers, Judith Durham (born Judith Mavis Cock, 3 July 1943) lived in Taroona as a young girl, and attended the Fahan School in Sandy Bay before moving to Melbourne in 1956. She joined The Seekers in 1963.
David Bartlett, former Tasmanian premier (2008), was also raised in Taroona. Gwen Harwood, poet and librettist, lived in Taroona with her family for a number of years in the nineteen fifties.
Taroona Shot Tower: Shot towers were used in the 18th and 19th centuries in the manufacture of lead shot for weapons. In a shot tower, lead is heated until molten, then dropped through a copper sieve high up in the tower. Tasmania s only shot tower is at Taroona, south of Hobart. Australia s first shot tower and hot for muskets, Taroona Shot Tower was built in 1870. Built by Joseph Moir in 1870, it would remain Tasmania s tallest structure for over 100 years, until superseded by the 61 m ABC tower in Hobart.
One of three surviving in Australia today (the most well known is in the heart of the Melbourne CBD), it is a remarkable tapered structure 48 metres tall and features an internal spiral staircase of pit-sawn timber and an external gallery at its top which was probably used to store firewood for the upper cauldron. The gallery is now a viewing platform. I won t tell you how many steps there are to the top, as those who make the trek and get the count right are given a certificate to say they climbed it. Entry fees apply.
Truganini Reserve: Just before reaching Taroona is the Truganini Reserve, named after the woman cited (with some contention) as the last surviving "full-blooded" Tasmanian aboriginal. A steep track leads from the reserve through forest up the side of Mount Nelson to the semaphore station at the summit that offers superb views over the Derwent River. The return walk takes around an hour and a half.
A residential and commercial centre to the south of Hobart, Kingston offers many attractions including safe swimming at Kingston Beach, fishing, golf and shopping centres. Nearby Blackmans Bay, Tinderbox and Howden offer excellent views of the Derwent Estuary and across the D Entrecasteaux Channel to Bruny Island.
The headquarters of the Australian Antarctic Division is situated along the Channel Highway between Kingston and Margate. The centre provides support to the field stations in Antarctica. There are public displays of historic items, including Sir Douglas Mawson s sledge, and photographs from Antarctic expeditions, and information material about Antarctic wildlife.
Where is it?: 15 km south of Hobart. Road access to Hobart is by the Southern Outlet offering speedy travel through a green band of vegetation past Mount Nelson, or the more sedate and scenic Channel Highway via Taroona.
Alum Cliffs Coastal Walk: The Alum Cliffs walkway also offers some eminently photographic views. At the end of the walkway is the Blackmans Bay blowhole. The scenic delights of the area can be enjoyed from the walkway, or on the coastal drive through Blackmans Bay, Tinderbox and Howden or the views of Droughty Point, Bruny Island and D Entrecasteaux Channel from Piersons Point.
Blackmans Bay Arch/Blowhole: There is a blowhole near the northern end of Blackmans Bay beach, which in reality is more like a large rock arch where waves can be seen coming in and crashing on the rocks. There are numerous cliffs and viewpoints along Blowhole Road.
Piersons Point Fortifications: With the outbreak of World War II, the Department of Defence acquired land at Piersons Point and South Arm on the opposite bank of the Derwent Estuary. Piersons Point's guns, though no longer used, are still in place. Nearby Goat Bluff was also the location of further underground tunnel systems. The only enemy action to ever affect Hobart happened on 1 August 1942, when a submarine-launched Japanese spy plane flew from the submarine's mooring in Great Oyster Bay south along the east coast of Tasmania, before flying northward along the Derwent River surveying Hobart and then returning to its mother submarine.
Piersons Point Fortifications are off Tinderbox Road East to the south of Tinderbox. The location offers excellent views across D'entrecasteaux Channel to Bruny Island.
A small bayside town, Margate is a frequent pit-stop for those travelling south towards Snug, Kettering or Bruny Island. Vineyards, grazing fields and stands of trees surround the town and its approaches.
Where is it?: 20 km south west of Hobart, 7 km south of Kingston, 6 km north of Snug, on the Channel Highway between North-West Bay and the Snug Tiers.
Margate Train: The Margate Train, formerly the Tasman Limited, is Tasmania s last passenger train. The restored railway carriages of the train, open daily, now house a range of businesses including arts and crafts, bric-a-brac, a specialist book exchange, a pancake restaurant, and the original buffet car is now a cafe. There is also a huge antiques warehouse and second hand shop here, located in an old IXL apple packing shed. The Tasman Limited was built in England in 1950 and served as a passenger service between Hobart and Launceston until 1978. Each week at the Margate Train Sunday Market you can browse stalls of antiques and collectables, crafts, second hand clothing, plants, and fresh produce.
Brookfield Margate: The historic Brookfield Shed was built in the early 1940s for a German Man called Eugene Klinger. Its purpose was to collect flower and vegetable seeds for Yates Seeds. The slatted drying floor is still in place. Other uses have been Chandlers Seeds, Hops and a Co-Op Apple shed for Henry Jones and Co. Today the complex is a vineyard, function centre and restaurant/cafe and well worth a visit. The mezzanine floor houses the Tudor Court Model Village and German Model Train World.
The cafe/restaurant s healthy diverse menu is suitable for both el fresco and indoor dining. The bright canary room offers you a contrast to the mellow theatre that is often filled with the hum of live music. The program of entertainment with both local and international artists is always available on their website.
Inverware Native Gardens: Inverawe Native Gardens is a Tasmanian garden landscaped along traditional landscaping lines. In 2001 this was 22 acres of weeds. Work commeced on the central section and that is the most developed part of the garden. Work continues on more far flung areas.
The gardens were created primarily as a showcase for the natural flora of Tasmania. Plants have been placed in a semi formal landscaped design and walking paths give access to the vast array of plants in its two distinct areas a natural woodlands remnant and a former tidal swamp that has yielded to rich, grassy flats. Rabbit Hill, at the northern end of the grasslands, affords views across the gardens down North West Bay to Bruny Island. Being a fringe habitat, where forest and pasture meet the shoreline, the wetlands and the tidal flats is an ideal place for bird watching. Entry fees apply. Contact: (03) 6267 2020.
Location: 1565 Channel Highway, Margate.
Snug is a small coastal town located on the Channel Highway. A carbide factory operated at Snug from 1917. The carbide was used in the manufacture of acetylene gas. The factory was converted to a silicon smelter in 1979, but was closed in 1991. During the 1967 Tasmanian bushfires the town of Snug was devastated, two-thirds of the town s houses were destroyed, along with two churches and half the school. Snug is home to the Channel Folk Museum.
Snug Tiers is a Nature Recreational Area 8.7 km west of Margate. Walking tracks lead to a number of waterfalls, including the popular Snug Falls.
Coningham Beach on the southern shore of Snug Bay is one of Tasmania s most sheltered, offering year-round swimming. The highway eventually leads to Kettering where you can join the vehicular ferry for Bruny Island.
Travellers wanting a short cut across to the Huon Valley can take picturesque Nicholls Rivulet Road to Cygnet between Snug and Kettering. It passes through the Woodbridge Hill area, a 400 ha park characterised by rainforest vegetation and the presence of the rare Bell Everlasting. Woodbridge Hill, which rises 580 m above sea level, is part of the mountain range which runs between the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and the Huon River. Note: this short cut bypasses the southern section of the peninsula.
Kettering and Woodbridge nestle on the coast on D Entrecasteaux Channel opposite Bruny Island - two tiny settlements across the narrow channel from the island s low lying hills. Kettering is the launching point to Bruny Island, but is charming in its own right with a sheltered harbour full of yachts and fishing vessels. With its Marina and its regular ferry service to Bruny Island, Kettering is an important tourist mooring and departure point. The Marine Studies Centre at nearby Woodbridge was specifically designed to cater for school children interested in marine biology.
Where is it?: 37 km south of Hobart on the Channel Highway.
The area was first explored by Frenchman Bruni D Entrecasteaux in 1792 and was settled in the early 1800s by timber cutters, whalers and sealers. At that time the area was a violent outpost where the local Aborigines were persecuted and maltreated by the sealers and whalers.
Oyster Cove: Oyster Cove, just north of Kettering on Oyster Cove, is where the last Tasmanian Aboriginal settlement was established in 1847. Aborigines from all over Van Diemen s Land had been rounded up some years earlier and isolated on Flinders Island. In 1847 the remnants, now only 44 people, were taken to a reserve at Oyster Cove. By 1855 there were only 16 people left and by 1869 only Truganini remained. She died in 1876 but it was not until 1976 that her ashes were thrown to the winds on the D Entrecasteaux Channel.Today the area is noted for its orchards (apples, cherries, pears) and Kettering has become an important service centre for the local farmers.
Peppermint Bay, Woodbridge: Peppermint Bay is home to Peppermint Bay Cruises, which operates cruises of the River Derwent and D Entrecasteaux Channel on its luxuty catamaran. Cruises include general sightseeing, wildlife adventure around the shores of Bruny Island, or are available for charter.
Gordon (29 km south) is a pleasant village on the shores of D Entrecasteaux Channel facing Bruny Island. Near the shoreline is a monument to Bruni D'Entrecasteaux, who spearheaded French interest in the region. In 1792-93 he discovered the Huon River, and the channel and offshore island which bear his name.
The drive along the coast around the tip of the peninasula is particularly pretty as the Huon River widens into D Entrecasteaux Channel. Verona Sands and Randalls Bay are two popular swimming beaches. Being at the foot of the peninsula, where the Huon Estuary meets the D'entrecasteaux Channel, Verona Sands has expensive views south down the channel and across to Port Esperance and Bruny Island, on opposite shores.
Arch Rock is small sandstone island at Ninepin Point Marine Reserve a few kilometres east of Verona Sands, named for the cave that forms an arch in its centre and it s a notable geological feature as well as being an interesting dive. Diving in the tannin waters of the reserve is an iconic Tasmanian dive experience. The waters of the Reserve are subject to high levels of tannin from the nearby Huon River. Less dense tea-coloured fresh water overlays the colder sea water and filters out light, which leads to some marine life being seen in much shallower waters than otherwise.
Being a major fruit growing area, there is a wide variety of produce grown in the area and many opportunities to savour it. These range from farm gate stalls to boutiue wineries. Apple cider can be sampled at the Welcome Swallow Cyderworks.
Close by are two award-winning wineries - Panorama Vineyard at Cradoc, and Hartzview Vineyard at Gardeners Bay. At Hartzview, a leisurely stroll through their Heritage Pickers Hut Village will have you experiencing the home of orchard workers and their families, and Italian Prisoners of War in the early 1900s.
The main town on the eastern shores of Port Huon, Cygnet is a centre for a prosperous fruit growing district (apples; grapes; strawberries; blueberries; cherries) which has numerous orchards and vineyards.
Where is it?: 54 km south west of Hobart, 18 km south of Huonville, in the Huon Valley.
The Port Cygnet Sailing Club Regatta is held on the first weekend in March. Reflecting the mix of agricultural and creative local residents, events in Cygnet include the Cygnet Folk Festival, held over three days every January, and the Harvest Festival.
The local area also supports a farming population and there are many second homes, sometimes known as shacks in Tasmania. About a mile south of the town centre is Port Cygnet (home of the Port Cygnet Yacht Club), a safe anchorage for pleasure craft with easy road and walking access to Cygnet. Cygnet and surrounding suburbs have access to the beautiful D'Entrecasteau Channel on one side and the Huon River on the other.
In recent times Cygnet has become the centre of an alternative lifestyle community which have established woodturning, wholefoods shops, craft activities, vintage car restoring and holiday cottage accommodation as important local industries. As a result, the town has its own arts trail and is home to several galleries, including the Whispering Tree Gallery, Stanley's Fine Arts and Crafts, the Ginger Nutt Gallery, Lovett Gallery, Cobweb Designs and the handcrafted woodwork at Phoenix Creations. Throw in a print workshop with an old print press, the fascinating local museum, a bird sanctuary, several waterfront parks and a yacht club and it's a perfect weekend trip from Hobart.
A centre for the Huon District which services the local timber, paper mill and fruit growing industries as well as tourism. It is the gateway to the beautiful Huon Valley. It was the apple orchards of the valley that gave Tasmania the name 'The Apple Isle' in the 1960s.
Where is it?: 39 km south west of Hobart on the Huon Highway, in the Huon Valley.
The Huon River and the nearby D'Entrecasteaux Channel are popular fishing and boating areas. The Channel is sheltered from the wrath of the Southern Ocean by the bulk of Bruny Island to the east. The drive from Huonville to D Entrecasteaux Channel via Cygnet is particulary scenic; the still waters of the river offer spectacular photo opportunities.
Huon Valley Apple Museum and Heritage Centre is a typical local folk museum with memorabilia, gifts and, in season, lots of apples for sale.
Huonville was not originally intended as the site of a town. Nearby Ranelagh was laid out as the town of Victoria in colonial days. Huonville grew around the bridge crossing the Huon River and hotels at the bridge. Today the Huon Valley is best known as one of Tasmania s primary apple growing areas. Once enormous in its extent, the significance of the industry has declined steadily since the 1950s and today cherries and fish farming are the rising commercial stars of the district. Tourism is an important part of Huonville and the surrounding Huon Valley. The area is renowned for its scenic beauty and history as one of Australia s biggest apple producers.
The Huonville Trail, driving south from Huonville and following the bank of the Huon River and Estuary, is a rewarding addition to this drive if time permits. It passes through numerous small towns, including Southport, Geeveston and Franklin on the way to Recherche Bay and Cockle Creek, the most southerly point in Australia that can be reached by motor vehicle.
If you intend to travel the Lower Huon Drive, upon reaching Huonville, turn left towards Franklin and follow the Lower Huon Drive (link below). Otherwise, turn right and head towards Hobart.
The nearby town of Ranelagh (3km north of Huonville), which is now regarded as a suburb of Hounville, is at the centre of an important hop-growing area and its landmarks include an historic oast house. Ranelagh is surrounded by hop fields. An indication of how cold the area gets in winter can be gleaned from the large wood piles beside many of the houses in the village. Ranelagh is home to the Tasmanian Antique Motor Museum, which has over 40 old vehicles including a 1934 Hudson Terraplane and a 1923 Fiat 501 originally owned by Lady Jones of IXL.
Situated on a pretty corner in the village of Ranelagh, the historic property of Clifton dates back to the 1850's, with the main house dating from 1865. From the entrance down the sweeping driveway, along the cypress hedge and on to the extensive gardens, this remarkable property is like another world. Steeped in history and surrounded by old gardens and trees, Clifton has long been considered a landmark in the Huon Valley. The property was at one time part of a large farming enterprise, and owned by several generations of the same family, until it changed hands for the first time in 2000. The property now consists of 5 acres of garden, parkland and paddock with the grounds, the 25-room Main house and adjoining 3 storey hop drying kiln (Oast house).
Driving north from Huonville towards Hobart offers views of a mountain known as Sleeping Beauty. You can see quite clearly why it is called that from the photo. Sleeping Beauty is not the mountain's geographical name - that is the equally colourful 'Collins Bonnet'. One can only assume the name is a reference to its shape, and not an article of clothing worn by the person after whom it was named - Colonel David Collins, Lieutenant Governor of the Colony of Van Diemens Land, who established Hobart in 1804.
Collins Bonnet and its neightbour, Trestle Mountain, is climable. It very long and steep climb, particularly if doing both peaks, but features great mountain and valley views, both during the walk and from the peaks. The Collins Bonnet peak (Sleeping Beauty's nose) has a true summit feeling, and provides spectacular views of the surrounding range, Huon and Derwent valleys and more distant mountains on clear days. Many well known Tasmanian peaks can be seen in a broad arc from the north to south through west.
To get there, travel to the intersection of Mountain River Road and the Huon Highway at Grove. Travel 8km up Mountain River Road, avoiding all side turns and private roads and entrances, until the end of the road is reached. This is at the point where a sign indicates the start of the Mountain River Trail, and is located adjacent to 2 private driveways. Park well off the road.