With the annual Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge starting this Wednesday, Will Gray reveals the must-do activities on the island's rugged and largely untouched west coast
More than 40% of Tasmania is protected from development, but it is the western region that is the most remote, from the rugged Strahan coastline to the pristine and tranquil Cradle Mountain.
It was here that F1 driver Mark Webber first held his Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge – an event now celebrating its 10th anniversary with 42 teams of adrenaline junkies set to kayak, trek and bike their way through more than 200 miles of wilderness in five days.
Not all adventures in Tasmania's west are that hardcore, but here are six that are guaranteed to get your heart and adrenaline pumping – and show you Tassie's wild west at its very best.
The Mole Creek Karst National Park is the caving capital of Tasmania, with more than 300 caves and sinkholes discovered so far – and it’s here where this year’s Challenge begins. The Parks and Wildlife Service run trips to see Marakoopa and King Soloman caves, but for the more adventurous Wild Cave Tours deliver half-day and full-day caving experiences.
Northern Tasmania has an abundance of riches when it comes to mountain biking – something this year’s Challenge competitors will discover every day on the event. Perhaps the biggest buzz is the descent of Ben Lomond run by Mountain Bike Tasmania, while less experienced riders can head to the trails in Trevallyn and Kate Reed reserve with Vertigo Mountain Bike Tours. There is also 90km of purpose-built trails opening up in the next 12 months.
It’s hard to pick from the countless trails in the northern landscape, but the Great Western Tiers certainly offers the most variety. There is everything from wheelchair access paths to genuine get-lost bushwhacking opportunities. Top trails include Quamby Bluff, Liffey Falls, Devils Gullet and Lobster Falls and can all be visited on guided walks with Outdoor Tasmania.
The World Heritage Wilderness Area of Cradle Mountain, which the Challenge visits on day three, is a stunning place to just get out into the wild and trek. But for a different perspective on this well-visited area, Cradle Mountain Canyons offer the chance to pull on a wetsuit and head to the Dove or Lost World Canyons to swim, abseil and slide around the mountains.
It may not the first place you’d think of as an Australian surf spot but this break on the northwest tip of Tasmania has been voted as one of the best – as seven-time champion surfer Layne Beachley, one of this year’s Challenge competitors, would attest. It hosts the West Coast Surf Classic, which draws in thousands of competitors and spectators every year, and is currently in line to become a national surfing reserve.
A concave 140-metre dam at the heart of the Gordon River hydroelectric scheme is home to the world’s highest commercial abseil. Located near Mount Field, where the fourth day of this year’s Challenge takes place, the dam is higher than the Sydney Harbour bridge and Aardvark Adventures offer an adrenaline day of a lifetime, with 30m and 50m trial abseils before taking on the big descent.
The Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge raises funds for Whitelion youth charity and the Save the Tasmanian Devil Appeal. The adventure begins on November 27. To follow it – and see some spectacular images of this region – visit www.MarkWebberChallenge.com