Please Note: The Rapid River is closed, the bridge provides the only access to the Milkshakes Forest Reserve. Repairs/rebuilding of the Tayateah Bridge over the Arthur River and the Rapid River Bridge will be undertaken over summer 11/12.
The South Arthur Forest Drive is located in Tasmania’s North West. To get there, you drive from Stanley to Smithton, and then take the turnoff which indicates South Arthur Forest Drive. You will head out of Smithton and through Edith Creek which is the last place for fuel or reception (so if you are low on fuel top up now!) Eventually you will reach Kanunnah Bridge which is the beginning of the drive. Kanunnah Bridge crosses the Arthur River and is a great spot for fishing or kayaking over the rapids.
The next stop is only about 2km away, and is Sumac Lookout. Here there are fantastic views down over the Arthur River and forests. I did notice while I was here that there were a lot of flies around. However, later on after talking to someone else I found out they were actually native bees (which don’t sting), due to the large number of apiaries located in the surrounding forests. The sign indicating Sumac Lookout is also impressive, with the word ‘Sumac’ being carved out of a huge piece of wood.
A short distance further is the Julius River Forest Reserve. It would seem that this is a popular camping spot, as when I turned up there were at least 5 camper vans parked. There are many facilities located here including a toilet, picnic shelter, wood barbeque, and there is disabled access making it a great stop for everyone. Here there are two walks; one is a half-hour return walk which gives you a look at the cool temperate rainforest.
This is the one I did as I was keen to do the whole South Arthur Forest Drive and was keen to get to the next stop. You cross over the Julius River on a bridge and then follow a path through the green, mossy and fern covered forest floor. If you are up for a longer walk, you can do the Sinkhole walk which is only an hour return. This area is renowned for sinkholes, and if you don’t do this walk, don’t worry there is more opportunity further along the drive.
My next destination was Lake Chisholm Forest Reserve. Unlike the others, this is not located on the main road in. You take a slight detour off the road, until you come to a loop car park. I parked the car and headed off down the track toward the sinkhole. The path is fairly well established and is quite hilly in spots, however when you get to the sinkhole it is worth it. If you have been to Duckhole Lake you will know what I am talking about. The lake gives mirror like reflections because it is so still and quite deep I am guessing. This is a great spot for some photos, and the walk continues around the outside of the lake to give you some different perspective and vantage points to take your photos.
Another detour of the main road directs you down to Dempster Plains and Wes Beckett. Now I didn’t do Wes Beckett as I was advised not to by the CLO of this region. Apparently you spend a lot of time clambering up rocks and are mostly vertical the whole way. I think this track should be left only to the extremely fit and agile, so if you are like me I probably wouldn’t attempt it. However, I would definitely give Dempster Plains a visit. It’s not far off the main route and is just a lookout, but it really is something very different to what I have seen in my past travels. It reminds me of something you would see in Africa or straight out of the Lion King movies.
To get to Milkshakes you continue along over Rapid River, nice spot to stretch your legs, but not much here really. Tayatea Bridge is unfortunately closed due to some weather damage. So usually the South Arthur Forest Drive forms a loop and you head over the Tayatea Bridge to get back to the highway out. However now you have to backtrack from the way you came in. If you aren’t keen on this idea, I would still recommend going as far as Dempster Plains or Rapid River, however Milkshakes add an extra 40km to your trip.
I of course continued along to Milkshakes. It’s a lovely spot down in the rainforest, with picnic and BBQ facilities as well as toilets. There are also two walks, a basic nature walk through the forest which is relatively flat and can be completed in 10 minutes return. If you have a bit more time on your hands you can actually climb to the top of one of the Milkshake Hills in about 45 minutes return and see the different types of North West vegetation.
I have also heard that Trowutta is a lovely spot to view sinkholes, however to get there I am pretty sure that it is inaccessible due to the bridge being down so that will have to wait for another day. Off back to Stanley for me, before my next adventure to Springfield Picnic Area in the North East.
GPS Coordinates :
LAT : 41°11'16.11"S
LON : 144°41'48.35"E