From Coast to Cape – A Trail Created From Chaos

From Coast to Cape – A Trail Created From Chaos

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You may not realise at first as you make your way through North West Tasmania’s rolling fields or along its picturesque coastline that beneath the rich soil and weathered rocks lies some of Australia’s most unique and fascinating geological experiences.

For one corner of a small state, the region boasts a rich and diverse range of geological features that are exceptionally well exposed for the casual observer. Here, the handiwork of the Earth’s massive forces and geomorphological processes are evident in almost every view. Rocks from all major geological periods are found and Tasmania is custodian to Australia’s key glaciated landscapes, of which Cradle Mountain is iconic.

So as you make your way around the North-West and West coasts, how can you gain a better understanding of its geology so you can have a greater engagement with the landscape?

Follow the geotrail

In December 2004, a self-guided roadside geological trail called Created from Chaos was launched to highlight 13 of the North West Coast’s unique geological features. The concept was initiated by local geologist and photographer Peter Manchester and supported by the Rotary Club of Devonport South-East, state and local government, the Cradle Coast Authority, the business sector and other community organisations.

The trail is concentrated along 60 kilometres of scenic shoreline between Devonport’s Mersey Bluff and Wynyard’s Table Cape where you will encounter some of Tasmania's oldest deformed rocks (750 million years) along a coast sculpted by recent ice-age effects and violent volcanic activity.

Dip Falls is located in the Dip River Forest Reserve on Mawbanna Road. The water flows over hexagonal basalt columns, formed from the cooling of this volcanic rock. Photo: Jess Bond

You can be guided along the trail via a full colour map pamphlet which can be found at visitor information centres in the region or on this site. Specially designed interpretative signage will then give you an insight into the history and formation of these unique geological sites. Directions allow you to travel the trail from east or west, or to visit sites individually.

The trail is a fascinating and highly visual component in the shaping of Tasmania as we know it today. The various sites provide the foundations of the natural beauty, intriguing wildlife, history and heritage that the North-West Coast has to offer. The geological sites featured are located at:

  • The Mersey Bluff – Devonport
  • Don Heads – Devonport
  • Braddon's Lookout – Forth
  • Goat Island – Ulverstone
  • Three Sisters Nature Reserve – Ulverstone
  • Penguin Silver Mine – Penguin
  • Halls Point – Sulphur Creek
  • Sulphur Creek Boat Ramp – Sulphur Creek
  • Basalt Columns – Burnie
  • Doctors Rocks – Wynyard
  • Seabrook Point – Wynyard
  • Fossil Bluff – Wynyard
  • Table Cape – Wynyard

Zeehan Spray Tunnel. Photo: Jess Bonde

Exploring further afield

Outside of the geotrail there are so many more easily-observable geological wonders to be found on the North-West and West coasts.

Behind the Devonport region be sure to visit the caves and Alum Cliffs at Mole Creek and in the Ulverstone area there is the stunning Leven Canyon and Gunns Plains Cave.

Moving further along the Coast, in the Circular Head region make sue to take a diversion to see the basalt columns at Dip Falls, the famous Nut (the core of an extinct volcano) at Stanley, the sinkhole known as Dismal Swamp and the dramatic Trowutta Arch. From here head through the incredible Tarkine area to the Edge of the World at Arthur River, before taking the ferry across the Pieman River at Corinna and finally arrive at Zeehan. Here be sure to explore the museum, walk the Spray Tunnel loop and visit old mining sites before heading to Strahan.

Macquarie Harbour is itself an iconic geological feature and a guide on your cruise can explain how it was created. Next you can’t miss Queenstown, where you can climb the hill and see the famous ‘fault’ that appears in nearly every geography book ever printed and look down into the pit of the Iron Blow.

To top off your geological tour of the North-West Coast you can’t miss Cradle Mountain, accessed via the townships of Tullah, Rosebery and Waratah. Be sure to stop off in Waratah and learn all about ‘Philosopher’ Smith and how his discovery of the immensely rich deposit of tin at Mount Bischoff changed the fortunes of the region. The Cradle Mountain story is about the power of ice and the interpretation in the Visitors’ Centre can help you choose which walks to do in order to best experience the famous glaciated landscapes.

Want to know more? Grab yourself a copy of Peter Manchester’s book, Created from Chaos, released in 2010. The book includes a geological trail of 100 sites throughout Tasmania, outlining in detail sites that can be easily accessed from roads and short walking tracks.