Hello, my fellow aliens! It’s been a while. Another semester is closing for me at university so I finally have time to catch up. Last summer, a friend hired me to drive his mother and her companion on a short tour about Tasmania. I stowed my camera for most of the trip (for some reason), but when we visited the Tahune Airwalk it seems I couldn’t resist pulling it out.
En route to the AirWalk, my guests opted to stop at the Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin. The centre exists as a combination shipbuilding school and minor tourist attraction, offering an engaging history of Franklin’s boating enterprises.. reportedly. While our guests were getting a guided tour, a friend and I lounged in the sun, and I took the opportunity to shoot a section of the Huon River.
But this post was supposed to be about the Airwalk, right?
The Tahune Airwalk is situated 88 km south of Hobart on the eastern edge of Tasmania’s massive expanse of protected national parks. These world heritage areas account for almost 20% of the island and are host to a number of unique species of flora and fauna. (For more information on the national parks, feel free to check out the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service.)
The Airwalk offers a dramatic exposure to the spectacular forest views for which Tasmania is so highly regarded. Among the attractions hosted is Airwalk itself, which encompasses a 50 minute stroll in natural forest, boasting Huon Pines and 619 metres of arterial walkway which leads you literally above the treetops. The highlight appears at the end: the cantilever, a walkway hanging 48 metres above the ground, exhibiting majestic views of the Huon River and the forest beyond.
My companions opted for the guided tour. After paying our entry fees (free for any Tasmanian with a paying companion), a short wait transformed our AirWalk trek into an informative experience. Our guide pointed out and provided information on a range of plants and animals native to Tasmania, exploring the history and construction of the AirWalk itself, and was notably patient for and mindful of the variable ages in our tour group.
The group was somewhat timid but excited and reassured as they stepped out onto the cantilever, snapping photos and marvelling at the views.
On the close of the tour, our group took the guide’s suggestion to embark on the Swinging Bridges walk. A further one hour trek meandered through the untouched forest crossing two narrow suspension bridges, each swaying and flexing as we bounded just feet above the wide Huon and Picton rivers. A few minutes past the bridges lies the ruins of a house which was occupied by a former Irish convict and policeman, Francis McPartlan, whom was employed to inspect timber licenses in the days of Tasmania’s colonisation.
Now, after doing all of this talking it up I have to admit that if you really want to see Tasmanian forest.. well, there’s plenty of free landscape to explore, but for the casual visitor, driving to and experiencing the Tahune Airwalk is a safe, pleasant and packaged experience exhibiting some of the serene and warm forest scenery for which Tasmania holds such great renown.
Other attractions include the 20 minute Huon Pine loop walk, which features access to specimens of the eponymous tree. These are a very slow growing and often ancient tree, endemic to the wilds of south-western Tasmania. (The eldest located have been estimated at being 10,500 years old.) The wood is prized for it’s golden hue and fine grain, it’s sweet scent, and the properties of it’s oils, which are notably resistant to rotting. The Huon Pine is, however, illegal to harvest in Tasmania. Early logging thinned many of the eldest trees and a strong environmental movement maintains staunch opposition to ‘old-growth’ logging in Tasmania’s wilderness areas.
A friend tells me of the terrifying thrill of the Cable Eagle Hang Glider, which unfortunately I missed for myself. An automated solo glider will fly you at least 50 metres above the ground, amongst the treetops and across the Huon River. This does come at an additional cost (circa. $15) and is subject to seasonal opening times and minor restrictions.
It’s also worth mentioning the cafe.. which you won’t miss because you’ll need to walk through it. But there are plenty of souvenirs, decent coffee and a display giving a little further history on the Airwalk. Particularly interesting were some dramatic photos of a massive flood which occurred in 2007, disrupting access to the park areas and flooding adjoining picnic grounds.
If a few hours in the forest just isn’t enough, there are rooms available. Get lit up in the magic of the forest at night on the treetop walk, and the enjoy the free WiFi at the lodge. There are standard amenities (shared bathroom, kitchen, dining area, movies), and a wood fireplace (a slight irony?), with flexible sleeping arrangements to suit your travelling style. Personally, I can’t speak as to the quality (a friend tells me it’s nice) but I would say that the Geeveston area appears to be a comfortable and relatively central location from which to explore the areas south of Hobart.
The Airwalk is 88 km from Hobart, amounting to a 90 minute drive, so it can be easily visited in a day trip. If you’re a visitor to the state, however, I’m certain you’ll want to take your time to appreciate the landscapes and see attractions along the way. Be sure to view the Tahune AirWalk website to be mindful of seasonal changes in opening hours (currently 10 am – 4 pm in the winter), and also check for potential closures due to adverse weather events: Tasmanian weather is known for it’s rapid shifts in temperature!
The Tahune Airwalk is accessible via Arve Road at Geeveston, a small town on the Huon Highway. I recommend calling in to the Forest and Heritage Centre (15 Church St – this town is so small, you won’t miss it!) where you can pre-purchase AirWalk tickets, get further directions, and observe or collect a great deal of information and history on the Geeveston area.
The GPS coordinates for the AirWalk are LAT 43° 5′42.3″S LON 146° 43′47.0″E however, the AirWalk reports GPS and mobile reception are unlikely to be obtained beyond Geeveston, due to the remote location.
If you’re visiting the area, and I can’t even claim to have seen most of these, but the following are highly regarded:
Ida Bay Railway
The Pancake Train
and while it’s quite a distance from the AirWalk, Snug Falls