Rugged and regal: connected Queenstown
Fancy winding your way to one of Tasmania’s hidden gems? Well, first you zig, then you zag… and then you do it all again.
It’s time to get your curtsey (or bow) ready for the royally rugged Queenstown.
The largest town in the state’s west, Queenstown is like a pot of gold found at the end of a twisting, turning rainbow.
Following the Lyell Highway west from Hobart, the scenic road boasts more than 90 turns before descending into an almost other worldly landscape.
It’s the result of many years of successfully mining for gold and copper, which saw Queenstown once crowned the world’s richest mining town.
Unique and scorched-looking, wedged in the Queen River Valley next to Mount Owen and Mount Lyell, the scenery is more befitting the moon than our southern-most state.
Queenstown is ready
Russell Kelly, nbn™ local Manager for Tasmania, says it was exciting to hear the news that Queenstown, and fellow Tassie locations Rosebery and Zeehan, were ready to enjoy the benefits of access to services over the nbn™ access network.
“The Connecting Australia report, commissioned by NBN Co and conducted by AlphaBeta, estimates that regions where the nbn™ rollout is more than 90 per cent complete are enjoying a boom in the rate of growth in digital economy jobs at a rate of almost five times the national average.
“The arrival of the nbn™ access network helps plug the west coast into a digital future.”
Research from Connecting Australia, reveals more about the ways in which Australians are benefiting – and are expected to benefit – from connectivity.
For tens of thousands of years before the goldrush of the late 18th century, Traditional Custodians called the area’s extensive grasslands home. This was the land of the Toogee people and it was an area rich in hunting and fishing opportunities.
The Toogee people named the nearby harbour area ‘Meebberlee’ – Macquarie Harbour today – and built boats to cross the tumultuous waters of the harbour mouth, later dubbed ‘Hell’s Gate’.
For shelter in Tasmania’s cold climate, those living along the west coast built insulated huts from tea tree, bark, feathers and grasses. Evidence of these huts – circular indentations in the earth – can still be seen today.
A royal tour
Today, 2000-odd residents call Queenstown home and, despite the modest population, there’s an abundance of things to see and do.
For AFL fans, a visit to the Queenstown Football Oval reveals a gravel-covered field where, amazingly, the Queenstown Crows still host matches on the harsh surface.
It’s easy to understand why the unique playing ground, built in the late 1890s, was inducted into AFL Tasmania’s Hall of Fame in 2007. It’s even easier to comprehend why it’s locally called ‘The Gravel’ or ‘The Rec’, the latter likely because of the skin it ‘wrecks’ during matches.
For more history, check out The Empire Hotel, dubbed the ‘Grand Old Lady of the West’. It holds a famous set of century-old stairs, handmade from blackwood and now part of the National Trust.
During the warmer months, duck across the road and fast-forward through history to the art deco era at The Paragon Theatre. Partake in a self-guided tour, take in an evening featurette, or stay for a night-time flick.
Looking for a more comprehensive historic view of Queenstown? The Galley Museum, inside the Imperial Hotel (built in 1897) is happy to oblige. It features personal effects, mining artefacts and more than 1000 historical photographs.
Queenstown on the move
If you fancy a leisurely wander, grab The Walkabout Queenstown brochure and visit 25 buildings of historical significance as you familiarise yourself with the town. Keep an eye out for the Post Office Tower and the old Victorian hotels.
For those inclined towards something a little steeper, Queenstown also acts as a base camp for hikers eager to explore the surrounding mountains.
Take a hike up to Gormie Hill and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views from Iron Blow Lookout. If travelling while sitting is more your speed, train enthusiasts will likely love the railway museum that’s part of the West Coast Wilderness Railway.
When you’ve finished browsing locomotive history, take a ride on the 35km track between Queenstown and Strahan, which steams through the heart of wild rainforest. Hang on during certain sharper stretches of the track: they’re the steepest you’ll find anywhere in the world for steam-operated trains!
And visit at just the right time to immerse yourself in The Unconformity Arts Festival (the next one is in 2020). This biennial contemporary event explores Queenstown’s unique mix of geology, culture and ecology.
Nearby natural wonders
Take a cruisy 15-minute drive east to discover the 54km2 Lake Burbury. This World Heritage Wilderness Area was originally built for hydro-electricity production in the early 1990s.
The idyllic area has barbecue, picnic and boat launching facilities. Fishing fans will be tempted to try their hand at catching Tasmanian wild trout.
To continue the water theme, pay a visit to King River Rafting. If you don’t mind getting wet, you can experience a fantastic floating perspective of the west coast wilderness. You’ll float, paddle and steer through a stunning gorge and past a wild rainforest. Keep an eye out for pioneer relics along the way.
For a mix of mining history and world heritage, book a tour with RoamWild Tasmania, which offers a range of bespoke adventures that cover underground mines, high wildernesses and prehistoric rainforests.
* Connecting Australia Bright Futures: Laying the foundations for the workforce of tomorrow, page 9
† Connecting Australia, Changing the way we work: an economic study into how we work, live and connect, page 10
** Connecting Australia, Changing the way we work: an economic study into how we work, live and connect, page 15
^ Connecting Australia, Changing the way we work: an economic study into how we work, live and connect, page 13