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Queenstown – Gateway to the West

An eerily rugged and dramatic landscape

Red raw hills resemble a moonscape

Queenstown is the largest town on Tasmania's west coast and its most dramatic. Nestled in Queen River Valley on the western slopes of Mount Owen, you can’t ignore the barren, scarred mountains on the drive into town. In the early 1900s, Queenstown was the world’s richest mining town, its hills covered in thick forest. Copper mining, logging and sulphur dioxide from a smelter stripped the mountains bare creating an environment, likened to a moonscape.

Just out of town is Iron Blow Lookout with surreal views over the former open-cut copper mine, now filled with emerald-coloured water. The town itself has many attractions and it’s worth a walk up the main street, past restored buildings, and closed hotels, imagining how they were once frequented by thousands of copper miners. The Galley Museum in the 1897 Imperial Hotel houses an extensive exhibition of the challenges faced by the west coasters.

Drive through this dramatic landscape on a Tasmanian tour

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Physical rating:
3 - Active/Moderate
Tour duration icon
Tour duration:
11
days

Treat yourself this Christmas with the awe-inspiring sights and tastes of Tasmania with 11 days discovering Port Arthur Penal Settlement, Tasman Arch, Derwent Valley, Eaglehawk Neck, Bruny Island and more. We celebrate Christmas in Hobart with a long sumptuous lunch and spend New Years Eve in Launceston. You’ll be tempted by heritage, culture, taste sensations and glorious natural scenery whilst also visiting Cradle Mountain, Strahan and Launceston.

Physical rating icon
Physical rating:
3 - Active/Moderate
Tour duration icon
Tour duration:
11
days

See the icons of the Apple Isle on this in-depth tour of Tasmania. Fly into Hobart for 2-nights and explore the Port Arthur Historic Site. Enjoy an epic Gordon River Cruise travelling to Strahan and Queenstown. Enjoy a train journey on the West Coast Wilderness Railway line before arriving into Tullah. Take in all the sights of Wine Glass Bay with an aerial view whilst exploring the Freycinet Peninsula before heading back to Hobart.

What to do in Queenstown

Queenstown’s colonial history is filled with stories of hardship, endurance, sacrifice, and survival. Even today, it takes a certain type of person to live in this stark environment. 

None are tougher than the local Australian Rules football team, the Queenstown Crows who play on a unique gravel oval dating back to the 1800s. Known locally as The Gravel or The Rec, players frequently suffer injuries from the hard surface, most commonly gravel rash!

While in town, call into the 1901 Empire Hotel and climb the magnificent Tasmanian Blackwood staircase. The hotel provided accommodation for the wealthy mining magnates who came to town and is a reminder of Queenstown’s affluent past.

The Mt Lyell Underground Mine Tour gives visitors a rare opportunity to tour a working mine and venture six kilometres underground. Not so scary is a trip up to the Spion Kop lookout to take in amazing views over Queenstown.

An eerily rugged and dramatic landscape
An eerily rugged and dramatic landscape

Take a steam train adventure from Queenstown

One of the best day trips from Queenstown is aboard the West Coast Wilderness Railway. This historic train journey takes passengers through the rainforest and mountains of Tasmania’s rugged west coast. Relax in 20th-century comfort on a beautifully restored steam train, travelling the same line is has for over 200 years.

The railway line stretches 35 kilometres from Queenstown through dense rainforest wilderness, past deep gorges, arriving to breathtaking harbour views in the historic town of Strahan

West Coast Wilderness Railway tours offer guests a true taste of Tasmania’s west coast history. Building a rail line from Queenstown to Strahan was an incredible feat of engineering in the 1890s. Using only picks and shovels, the lines were carved through some of Tasmania’s most formidable mountain terrain to enable Queenstown’s copper riches to reach the port of Strahan. Onboard commentary tells stories of the challenges faced by the west coast pioneers.

Frequently asked questions

How far is Queenstown Tasmania from the nearest major city?

Located at the western edge of Tasmania's World Heritage Wilderness Area, Queenstown is 197 kilometres from Devonport, around two and a half hours drive. Launceston is 245 kilometres to the east, about a three-hour drive. To reach Hobart, 260 kilometres away takes three and a half hours.

What’s the population of Queenstown in Tasmania?

Queenstown had a population of 1,808 in the 2021 census. At its mining era peak, the population swelled to approximately 8,000 people. 

Why do people visit Queenstown?

Tourists from all over the world visit Queenstown to take in the eerie landscape of its hills and mountains. Its rugged nature also attracts hikers and mountain bikers who come to explore its red raw peaks and paths. Visitors also enjoy the many day trips from Queenstown.

What is the drive into Queenstown like?

One of the best parts of visiting Queenstown is the drive into town. The curvy, winding road takes 90 turns as it carves its way through the impressive bare mountains giving a real sense of the enormity of the environmental damage done so many years ago. There is no other landscape like it on earth and although man-made, the mountains have an ethereal beauty.

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