The Rugged Shack Community of Trial Harbour


« Van Life - Jan-15-2018

You don’t have to travel far in Tasmania to find yourself in the wilderness. Even more so on the West Coast with its roads and historic mining towns carved out of the commanding forest. Take a wrong turn in a small town and you will find yourself once again surrounded by ferns and plants reclaiming what was once taken from them.

The coast is wet with some parts receiving over 2000 mm of rain a year. But that doesn’t stop the locals and tourists alike from enjoying it.

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Where is it?
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Other places we have visited

The small community of Trial Harbour is 20 km from Zeehan on a mostly gravel road. The town is formed by 45 tightly packed shacks and not much more. As you make your way out of the forest through the button grass plains and down the windy road the rugged coast comes into view. It’s hard not to imagine that you have reached the end of the earth. Although the 4x4s continuing on the many tracks that run along the coastline may beg to differ.

Note: Many a bus and caravan have gotten stuck on the tight corners entering the town.

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From Port town to Shack town

In the late 1800s the town was a thriving port with two hotels, general store, shops, and even a police station. Before the end of the century two bushfires and advancements in the rail system between Zeehan and Strahan saw it become a ghost town. To say these towns are isolated doesn’t even start to convey the sentiment. Back then the only way in was by sea.

In the 1900’s the region was opened up to larger scale mining, holiday makers, and tourism with the construction of roads. This saw Trial Harbour and many other towns become the shack communities we know today. Though its past will never be forgotten with Shirley, one of the handful of permanent residents maintaining a history room providing a wealth of information on the area – she may even tell you the secret of the walrus rock on the road in.

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Staying at Trial Harbour

At the Northern end of town is a small camping area with long drop toilets. There are about 12 camp sites at a stretch and trust me when I say it is one of the most spectacular places to camp in Australia. Pets under control are welcome. For the less adventurous you may be able to call a shack your own for a night or two through AirBnB.

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We were content with our van home looking out over the ocean. The wind here is not for the faint hearted. The residents take it in their stride with roofs blowing off and window breakages not an uncommon occurrence. The seas can reach 10-15 metres and at times waves crash up over the road. This is what makes this place so amazing. On calmer days (is it ever calm on the West Coast?) the beach and rocks are perfect for exploring and an afternoon of sea mist makes for a sound sleep as you are rocked to sleep by the wind.

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We woke up content. I was happy that I had the chance to return to one of my favourite places in Tasmania and also got to introduce Willow to it for the first time. I forgot to record our drive in so I attached my camera to the rear of the van to bring you this video of us doing a quick tour of the town before heading back out to Zeehan.

Goodbye Trial Harbour!

Have you got one of Willow's souvenir tags yet? Check them out now! Put it on your keys, put it on your collar, or give it to a friend!

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