Queenstown, the largest town on Tasmania’s west coast, essentially owes its existence to mining. Minerals and gold were discovered in the area in the 1880s and the town grew rapidly. Trees growing on the surrounding hills were cut down to fuel smelters and then the topsoil was washed away by the area's heavy rainfall, leaving the bare, coloured rocks and odd, lunar landscape we see today.
Today, Queenstown still has something of the air of a frontier town. It is a classified historic town, and there is a heritage walk that takes in the town's most significant historic buildings. The Galley Museum is housed in the Imperial Hotel, Queenstown's first brick-built hotel. It houses over 800 photographs portraying the development of the west coast.
The mine still functions and tours are available. There is a surface tour that takes about 1 hour, and an underground tour lasting about 3.5 hours. Bookings are advised in the summer months.
There is a chairlift over the hills so visitors can see the eroded landscape close up. The old mining railway has been restored and reopened as the Wilderness Railway in 2001. It uses a rare third-rail-rack-and-pinion system invented by Swiss engineer, Dr Roman Abt in the 1880s to negotiate the steep grades. The train takes you alongside rivers, across 40 bridges and down the rugged and beautiful mountain range to Strahan.
Things to do:
Tasmanian Visitor Information Centre - Duffield Street
Galley Museum - over 800 historic photographs of the west coast.
Mine tours - surface or underground
Wilderness Railway - scenic rack-and-pinion railway to Strahan
Photo courtesy of Tourism Tasmania