Roaming Down Under

Cruising the Pieman River wilderness

A charming boat journey on a pristine river through Tasmania's Tarkine rainforest

If you want to cruise up wilderness rivers in Tasmania, the Gordon River cruises from Strahan are an obvious choice. But if you want a more low key and crowd-free journey to see wilderness that's more pristine and isolated, then I can heartily recommend the Pieman River.

Mist on the Pieman River, Tasmania, Australia

Mist on the Pieman River

I visited the Pieman on a winter campervan trip in Tasmania. The cruise begins from the very tiny settlement of Corinna, on the edge of the Tarkine wilderness. Either of the two access roads involve a slow detour, which largely accounts for the vastly smaller number of visitors than the more famous river cruises at Strahan.

Once at Corinna, the rest of the world seems a long way away. Finding the boat, and where to get tickets, is easy because the place is so small. When I visited there were a grand total of eight passengers; a minimum of four is needed, and around thirty is about as crowded as it gets. The crew consists of a husband and wife team who make their small group of passengers feel very welcome.

My first impression of the Pieman River was amazement at how perfectly still it was. Reflections were mirror perfect, and remained that way for the whole of the three days I ended up staying in Corinna. It almost seemed a shame to spoil the perfect calm by driving a boat down it - but on the other hand the river looked so gorgeous it's exploration was irresistible.

Perfect reflections on the Pieman River, Tasmania

A boat with character: the Arcadia II on the Pieman River, Tasmania

A boat with character: the Arcadia II

The boat is classy too. Crafted from huon pine in 1939, the impeccably maintained Arcadia II has character. Chugging along on a piece of history, down a spectacular wilderness river in magnificent rainforest, is a pleasurable way to spend a few hours.

The commentary is well informed but not intrusive, and reveals Norm and Lorraine's great knowledge and love of the area. With morning tea, and occasional pauses to spot hawks and sea eagles, it was among the most enjoyable boat journeys I've been on. And I've been on a few.

As the river mouth draws near, the river widens a little and becomes less smooth. The smell of the sea marks the boat's arrival at a small jetty close to where the Pieman flows into the Southern Ocean. It is here that everyone can get off and stretch the legs with a short walk to the beach.

The walk isn't compulsory, but is recommended if you don't mind walking on wet sand and crossing a couple of shallow streams which cross the riverside sand. Upon leaving the boat you pass by a small community of quirky fishing shacks - a great example of the still-thriving "shack culture" which sets Tasmania apart from other states.

Driftwood on a large scale at the mouth of the Pieman River, Tasmania

Driftwood on steroids, at the river mouth

About 15 or 20 minutes walk from the boat brings you to the beach ... isolated, windswept, and on most days pummelled by some serious surf. It provides stark contrast to the placid river you've just travelled down, and the amount of driftwood can be quite amazing.

The return leg of the journey is a good time to eat lunch; you can bring your own, or one can be provided if you pay for it when booking. I took the easy option, and enjoyed the healthy munch while watching the enchanting forest pass peacefully by. Although the scenery is the same, it can look different going the other way, later in the day, with maybe slightly different light and weather.

After such a delightful cruise, I was glad not to be driving back to civilisation straight away. Accommodation in Corinna is very limited, but if you can manage it, lingering in this tranquil forest hideaway complements the beauty of the cruise. The Pieman River is very special, and deserves to be savoured.

Cruising up the Pieman River on the Arcadia II, Tasmania

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Pieman River Cruise