Start - End of Arve Rd
Length - 4.9km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, Metal Walkway
Dog Friendly - Yes
Vertical Climb - 39m
Time - 2-3 hours
Signed - Yes, Combines Several Tracks
Cost - Entry Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 26th October 2018
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Located 90 minutes from Hobart, take the A6 south from the city centre until you reach Geeveston. Take a right onto Arve Rd and follow the signs all the way through the forest to the car park.
Update - Tahune has recently been devastated by the fires of January 2019 including structural damage to the Airwalk. Please visit the Tahune Adventures website for more details.
The Hike - After a morning visit to Snug Falls already under our belts the journey continued on to Tahune for a stroll on Tasmania's answer to the Valley of the Giants Tree Top Walk. Previously owned by Sustainable Timber Tasmania and now under private ownership, there are a number of activities to enjoy here including the Airwalk, a Hang Glider experience, rafting and a couple of walks. Arriving around lunchtime it was decided we would enjoy lunch at the cafe first before embarking on our exploration of the walks and the Airwalk. The cafe offers a good range of food and there is a gift shop that has a variety of touristy items you would expect from such an establishment.
Huon Pine Walk
There are three walks you can do in the area with the short but sweet Huon Pines Walk, the Tahune Airwalk and the Swinging Bridges Walk. It is very easy to combine them all into one big loop that is a tick under 5km so that is what I did. First on the agenda was the Huon Pine Walk, a little loop taking in the temperate rainforest located next to the Huon River. We crossed the solid concrete bridge over the Huon River and made our way to the start of the loop. This section is mainly boardwalk to protect the vegetation and there is a stark difference in scenery once you enter the forest. Home to several outstanding specimens of Huon Pine, this is one of the only places you can get up close to these long living and rare (for their size) trees.
Unfortunately most of the large Huon Pines were logged over the past two centuries as the wood has some amazing properties that make it great for shipbuilding and furntiture. As one of the oldest living tree species in the world (some examples can be up to 3000 years old) they certainly are magnificent to behold up close when you have that in the back of your mind. With plenty of cool ferns, moss and large stringybarks to enjoy along with one of my favourite trees in Tasmania (mainly for the name), the sassaphrass, this section is one of many highlights of the area. As you loop back around to the starting point you get views of the river through the trees and there is a spot where you can wander down and get a closer look. A huge double stringybark provides a cool feature point as you finish the walk and pop back out into the open. While only a very short walk I thoroughly enjoyed being immersed in the dense temperate rainforest and seeing some mature Huon Pines up close so if you are visiting Tahune make sure you don't skip this one.
With the nice introductory walk over it was time to experience the main event and the reason most people flock here, the Airwalk. Having owned a pair of Airwalks in the 90s, this was going to be a different experience although still involving some walking. The entry to the Airwalk can be found opposite the road from the Huon Pine Walk and is up the stairs. Although everyone was keen to get to the start, there was some cool old stringybarks along the path that you just had to stop and admire because of the sheer size of them. Eventually though we made it to the entry and began our passage through the canopy of the forest along metal walkways.
Similar to the Tree Top Walk in Walpole, Western Australia, a series of large metal platforms are linked by a walkway as it ascends higher and higher into the canopy so you can truly appreciate the scale of these ancient forests. Tahune has gone one step further with a cantilevered walkway extending out from one of the platforms providing some breathtaking views of the Huon River below and Pear Hill/Mount Riveaux in the distance. Before you get to that point there is a wishing tree below where you can flick coins onto. The sawn off tree is a short distance below the platform but it's still a challenge to land a coin on the surface available. Some people had managed this feat but if you miss you can consolidate yourself that the coins that fall to the floor go to charity.
The real delight though is up a little further with the cantilevered lookout. Luckily we had good weather when we visited with minimal wind and a good sprinkling of clouds in the sky. We let Elizabeth (aka Lizard Breath) and Kellie go first and after they had enjoyed it we ventured out to take our photos and soak in the views. I have to say that the experience was everything I had hoped it would be after reading about it before coming to Tasmania. It's one view I'm not going to forget any time soon and was a different experience to be thrust out from the forest and over the river. With a few people waiting their turn we headed back and finished the rest of the Airwalk before locating the signs for the Swinging Bridges Loop.
Swinging Bridges Loop
With the Airwalk completed it was time for some relaxation with our feet firmly planted on terra firma. Our finishing walk for the day was to leave the Airwalk and stroll along the two rivers in the area, the Huon and Picton, crossing both via two different swing bridges. This more easy-going experience initially has you walking through the forest lining the Huon River as it takes you to the first bridge. We were in no rush so was enjoying the quality of the forest with plenty of large specimens, moss, ferns and a thick undergrowth to admire. It was here that we saw a young family crouched on the side of the trail looking at something. I immediately caught sight of the echidna that was just off the track and was excited to see another one in the wild after my Organ Pipes sighting.
Rounding the corner behind me Caris saw what it was and let out a very loud and excited series of words exclaiming to me that there was an echidna there (she doesn't have an indoor voice). I know it was because she was super excited for me and she didn't mean to scare it off but the echidna soon exited stage left with a bit of paste into the undergrowth (hence the blurry photo). Never mind though, can't complain with two echidnas in two hikes (I am now the echidna whisperer) and a couple of swing bridges to come this had turned into a pretty good day. Making our way to the first of the swing bridge saw us pass a lot of cool scenes as you got into some really dense undergrowth. After some enjoyable walking we reached the first swing bridge (this one over the Huon River) and made our way over to where the two rivers meet. I love suspension bridges but understood that not everyone enjoys the bouncing so behaved myself until everyone was over to the other side (Lizard Breath had some fun with me bouncing up and down).
Given it was late spring the water levels were quite low so the majority of the river was the exposed rocks of the riverbed. Feeling more like something out of the Colorado Rockies (don't ask me why) than Tasmania, this was a cool highlight of the walk. As the bridges are pretty much one after another, there is a small section of ground you can explore where the two rivers collide. A path to the end platform provides a cool viewing area of this spectacle and also if you squint really hard, you can see the Airwalk cantilever as it stretches out over the river. Doubling back it was time to tackle the bridge over the smaller Picton River. Still a fun experience with more water rushing below your feet and views up and down the river. The final stretch of walking was a 4x4 track back to the concrete bridge with a couple of cool little side trips to keep it interesting.
The first is the ruins of a house once lived in by a police constable and former convict whose job it was to walk the trails in the area and check logging licences (back when clear felling wasn't an option). A clear panel with the house etched into it provides a view of what it would have looked like in the landscape. The second side trip was to Havaganda Beach, a short little trail down to the Huon River where you can view the Airwalk on the other side along with a closer look of the cantilever. It was nice to appreciate the engineering from another angle and also see how it blends into the forest. With a short hop and a skip we were at the bridge having passed the inflatable rafts used for one of the other experiences. I was going to go on the hang glider but given it had been a long day for Lizard Breath and not really feeling like it, I decided to skip it (perhaps on another visit). As we exited through the gift shop I treated myself to a metal echidna pin to mark the occasion of spotting one in the wild.
Final Thoughts - While some avid hikers may shy away from such a touristy spot, having a decent length walk (if you combine all the trails together) means this is a fantastic day hike option. Sure you have to pay for the experience but how often do you get to walk high in the canopy of pristine forest?
While the Airwalk was undoubtedly the highlight (those views), there is so much to enjoy here. Even without doing the rafting and hang glider this was a fantastic experience.
I know they don't need help with their marketing given this is a common appearance on lists of things to do in Southern Tasmania but it really is worth travelling out for.
Bring the kids, the relatives and the dog (on lead only) and drive out into the forest for a day of fun, trails, trees, views and bridges.
Get out there and experience it!
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