This historic West Coast town is a living history of railways, mining and determination, set in a strange lunar landscape of bare hills.
Queenstown, the largest town on Tasmania’s West Coast, is the home of the Mt Lyell Mining & Railway Company and is best known for its copper mines and smelters. The town was once the richest mining town in the world and today offers a living history of railways and the pioneering spirit.
Evidence of the town’s mining history is all around. The large copper smelters, fuelled by the surrounding forests, polluted the area and left the landscape sparse, though the vegetation is now slowing regrowing.
The best vantage points to see the devastation are on the Queenstown-Hobart road as it winds down into the valley and from the popular lookout known as Spion Kop in the centre of town – follow the signs on Hunter Street.
Queenstown was once home to 14 hotels; the Empire, in Orr Street, is one of the finest still standing. Completed in 1901, it has a beautiful handmade blackwood staircase.
In contrast to the scarred hills, are nearby wilderness walks through beautiful, wildlife-inhabited forest to disused tramlines and mineshafts, lookouts and waterfalls including Tasmania’s highest, Montezuma Falls.
Queenstown is also the departure point for the West Coast Wilderness Railway, one of the world’s great railway journeys.
There’s also excellent trout fishing in the surrounding lakes.
Queenstown is a 3 hr 40-min drive (260 km) from Hobart.