Pieman Heads

Where: Granville Harbour to Pieman Heads loop track, West Coast of Tasmania
Permits: None.
Costs: None. Free camping at Granville Harbour
Difficulty: Anywhere between ‘okay’ and extremely hard depending on tides, weather and the planets aligning. Talk to the locals first and they’ll let you know of any problems.
Days required to do it justice: 1 day for the track, many days for superb beachside camping

If I’m honest we were more than a little hesitant about tackling this track at all. A week or so beforehand we’d seen a wild and woolly 4WD Action DVD from the area which featured boggings, broken axles, driving rain and cars driving on the edge of rather big waves. Then we read the warning in a Tasmanian tourist brochure suggesting that ‘this trip is potentially vehicle damaging. There is even the risk of vehicle loss due to quick sand on Four Mile Beach.‘ The track begins at the small seaside town of Granville Harbour so we decided to at least head there and then decide if this track really was as mental as we suspected.

Pieman Head's track. To do or not to do? One of the bogholes from the first kilometre

Pieman Head’s track. To do or not to do? One of the bogholes from the first kilometre

Granville Harbour is home to a handful of ramshackle holiday shacks overlooking a rugged and stunning coastline. Free camping spots are available from 2kms north of the town and onwards up the coast as far as you are game to go. I would rate this as one of the best places we have camped in the whole of Australia and a great place to leave the trailer before carrying on driving. The track itself, starting from the town, is rugged (but manageable) even from the start, featuring sand dunes and small bog holes within the first few minutes. It then runs for 23 kilometres up to the coastal community of Pieman Heads, allegedly named after a convict from Hobart who made pies. Pieman’s is only accessible via this road or by boat up the Pieman River and has a fascinating history as a hub for gold prospectors and logging boats from as far back as the 1870’s. The ‘Heads’ themselves at the mouth of the river are wild seas where many lives were lost in trying to negotiate the river entrance by boat.

Great camping at Granville

Great camping at Granville

The first locals we met before we even found our campsite offered to escort us up the first sections of track to make sure we didn’t get bogged with the trailer. The second locals we met encouraged us to make the trip to Pieman’s as all the warnings were overrated for this time of year and the third locals we met were former tour operators who assured us we’d be absolutely fine. It was game on. After setting up the trailer we meandered through narrow sandy tracks down to Four Mile Beach, site of the potential quicksand. The beach is flanked by large clear white sand dunes and with the tide out there is a wide area of sand to drive along without being close to the sea. We checked water levels of the rivers we had to cross on our way and scooted along the beach with little problem, stopping part way through to say hello to a seal.

Four Mile Beach

Four Mile Beach

Once off the beach there are two track options to take. The ‘main track’ is signed to the right (also called the Inland Track) but we had been warned of ‘bottomless bog holes’ on that one and were encouraged to take the left hand coastal track. This track passes through wild and rugged coastline which reminded me of Scotland! There are isolated little beaches, conical rock formations and the occasional lonely shack along the way. We stopped to say hello to yet more seals and poke around in small rock holes. Pieman Heads comes into view after 22 kilometres and the wild ocean can be seen meeting the glass-calm Pieman River. The final run is a kilometre along the beach passed stacks of logs which have been washed up during big tides. There are around 30 shacks in Pieman’s used mainly by locals on holidays. Each shack is surrounded by a gamut of rusty old vehicles – one we met on the track apparently had no brakes as the occupants glided off down the hill as we stopped to chat.

The Gum Tree

The Gum Tree

We must have been brimming with four wheel drive confidence at this point and took the bold decision to take the ‘inland’ track back towards Four Mile Beach. Bottomless bogs? Nah, we can cope. Finding the way to the start of that track proved a little challenging in amongst a mass of muddy tracks and we had to stop a local to find the way. He looked suspiciously at the car, mumbled something about ground clearance and warned us not to get lost on the myriad of tracks we’d find up there. We showed him our HEMA maps and he looked at us like we were stupid city folks and off we went.

Looking for the Inland Track

Looking for the Inland Track

In short, the inland track was a fun piece of 4WD-ing. It wasn’t easy but it wasn’t terrifying and we were sure to avoid anything that looked bottomless and anything that looked like someone had got bogged there recently. The  HEMA maps marked track is dead-on the required route so we didn’t veer off track at all. It was a great return route to do to get a good look at the classic Tasmanian buttongrass plains and the vast and inhospitable moorlands. We also saw a Blue Tongue Lizard and a venomous Tiger Snake.

Bit of a bog

Bit of a bog

The final part of the journey took us back along the Four Mile Beach to wave farewell to the seal who was now rolling around happily in a small pile of sand and back along the sandy tracks to camp. Check out the rest of our pics…

 

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