Sleepy holiday and fishing village at the 'edge of the world'.
Arthur River is Tasmania's westernmost settlement. It is a town known for its fishing and, when the winds are up (which they are most of the time), for its huge waves and icy isolation. The major attractions around the town include walks along the coastline, important Aboriginal carvings at Mt Cameron West and Sundown Point, and cruises along the beautiful reaches of the Arthur River.
Arthur River, Tasmania's westernmost town, is located 471 km north-west of Hobart via the Midland and Bass Highway and 292 km west of Launceston.^ TOP
Origin of Name
The river was first sighted by Europeans when an expedition led by Henry Hellyer, on 19 February, 1827, "came down through a thick forest to the bend of a large deep rapid river ... I have taken the liberty of styling this large river the Arthur, in compliment to His Excellency the present Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land, it being one of the principal rivers of the island".^ TOP
Things to See and Do
Cruises at Arthur River
Arthur River offers two cruises. The family owned Arthur River Cruises on the M.V. George Robinson leave Arthur River at 10.00 am, travels upstream for 70 minutes past banks densely forested with myrtles, sassafras, celery-top pine, laurels, blackwoods, and giant tree ferns. It includes lunch and a walk in the riverside rainforest and returns to Arthur River by 3.00 pm. The tours can be booked 0427 885 792. Check out the website http://www.arthurrivercruises.com.au or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. They were the first cruise operators in an area which, up until the 1950s, was so isolated that to cross the Arthur River there was a hand operated cable-drawn punt. The hand operation was replaced by a diesel motor and then, in 1968, a single track bridge was built across the river. The other cruise operator is Arthur River Reflections, tel: (03) 6457 1288 or check out http://www.arthurriver.com.au.
Gardiner Point, which lies to the south of Arthur River, has called itself The Edge of the World because, apart from its isolation, it is further south than Cape Agulus (the southernmost point of Africa) and therefore the waves breaking on the shore have come uninterrupted all the way across the Great Southern Ocean from Argentina. There is a plaque with a suitable poem on the headland. The view up and down the coast is low, but impressive.
Other Attractions in the Area
The Aboriginal sites in the area are of major importance. The site at Sundown Point, about 8 km south of the mouth of the Arthur River, has been recorded in the National Register as "Engravings on 40 separate rock slabs of laminated mudstone...many have clearly defined motifs...The designs comprise circles, including concentric and overlapping circles, grooves or lines of pits sometimes running just inside a rock slab's periphery, crosses and other linear motifs ... Engraving sites are very rare in Tasmania, and at least one panel shows the same complexity as found at Mt Cameron West, further up the coast." There is a website which provides detailed information on Sundown Point. It notes: "Similar art has since been found on rocks at Sundown Point Reserve, eight kilometres south of the mouth of the Arthur River. The engravings here have been carved into 40 separate slabs of laminated mudstone. The engravings range for distinct geometric motifs such a concentric and overlapping circles, straight lines and crosses, to shallow peck marks indicating the carving had not been finished. Unusual designs not seen at the Mount Cameron West site are visible on a number of rock faces." Check out http://www.australiaforeveryone.com.au/aborsites_tas.htm. It also has detailed information on Preminghana. Before visiting make sure to stop at Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, Park Office, Arthur River and get directions.
Mount Cameron West - now known as Preminghana
Mount Cameron West is one of the most important Aboriginal art sites in Tasmania. An area of 524 ha was declared an Indigenous Protected Area in 1999 and is now managed by the Tasmanian Aboriginal Land and Sea Council. Bordering the Indian Ocean, its most prominent feature is Mt Cameron West, a basalt plug which rises 168 metres above the coastal plain. The area consists of manuka thicket, tea-tree swamps, eucalyptus woodlands, poa and sedges with coast wattle and honeysuckle. Discovered in 1933 by a Devonport school teacher, A L Meston, Preminghana's engravings are recognised as the finest example of Tasmanian Aboriginal art and one of the finest displays of hunter/gatherer art in the world. Located at the northern end of a beach about 3 km from Mt Cameron West the slabs of rock in the area have been totally covered with motifs and look like pieces of sculptured rock. It is thought the site may be 2,000 years old.
The Heritage of Australia describes the site: "The motifs themselves consist of a variety of geometric or non-figurative forms, such as circles, trellises, rows of dots etc. Many of the circles are parts of composite designs, with their interior spaces occupied by crosses, parallel lines or other circles. On a nearby site there were depicted the tracks of a large bird such as an emu. These motifs have been made by punching or grinding a series of holes into the surface of the calcerenite and then abrading the ridges between them so as to form deep incised lines. A few large pointed core tools of hard quartzite and basalt were found in the excavations and these might have been the chisels of the prehistoric sculptors." There is a particularly good overview of this Aboriginal art at https://tasmanianartsguide.com.au/artists/aboriginal-artists.
Unfortunately it is not possible to see the carvings. The brochure, which is available at the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, Park Office, Arthur River, points out "You can only uncover the secrets of Preminghana's magnificent rock carvings in the pages of old books. The soft sandstone carvings erode quickly now that there is no-one to keep them incised. Added to that is the modern risk of vandalism by people who don't understand what they are destroying, and theft by people for sale to unprincipled collectors. For their own protection, the carvings have been deliberately buried deep in the sand."^ TOP
* Prior to European settlement the coastal region around Arthur River was occupied by members of the Peerapper Aboriginal language group they called the river "Tunganrick".
* In 1827 Henry Hellyer, a surveyor for the Van Diemen's Land Company, reached the river and named it after Lieutenant Governor Arthur.
* In the 1800s Aboriginal people were forcibly moved from the lands around Arthur River.
* The Arthur River Ferry Post Office was opened in 1910.
* The last Tasmanian tiger was captured near Arthur River in the 1920s.
* In 1933 Europeans first sighted the Preminghana engravings at Mount Cameron West.
* In 1968 a single track bridge was built over the Arthur River at the tiny settlement of Arthur River.
* The Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area was officially reserved in 1982.^ TOP
There is an outstanding visitor information centre a few kilometres north of Arthur River which can provide detailed maps and advice as to how to get to the Aboriginal art sites. Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, Park Office, Arthur River , tel: (03) 6457 1225.^ TOP
There are two small stores at Arthur River. They supply basic grocery items and hot takeaway food.^ TOP
The official local website is https://www.discovertasmania.com.au/about/regions-of-tasmania/north-west/arthur-river.^ TOP