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Corinna, TAS

Tiny wilderness settlement on the Pieman River

Corinna is the point where most people cross the Pieman River. Consequently it is a car parking area, the Corinna Wilderness Experience, the Tarkine Hotel and the Tannin Restaurant. It is located approximately 18 km from the mouth of the Pieman River and is surrounded by some of the most dense temperate rainforest anywhere in Australia. The road to Corinna, much of which is good quality gravel, runs from Arthur River in the north to Zeehan in the south. The road does not pass near the coast but rather traverses the rainforest. The tiny township is located on the edge of the famous Tarkine Rainforest (the largest temperate rainforest in Australia) and is reputedly the northernmost point where the Huon pine grows.

Location

Corinna is located 346 km north-west of Hobart via Queenstown and Zeehan. It is 93 km north of Strahan and 194 km south of Stanley.

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Origin of Name

Corinna is reputedly derived from the Peerapper word for a young Tasmanian tiger.  There is another explanation that it was part of an Aboriginal word for the Pieman River. The word was "royenrine" which somehow was corrupted to 'Corinna".

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Things to See and Do

Activities in the Area
This is an area of dense rainforest with a wide and beautiful river. People who come to the area are looking for activities such as kayaking and fishing on the river; birdwatching; bushwalking and travelling on cruises on the Pieman.

Cruises on the Pieman River
There are three noted river cruises on the Tasmanian west coast - the one at Arthur River, the Gordon River cruise which leaves from Strahan and this small, intimate and fascinating cruise which leaves Corinna and travels to the mouth of the Pieman River. Named the Pieman River Cruise it journeys in the Arcadia II, a huon pine vessel built in 1939. It was a cruise vessel on Macquarie Harbour from 1961 until it moved to the Pieman River in 1970. It is reputedly the only huon pine river cruiser in operation anywhere in the world. The cruise is a unique opportunity to see the heads of the Pieman River, to admire the fauna and flora of the area and to experience a rare pristine part of Tasmania's West Coast rainforest. The Flora and Fauna part of the Corinna website - http://www.corinna.com.au/flora-and-fauna/ - has detailed lists of the fauna and flora you can expect to see on the cruise.

Crossing the Pieman
Given that the point of crossing is 130 metres wide and 20 metres deep, the "Fatman" barge is the local crossing method. Check out http://www.corinna.com.au/barge-access-and-times/ for costs and times.

How Did The Pieman River Get Its Name
There is an argument, with some small level of plausibility, that the Pieman River is named after a pastrycook, Thomas Kent of Southhampton, who was transported to Van Diemen’s Land in 1816 and nicknamed “The Pieman”. The more plausible explanation is that it was named after Alexander Pearce, a convict who because of his repeated cannibalism, became known as "The Pieman".

Pearce was born in County Monaghan in Ireland in about 1790. He was a small, pockmarked man who was transported to Hobart Town in 1820. His crime: he had stolen six pairs of shoes. His punishment: seven years in Van Diemen’s Land. Two years after his arrival Pearce was found to have forged a money order. In June, 1822 he was sent to Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour to serve out the remainder of his sentence. By September of that year he had managed to escape with seven other convicts. Their plan was to cross the island and escape to China.They got hopelessly lost, ran out of food and took the easy option: they started eating each other. The first victim was Thomas Bodenham who was killed by an axe to the head, chopped up “into equal parts which we took and proceeded on our journey a little after sunrise”, Pearce later reported. Slowly they killed each other off until only Pearce and a convict named Robert Greenhill were left. While Greenhill was alive, Pearce “gave him a severe blow on the head which deprived him of life” and promptly cut him up. Pearce was eventually caught. He admitted to cannibalism but the authorities didn’t believe him. He was sent back to Sarah Island where, a few months later, he escaped with another convict, Thomas Cox.  Once again Pearce found himself without food and, to solve the problem, he killed and ate Cox. When he was finally recaptured near the King River, Pearce admitted to eating Cox. There was no argument this time because when he was captured Pearce still had bits of Cox's hands and fingers in his pockets. He was subsequently executed in Hobart on 19 July, 1824.  As you cross, or cruise down, the Pieman, think of Alexander Pearce. A unique footnote to Australian history.

Historic Graves Track
Located on the southern side of the river just beyond the ferry/barge is a boardwalk that leads to the graves of two local publicans - Thomas Davis and Gameliel Webster. The original headstones were carved out of huon pine but they have been removed and are on display in the Queen Victoria Museum in Launceston. They have been replaced by replicas.

Walks in the Area
There is an excellent map of the main walks in the area which is available on the Corinna Wilderness Resort site. It is detailed and downloadable. Check out http://corinna.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Corinna-Walking-Map.pdf.
Whyte River Walk
The most popular walk in the area is the Whyte River Walk, a track that leads away from the township and which has boardwalks at strategic places. The walk is easy, takes between 70-90 minutes and is an ideal introduction to the rainforest ecosystem.

Huon Pine Walk
One of the truly memorable moments in Australian environmental history is a young Dr Bob Brown standing next to a modest huon pine and pointing out that it had been growing in that place on Tasmania's west coast from before the time of the birth of Christ. The huon pine is a remarkable, fine grained, slow growing tree and this short 20 minute walk is an ideal introduction. It has interpretative signs along the way.

Walk to Savage River
This is a 3 km trek which passes through rainforest between Corinna and the Savage River. On the way walkers pass huge myrtle beech trees, huon pines and have excellent views from the ridge above the Pieman River. The walk reaches the location where the SS Croydon was sunk. The wreck can still be seen. The total walk takes about three hours.

Mount Donaldson Walk
The Mount Donaldson walk starts at the Savage River bridge and ascends along a button grass ridge to the summit where there are panoramic views of the Pieman River, the rainforest, the Tarkine wilderness and the Southern Ocean. The walk takes around 4 hours.

Longback
You will need to drive for 11.5 km north on the Western Explorer Road until you reach signposts indicating the walk. It is only 30 minutes, is easy and is an ideal way to experience the Tarkine Wilderness without fighting your way through its dense and inhospitable rainforest.

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Other Attractions in the Area

Aboriginal Sites
Sundown Point
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 clear 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 Southern 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 http://www.aboriginalartonline.com/regions/tasmania.php.

The Tarkine Wilderness
Lying to the north of Corinna is the 447,000 ha Tarkine Wilderness Area, a vast wilderness of myrtle, leatherwood and pine trees which was once part of the mighty continent of Gondwana. It is bounded by the Arthur River to the north, Corinna to the south, the Southern Ocean to the west and the Murchison Highway to the east. There are a number of walks through the area ranging from relatively short strolls to treks that will take days. The excellent Corinna website points out that "There are more than 400 species of diverse flora, including a range of native orchids and many rare and threatened species. There are more than 250 vertebrate species of fauna, 50 of which are rare, threatened and vulnerable. These include quolls, Tasmanian devils, eastern pygmy possums, wedge tailed eagles, the white breasted sea eagle, orange bellied parrots, white goshawks and giant freshwater lobsters."

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History

* Prior to European settlement the coastal region around Corinna was occupied for up to 30,000 years by members of the Tarkiner people of the Peerapper Aboriginal language group.

* In 1876 the area was explored and surveyed by C. P. Sprent.

* In 1878 a ship, the Pioneer, successfully passed through the Pieman Heads and sailed up the river.

* In 1879 payable quantities of gold was discovered and reported in the Launceston Examiner of 12 April, 1879 as "Messrs H. Middleton and Alex Tengdahl, with two others, have during the past twelve months been prospecting in the vicinity of the Pieman River. About six weeks ago their efforts were successfully rewarded by the discovery of payable alluvial gold twelve miles from Pieman Heads, in ground situated between the Savage and the Whyte River, and two miles from the banks of the Pieman."

* Around this time a store was established at Pieman Heads and subsequently another store was established 12 miles up river and closer to the miners.

* By June, 1879 around 400 prospectors were camped in the area. By July many of the streams in the area had been exhausted and the area was considered a failure.

* In 1881 the government built a store about three miles up river from the mouth of the Pieman. At this time there was a constant shortage of food.

* In September, 1881 a post and money order office was opened.

* In 1882 a townsite was surveyed. There were a total of 30 blocks and the river was briefly renamed the Corinna.

* Later in 1882 the first hotel in the area was opened at Donaldson Landing.

* Through the 1890s Corinna was on the route from Waratah to Zeehan which was taken by miners heading for Zeehan's tin mines.

* In 1893 high pressure hydraulic mining was introduced and for the next few years there were predictions that Corinna would become a major mining town.

* By 1895 the town had two hotels, two general stores, a butcher's shop, a baker's shop and a bootmaker's shop. There was also a post office and a police constable.

* By 1896 the mining operations were closing down. There was gold but it was not profitable to extract it. Wages exceeded the amount of gold being processed.

* In 1897 the publican of the Corinna Hotel died and was buried over the river with another publican Thomas Davis, the licensee of the Star Hotel, who had died in 1892.

* in 1900 the railway between Zeehan and Guildford was opened and Corinna effectively died as a centre. That year saw all the licenses to the hotels revoked.

* By the 1920s the road from Corinna to Browns Plain had become overgrown. The rainforest had reclaimed the country.

* The last Tasmanian tiger was captured in the area in the 1920s.

* In 1968 a single track bridge was built over the Arthur River at the tiny settlement of Arthur River and slowly the road through to Zeehan was opened to travellers.

* The Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area was officially reserved in 1982.

* In 2008 a film crew settled in to the area to make the horror movie Dying Breed about Alexander Pearce. This year also saw the opening of the Tarkine Hotel.

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Visitor Information

There is an outstanding visitor information centre a few kilometres from 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. There is also information at The Tarkine Hotel.

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Accommodation

The Corinna Wilderness Experience offers a range of accommodation options. Check out the website - http://corinna.com.au - for booking and availability. Tel: (03) 6446 1170.

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Eating

There is a General Store at Corinna. It supplies basic grocery items. The Tarkine Hotel has a bar and a restaurant, Tannins, tel: (03) 6446 1170.

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Useful Websites

The local website is http://www.corinna.com.au has information about accommodation in the town.

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Got something to add?

Have we missed something or got a top tip for this town? Have your say below.

3 suggestions
  • Should this sentence from the above text: “Bordering the Indian Ocean, its most prominent feature is Mt Cameron West, a basalt plug which rises 168 metres above the coastal plain” perhaps be changed to : “Bordering the Southern Ocean …”

    Thanks for that. My greatest fear: getting directions and oceans wrong. Thanks for the correction. It is now greatly improved.

    John Harders
  • Lack of wheelchair accessible information on suitable accommodation, tours etc. (if any) for the disabled. Hoping to visit & stay in the area for a few nights.

    Morna Cook