Geotourism: Energised Tourism for Tasmania

Few realise that below Tasmania’s vegetation, soils and weathered rocks, are some of Australia’s best kept secrets – a unique geology that was observed by the eminent Professor Arthur Holmes to be – “a place that is second only to Scotland in geological diversity in the world”.

The island’s landscape is significantly different to the rest of Australia due to its geological origins. By birth and nature it is more closely related to its “sister” continent of Antarctica than the “northern island” of the mainland. Rugged mountains dramatically create the complex coastline, and hundreds of glacial lakes and tarns are products of the island’s special geological history.

Although the island is small in area, the island is densely filled with a diverse geology that is exceptionally well exposed for the casual observer travelling the rugged terrain and long coastline.

Unique roadside geological experiences can be had during comfortable car travel on the good Tasmanian roads system – this is a “seed” for a geotourism experience.

 Thus relatively new type of travel experience has grow in popularity overseas, because people are becoming more inquisitive and adventurous. These tourists are simultaneously protecting and improving the very places being explored.

Geotourism is a form of natural area tourism that specifically focuses on geology and landscape. It promotes tourism to geological sites, conservation of geodiversity, and an understanding of Earth Sciences through an appreciation and learning. Tasmania is perfectly situated to be the best location in Australia to offer such experiences.

 Top 10 unique geological characteristics of Tasmania:

  1. Tasmania has rocks representative of every geological period.

  2. It has a huge igneous dolerite sheet, one of only three places in the world (the others are in South Africa and Antarctica)

  3. The rock dolerite gives the the mountains a spectacular rugged appearance- and help make Tasmanian the nation’s most mountainous state.

  4. A diverse coastline with formations and character unlike any other region of Australia.

  5. A landscape formed from past ice age glaciation effects, which are uniquely different from the rest of Australia.

  6. Spectacular beaches and dunes, having little human activity, allowing the monitoring and impact of global warming.

  7. The deformed metamorphic rocks of King Island, the oldest exposed rocks in Eastern Australia.

  8. Proportionately, Tasmania contains more limestone karst areas than any other state in Australia.

  9. Extensive peat bog soils in Western Tasmania are internationally significant- these organic soils are especially rare in the Southern Hemisphere

  10. Hectare for hectare, Tasmania contains the most extensive mineral resources of any state in Australia.

 Today’s traveller  is seeking experiences that are authentic, and provide renewal or positive change. In December 2004, a roadside geological trail, called Created from Chaos, was launched to highlight thirteen of the Tasmanian North Western coast’s unique geological features. The concept was initiated by Peter Manchester and supported by the Rotary Club of Devonport South Inc. and local businesses.

The self guided trail is concentrated along sixty kilometres of scenic shoreline between Devonport’s Mersey Bluff and Wynyard’s Table Cape. People are instructed by a photo-illustrated map pamphlet, and when sites are reached, an instructional plaque gives important details and interpretation of the site’s geology. You can find these pamphlets at visitor information centres on the region.

The sites are: 1. Devonport Bluff 2. Don Heads. 3. Braddon’s lookout 4. Goat Island 5. Three Sisters Nature reserve 6. Penguin silver mine 7. Sulphur Creek Point. 8. Sulphur Creek Boat ramp 9. Burnie’s basalt columns 10. Doctor’s rocks 11. Pencil Pine Point 12. Fossil Bluff 13. Table Cape

In May 2010, the release of the book Created from Chaos – a geological trail of 100 sites in Tasmania, outlines in detail sites that can be easily accessed from roads and short walking tracks.

Some of the geo sites are well known attractions, such as the Cataract Gorge, Launceston, The Nut at Stanley, Cradle Mountain, Mt Wellington in Hobart, and the Mole Creek Caves.

Other significant, lesser-known sites described in the book include: the Trowutta Arch, Alum Cliffs at Mole Creek, the Liawenee colonnades, Granite Point at Bridport, the Volcanic Necks at Apsley, and the Silver Spray Mine Tunnel.

Ideally, significant geo sites need to touched and appreciated in situ, but some places, despite their remoteness, can be seen in some detail at a distance. By visiting lookouts and using binoculars, it’s possible to visit  such places as the Lake Edgar Fault Scarp, Frenchman’s Cap, Cape Grim, Promise – Thouin Bay tombolo.

For tourists to view at least twenty different and unique geological coastal features, along twenty-five km on a ninety minute excursion, would have been unheard of a few years ago. Now, because of new eco-custom built boats, the geo-savvys citizens can view and record, coastal landforms and with sea life, that were once only seen by commercial fishermen. Such trips have opened up the opportunities to see the unique Tasmanian coastal geological features, all under the guise of geotourism.

The travel habits of sustainability-minded and eco-tourists are guided by a high awareness of the world around them. People appreciate sights that are globally unique: they are looking for experiences that are not homogenized.

Our island has an opportunity to show the world how special it is geologically.