After a beautiful, winding drive through the forest, we arrived at Tahune AirWalk in the early afternoon. The weather was a bit drizzly, so we grabbed our trusty jackets and headed for the Visitor Centre.
Positioned at the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness, Tahune AirWalk provides an exceptional experience with nature. Walk among the canopy of ancient stringy bark trees and historic Huon Pines, fly across the Huon River on a riveting cable eagle hang glider, or just sit and relax on the deck at the visitor centre while you enjoy a coffee with some delectable scones. After all, Tahune is an aboriginal word for ‘peaceful place by running water’.
Whatever you choose to do, it’s a great way to spend the afternoon, and with an average of 75 thousand visitors a year, Tahune AirWalk is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tasmania.
THE Cafe Restaurant
Before we set of to explore the forest, we ordered a coffee and some scones and took a seat outside on the deck. This was the perfect fuel for the rest of the afternoon – the coffee was beautifully made with no bitterness at all, and the scones served with cream and jam were light but moist.
While we were enjoying our afternoon treat, we admired the large Currawongs that were lingering around in the hope of an easy feed. The Currawong is coloured like a magpie, but it’s a bigger bird with a huge beak and beady yellow eyes.
After exploring the forest, we returned to the Cafe for some food. We ordered a plate of nachos and the pulled pork sliders and once again, we were very happy with our meal.
THE Eagle Hang Glider
Our first activity at Tahune AirWalk got our adrenalin pumping – a 250m cable hang glide over the Huon River. Dave knew he had to go first just by seeing the fear in Juz’s eyes!
We had a quick safety briefing before Dave got strapped into a harness with a big bulging seat that makes you feel a bit like a turtle. The hang glider slowly reverses up the cable and over the river, then stops amongst the trees about 50m in the air. After about 10 seconds of anticipation, the glider is released and WHOOOOSH down the cable!
Then it was Juz’s turn. She screamed… heaps.
THE Huon Pine Walk
While our pulses were still racing, we completed the Huon Pine walk. This informative walk explores the significance of the Huon Pine to Australia’s history, and also provides a few interesting facts about this rare species of tree, which can live for thousands of years!
Our journey through the canopy to the AirWalk was accompanied by our tour guide, John, who was thoroughly educational and taught us a great deal about the flora and fauna of the area. He even pointed out a few funnel-web spider holes at the mossy base of a few trees.
Opened in 2001, the AirWalk consists of 619 metres of walkways that rise 20-30 metres from the forest floor. At the end of the walkway is a cantilever that juts out over the Huon River at a height of 50 metres.
The gentle swaying of the cantilever can be a little unsettling but if you focus on the beautiful view and hold onto the rails until your knuckles are white, you’ll be fine. Everything west of the cantilever lookout is Wold Heritage Listed Tasmanian Wilderness.
The structure cost $1.3 million to build – the pieces were made offsite over two years while the assembly took only three months to complete. Only a couple of trees had to be cut down to make way for the AirWalk, mostly because they were already dead or dying and would pose a risk for the public.
The stump of one tree was left in place and is now called the “Wishing Tree”. Coins are tossed with the hope that they land on the stump, and any money that ends up on the forest floor is collected and donated to charity. The best haul to so far has been $450 and two credit cards!
THE Stars of the Show
Even though the activities and walks were fantastic, the real stars of this show are the trees and plants.
Growing only in Tasmania, the Huon Pine is named after Jean-Michel Huon De Kermadec, a French navigator who captained the navy frigate Espérance. He came to Australia in 1791 looking for his mate La Pérouse, who disappeared with his crew in 1789, a year after landing in Australia.
The wood from the Huon Pine is highly prized for its beautiful colour and fine grain, as well as its resistance to rot and natural oils that repel insects. The early settlers saw value in the timber and began to chop the trees down – left, right and centre. However, this logging activity was not sustainable as the Huon Pine takes hundreds of years to grow to 20 metres tall!
Logging of Huon Pine was banned in 1963, so the only time one can now be taken from the forest is if it’s fallen due to natural circumstances.
Often mistakenly called Tasmanian Oak (there are no oak trees in Tassie), the massive Stringybark trees are a Eucalyptus and have been growing in Tasmania for over 50 million years. They can live for up to 350 years and can reach a towering 90m tall. As they grow, they drop their limbs and leaves in the hope of a bush fire – the heat helps to open their seeds. Even death is slow for these giants – they die over the course of many years from the top down.
Despite what the name suggests, the Myrtle trees we saw at Tahune are not actually related to the Myrtle family, which includes Eucalyptus, Melaleuca, and the trees that produce cloves and allspice.
They are also known as myrtle beech or Tasmanian myrtle, and have small, glossy triangular leaves with a rounded tooth edge. New leaves are usually a reddish colour, which gradually develops to a bright green colour. The leaves get thick and darken with age and give the tree a kooky two-tone appearance. They grow to about 40m tall and can live for hundreds of years. The timber is highly prized for its tight grain, easy workability and rich pink or reddish brown colour.
Tahune AirWalk is in Geeveston, a 90 minute drive southwest of Hobart. They’re open every day of the year, except Christmas day and during hazardous weather. The AirWalk is popular with tour groups, so check out their website to book ahead.
At the end of our busy afternoon, we had a look through the gift shop where you’ll find some interesting pieces by local artists, as well as a variety of timber products and souvenirs. If you want to spend more time at Tahune, check out their onsite lodge and cabin accommodation.
For bookings or enquiries visit www.tahuneairwalk.com.au or call 1300 720 507.