Going on a Zeehan trip and want to know what to do in Zeehan for an awesome time? We have you covered! Below you will find our guide to all the best Zeehan attractions to plan your ultimate trip as well as everything else you need to know to make your time in Zeehan Tas a success!
Zeehan, in Tasmania’s west coast region, is the place to head to learn about the west coast’s mining past. Once a city that was on par with Hobart and Launceston as one of Tasmania’s most important towns, Zeehan is now just a shadow of its former glory.
Silver and lead were discovered here back in 1882 and before too long, Zeehan was 10,000 people strong and known as “Silver City”. With 27 pubs, the impressive Gaiety Theatre and even a stock exchange, it was quite a different place to the quiet and much smaller Zeehan you will find today. We last went on a Monday and had problems finding somewhere open to eat lunch!
However, this interesting past is on display in the well presented West Coast Heritage Centre and it is worth coming to Zeehan just for this. There is more to explore and enjoy though and, below, you will find our Zeehan blog with everything you need to know about the best places to visit in Zeehan as well as the best Zeehan Tasmania accommodation for your ultimate holiday in this part of the world. There is also a handy map of everything you need in Zeehan.
Introduction to Zeehan, Tasmania
The original people of the land were the Toomeginne and Peerapper. The town was named after Abel Tasman sailed past the coastline in 1642 and named a mountain he saw the Zeahan after his brig. Fast forward to 1802 and George Bass and Matthew Flinders changed the name slightly to Mount Zeehan.
This region was an unexplored wilderness until 1871 when tin was discovered at nearby Mount Bischoff. This drew many prospectors to the area leading to Frank Long’s discovery of silver-lead in the Zeehan area in 1882. Zeehan grew quickly becoming Tasmania’s third largest town within a decade.
The mining boom ended during the First World World War and Zeehan went into decline with mining stopping. Later, some mines did reopen and, even today, there is still some mining in the area but it’s not the industry it once was. Today, tourism plays an important role in the local economies of the west coast.
The Zeehan Tasmania population today is around 700 people.
Top 8 Best Things To Do In Zeehan, Tasmania
Here are the best things to do Zeehan options. Read through and select the ones that fit your interests and timeframe.
Explore The West Coast Heritage Centre
This Zeehan museum is the first place to head when you get into town. This big centre started in the 1894 School of Mines and Metallurgy but now spills into neighbouring buildings as well to give you many insights into life in Zeehan at that time.
The main museum is still in this old school where there are huge mineral displays and photographs, and documents are used to show the history of the town and region. There are many interesting things to read and see and it helps give you different insights into what Zeehan once was.
There’s also the neighbouring buildings to explore including the Freemasons Lodge, Police Station and Courthouse and the grand old Gaiety Theatre (described more below). Things are set up how they were with information available on what you are seeing.
The outdoor area also has various machinery, old police cells, a blacksmith shop, wheelwright workshop, power house, machinery shed and many old locomotives and carriages. There is also a mining simulation (although this is less interesting than it sounds).
The site is extensive and there is a lot there. It would be easy to spend a half day exploring everything, particularly when you add in the theatre.
The West Coast Heritage Centre is open daily except Christmas and Good Friday and there is an admission fee which includes entry to everything. It should be the absolute top of your list of things to do in Zeehan.
Address: 114 Main St, Zeehan
Watch A Show At The Gaiety Theatre
The Gaiety Theatre is a grand old building on the main street of Zeehan, today part of the West Coast Heritage Centre. Built in 1898, it was once the largest concert hall in Australia and is still a glorious building today. It used to play shows and films to a 1000 strong audience every night.
Generally, it screens two hour-long sessions of silent films a day which you can sit and watch. However, because of Covid-19 restrictions, currently, you can walk in the theatre but can’t view the films here. Instead, they are shown on a TV screen in a nearby room. We had a lot of fun watching one about a woman who dressed as a man and escaped to the west coast to strike it rich and save her family.
Definitely save some time in your itinerary to watch a film here.
Address: 114 Main St, Zeehan
Walk Through The Spray Tunnel
One of the more unusual attractions in the region is the Spray Tunnel, an abandoned railway tunnel that in the early 1900’s transported silver ore to a Zeehan mine. Today, the 100m-long tunnel is more famed for its residents than its history – as glow worms have made themselves at home, twinkling brightly like jewels, embedded in the dark walls and roof of the tunnel.
Visitors make their way along a boardwalk that leads into the old mine, shaped like a keyhole, which spans just over 2 metres wide and stands at 3 metres tall. Only 100-metres long, there’s a little light coming from both ends of the tunnel that helps guide your way along the boardwalk, avoiding the absolute need to carry a torch.
As for the glow worms, you’ll find plenty of them; small pin-prick glows of light that shine throughout the tunnel. Try taking some pictures with your cell phone, as the flash picks up the rocks and rugged formation of the tunnel making for some weirdly beautiful photos. Keep an eye out for spiders, specifically the Tasmanian cave spider which can have a leg span of up to 18 cm… So, actually perhaps it’s a better idea to carry a torch!
Reaching the tunnel can be half the fun as there’s only a single-lane gravel road (that commences from behind the local golf course) that winds up to the entrance. Passing cars heading in the opposite direction can be tricky and only regular-sized vehicles can navigate the road. For a more leisurely arrival there’s a steady trail – also from the back of the golf course – for hiking or mountain biking. This follows the old tramway along a 6km easy route.
You’ll find the area is particularly photogenic and well worth a visit if you have the time.
Go Sandboarding On Henty Dunes
If you’ve over indulged on some of Tasmania’s gastronomic treats, it’s now time to work off calories at the awesome Henty Sand Dunes.
Reaching stunning heights of around 30-metres, the dunes are a strange desert set amid the rainforests of Tasmania’s west coast. Formed by the Roaring Forties, the winds that blow across from South America, the dunes are only ten minutes north of Strahan. Extending almost 15 kilometres up the coast they also link up with the longest beach in Tasmania, Ocean Beach.
Search out businesses in Strahan that rent toboggans, pack yourself a picnic and head out for an afternoon of (exhausting!) fun. Note there’s a shaded picnic area but no water or toilet facilities at the dunes. Also remember to pack your sunglasses to protect your eyes from both the glare and the sand on windy days.
Climb to the top of a dune to relax, enjoying incredible views with pine plantations on one side and the ocean of the remote west coast on the other. And watch adventure-lovers who thrill at the toboggan slide down the dunes… but perhaps aren’t such fans of the steep hike back up to start it all over again!
Enjoy A Scenic Gordon River Cruise
One of Tasmania’s most famous wilderness cruises and an iconic Tasmania must-do experience, a Gordon River Cruise should be high on your list of activities when staying in Strahan.
Taking you deep into the UNESCO Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, the cruise glides past ancient rainforests, and you’ll hear stories of the region’s mysterious history and colourful characters, such as how the narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbour is known as Hells Gates having been named by convicts on their way to Sarah Island.
The silence of the area is what you’ll first notice, how tranquil and quiet the surroundings are, with the tall trees of the rainforests famously reflected in the still waters.
There are a handful of tour companies and boats to select from with fine-dining options as well as guided walks at Heritage Landing and Sarah Island or a stopover at a local Salmon Farm. You’ll find premium seating that includes leather recliners in front of full-length window views, and even private decks and lounge areas.
Ensure to book your spot on an award-winning cruise through this ancient world heritage listed rainforest. Usually taking around six hours, book early as these are popular tours.
Address: 24 Esplanade, Strahan
Check Out Pretty Strahan
Home to a small population of only 700, Strahan is a picturesque town that is filled with – or the gateway to – many top Tassie tourist attractions.
In the middle of nowhere, tourists flock to this captivating town looking for a Gordon River Cruise, to ride the West Coast Wilderness Railway or to discover the surrounding rainforest regions.
Built around Macquarie Harbour, history stretches back to a time when this was a major port for the mining settlements and logging industry. However today, it’s a scenic town filled with tourists and a few working fishermen.
From the Harbour, look out on Sarah Island – an infamous penal settlement from the 1800’s – which is just one part of the town’s dark and fascinating convict past.
Today, streets are filled with shops selling artisan wares and cafes selling delicious local produce.
Visit the West Coast Reflections Exhibition where architects, writers, woodturners, gardeners and historians have all contributed their talents to tell the story of the people of the West Coast. Starting back 35,000 years ago with the Aborigines, the exhibit moves on through convict times, mining and forestry, and includes rainforests, caves and oral histories. There’s also a great play – The Ship That Never Was – based on a real event from 1834.
Check out Cove Gallery, a contemporary art gallery, or head out on one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks. Commencing at the People’s Park in Strahan, take an easy hike to view Hogarth Falls, a delightful waterfall.
And, finally, for those with the budget, there are yacht and helicopter tours to be enjoyed, and various wilderness experiences.
Experience A Rainforest Train Ride On The West Coast Wilderness Railway
Another top tourist experience in Strahan and the west coast region, the West Coast Wilderness Railway has been in operation since 2002.
With the railway formerly operated by the Mt. Lyell Mining & Railway Company, the route takes you between Queenstown and Strahan where previously copper ore was transported from the mines to the sea.
A highlight for all nature lovers, the railway cuts through stunning landscapes. Yet the thrill comes in the remarkably steep sections where a system of rack and pinion gears, built into the tracks and the engine, pulls the train upwards.
There are several routes available – not always all offered on the same day. There’s the River-to-Rainforest tour and a full day Strahan-to-Queenstown return journey. Check out the options here and book online to ensure your seat. (Do note that there are no toilets onboard.)
Consider upgrading to their Wilderness Carriage, where you’ll enjoy a glass of sparkling wine, free food and soft drinks, coffees, etc. This also provides access to the open-air section of the train which puts you right in the middle of the fresh air and nature. Stunning photo opportunities abound!
Along your route you’ll sporadically stop at historic stations where you can enjoy some of the local activities. For example a stopover at Lynchford, on the Rack and Gorge tour, gives you the chance to watch a demonstration before trying your own hand at panning for gold. Other stopovers include tastings of wild honey, rainforest walks and watching the train being turned around on a manual turntable for the route back home.
A terrific railway experience for all the family, it showcases just how rugged and wild the west coast landscape is. Be sure to include it in your things to do in Strahan itinerary.
Address: 62 Esplanade, Strahan
Only 40 minutes drive from Strahan, Queenstown has a surprisingly different feel.
The town’s historic association with mining is evident as the surrounding hills are destroyed or deeply scarred. Deep valleys are almost bare, vegetation sparse, all thanks to the toxic fumes that once emitted from the mining operations and the logging industry that pulled roots out of the hills. A strong contrast to the lush greenery of the rainforests bordering Strahan!
Reaching Queenstown is rather impressive though, along a zigzag road of more than 90 turns – that traverse the scorched, stained and bare landscape.
Queenstown retains its ‘mining town’ feel, and is not the prettiest that you’ll see in the region. However, it has its own charm with some grand buildings – relics of its golden age. And, it’s home to the most outstanding scenic railway – the West Coast Wilderness – with many of the routes departing or returning through Queenstown.
Orr Street, Queentown’s old Main Street, is wonderfully preserved and lined with closed pubs that were once frequented by Tasmanian miners. And you’ll find a local history museum – the Galley Museum – that explains the devastation that befell the barren landscape.
If you’re not claustrophobic, search out an underground mine tour. Alternatively, consider a hike in the strangely lunar landscape or join The Mount Lyell Enviro Tour for a guided tour of the same. One of the wettest and foggiest parts of Tasmania, the valleys are often covered in low clouds making them even more eerie!
You’ll find many local restaurants and cafes in the heart of town, usually tinged with a mining-related theme. Or, check out any of the hotels for some warming pub food!
And at the end of the day, head to the Spion Kop Lookout for an incredible view of the town.
Where Is Zeehan Tasmania?
Zeehan is located in the western part of Tasmania about 2 hours and 20 minutes drive from Devonport or just over 4 hours from Hobart. The easiest way to get here is by car.
Click here to see the latest prices for rental cars.
It’s also possible to get buses to Zeehan from Queenstown, Strahan (more below) and Burnie.
Zeehan To Strahan
It’s about 43 kilometres and 30 minutes to drive between Zeehan and Strahan. This is on a good road and the drive is easy. It will take you right past the Henty Dunes described above.
It’s also possible to take buses between the two with buses running from the IGA in Zeehan to Strahan Activity Centre via Queenstown.
Zeehan Tasmania Attractions Map
Zeehan Tasmania Accommodation
As a small town, there is a solid Zeehan accommodation Tasmania option as well as a Zeehan caravan park and Zeehan camping option.
Below, I have these two choices for you to consider based on your needs.
Located at the foot of picturesque Mount Zeehan and only a five minute drive – half a kilometer – from the Pioneer Museum, the Heemskirk Motor Hotel is one of our top choices for accommodation, Zeehan Tasmania.
The 34 rooms all come equipped with air-conditioning, flat-screen TV, and ensuite bathrooms stocked with free toiletries. There’s a wide variety of room types from standard double with either 1 queen or 1 queen plus a single, to two-bedroom suites. For those looking for additional comfort, select from their one or two-bedroom apartments that come with a full kitchenette – refrigerator, kitchenware, microwave, stovetop, oven and toaster.
You’ll find onsite parking with spaces sufficient in size for larger vehicles such as campervans and coaches. And there’s a handy coin-operated laundry facility.
Dining is available all-day, with a continental breakfast buffet and modern Australian cuisine for lunch and dinner.. You won’t go hungry as there’s also an in-room dining service, plus a friendly pub on site for a tipple after dinner.
Providing a lovely back-to-nature feel, the Zeehan Bush Camp is based in a quiet garden setting by the Zeehan Rivulet close to the centre of town.
You can camp here, park your caravan or stay in one of the five-berth cabins which come with kitchenettes, dining tables and TV. They offer a double bed and a triple bunk.
The park itself offers free wifi, BBQ facilities, a playground and a fully equipped communal kitchen. There’s also a games room and a shared lounge area.
You could also consider basing yourself in nearby Strahan. You can read our full accommodation guide to Strahan here.
Eating in Zeehan
If you are looking for somewhere to eat in Zeehan, we had a great lunch at Hotel Cecil. The other places we found online before arriving were not open. There is an IGA supermarket.
Zeehan With Kids
Zeehan is very family friendly. Our kids enjoyed visiting everywhere with us especially the Spray Tunnel and the Gaiety Theatre. They found the silent film fascinating!
My son loves minerals so the West Coast Heritage Centre was particularly a hit with him.
Weather Zeehan Tasmania
The Zeehan Tasmania weather is generally mild and temperate with temperatures ranging from about 10 to 20 degrees in summer and 4 to 11 in winter. There is a lot of rain, however. The driest month is February which still averages 93mm. The wettest months are in winter and can have nearly triple this.
You can see the latest weather forecast for Zeehan here.
Zeehan is a low key town to visit with a mighty attraction with the West Coast Heritage Centre. It’s close to many other attractions on the west coast and is a cheaper alternative to staying in nearby (and more popular) Strahan.
If you want to see a different side to Tasmania, definitely head to Zeehan and have a look around.
Sharon grew up in Tasmania, moved away and then came back with her family twenty years later. She loves re-discovering her home state and sharing it with you here.