Things to Do in Burnie
You can thank a possum for introducing humans to Gunns Plains Caves, which were discovered by a local Tasmanian hunter when he chased the possum into a hole and instead emerged in a cave. While we’ll never know if he actually found the shrewd, cave-dwelling possum, what we do know is that in only 12 years it went from being an unknown cave to a popular Tasmania State Reserve, established in 1918. When you first descend down into the cave, the subterranean , water-carved beauty is instantly seen in the calcite shawls and large, shimmering flowstones. The sound of water trickling across limestone can still be heard in the cave, and crayfish, eels, and even platypus still splash in the underground river. During daily tours of Gunns Plains Caves, guides will point out the different formations that have slowly formed over time—from the Wedding Cake and Golden Fleece to others with comical, spot-on names that closely fit their appearance. Learn this history of how these caves were gradually formed over time, and marvel at how this wonderland is so magically different—almost surreal—when compared to life above ground.
Northwestern Tasmania has some of Australia’s most stunning wilderness scenery, although much of it is only accessible by hiking for multiple days at a time. At spectacular Leven Canyon, however, just minutes from the town of Nietta, experiencing this miraculous, mountainous majesty is as easy as taking a 20 minute stroll through pristine Australian bush. Located in Leven Canyon Reserve, Leven Canyon is a forested cleft that drops nearly 1,000 vertical feet to the Leven River below. At Cruickshanks Lookout, walk from the parking lot out to a platform that hangs out over the canyon, and offers a sweeping, panoramic view of the Leven Canyon Basin. Straight ahead is Black Bluff, a tree-covered mountain that at 4,400 ft. is often snowcapped in winter, and while visitors with even the slightest fear of heights might get nervous out on the platform, the epic view and fresh mountain air make the entire experience worth it. To complete the loop trail back to the car, continue on the aptly named Forest Stairs, where nearly 700 stairs link up with a trail that loops its way back to the parking lot. For a completely different vantage point, hike the Canyon Floor walk to the rushing Leven River, where you can continue on for 30 more minutes to the scenic Devil’s Elbow. Here you’re immersed in a wilderness setting that’s virtually remained untouched, and only a moderate 1 hour stroll away from where you parked. You’ll also find tracks to cascading falls and all-day trails to the summits, so whether you’re an avid, outdoorsy hiker or simply in search of a stroll, Leven Canyon is a wilderness site that travelers of all ages can enjoy.
At Platypus House, get a close-up look at Tasmanian platypuses and echidnas, two uniquely Australian “monotreme” mammals. Learn about their biology at the center, and watch the animals play in a natural environment set on the Tamar River.
While it might look wide and inviting for boats, the Tamar River is a treacherous channel that’s rife with rocks, patches of reef, and shifting sandbars that will swallow vessels that don’t know exactly where they’re going. Luckily for mariners on Tasmania’s north coast, a pilot station at Low Head still operates and helps assist boats headed up the Tamar River toward Launceston. Established here in 1805, the Low Head Pilot Station is Australia’s oldest continuously inhabited pilot station, and the museum is set in “Pilot’s Row”— a string of buildings that were built by convicts in the middle of the 19th century. When visiting Low Head Pilot Station today, you can learn about everything from signaling and lights to the tools used in navigation, as well as look at some early maps that were drawn when much of modern Tasmania had yet to be explored.
Behind the pretty white façade and flower-filled gardens of Home Hill, Devonport, lies one of Tasmania’s most important heritage properties. Built in 1916, this was the home of former Australian Prime Minister Joseph Lyons, where he lived with his wife Dame Enid Lyons, herself Australia’s first elected female parliament member, and their 12 children.
Today, Home Hill has been preserved in period style and displays an impressive collection of personal items belonging to the Lyons family, along with original wallpapers and furnishings, and historic artifacts relating to their political careers. Open to visitors by guided tour only, the house offers a glimpse into life in early 20th-century Tasmania, as well as a fascinating insight into the life of a Prime Minster.