Up $hit creek: Arthur River, Tasmania

29 Dec

By Stuart Elliott 

So successful was our kayaking experience in a cold and occasionally rainy Norwegian fjord earlier this year that I thought we should try it again in our own backyard. So when perusing the many and varied outdoor pursuits offered in Tasmania I eagerly latched onto the only reasonably priced self-powered boating experience I could find.


Arthur River Canoe and Boat Hire in the tiny west coast township of the same name offered the opportunity to take a nice, safe double canoe up the river to an unofficial camp site for a wilderness experience well beyond the reach of mobile phones and the like. It sounded perfect, after all we were experienced sea kayakers with, by now, a whole four nights camping under our belt. 

Jaynee, who runs the business, was most helpful on the phone. She encouraged us to take two of her 50 litre watertight plastic jerry cans when we were packing so we could take the ‘just in case’ items. (It was only later in the day, when our tired bodies tried to unload them, that we realised we had been paddling with the equivalent of a chubby ten-year-old without a paddle.)

Arthur River mouth

 Our parting words to Jaynee as we pushed off were that we might stay out an extra night so don’t worry if we are not back by the designated time the next day. No problem she said, there’s no reception so if you’re not back I’ll expect you the next day.


Off we set into a head wind of 27 knots and a current of four knots. After ten minutes we understood why locals had suggested we might want to delay our departure until the next day. Despite wind, current and river waves we made good progress through the brown tannin-enriched water until the heavy person in the back demanded the first of many rests. As usual he only knows one speed; full on or full off.


 So keen were we to make progress against the elements that we failed to spot any of the local stars; wedge tail eagles, sea eagles and platypus, (or should that be platypi?), with supporting cast of salmon, trout etc..

We were heading for the furtherest campsite, some 15km up the river just past the junction with the Frankland River. Sadly we couldn’t find it, the combination of a somewhat inadequate and inaccurate mud map provided by Jaynee and faulty recall of her exact verbal description of the location. The steep, densely vegetated riverbanks and piles of huge logs that had been thrown up by floods made access to the river’s edge difficult.


After three and a half hours hard paddling and 15.5 km we stopped perplexed. For some time the adventure had been feeling like a Burke and Wills expedition where surely around the next bend we would find the level camp area or else our bodies would give up. 

A discussion ensued as to whether to find and make our own campsite amongst the ancient eucalyptus forest and dense undergrowth, or to make our way back to the township of Arthur River. Sharon was all for setting up camp somehow. Stuart, concerned about being waylaid by snakes following Jaynee’s other parting words of, ‘Mind the copperhead at the camp site’, advocated going for the hot shower option. We were the only people on the river now as both the day cruises had returned and no other boats or canoeists were out overnight.


Thankfully the sun doesn’t set until 8:30pm in these parts so we had daylight enough to make a run for home. After employing the ‘Let’s weigh up the risks versus rewards’ argument so often used by Sharon, Stuart had his way. Now all we had to do was summon the energy to paddle home.


We broke the ordeal up into twenty ten minute paddles with two minute rests. Energised by a snack and the current pushing us along and with the sun on our faces we made it back to base in only three hours. 

The river was truly beautiful. The gum trees are enormous, up to 120 metres and quite magnificent, especially in the setting sun. The fauna were sadly absent, except for ducks, a lone grey heron and a few fish splashing.


When we got back into mobile phone range we called Jaynee to announce our abrupt change of plans and ETA. She was a little put out at being disturbed. ‘But Bruce has to get up at 4am’, she protested. We promised to put the canoe away as quickly as we could and let her get back to Bruce. It transpired we had actually stopped just 200m short of our destination.


Would we recommend paddling the Arthur? Yes, but only if snakes don’t bother you. In addition to the copperhead there are heaps of tiger snakes hereabouts. For the less adventurous a 3-4 hour paddle in good weather would be well worth doing.


(Sharon’s note: Two exceptional women in Arthur River deserve recognition, Melissa Pfeiffer, the ranger at the parks and wildlife office was extremely helpful, even going so far as to scan and email some business documents for Stuart, while Helen, who runs the Arthur River cabins, gave excellent after-hours friendly service to two exhausted, wet, cold and hungry souls.) 


4 Responses to “Up $hit creek: Arthur River, Tasmania”

  1. Heather December 30, 2015 at 5:24 am #

    Just as well you are both super fit. Rest day today I take it.

    • Sharon Tickle December 31, 2015 at 9:37 am #

      That was some days ago Heather. Fully recovered thanks. Now back in Melbourne about to celebrate new year. To auld lang syne my friends! Be thinking of you on George’s op day. Sxx

  2. jaynee coleman January 24, 2017 at 6:09 am #

    shame you could not read map or find camp not such a shit river you were the first in over 20 years to miss the designated camp site

    • Sharon Tickle January 24, 2017 at 4:30 pm #

      Hi Jaynee, My husband wrote that particular blog post but but it is my site I feel I should be the one to respond. As is his wont he tends towards self-deprecating satire, writing with tongue firmly in cheek. He did however pay the river its dues, “The river was truly beautiful. The gum trees are enormous, up to 120 metres and quite magnificent, especially in the setting sun.” My apologies if you feel we denigrated what is a beautiful part of the world, that was not the intention. Sharon

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