It’s a crisp autumn morning and mist is lifting off a syrupy, mirror-like river.
Jagged mountain peaks in the distance offset the crisp blue sky, and the air is infused with a mild note of forest green. Floating in my version of paradise, I watch a meandering forest explode with abandon… and run my fingers through the tannin-stained waters.
The silence is deafening. And blissful.
I’m kayaking in the heart of Tasmania’s Tarkine forest, one of the largest untouched rainforests in the world, and home to what is quite possibly Australia’s best-kept tourism secret — the Corinna wilderness resort.
If an extended weekend off the beaten track sounds appealing, you’ll feel comfortably at home in Corinna. This is where remote rainforest wilderness meets empathetic human hospitality, and natural bounties merge seamlessly with carefully-crafted creature comforts.
Just prepare to decouple yourself from a mobile phone and an Internet connection and you’ll be just fine. Not that you have a choice really… there’s no mobile signal in the heart of Tarkine and the only connection to the outside world is a single landline phone at the hotel reception.
It’s digital detox at its finest.
Corinna: Getting there
Corinna is a four-hour drive from Launceston, the last hour of which is on a gravel road – a white strip that tastefully offsets the dark forest.
We arrive on a cold and wet evening – travel weary… but mostly exhausted from gorging on a delicious lunch at a local raspberry farm on the way.
A warm welcome at the reception takes the edge off the wild weather and eases me out of the afternoon food coma. We are handed the keys to our cottages and an invitation to return for dinner.
The living quarters are comfortable, clean, and complete with a fully functional kitchen, a bathroom and a balcony that opens out into the rainforest.
Pademelons occupy prime real estate outside the cabin, making their presence felt with occasional door knocking.
But what really sets Corinna apart from any other holiday accommodation is the underlying thought.
Everything – from the running hot water to the toilet paper – is a product of recycling, and a reminder to be considerate of nature.
Dinner is served early and I’m delighted at the offering – a hearty, wholesome, slow-cooked black lentil soup.
There’s gold in ’em far hills
While Corinna is now the only surviving remote historical mining settlement in Tasmania, it wasn’t always a ghost town. In the late 1800s, the discovery of Tasmania’s largest nugget of gold (7.5kg) sparked a mini gold rush, attracting prospectors from other Tassie goldfields.
By 1893, the town had 30 structures including the two hotels, a post office, numerous stores and shops, slaughter yards and a number of residences.
The area boasted a population of 2500 people. But the town went into a rapid decline from 1900 when the Emu Bay railway to Zeehan was opened, leaving it pretty much abandoned.
Today only three of the original buildings remain — the old pub, the butcher’s shop and a cottage. They are all available as accommodation in addition to the cottages.
There are no shops in Corinna. Basic amenities are available at the hotel reception and the restaurant serves lunch and dinner.
The jungle walk
Tarkine has a labyrinth of walking trails that starts just steps away from the cottages. The Whyte River Walk is the easiest – an hour-long trek through the forest – best undertaken in the early hours of morning.
We start our Tarkine adventure with this trek and walk a few meters into the jungle that’s just about waking up. Myrtle, fungi, huon pine and sassafras abound, and the morning sun glimmers through layers of mist.
I breathe in the ancient air and make an effort to take more mental pictures than actual. (Check out some more pictures in gallery at the bottom of the post)
All hands on deck
The rest of the morning is spent on board the Aracadia II – a sturdy cruiser made entirely of huon pine wood.
Picnic lunches packed, a group of 18 sets about exploring the Pieman River and its wonders in a relaxed, half-day slow cruise. We drop anchor at a nearby island with a stunningly charred landscape – the result of a bushfire allegedly started by a party of careless, drunk campers.
The beach is wild and roaring, and shark bones strewn about are a special attraction.
A communal BBQ dinner is set up for the evening and we meet and mingle with the friendly Corinna staff as well as fellow explorers.
Some of us are offered an early morning cruise to accompany an assorted group of geologists, guides and explorers into the heart of the forest.
Gold-prospecting, rock-dating and trekking are mentioned and I am immediately game. Early next morning, we hop on a fast liner with mugs of dark hot chocolate and are taken into the depths of Tarkine.
On the way, we pass by the remains of the SS Croydon, a ship that sunk in 1919.
Folklore has it that it was sunk on purpose as the crew could not gather courage to face the raging river again, deciding instead to walk back to Launceston.
Trekking up a narrow winding path, we suddenly find ourselves facing a gurgling waterfall tumbling from the rocks that date back a billion years!
After spending some time hunting for gold, we return (unsuccessful) to the hotel to get padded up for the kayaking which keeps us gleefully occupied for the next hour or so.
The foliage reflects perfectly in the river and with the exception of the flowing water, an occasional bird call is the only sound that can be heard.
Velvety moss gives the impression of a lush carpet, wild fungi resemble earthen flower pots, twigs and branches coil up to form charming lichen-covered swings, and multi-hued leaves swing from the trees like bunting.
Clearly, the forest rations nothing.
It’s easy to get lost in the wilderness, to get carried away by the formidable magnetism of the jungle, to forget that a hyper-connected world exists outside of this oasis and is closing in at a frightening pace – but every once in a while it’s worth remembering that we are, after all, mere blips who will disappear without much consequence.
It’s worth remembering to live in awe, wonder, and absolute respect.
Gallery: The Corinna experience
More information including accommodation rates at http://corinna.com.au