As you enter Burnie on the Tasmania’s beautiful north coast it comes across as just another industrial city and while it Burnie holds some amazing experiences and a belly full of good times. Located an easy 4 hours NW of Hobart the whole area deserves more than just one day here.
Bernie is smack bang on the edge of Bass Strait and funnily enough the smell in the air isn’t sea salt - its pine, from the pulp mill right in town and the huge pulp piles as they load massive ships for export. Its Tasmania’s largest port for general cargo and also the deepest so you’ll often see massive cruise ships along side cargo ships loading all kinds of freight. When early settlers arrived here at Bernie the landscape was chocked with rainforest across the hinterland as far as they could see. Over many years it was cleared for pastoral uses and pine plantains were set up due to the perfect weather conditions. When the original Bernie paper mill started operations in 1937 they were the towns biggest employer and the mill dominated the towns landscape but in 2010 it closed. The mill is still there and a beachside walk trail shows you the amazing history of this 72 year old town icon. These days the pine is pulped ( like sawdust ), taken to the port, dried and then loaded onto specially made ships for export, then its turned into paper and the paper returns to us, bit weird but that’s economics these days. These a constant supply of log trucks through town loaded with stripped logs ready to be milled.
Since the paper mill closed the town rejuvenated itself for the tourist trade and has never looked back. Theres a 17km board walk that hugs the coast to allow un-relentless views out to sea and along the coast where you can simply peel off any spot for a bite to eat, beautiful coffee’s or at any of the attractions along the way. In the town hub around Emu Bay is where the town comes alive with vibrant restaurants, cafes and some of the best shopping experiences that larger cities would be envy of.
A perfect place to start is on the western end of town at the huge Makers workshop. Now while it looks just another bland concrete building its actually the cultural hub for the towns artists, innovators and award winning makers. Taste buds will go wild inside where some of the best cheese and wines of the area are displayed and available to try. There’s also interactive displays showing off Bernie’s paper mill history plus a dozen or so gift shops and artist displays to enjoy and get lost in there amazing talent. Want more ? Well just outside of here is West Beach, where during October to March there’s a Penguin viewing observation area and this is one spot where they come back at night to sleep and to feed their young. Its a great interpretive centre to understand these crazy little creatures and its free to visit.
With beautiful fresh seafood, fresh home made delicacies these something here for everyone and while you sit down for a coffee the kids can play in the ocean orientated playground right in front of you. The huge Octopus sculptures are definatly something to be seen and enjoyed. Around town there’s also the Burnie regional museum that has been made to replicate what life was like here pre 1900 with a working blacksmiths shop, boot maker and printer shop with everyone in period costume. It's like a step back in time with displays of old gear, tools and even barbaric dentist tools that would make anyone squirm in the chair these days. The town square is where you can see art deco style shops mixed in with modern and heritage old style buildings that thankfully have been restored and now being reused. Even the old police station built back in 1905 has been beautifully restored with its iron lace and wide verandahs.
The nature lovers haven’t been left out as within a 15km radius you can visit several stunning lookouts that give you overall view of this industrial city and its beautiful coastline from either Wilf Cambell Lookout or from the Towers. Guide Falls is a must do and with only a 10 minute drive south its a nice spot to pack a hamper and spend the morning enjoying this natural waterfall where it drops over several tears and is a photographers paradise. On the way back to Bernie why not stop at Hellyers Distillery where with a guided and most informative guided tour explains the history on the Hellyer name and whiskey making process. The tour of this award winning attraction and multi-award winning malt Whiskey is well worth the few dollars to enter. Part of the tour gives you an opportunity to bottle and label your own whiskey ( there is an added fee ) complete with a waxed seal. What a way to impress your friends. The name Hellyer goes right back to 1827 when Henry Hellyer, a local explorer took time out from his busy life as a bullock team leader to delve in the making of malt whiskey. These days the company imports the best of the best ingredients from overseas and even grow their own barley to make Australia's best whisky, and this is where the tour highlights all the facts about the Hellyer story.
It's hard to believe that Bernie was once called Emu Bay and was discovered before Melbourne back in 1798. It was Henry Hellyer that first climbed the peak just near modern day Burnie and declared it very fertile land for a new settlement. The years went on and the new settlement grew with agriculture, tin was discovered nearby and of course the port. Dont be put off by the industrialisation as you enter town as you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how the town has diversified combining tourism and local industries. Its another stunning and beautiful place on Tasmanian's north coast where the locals are proud of where they live.