Zeehan was once known as the Silver City. This former mining boom town lays at the bottom of a wild valley full of rain-forests and hills. The town was built in 1800's with funds from an economic explosion after tin, silver and lead were discovered. It became a refined wild west town for Tasmania's west coast region; entertaining and housing rugged Victorian-era miners.
This west coast town bears the opulence and scars from a boom and bust past. It's still full of rugged characters and its main street is a museum unto itself. Head on down to the incredibly restored Gaiety Theater; the same theater that entertained the rugged pioneers of the early 1800's now enthrals locals and tourists alike.
Zeehan is clear across the island from Tasmania's largest city. It's nearly 300 kilometers and a 4-hour drive from Hobart. Devonport is a bit closer sitting only 182 kilometers and 2.5 hours away. Launceston is 230 kilometers to the east making it over a 3-hour drive.
Zeehan: A Town of Boom and Bust
Economic prosperity would rise in this rainforested town. Then the bottom would fall out leaving the town in economic ruin. This process repeated itself through the decades making Zeehan a scarred and rugged town full of flashes of opulence. Simply put, Zeehan is a living museum.
Visit the West Coast Heritage Center and Pioneers Museum to marvel at indigenous, pioneering and mining displays that take you into Zeehan's past. The museum also boasts one of the greatest mineral collections in the entire world. Image credit: Wai Nang Poon
Head down Spray Tunnel which is another boom and bust scar. This abandoned railway tunnel is 100 metres long, and you can still walk, ride or drive through this project that was never completely finished.
This former mining town is surrounded by natural beauty. You can challenge yourself with a walk up Mount Zeehan for 360° views of the surrounding area. Head on over to the rugged west coast at Trial Harbour or Granville Harbour to marvel at coastal views. Then take a walk up Henty Dunes on the country's longest Beach to cap off a day exploring the wilderness.
Nearby Lake Pieman has some of the best trout fishing in all of Australia. After a day exploring the unique history of Zeehan, head on out into the wilderness with your fishing pole.
History Lovers, Geology Buffs, Nature Lovers and Fishermen
Zeehan has one of the best history museums in all of Tasmania in the West Coast Heritage Center and Pioneers Museum. History lovers also adore Zeehan's Main Street with its flashes of past opulence and economic doom. But Zeehan is world-renowned for its unique geological features and stunning minerals waiting to be unearthed. The History Museum has one of the finest collection of minerals and it draws geology lovers from across the planet.
This former mining town relies heavily on tourism and has great infrastructure. It makes for the perfect base camp for nature lovers who are about to venture off into the wilderness. It also makes for a comfy stay during a fishing trip to nearby Lake Pieman. Image credit: Tourism Tasmania & Joe Shemesh
You'll find a couple of comfortable hotels in the middle of town. Passersby, on their way up or down the western coast, can take advantage of a few caravan parks on the outskirts of town.
The Gaiety Theatre and Grand Hotel is a perfect example of Zeehan's "Silver City" days. This mining town was once awash in so much money that it could attract the likes of Enrico Caruso, the most famous tenor of his generation, and Dame Nellie Melba. This theatre was once the largest in the entire country with a seating capacity for more than 1000 concertgoers. Erected in 1898, the theatre was consistently packed with rugged miners looking to stay entertained.
The West Coast Heritage Centre is right on Main Street. It has a fine collection of old train engines as well as a 15-room exhibit full of artifacts from Aboriginal and mining times. These artifacts are now on display in the old Zeehan School of Mines and Metallurgy. There's even a Pioneer Women's Gallery in this stunning historical Museum.
Zeehan is a small town, but it offers up a hearty hotel pub restaurant for weary travelers. There's also one local café where you can grab a coffee before venturing out to experience this mining town's intriguing history.
In 1879, tin was discovered in nearby Mount Heemskirk. It took just a few years for more than 50 companies to stake claims in the rugged wilderness north of Zeehan. This first mining boom brought plenty of economy to the little valley town, but it turned out that most of the claims were a total bust.
Silver was discovered at the present location of Zeehan back in 1882. An impressive haul was dug up by a man named Frank Long and it led to the largest mining boom on Tasmania's west coast. Less than 10 years later, more than 159 companies were operating in Zeehan's Valley. With the discovery of silver came opulent buildings such as theaters, hotels and extravagant banks. By 1901, Zeehan became known as Silver City.
The Silver began to decline in 1910. There were less than 1000 residents by 1950, and the last mine closed in 1960. But while the mines in Zeehan have all but dried up, the town remains home to current day miners working on Savage River and Renison Bell.
Zeehan's climate is generally mild and warm throughout the year. It never gets very hot nor doesn't get very cold, but it does rain quite a bit. It rains less in summer.
Have some fun searching for the nearby ghost town of Dundas. It did not survive the boom and bust of Tasmania's west coast mining history.
Stroll down the far end of Main Street to be captivated by Zeehan's waning opulent past. The street is lined with jaw-dropping buildings from when it was known as Silver City.
Headed 20 kilometres west to Zeehan's main port at Trial Harbor. There is great fishing to be found, but this was once an incredibly important port during the Silver City days.
Head another 15 kilometres to the northeast and you'll find Granville Harbor. Originally a soldier's settlement at the conclusion of World War I, Granville Harbor is now a well-trafficked coastal holiday destination with plenty of fishing.