Montezuma Falls, near Rosebery in Tasmania, is Tasmania’s highest waterfall and is truly spectacular and well worth the visit. This incredible, sleepy giant is located on Tasmania’s Wild West Coast and is accessible via an easy yet very scenic rainforest track. It is certainly amongst the most stunning waterfalls in Australia with a permanent drop of approximately 104 metres. And for this reason it is perhaps one of the most rewarding short day walks in Tasmania. We found that the Montezuma Falls track was a great addition to our visit to the West Coast. We had initially had this walk listed as a maybe, if we had time sort of thing, wow we are certainly glad we did it.
The track to the falls begins at Williamsford, two kilometres south of Rosebery, and leaves directly from the carpark. The area is rich in railway and mining history with you literally following a late 1800’s route of the former North East Dundas Tramway right to the base of Montezuma Falls.
The initial surveying of the tramway was initiated in 1895, and by 1897, the first section of the tram way being used. The official opening of the tram way from Zeehan to Williamsford (Where the carpark area for Montezuma Falls is situtated) took place in 1898. The tram way used a narrow gauge of rail, which is why it was regarded as a tram line, and not a rail line. Today, some of the original sleepers from the tram line can be seen on your walk, with signage encouraging you to locate them. The waterfall was named after the Montezuma Mining Company which derived it’s name from the last emperor of the Aztecs.
The 10klm, three-hour return walk along a level track takes you right to the base of the 104 metre falls through pleasant cool temperate rainforest of leatherwood, myrtle, sassafras, giant tree ferns and eye-catching fungi. It amazes us at how different the rainforest here is compared to the tropical rainforests we are used to. These seem more park-like, as if someone has come through and cleaned up. At every turn there is a new vista to take in. The path is often wet in sections as it meanders through cuttings, often adjacent to creeks and streams running alongside. Good hiking boots with some waterproofing is recommended, not pretty pink Palladium Boots as Karen soon found out.
Some level of fitness is required, the walk is listed as a grade 2, but even though the track is wide and mostly level underfoot it is somewhat deceiving in the amount of undulation. (120 metres total elevation gain)
The trail passes many points of interest highlighting the mining history of the area including an open mine shaft just before the Falls. (Flashlight required) The open mine shaft is at the end of a dark short wet tunnel, no glow worms were sighted but it does seem to be a place for them to hangout. An old tramway bridge across the river is slowly being reclaimed by the rainforest and aged sleepers on the trail with railway spikes still embedded.
You may also see native wildlife along the way, including potoroos, several species of birds. Notably White’s thrush, which is a medium-sized and speckled brown and white ground dwelling bird. It forages quietly on the rainforest floor and, when disturbed, flies only a short distance before settling again, enabling you to get a second look.
However you do need to be aware of one local that likes to lay in sun spots on the track, yep tiger snakes love to bake in the sun. Tiger snakes are a large and highly venomous snake. The bite of a tiger snake, if left untreated for long, is fatal. But seldom do these snakes attack humans.
Tiger snakes vary in their appearance according to region. The ones who inhabit Tasmania are mostly jet black in color. We happen to come across three of these guys on our trek and one in particular just did not want to give up his spot on the track, that would be most of the width of the track. It took a little coaxing, but finally he/she found a sunny spot on higher ground. We took a wide berth and moved slowly by.
The creek immediately below the falls was once spanned by a wooden trestle bridge, 160 feet long and 50 feet high. Today derelict pieces of timber, moss-covered concrete piers and rusty bolts are the only remains of this bridge.
In it place a suspension bridge crossing the gorge below provides a brilliant viewpoint to witness the sheer magnitude of Montezuma Falls. To the left of the suspension bridge is a narrow broad walk that takes you for a close up view of the base.
Depending on the season, the waterfall can range from a gentle pour to a powerful waterfall which is almost impossible to get close to. We visited in February and we fortunate to have a steady stream with us able to scramble the rocks to get a closer view.
Both view areas are worthwhile seeing providing spectacular views. Once you have finished gasping at the falls, you need to return along the same way you came, this to us was the only downside to the walk. What had taken us a couple of hours to stop look, photograph and film, now became a route march back to the carpark and onto Strahan. But the pay off at the end was the fact that we had seen these magnificent Falls and walked a 100m long suspension bridge. One of our favourite hikes in Tasmania.
Note: Take plenty of drinking water with you as these pristine looking waters are polluted with chemicals from the mining days.
If you are in the area you should not miss these falls. They are well worth travelling to even as a day trip from either Strahan/Queenstown.
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Following are more photos of Montezuma Falls, we hope you enjoy them.
Join us next time when we travel to Strahan to retrace history.