Geotourism in Tasmania

Vicary, Mike1, Cumming, Grace1, Bottrill, Ralph 1,

1Geological Survey Branch – Mineral Resources Tasmania – Geological Survey Branch, Rosny Park, Australia

Tasmania is one of world’s most geodiverse places on the planet, with rocks ranging in age from Proterozoic to Recent. The geology has been subjected multiple episodes of deformation, felsic and mafic magmatism, rifting, erosion and weathering, reflecting changes in tectonic setting and climate with time.

The UNESCO world heritage area (WHA) forms the greater part of the 30% of Tasmania that is occupied by National Park or reserve. The WHA is one of only two areas in the world which satisfies at least seven of the ten criteria required for listing. Importantly, four of these criteria are directly related to the WHA’s unique geology and landscape.

Significant geological features include folded and metamorphosed Proterozoic basement, Cambrian ophiolites, Cambrian to Devonian sedimentary rocks, Permian to Triassic sedimentary sequences with widespread Jurassic dolerite intrusive sills, karst features, Cainozoic glacial and periglacial landforms, fluvial and coastal landforms and extensive blanket bogs. These features help to define the World Heritage status and are also widespread across Tasmania. Together with the Mt Read Volcanics, extensive Tertiary sequences with basaltic volcanic centres, the Ordovician to Devonian sequence of NE Tasmania, Devonian granite intrusions and rare gems, minerals and fossils, they make Tasmania an ideal place for geotourism. 

Tasmania receives about 1.3 million visitors/year with the majority visiting the State to enjoy a holiday in the natural environment. Many current tourist operations provide a basic level of geological information. DPIPWE provides interpretation in the WHA and National Parks through it’s website, visitors centres and track signage. Tour operators conduct boat trips in the Freycinet, Tasman Peninsula, Bruny Island and the Gordon River areas, wilderness flights to Melaleuca in the WHA and guided cave tours. The Wilderness Railway provides commentary on the mining history in the Queenstown area. There are first class rock displays at many of the local museums, especially Zeehan.

The tourist operations are supplemented by three Geotrails, which provide the tourist with a greater level of geological interpretation. The ‘Created from Chaos’ Geotrail was developed to highlight the complex Proterozoic – Palaeozoic sequences and Cainozoic geology along the northwest coast. The West Coast (‘Living Earth”) Geotrail has been developed, including the southern part of the Cambrian Mt Read Volcanic belt, with sites highlighting aspects of the Cambrian to Ordovician rift development, Devonian granite magmatism, mining history and the Cainozoic landscape development. A third Geotrail on the Furneaux Islands highlights the Palaeozoic to Cainozoic evolution of Bass Strait.

Other notable geotourism projects completed include the production of an excursion guide to King Island (Calver, 2016), a non-technical book on the geological evolution of Tasmania (Corbett, 2019) and a pamphlet highlighting the geological features of the Tasman Peninsula (Mineral Resources Tasmania, 2019). A new book describing Tasmanian Fossils by Peter Manchester is due for completion in 2021.


Calver C.R. 2016. A guide to the Geology of King Island. King Island Natural Resource Management Group.

Corbett, K.D. 2019. Child of Gondwana: The geological making of Tasmania. FortySouth Tasmania

Mineral Resources Tasmania 2019. Geological Features of the Tasman Peninsula).


Michael Vicary graduated with a BSc(hons) degree from the ANU in 1987. Since then he has worked in Tasmania for Geological Survey and in mineral exploration.

About the GSA

The Geological Society of Australia was established as a non-profit organisation in 1952 to promote, advance and support Earth sciences in Australia.

As a broadly based professional society that aims to represent all Earth Science disciplines, the GSA attracts a wide diversity of members working in a similarly broad range of industries.