Fern Glade: Tasmania’s hidden nature reserve

Fern Glade is a hidden treasure.

It’s a stunning fern filled nature reserve tucked away in the hills just outside the town of Burnie on Tasmania’s North West coast.

This delightful reserve is probably missed by most visitors passing through Burnie due to its location, but it’s one of the easiest to reach and family friendly reserves in the area. And it’s free!

Well built paths, plenty of excellent facilities, interactive information boards and lots of nature to enjoy make it a stand out destination worth the short detour.

Pathway through the rainforest
Well built path through the rainforest

Strangest of locations

Fern Glade Reserve is a favourite spot for locals, but fairly unknown among Tasmanian visitors.

We first heard about this beautiful reserve after a local suggested we visit. We had only just moved to Tasmania from South Australia, so the area and its destinations were all fairly new to us at the time.

Now, I have to admit, on our first visit to Fern Glade, I thought the local might have been pulling our chain a little bit.

The drive to Fern Glade wasn’t screaming beautiful riverside walk at all. Definitely nothing like the local had described at least.

In fact, we were driving through what is essentially the industrial area of Burnie. Factories, logging yards and plenty of trucks coming and going.

Eventually we rounded the bend and the gated entry to the reserve was there.

It’s strange to find one of Tasmania’s most beautiful walks just a short drive from town and hidden behind the areas industrial district, but there it was.

Fallen tree across the Emu River, Tasmania
The rapids!

Short walk

The main walk is located between the nature reserves two car parking areas. It’s an easy 30 minute return walk following the gentle curves of the Emu River and highlights a few of Tasmania’s ecosystems in one short area.

It begins as a beautiful shaded rainforest path overhanging with fronds from the giant tree ferns. This area is lush with green mosses, rotten logs and has a great viewing platform which extends out over the river.

Viewing platform over the Emu River in Fern Glade, Tasmania
Platypus Viewing Platform

From the rainforest area the path gently slopes upwards into a more open and dry wooded area as you begin to head up the side of the canyon wall. The views from atop the canyon wall viewing platform are picturesque as you overlook the flowing river below.

Viewing platform overlooking the Emu River
Canyon Viewing Platform

The slope heads down again towards a nice grass covered area. This area is perfect for relaxing, or enjoying a bbq or picnic under a shade tree.

Enjoy exploring along the river banks, a spot of bird watching, or get down and dirty with some fungi hunting before heading back for the return journey.

Pink blob fungi found in Fern Glade, Tasmania
Interesting Fern Glade fungi

We recommend starting the walk from the first car park area which is located right after crossing the bridge.

Best time to visit?

Fern Glade is a great place to visit year round and deciding when to visit will be a personal choice.

In winter with the increased rainfall, the area is more lush and green. You’ll find more fungi and moss and the river level will be higher. We personally prefer the area in winter, but be prepared for a muddy track and possible rain during your visit.

Summer is more likely to supply you with a nice sunny day to enjoy a BBQ or picnic, and avoid a muddy track. The river flows year round but will more than likely be a little lower in summer and the vegetation a little more dry and brittle looking.

Fern covered canyon wall, Fern Glade, Tasmania
Fern covered canyon wall

Wear appropriate footwear. Hiking boots are best for winter, but sturdy shoes will suffice during summer.

The elusive Platypus

Australia is well known for its strange and wacky animals. Like the spiny Echidnas, fat and adorable Wombats, giant Emu’s, and everyone’s favourite, The lazy but cuddly Koalas.

While all these critters are on most people’s Australian animal bucket list, Fern Glade is the place to catch sight of what we think is the strangest and most unusual of all the Australian animals. The Platypus.

If you’ve never seen or heard of a Platypus before, then try to imagine a wacky mix up of a streamlined beaver with the beak of a duck, but on a much smaller scale.

Duck-Billed Platypus in the Emu River along Fern Glade reserve, Tasmania
Duck-Billed Platypus

They’re a very interesting animal and native to Australian rivers and waterways. And one of the few animals that fall into the very unique Monotreme family (egg laying mammals) of which only 5 species in the world are classified.

While Platypus can sometimes be hard to find, catching sight of one of Australia’s most unique and iconic animals is a real treat.


The glade has some great facilities which make it the perfect place to stop in for lunch on your way through Burnie to the West Coast or Cradle Mountain, or as a nice place to spend an afternoon enjoying a short walk.

The reserve has toilet facilities, lots of seated picnic areas (both uncovered and covered) and electric BBQ’s to cook up a nice BBQ lunch.

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