Situated on Macquarie Harbour with its major industries of tourism, fishing, aquaculture, and forestry, The pretty little resort town of Strahan with a population of approximately 700, is a big contrast to the boom days when the port catered for the mineral fields and handled more cargo than any port in Tasmania. The Union Steamship Company and the Customs House are the two of the most impressive reminders of that era.
Six kilometers out of town is stunning Ocean Beach renowned for its sunsets, is pounded all year long from the swells which may travel from as far as South America. River cruises along the famous Gordon River start from Strahan and include Sarah Island, Tasmania's first penal colony, made famous in Marcus Clark's novel "For the Term of His Natural Life".
Strahan is easy-going, relaxed and progressive. The only town and port on the west coast, it sits in the huge Macquarie Harbour, site of Sarah Island, a harsh secondary convict settlement in use between 1822 and 1830, which can be visited on a Gordon River cruise.
Your first stop should be the innovative wooden and iron Strahan Visitor Centre, on The Esplanade (daily: summer 10am–8pm; winter 10am–6pm; Tel 03/6471 7622 for tourist information), whose exterior design aims to echo the area’s boat building and timber industries. The interior features a waterfall, and a huge glass wall providing views of the harbour. The centre sets out its exhibits in a provocative and challenging way, with the quote on the foyer wall immediately striking an ecological note. There are seven main themes: the Aborigines, convicts, logging, ecology, economy, wilderness and conflict – all making a satisfyingly radical departure from the usual displays in a local museum. If you don’t want to see the exhibition you can enter the foyer free of charge to pick up leaflets and information.
Adjacent to the visitor centre is the Strahan Woodworks, in a large, corrugated-iron shed (daily 8am–5pm), selling well-designed and crafted woodwork; you’re also welcome to roam around Morrison’s Saw Mill next door, and watch the Tasmanian timbers being initially processed.
The Strahan Historic Foreshore Walkway is a pleasant gravel track following the shore of the harbour around to Regatta Point, where you’ll see the 1899 built train station that was used by the Queenstown-based Mount Lyell Railway and Mining Company to transport ore to the port. Today the RBT Railway. En route you pass the People’s Park, from where you can take the rain forest walk to Hogarth Falls (40min; 2km return).
Please note: The RBT railway will not be in service till further notice.
Cruising the Gordon River
The Gordon River is deep, its waters dark from the tannin leaching out of button grass plains. Cruise boats used to travel as far as Sir John Falls, 30km upriver, but the speed at which the boats had to go was causing the river banks to erode. Boats now travel only the 14km to Heritage Landing, where there’s a chance to see a section of real rain forest: a boardwalk above the rain forest floor allows you to get close without disturbing anything.
In addition to the Gordon River cruises, there’s a wide choice of water- and air-based tours. West Coast Yacht Charters, on The Esplanade (Tel 03/6471 7422 or Mobile 0419/300 994; runs evening crayfish dinner sails on Macquarie Harbour on a 20m ketch, Stormbreaker (6–8.30pm; plus morning fishing trips with all gear supplied (9am–noon).
With Wild Rivers Jet ( tel 03/6471 7174) you can explore the King River, which, like the Gordon, flows into Macquarie Harbour, just south of Strahan.
Wilderness Air, on Strahan Wharf, runs spectacular seaplane flights over Macquarie Harbour and the wilderness area (daily from 9am; bookings essential on Tel 03/6471 7280), which grant you the unforgettable image of the smooth dark ribbon of the pristine Gordon River easing through dense forest. The seaplanes land at Sir John Falls Landing, further upriver than the cruise boats can reach – the highlight of the trip is a dramatic landing on the glassy calm of the Gordon River. Wilderness Air also has longer flights for viewing the rugged scenery around Frenchman's Cap. There are also helicopter flights with Seair Adventure Charters (Tel 03/6471 7718) over Hells Gates and Macquarie Harbour, and the Teepookana Forest.
The above information is accurate at the time of compilation and subject to change by the above mentioned operators without notice.