I found the World Heritage Cruises to be a good deal, so we booked this for our full day in Strahan. There were a couple of options for cruises... the express morning didn't look like the best deal ... the full cruise could either be taken at 9am or 2pm, so we chose the 9am-3pm cruise. This cruise was $65 for adults, $25 for kids 5-14 or free for under 5. A buffet lunch cost an extra $15 or you could bring your own lunch. We went ahead with the buffet and it was very good.
The cruise took us first out to Hell's Gates, the narrow entry to Macquarie Harbour. We then cruised back in the harbour to Sarah Island where we stopped for a guided tour around the ruins of the island (or you could wander on your own), but the tour guide was very interesting. We then cruised on in to the end of the harbour and in to Gordon River. Along the river we stopped at Heritage Landing where we took a nature walk and had a little nature talk. Overall, it was a very relaxing and pleasant cruise. A cruise is definitely one of the highlights in Strahan!
I found this walk in a 'Great Short Walks' of Tasmania brochure that I sent off for. You can also download it from the website below. It proved to be very helpful as we travelled around Tasmania. This walk was a very nice one and a great thing to do if you are in Strahan for a day or two.
If you start from the carpark, this walk should take about 45 minutes return. It is a very easy walk along a level track next to a scenic stream and then at the end you get to see this lovely waterfall!
Technically not a hill, but more of a crest. There is a flight of stairs behind the Hilltop Motor Inn and you could do a quick climb up to the top to catch a panorama of Strahan's beautiful harbourfront and the Esplanade. Along the way, there are plenty of holly shrubs adorning the steps. At the top of the stairs are the harbourview deluxe rooms of the Inn, so no trespassing is allowed beyond the gates.
OK, truth be told. There aren't a lot of things you can do here! Was here with a mate and we spent one good evening walking around town and looking at the houses of the folks staying at this far corner of Tasmania. Some of these houses are quite beautiful and stately, with lovely gardens. We were surmissing how long it will take us to work to get a house of the same type back home!
Honestly, I wonder the boats actually belong to anybody! Anyone who has remotely heard of Strahan must have seen the many postcards featuring Risdon Cove. It's a spot photographed to death - day in day out, the same boats. Don't get me wrong, it's a great place to hike to/take a walk from the harbour and it is really peaceful here, standing on the bridge and overlooking the waters back at the harbour.
Turn right after hitting the harbour and you leave the main activity centre. I was searching for the Post Office and was rewarded instead with a rather lonely stretch of gravel path that lead me to a rickety wooden pier with a solitary fisherman trying his luck out in this lovely spot. Good spot for photography especially during dusk!
People's Park is about a 20 minutes walk from the harbour and is just opposite Risdon Cove. Lovely place to be if the weather is kind enough. (The weather at Strahan emotes) Take a stroll through nature, with the air thick with the smell of flora and hear the rustle of leaves under your feet! (Try: Hunting for the Sassafras Tree while you're here)
About 15 minutes walk into People's Park and you will come upon the tumbling waters of Hogarth Falls. Not the world's biggest water tumblers but it's a spot made from great photography!
You cannot escape its presence. It's just 10-15 minutes downhill from town and you will find all the hotels, restaurants & delis, adventure tours companies, souvenir shops & photo developing shops all hugging each other along this little stretch of road. There is a little park here where you can take a seat, zone out and watch the world go by. Or you can take a stroll along the pier and go ship-gazing.
Be-warned: Seagulls will be your constant companions so watch out for guano!
The West Coast Wilderness Railway is a 35 Km Rack and Pinion or ABT Railway running from Queenstown to Strahan. The railway uses the fully restored 100 year old Steam Loco's that ran on the original rail line that was built for the Mt Lyell Mining & Railway Company.
While the engines are original the carriages are all brand new and the interiors are made from Tasmanian timbers. When taking a trip on the railway, passengers are given a description of the history of the ABT from the on board Staff
The ABT system (patented by Rinecker ABT & Co. of Wurzburg of Germany) uses a cog wheel in the engine which engages a toothed central rail to enable the engine to climb the steep inclines of some of Australia's most rugged terrain.
The railway follows the King River Gorge for most of the journey.
The waters of the Gordon River meander down from their source in the Central Highlands. They pass through an ancient, beautiful but inhospitable land of rugged mountains and temperate rainforest before emptying into the magnificent Macquarie Harbour and then to the sea.
You are in the famous Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park at the mid northern area of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The park was created after Australia's largest conservation battle of the 1980s - the battle to save the Franklin from the Hydro Tasmania proposed hydro-electric power scheme. The statuesque Huon Pines have also benefited from the creation of the park. These slow growing trees were valued for their timber.
The Macquarie Harbour is more than 110 square miles of natural, safe harbour which opens to the seas through the narrow and treacherous Hell's Gates. It is also the site of the ruins of the convict prison on Sarah Island. Tasmania's famous salmon and ocean trout farms are also in the area.
A great way to see the area is from the Lady Jane Franklin II.
Sarah Island is the site of one of Australia's worst penal colonies and was in operation between 1822 and 1833. The prison was established to house the worst convicts and those who had escaped from other settlements. It is an isolated island, separated by wild seas and surrounded by wild inaccessible country and was ideally suited for its purpose. The surveyor who mapped Sarah Island concluded that the chances of escape were "next to impossible".
There were a number of escape attempts - the most famous being Alexander Pearce who managed two escapes. On each occasion he survived by cannabalising his escape-mates.
In an aim to be economically viable the governor of the time, William Sorrell, established a shipbuilding industry using the Huon Pines (an ideal timber for this purpose). However, the island was soon cleared of this valuable timber.
The conditions for the prisoners were extremely harsh. Since no food could be produced on the island malnutrition and scurvy were rife. The convicts were so crowded they were unable to sleep on their backs in the communal barracks. Ergot, a wheat fungus, was added to the bread to make it go mouldy so it could not be stored for escape.
Records show that in 1824, a prisoner killed anther so that he could be executed rather than endure the torment.
The prison on Sarah Island was finally closed in late 1833.
The ruins that remain today are known as the Sarah Island Historic Site which is part of the larger Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
The island can be visited, by ferry, from the town of Strahan. It is often included in a Day trip to the Gordon River.
I’d heard about it from time to time. It was happening; funding was woefully short; it was in limbo; it was a must see. All this of course referred to the Abt Railway that runs between Queenstown and Strachan. All the statements were true. The initial government Bi-Centenary funding of 20 million was about 13 million short and it took a long time to get the extra and for the project to get finalized.
To say that some of the world’s most amazing railways were built in Australia isn’t an understatement. That this piece of track was even considered is incredible though it’s only 34 kilometres long. Until you actually ride the thing you can’t get a handle on just how hard it was to build. Over 500 kilometres of bush trails were blazed just to find the route! Why they didn’t use Google earth I’ll never know.
Just clearing the way they had to hack through scrub as dense as any you’ll ever see. Primaeval forest never touched by man and so thick you could scarcely see 10 metres into it was cleared at around 100 metres a day. Every engineer, and there were many, who said it couldn’t be done was sacked. The motto was “Labor Omnia Vincit”; “we find a way or make it”. They built it in 2 ½ years, it took nearly twice that to restore the Abt to modern standards after it lay abandoned for thirty years.
I always assumed, along with most others so I was informed, that Abt was an acronym but it was actually the name of the Swiss engineer who designed the world’s most popular rack railway – the type you need to get a train up steep gradients and this railway is steep. The latest incarnation is the ski-tube at Thredbo.
On our way from Strachan our fully restored steam engine hauled us up a one in sixteen hill. On the way down to Queenstown it’s one in twelve, the steepest gradient in the southern hemisphere. To add to the train’s difficulties, we had a female driver.
And all this was just so they could haul 120 tons of ore from Queenstown to a port. The ore is over 90% pure and copper is the main ingredient. It was only discovered after the initial gold rush petered out and some clever person sent a sample to be assayed in Melbourne and found it was rich in so many other things.
None of this sunk in to Rosemarie; it was more the 4 glasses of sparkling wine that sunk in for we had blown our budget and booked into the premier class carriage where food and beverages were constantly put before you and you had the advantage of standing on the back landing, sort of like Queen Elizabeth all those years ago when we did but see her passing by; one of my memories of a childhood lived by the main Sydney-Newcastle railway.
The restored Abt has been extremely lucky in that 3 of the original steam locos have been restored and are in use. Another is in a museum in Hobart and the last one was scrapped for spare parts. They were also lucky because the two feasibility studies into the project both said it wouldn’t work.
Looking down the steep sided King’s River Canyon into the tannin stained water it’s fairly obvious why no-one in their right mind would suggest going ahead with it but fortunately some humans are made of sterner stuff and as we puff-puff our way along the narrow gauge I’m grateful they are.
At one of our five stops there is a honey stand where you can sample different honeys and again we're sucked in, this time buying a ginger laced variety of leatherwood. Leatherwood is fascinating inasmuch as the tree has to be 280 to 320 years old before it flowers in enough quantity to attract apiarists.
Meanwhile, Rosemarie has teamed up with Barbara, an effervescent lady who puts life into perspective. She and her partner are seated in the adjacent seats; her partner is in a wheelchair. Turns out he has something extremely rare, similar to motor-neurone disease that has turned a once large and vibrant man into a gibbering wreck in just two years. How she copes is beyond me as she relates getting in to Hobart, not realising that Strachan is over 300 kilometres away over forever twisting and turning roads and setting out after 5 p.m. to arrive after eleven, forever terrified of running into wildlife.
As a tourist venture the railway has only been going for 8 years but is hugely popular to the point where it’s now been taken over by the Federal Group that incorporates other attractions and accommodation. The morning runs are invariably booked out in advance during the tourist season.
At journey’s end we alight and wait for our coach and a trip back along the road to Strachan that I can only remember the first few and last few minutes of. Sleep is divine. The important thing is we just returned in time for sunset, a pretty affair refected in Macquarie Harbour.