Updated: May 5, 2020
There seems to be so much history and so many old fables to be told in every town around Tasmania it beckons to stay just a little longer. I was held up in a cabin for a few days in Strahan on Tassies west coast due to some really bad weather, so that gave me chance to delve a little in local history and to make a plan when the weather finally comes good.
Strahan is a wild place on the edge of some of the most beautiful or hospitable wilderness you can imagine, just depends on how you look at it. History in the area dates back to 1821 when the worst of the worst criminals were sent out to Sarah Island ( a tiny island in the harbour not far from Strahan ) from the British colony to serve their time, it wasn’t for another 50 years that Strahan became a safe port. Even today it's regarded as one of the most loneliest and isolated places on the planet, and after spending a few days there I can only imagine what it would of been like 100 years ago. Convicts only lasted 12 years here before the governor at the time decided the area was to hostile and they were moved to the Port Arthur colony.
The harbour itself is nearly 50km long allowing safe shelter from the raging weather, BUT the entrance to the Macquarie Harbour is one of the most dangerous in the world. Hells Gate’s as it is known is a narrow 100 metre wide fast flowing channel out to sea and was named by the convicts as apparently it marked their way into hell to serve time as a criminal to the most remote penal colony in the world. Many ships came to grief here and most within site of their mooring post. The harbour is rarely clear due to the constant brown water that flows into it from the river above, not dirty but brown from the button grass plains miles away.
Today it's a stunning town that hugs the bay with plenty of tourist attractions both man made and natural. Building around town date back to the 1800’s with a Federation feel. The wharf complex has an array of wood working workshops and displays, its the place to go to book a harbour cruise and on good day out through Hells Gates plus a few tourist shops. Down the main street there’s a heritage walk up past the stunning old Customs House which is now the local post office, Ormiston house which was once owned by Fred Ormiston who made his money in the tin mines but today its a beautifully restored B&B and around the bay there’s Regatta point Rail Station which was built back in 1890 and served by carrying loads from the mines over the mountains to the port. Today it's part of a scenic tourist rail ride between Strahan and Queenstown. Inside the restored station they serve some of the best meals and coffee that the town has to offer.
Natural attractions around town include the stunning Hogarth Falls and peoples park just minutes from town. This land was donated to the shire and its an easy 30 minute stroll through tall tree ferns and mixed rainforest trees to the falls. Theres plenty of info boards along the way to highlight what’s happening in the forest and gives you a little understanding on just how this area was formed millions of years ago. If the weather is clear a drive up to water tower hill gives you unrelentless views up the harbour.
Macquarie Harbour needs to be explored by taking the short 10 minute drive out to the heads where you can see Hells Gate and how the tides throw up huge waves and ruggedness of the west coast. Across the bay on the tiny Bonnet island you can clearly see the lighthouse that was built in the late 1800’s to guide the tall ships and if the weather is clear you can also see the huge stone wall built at the same time to stop the entrance blocking with sand. If you’ve got a 4wd and the tides are right you can drive up along Ocean beach for miles for a spot of fishing or head towards Henty Dunes for some of the best sand driving on the Island.
Strahan borders on the Franklin - Gordon Wild Rivers NP which was once the head of world controversy over damming the Franklin River, but luckily today it's been declared as World Heritage. Even tho its an extremely remote and inaccessible NP it still attracts visitors from around the globe who just want to visit this thick and wild area. If you like it wild, blustery with a hint of remarkable history thrown in - Strahan needs to be on your list when visiting Tasmania, like me you won’t be disappointed.