Harbour and River Cruises
Gordon River and Macquarie Harbour cruises: no visit to the west coast of Tasmania is complete without a cruise on Macquarie Harbour and the ancient, mirror like water of the Gordon River. This magnificent waterway was the subject of international attention in the early 1980s when conservationists stopped the building of a dam across the river. The waters of this river meander down from the Central Highlands, through breathtaking a World Heritage-listed temperate rainforests to the mouth of Macquarie Harbour. A huge natural protected body of water, Macquarie Harbour surrounds the ruins of Tasmania’s most infamous convict stations in the south and gives way to the wild ocean through the narrow and turbulent Hell’s Gates.
20 minutes drive south of Zeehan on the road south to Strahan is where you will find the largest moving dune system in Tasmania. Henty Dunes are a vast expanse of rolling white desert sand dunes extending several kilometres inland, its white hilly sand reminiscent of the Snowy Mountains. It is the last thing would expect to find amid the lush rainforest of Tasmania’s west coast. Pine plantations have attempted to stop the migration of the dunes inland. The huge sand formations can be explored on foot or aboard quad bikes. Sandboarding is also popular.
4 Wheeler Quad Bikes of Strahan operate Quad Tours out of Strahan. The three-seater buggies leave in convoy from Strahan to the Henty Sand Dunes picnic area, just 10 minutes from the centre of Strahan along the B27 highway to Zeehan. There are plenty of opportunities for photos along the way, and the ride would suit the novice ot experienced rider. Being three seaters, you can take the kids along too.
Sarah Island (or Settlement Island) is found in the far south west corner of Macquarie Harbour. This isolated island was a Penal Settlement between 1822 and 1833, established, before the more well-known Port Arthur, as a place of ‘secondary’ punishment, an attempt to control the uncontrollable. Over time Sarah Island has gained a reputation as a place of unspeakable horrors and a living hell, largely due to the exploits of one of the island’s ‘colourful’ characters, Alexander Pearce, the Cannibal Convict, and a novel “For the Term of His Natural Life” written about 1860 by Marcus Clark. The novel, although based on actual events, is a fiction which set out to create Sarah Island as a living hell for its hero, Rufus Dawes. Sarah Island is visited by cruise boats travelling Macquarie Harbour from Strahan.
Just north of Hell’s Gates, the spectacular entrance to Macquarie Harbour, is Ocean beach. No visit to Strahan is complete without travelling here. Some six kilometres due west of town and facing 8,000km of Great Southern Ocean, it is Tasmania’s longest with nearly 40 kilometres of unbroken beach from Macquarie Heads in the south to Trial Harbour in the north. If you want to experience what the end of the world is really like it is worthwhile standing on this hard, flat beach watching the huge waves relentlessly breaking and realising that those waves, travelling on the Roaring Forties, have not made contact with land between Australia and Patagonia.