Visiting Strahan is like visiting the edge of the world. It’s a remote, frontier coastal port with a history of convicts, mining and harsh penal settlements on a savage harbour.
It’s also gobsmackingly beautiful.
In my second column in the current (Aug/Sept) edition of On the Road magazine I wrote about a trip we took to Tasmania a few years ago. It was us, the in-laws and a big hire car, enjoying a mini holiday in the ‘Apple Isle’.
In my column I briefly touched on our time in Strahan but this town, sitting on the Wild West Coast of Tassie is so gorgeous it deserves a snapshot of its own.
Strahan is about a four hour drive from either Hobart or Launceston but it feels a world away.
It sits on the shore of Macquarie Harbour and has been described as “the last outpost civilisation on the west coast and surely one of the loneliest places on earth.”
Strahan is definitely remote.
It’s a place easy to get lost in, meandering along the waterfront, with its boats, craft shops, artisans studios and other charming diversions. In fact that’s exactly what happened to my father-in-law.
He went for a walk and disappeared.
For a while we were too engrossed to realise he was missing. Too busy exploring the Main Street which hugs the picture perfect harbour and backdrop of federation facades.
We eventually found him back at our holiday house. It was a gorgeous log house and he wanted to get back there, so he simply up and walked! I just wish he’d told us!
Back on the harbour View 42 or Hamer’s Bar and Grill offers perfect water views and a great chance to chillax.
Sit back with a glass of Pinot Noir or a Tasmanian beer with some Tassie cheese. Life is good here, much better than it would have been for the convicts shipped here years ago.
On the water
Macquarie Harbour is spectacularly beautiful on a sunny day and dark and forbidding on a gloomy day.
The best way to settle into its moods is on board a World Heritage/Gordon River cruise.
Beforehand check out The Ship That Never Was, on the esplanade, an interactive and compelling show on Strahan’s convict history.
On the water, Hell’s gates signals the entrance to Macquarie Harbour. The channel at just 120 metres wide, is narrow, extremely shallow and one of Australia’s most dangerous harbours. The two headlands guarding the entrance each have a lighthouse to warn of the dangerous conditions.
It’s said the conditions were so bad at nearby Sarah Island that the convicts named the entrance to the harbour Hells Gates. It’s also thought the name came about due to the enormous rush of the tides through the entrance to the harbour.
Either way this is a formidable area.
It’s tranquil as we cruise by however back in convict days this journey wouldn’t have been so peaceful. Most of the poor sods transported here faced a life of extreme hardship and many never returned.
Docked on Sarah Island
Disembarking at Sarah Island is like stepping into a wild primitive past. This once penal colony is filled with ruins and reminders of a harsh past.
A guided tour through this area gives a glimpse into convict days.
Beyond the ruins there are trails and virginal rainforests, crisp air and the sheer blackness of the water of the Gordon River.
Strahan offers an opportunity to feed your wild spirit. Experience the breathtaking Wilderness Railway, take a scenic flight, tackle walking trails and marvel at the wild untouched Ocean Beach, the longest uninterrupted stretch of ocean in the world.
Tassie’s south west is one of the world’s wildest spots. It’d be a crime to come to the Apple Isle and not visit it.
So that’s Strahan, a little taste of the Apple Isle at the bottom of Oz.
Keep shining, keep enjoying those moments and making the most of the journey, wherever you are.
In light and love