Tag Archives: Strahan

Gordon River Cruise, Strahan – Tasmania

For me it’s an early start to the Gordon River Cruise and looking down from Strahan Village’s accommodation tucked up on the hillside, here’s a fabulous view of what’s ahead for the day. Can’t wait to walk down to the pier and set sail to see the UNESCO listedTasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area on the state’s west coast.

One of the Gordon River Cruise’s vessels – the stately Lady Jane Franklin II is a large, fast and stable catamaran which carries up to 200 passengers and has on board cinematic floor-to-ceiling windows giving a maximum vantage in being able to witness some of the  most unique natural wilderness – not just in Australia but the world.

For bookings check the website  http://www.gordonrivercruises.com.au

Sailing out of the sheltered Macquarie Harbour, it’s just a perfect day with mirror-like waters ahead before entering Hells Gates.

It’s a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel entrance from/to the harbour. The actual channel is between Macquarie Heads on the west and Entrance Island on the east (the main length of the harbour runs southeast of Hells Gates).

The name of the channel relates to the original convicts’ claims that it was their point of ‘entrance to Hell’. Their Hell being the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island and the outlying surrounds of the harbour of which we visit later on.

Passing by Entrance Island whereby the lights were built before the Cape Sorell lighthouse which is also heritage listed.

Leaving the protected harbour, we’re all enjoying morning tea or a glass of bubbly by now – especially if you’ve a ticket to the Captain’s Premier Upper Deck!

Magnificent views of the foreshores with calm waters makes for a very relaxing day with an excellent commentary given by the staff.

On board we’re given the opportunity to understand some of the timbers of the region which are slow-growing and native to the UNESCO Widerness area.

Huon Pine is the prince of Tasmanian timbers with its richness of colour and figure made it one of the world’s most desirable furniture and veneering timbers. It grows at a rate of between 0.3 – 2 mm per year. Because of its scarcity, its price tag is exorbitant compared to other timbers sought for woodwork purposes.

Disembarking at Heritage Landing Nature Walk allows us an insight into what the wooded region is really like when on land. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service are doing work on the boardwalks to conserve the natural environment.

It’s incredibly dense and you have a sense of the magnificent slow-growing  fauna which has taken place within this ancient forest. It’s definitely a ‘survival of the fittest’ here with plants vying for a patch!

It’s only a short walkway which has been raised to ensure our walking on the ground does not impact on the vegetation.

Feels like a really magical place to be and honored we’re permitted to see it first hand from our day out. Ordinarily tourists only have access by taking one of the chartered cruises such as this one.

Shaded throughout the day the undergrowth never dries out and feels quite cool.

The Franklin Dam or Gordon-below-Franklin Dam project was a proposed dam on the Gordon River – and luckily it had never been constructed. Thankfully, the movement which eventually led to the project’s cancellation became one of the most significant environmental campaigns in Australian history. In December 1982, the dam site was occupied by protesters leading to widespread arrests and world publicity gained momentum. The dispute became a federal issue the following year in March. A legal battle between the Federal Government and the Tasmania Government followed resulting in a landmark High Court ruling in the Federal Government’s favour.

When you see for yourself the beauty and serenity of the area along with the untouched natural wilderness; it’s a relief to know some things in life are sacred and should be kept as such.

We’re now heading off to Sarah Island with lunch on board which is buffet style and we’re all feeling a little hungry after our short sojourn on land.

Having disembarked we’re ready to view Sarah Island and its history which had a reputation of unspeakable horrors…

This isolated island was a Penal Settlement between 1822 and 1833 from the United Kingdom and established before the more well-known Port Arthur as a place of ‘secondary’ punishment. Basically an attempt to control the ‘uncontrollable’. Or perhaps steal a loaf of bread and then you were transported to what was considered ‘the end of the earth’ if caught.

There are some obvious ruins on the Island today. Most of the buildings were of timber construction which has been removed or rotted. Some deliberate damage many years ago by those who wanted the island’s history forgotten and the activity of souvenir collectors in the late 19th Century and early 20th Century have depleted the brick and stone structures.

However, at the end of the day we’re all glad we didn’t live in the early days Australia was discovered and witnessed the hardships of men and women who ultimately settled in a new country; one which is on a latitude in the southern hemisphere being the equivalent to the north – or in other words, a world away!

Overnighting at Strahan Village, it offers 142 rooms with free WiFi throughout and designed to complement the seaside atmosphere. Comfortable rooms with a sunken lounge area to relax and unwind. There’s also a bar and restaurant for those who’d rather stay in and enjoy the amenities.

With an eagle’s-eye view of the harbour, you can choose accommodation whereby a balcony enhances the experience. Then simply, admire the changing light while eating in overlooking the harbour and pondering what was a fabulous day out cruising.

For bookings check the website www.strahanvillage.com.au

Strahan, Tasmania – Australia – Part One

Along the main road from Devonport and onto Strahan, there’ll be the odd opportunity to take a photo from the roadway. Generally, I found if there was a superb view coming up in the distance, the ability to pull over was a little further ahead. Slow right down as most of us from country regions know that loose gravel and speed is treacherous. There shouldn’t be any need to be hasty as the road is really quite winding and concentration while driving is paramount – not to mention it can be tiring.

I was relieved to find Marsden Court Apartments were at the first crossroads into Strahan, so easy for me to find my accommodation after a long drive.

Before settling into my accommodation for the night, owner Pam advised to head down to Ocean Beach for the evening’s magical curtain call. She wasn’t wrong! How terrific is this sunset and it’s not too far from Marsden Court Apartments – just a block or so down the road, then turn right and follow the signs. Obviously you won’t be disappointed! No retouching on this photo …

Loved the story Pam told me later on as to how she was visiting the east coast at Swansea some years ago to see the sun rise, and then drove home to the west coast after about six hours to watch it set at Ocean Beach on the same day.

Take a snack and drink to revel in the changing light show. Over the years I’d heard how beautiful Strahan is, but you should check it out for yourself and truly appreciate how fabulous its beauty and clean, fresh air really is.  I understand if you flew ‘by the crow’  westwards, the first country you’d reach would be the southern tip of Argentina.

Happy to say, Marsden Court’s self-contained, spacious two-bedroom or studio accommodation apartments are fully equipped with all conveniences such as microwaves and hotplates to prepare your meals. Additionally, they have air conditioning and private balconies. Home away from home …

Marsden Court offers spacious, modern studios and two-bedroom apartments with kitchenettes which have all the facilities of home. Large flat-screen TV and DVD players are available along with wifi in each room. They also have provision for those who are less mobile and are green accredited.

For bookings see http://www.marsdencourt.com.au

The two-bedroom apartments of Sharonlee Strahan Villas (just across the road from Marsden Court) are great for families with full sized ovens, microwaves, a large fridge and spacious lounge and dining areas.

My recommendation is to stay in Strahan at least four to five nights as there’s so much to see and enjoy in the region. And, when you feel the comfort of home like this property after a long drive, then you can be assured of feeling relaxed and on holiday. Free parking alongside your accommodation too – so no need to worry about your vehicle and you can unpack your goodies with ease.

For bookings check http://www.sharonleestrahanvillas.com.au 

And just up the hill a couple of blocks away in Strahan there’s the local IGA and bakery for all your supplies. No need to eat out every night as you can just ‘chill out’ in your PJs and cook up a storm.

Both properties can also be booked through the TasVillas group check out: http://tasvillas.com/our-properties/the-west-north-west-and-cradle-valley/

Both properties are either side of Andrew Street and run by Pam and Mark who are incredibly helpful and full of the local area’s information and have a tour desk on site.

However, it was interesting to note the old original railway turntable had been here on the Sharonlee property and they donated it to the West Coast Wilderness Railway at Regatta Point in Strahan. Now it’s a lovely rose garden within their premises for all guests to admire.

So here it is – next morning everyone has the chance to see the old turntable still in use here at Regatta Point in Strahan.

Today’s outing is with the West Coast Wilderness Railway and the feeling in the air is that everyone’s very excited about being a passenger on a full-day excursion to Queenstown and return on a  steam locomotive – and is still being used as an historically important part of Tasmania’s livelihood. Standing proudley is one of the original Dubs & Co Abt steam locomotives; she may be small but has a big heart in what’s about to be tackled up ahead of her today.

So, Good Morning to you majestic little lady – now being steamed up and prepared for all to enjoy. We’re going to be hauled along to some magnificent heights during the day as the steepest gradient on the rack section is 1 in 15 (6.67%).

To start off the morning whilst the locomotive is being readied for its outing, the passengers can enjoy a morning pastry with tea/coffee before boarding. Tickets and seating is given when checking in at the office.

The West Coast Wilderness Railway is a reconstruction of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company in Tasmania between Queenstown and Regatta Point. If you’re visiting Strahan this is a definite to have on your to-do list and a huge favourite with families.

Way to go! With a toot of the locomotive’s driver, we’re on our way.

When you see the terrain of what the railway workers constructed overland and through the forestation back in the late 1800s, it’s incredibly hard to believe that it was ever made possible. The railway utilised the Abt rack and pinion system for steep sections and can be seen in the centre of the track here. Because of the gradients, tonnages used in the past to transport copper was always limited on the railway line as the gauge is 3 ft 6 in (1,067 mm).

Iron bridges over massive gorges are numerous.

The views across the escarpments are second to none and again we can see the rack and pinion system with its ‘teeth’ assisting the locomotive to make our day a reality.

Pete giving the petite loco a drink as it’s thirsty work and we’ve yet to tackle the more steeper areas along the way to Queenstown and then back again.

Ready to go and with another toot we all know it’s time to board and push onwards.

In the township of Queenstown, the discovery of gold and copper deposits at the Iron Blow in the 1880s led to the opening of the vast operations of the Mt Lyell Mining & Railway Co. Lovely area to visit and steeped in history – even for a day trip.

Additionally the station here caters with the Tracks Café offering delicious meals at an affordable price and the staff are really friendly. The new terminus in Queenstown is on the site of the original station yard.

You may wish to book a package which includes lunch within your ticket price.

Mining started in the 1880s with the Queen River being used for waste water disposal from the Mt Lyell copper mine. Between 1922 and 1995 low grade ore was concentrated on site and the tailings (ore-washing residue) dumped in the river also.

Having a hand at gold panning when we stopped for afternoon tea.

Magnificent views homeward bound with the fresh smell of eucalyptus trees while we chug along.

And at the end of the day, I think Pete’s put in a good hard day’s work at the ‘office’, but geez he looks like he’s enjoyed going to work each and every day.

The West Coast Wilderness Rail returns to Strahan around 5:00 pm and scheduled services only operate till the early days of April due to poor light towards the colder months. However, check their website for half-day outings.

For bookings see http://www.wcwr.com.au/bookings/