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.