Strahan is a wild place on the edge of some of the most beautiful and inhospitable wilderness you can imagine. 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.
Today Strahan is a stunning town that hugs the bay, with plenty of tourist attractions both manmade and natural. Buildings around town date back to the 1800’s and boast a Federation feel. The wharf complex has an array of wood-working workshops and displays. This is the place to book a harbour cruise out through Hell’s Gates (conditions permitting).
A heritage walk follows the main street up past the stunning old Customs House, which is now the local post office. You’ll also see Ormiston House which was once owned by Fred Ormiston. He made his money in the tin mines, but today it’s a beautifully restored B&B.
Around the bay there’s Regatta Point Rail Station. It was built back in 1890 to transport 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.
Even today, Strahan is regarded as one of the loneliest and most isolated places on the planet. Convicts only lasted 12 years before the Governor at the time decided the area was too hostile. Then they were moved to the Port Arthur colony.
The harbour itself is nearly 50km long, allowing safe shelter from the raging weather. However, the entrance to the Macquarie Harbour is one of the most dangerous in the world. Hell’s Gates as it is known, is a narrow 100 metre wide fast flowing channel out to sea. It was given this name by convicts, as the channel marked their entrance to ‘hell’, where they would serve time as a criminal in the most remote penal colony in the world. Many ships came to grief here, and most within sight of their mooring post. The harbour is rarely clear as brown button grass-stained water flows into it from the river above.
Natural attractions around town include the stunning Hogarth Falls, just minutes from town. It’s an easy 30 minute stroll through tall tree ferns and mixed rainforest trees to the falls. If the weather is clear, a drive up to Water Tower Hill gives you scenic views up the harbour.
Take the 10 minute drive out to the Heads where you can look down on Hell’s Gate. Witness the tides throwing up huge waves and the ruggedness of the west coast. Across the bay on the tiny Bonnet Island you can see the lighthouse that was built in the late 1800s. If the weather is clear you can also see the huge stone wall built 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. Try 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. This was once the head of world controversy over damming the Franklin River. Luckily today it’s been declared a World Heritage area. Even though it’s an extremely remote and inaccessible national park, it still attracts visitors from around the globe who are drawn to it for this very reason.
Strahan needs to be on your list if you like it wild with a hint of remarkable history thrown in.
There’s so much history and so many old fables to be told in every town around Tasmania. It’s one of those states that beckons staying just a little longer. To plan out your camping spots, visit our website.