SPORT LEISURE AND OTHER ACTIVITIES

West Coast regal. Your handy guide to striking Strahan

Strahan is a sensational spot. Credit: Tourism Tasmania/Rob Burnett

Following the news that BIG4 Strahan Holiday Retreat has become a fully-fledged member of the BIG4 cooperative, we thought it was a great excuse to explore this thoroughly fascinating Tasmanian village.

All aboard for a trip of a lifetime. Credit: Tourism Tasmania/Rob Burnett

It’s undeniable. Strahan oozes blistering beauty.

Planted within Tasmania’s rugged west coast, this charming and history-rich village bursts with appeal.

It’s a place that immediately evokes feelings of being a world away from everyday life, delivering a series of unforgettable experiences.

And we’re about to introduce you to the best of them.

Ocean Beach provides an excellent setting for awe-inspiring sunsets. Credit: Pete Harmsen

Where are we exactly?

Roughly halfway along Tassie’s west coast on the shores of beautiful Macquarie Harbour, which protects Strahan from the wild Southern Ocean. Strahan is on the fringes of mammoth Franklin–Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, part of the World Heritage-listed Tasmanian Wilderness area. It can be reached via a 3.5hr drive from Launceston or just over a 4hr journey from Hobart.

Macquarie Harbour offers Strahan protection from the ocean. Credit: Paul Fleming

Quick history lesson

  • Indigenous occupation dating at least 20,000 years.
  • Officially proclaimed a town in 1892.
  • Named after former Governor of Tasmania, Major George Strahan.
  • Was once the second busiest port in Tasmania.
  • Nearby Sarah Island, within Macquarie Harbour, was home to a penal colony in the 1820s. It was regarded as Australia’s harshest convict prison.

A journey to Sarah Island today is a far cry from the harshness that once awaited its prisoners. Credit: Jason Futrill

The absolute must-do

If you were to experience just one thing while in Strahan, it would have to be a boat cruise, which is filled with spectacular scenery and evocative, emotive stories from the area’s fascinating past.

Regular departures from Strahan take in the likes of majestic Macquarie Harbour, notorious Hells Gates at the mouth of the harbour, and a stop at the former penal colony on Sarah Island.

"...it also offers a stark reminder of the ruggedness and isolation of Tasmania’s west coast."

Arguably the highlight is cruising along the Gordon River, which snakes its way within Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Here, sprawling temperate rainforest of this World Heritage area abounds. While it makes for a spectacular sight, it also offers a stark reminder of the ruggedness and isolation of Tasmania’s west coast.

Cruise mode: The essential Strahan experience. Credit: Paul Fleming

For nature lovers

The 1.2km one-way trek to Hogarth Falls is rewarding (50-60 mins return) and is listed as one of Tasmania's 60 Great Short Walks. The path starts in the town centre and passes rainforest-clad surrounds and towering trees and includes informative signage. As well as offering up-close views of the cascading falls, there’s also the chance to glimpse platypus in these surrounds…but temper your expectations!

The walk to Hogarth Falls is popular. Credit: Pete Harmsen

For young and old

Bring your camera and hop aboard the spectacular West Coast Wilderness Railway as it journeys between Strahan and Queenstown. The 35km route takes in a huge array of breathtaking scenery that includes huge gorges, harbour views, and more of that expansive rainforest.

Various tours are available, some with meal inclusions. While at Queenstown Station, wander through the railway museum to better gauge the significance and history of these tracks.

Note: Advanced bookings are strongly encouraged.

A journey shrouded in beauty: The West Coast Wilderness Railway. Credit: Hype TV

Budget tips

The following options won’t blow a hole in your wallet:

  • Water Tower Hill lookout: This vantage point reveals views incorporating the waterfront, Macquarie Harbour, Ocean Beach, and more.
  • Foreshore walk: Passes many historical sites and showcases Strahan’s beauty.
  • Henty Dunes: Towering sand dunes with particular appeal for photographers and sandboarders/tobogganers.
  • Ocean Beach: Wild and isolated but beautiful and well-suited to walks.

Henty Dunes provide contrast to the sea of green that dominates much of the west coast. Credit: Paul Fleming

Rainy-day suggestion

Recount more of the area’s convict heritage by witnessing a performance of The Ship That Never Was. This live theatre production is highly rated, evidenced by the fact it’s been performed in Strahan for almost 25 years. The show runs daily at 5.30pm and is presented in movie form from June to August.

Or visit Tutt's Whittle Wonders (yes, it’s a real attraction) and admire a private collection of wood-carved creations.

When in Strahan, make tracks for a visit to the theatre. Credit: Jason Futrill

Something different

Cruises to remote Bonnet Island offer another excellent experience in Strahan. The island is home to a little penguin colony, includes a historical lighthouse, and gifts excellent bird-watching opportunities.

Bonnet Island affords astounding views. Credit: Paul Fleming

Further afield

Day-tripping from Strahan has its benefits. Take the windy 45min drive northeast to Queenstown to soak up the town’s extensive mining heritage. Copper mining and mass logging has created an interesting moonscape backdrop to this cute town, with Eric Thomas Galley Museum among its most notable attractions.

Keep the camera handy to snap the stunning surrounds in and around Queenstown. Credit: Pete Harmsen

A half-hour drive north of Strahan is Zeehan, another old mining town that’s lined with striking buildings, led by the iconic Gaiety Theatre. A stop at the West Coast Heritage Centre is the best way to retrace footsteps from the past, and it details a vast range of themes.

Near Zeehan is the Spray Tunnel, a 100m-long abandoned train tunnel that makes for a fascinating – and eerie! – walk. It leads to mining relics that make for compelling exploration.

The keyhole-shaped Spray Tunnel reveals relics of the west coast's mining past. Credit: Jess Bonde

Have you been to Strahan? What do you recall most about your visit? We’d love to read your thoughts, so please leave a comment.

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