Landscape view of West Coast Beach near Strahan Village Hotel

A Strahan Story - By Linda Karlsson

View of The Strahan Tasmania near Strahan Village Hotel
Boats parked at the Hilltop Harbor near Strahan Village Hotel
Couple posing near a Cruise ship at Strahan Village Hotel

I moved to Brisbane from Sweden 4 years ago and quickly realised that taking a long weekend is embedded in the Aussie culture. With that in mind, my partner Calum and I took the Friday off work to explore Strahan. Despite being Tassie locals since 2018, we weren’t sure what to expect as neither of us had been further west than Mt Field. Our neighbour described Strahan as a rugged place which used to be the holiday town for just as rough miners but assured us it changed since then. As we left a grey Hobart behind and passed the last familiar road signs, the excitement kicked in. Driving through a landscape of green rolling hills, the sun broke through the thick clouds. The further away we drove from Hobart, the better the weather seemed to be.

On the map, the road to Strahan looks like a short stroll. Especially coming from Queensland, where the roads are endless and you can drive for days, yet be closer to home than your final destination.

But, unlike the impersonal Gold Coast highway, this road takes you along character filled winding roads, hugging the hills and running through local townships. Prepare to stop, a lot. We squeezed in five short-walks on our way to Strahan. Meeting the local Lake St Clair echidna, and marvelled in the wonder of the spectacular Nelson Falls, tucked away from the side of the road. Don’t miss it!

Safe to say, our long weekend away was off to an amazing start. When we finally arrived in Strahan, the sun was starting to cast a beautiful golden afternoon glow and we almost wished the drive was longer. That was until we checked in. Our ‘hotel room’ was actually a cute terrace house, reminiscent of architecture from the late 1800s. The views from the balcony overlooking the harbour were breathtaking!

For dinner that night we treated ourselves to a seafood buffet at the local restaurant, View 42. Named for the same incredible harbour views we experienced earlier, with a bonus of Strahan township and beyond. Enjoying a bottle of sparkling with never ending oysters, we watched a spectacular sunset colour the sky electric pink.

Saturday morning and the sun was shining. What a day to go on the Gordon River! We boarded Spirit of the Wild and were guided up the stairs and walked into pure luxury on the Premier Upper Deck.  As we spoke with fellow travellers, the anticipation of a great day ahead was mounting. 8:30 am on the dot, the boat sounded its horn and we were off!

First on the agenda was Hells Gates. Enjoying the view from our private deck and on a fully catered cruise with an open bar was a stark contrast to what the convicts would have felt when entering the channel on their way to Sarah Island, described as Hell on Earth.

The skipper then took us past the salmon farms back up towards the Gordon River. The boat’s electric engine (think Tesla!) allows it to glide silently along the river leaving a minimal footprint. Standing on the deck, we suddenly noticed how we were all whispering to each other, as if scared our voices might disturb what lies deep within the forest.

Anchoring the boat, we took a short guided walk in the rainforest where we experienced the ancient natural beauty of thousand-year-old Huon pines. It’s a close-up experience of the untouched wilderness.

For lunch, we were treated to a divine selection of Tassie produce, including salmon from the farms we just passed. I chose to match my meal with a Holm Oak Riesling, but the choice of accompanying beverage is up to you. 

Sarah Island was up next, and as we drew closer, we caught a glimpse of the ruins of brick buildings between the trees. A looming feeling of misery seemed to be etched onto them and the backdrop had not changed since the times the convicts were sent there on ships. But contrary to them, we were sipping on sparkling wine, waiting in anticipation to dock.

We disembarked, and the wind instantly gripped my hair. The ruins left behind give a surreal impression of what life was like on the island. The guide walked us across the island, re-enacting the stories of extreme hardship and misfortune. Learning about the history was by far a highlight, giving a deeper understanding of just how unwelcoming the place once was. 

Then the familiar golden glow of the afternoon sun started to appear, and we were on our way back to the harbour. What an incredible way to explore the Gordon River. It’s a wilderness lost in time and completely different from the Tassie places we’ve been to before. Western Wilds we will be back, we only scratched the surface with so much more to explore.

More things to do in Strahan:

  • The Ship That Never Was – an open air theatre and a great way to extend your Sarah Island visit and learn more about the history in a really fun way!
  • Watch the sunset from the terrace – enjoying a drink on the balcony after a long day on Gordon was a great way to end the day.
  • People’s Park Waterfall – you might see Ms Platypus in the water if lucky!
  • Tassie’s longest beach – it felt like we were back in QLD! Beautiful beach plus we caught 3 Aussie salmon off the beach (all which we released back in the water of course) check it out!
  • The Wilderness Railway – we didn’t go on it but it looks super cool and we’ll have to come back. We would have done it if we had some more time!