If you’re looking for things to do on your next self-drive holiday, here are some activities and sights that are the best in Strahan and Tasmania’s West Coast.
Tasmania makes a perfect road trip destination. The small island state is jam-packed with things to do, and nothing is too far away.
The Tasmanian West Coast town of Strahan (pronounced Strawn), is only a few hours’ drive from Hobart, and the landscapes between are fantastically scenic.
West Coast Wilderness Railway
Take a journey through the largest cool temperate rainforest in Australia, on a track that was forged in the 1800’s, using only shovels and picks.
Listen to the passionate guides on board, as they describe what life was like, for those who worked and lived in this dark, dense and cold piece of wilderness.
There is a choice of train expeditions, ranging from half day trips that depart from Strahan and turn around at Dubbil Barril, to full day excursions that take you all the way to Queenstown and back. Stops along the way allow travellers to stretch their legs and enjoy the view of King River, as well as experience the magnificent, enveloping vegetation.
Learn about the purpose of the train being established in this area, and the mining disaster that impacted the lives of all who lived here. Paying the extra money to enjoy the Wilderness Carriage is recommended, as even the half day experience is many hours long, and snacks on board are extremely limited for the standard Heritage Carriage. The extra advantage of Wilderness class, is that you are free to get up and take pictures as you wish, provided with a clear view from the standing deck on this carriage.
The Heritage class has no such luxury, and the windows fog up terribly in the cool, damp rainforest, often impairing the ability to truly appreciate the scenery.
Tours also run from Queenstown, so if you are stopping there also, you may wish to embark the train from this end.
Gordon River Cruise
Cruise the natural wonder of the Gordon River, renowned for its mirror-like surface, it reflects the spectacular wilderness that encases it.
Travel through Hells Gates, where the Macquarie Harbour merges with the open ocean, before passing Bonnet Island – home to a colony of Little Penguins.
Once you reach Gordon River, you will have that moment of knowing that photos do not do it justice! The panoramas from the viewing deck are simply breathtaking, creating a plethora of picture-perfect moments to capture. The glass-like water does not disappoint, always making it difficult to tell the sky from the water with its crystal-clear parallel.
Stop to enjoy a rainforest walk, when you reach Heritage Landing. Marvel at the giant Huon pine trees, and lush greenery, before re-boarding the cruise for lunch.
Last, but not at all least, tour the historic penal colony of Sarah Island. Known for its brutal conditions, recurring offenders were sent here as penalty for their transgressions. The prisoners were forced into labour, which included boat building, which you will be informed about when joining a guided tour of the island.
The Ship That Never Was
Beginning in 1994, this down-to-earth production is an entertaining performance that depicts the true story of a convict escape.
If you have experienced the Gordon River Cruise, and visited Sarah Island, before watching the play… you will definitely appreciate it even more. However, it is not a deal breaker, and is recommended regardless of your existing knowledge about the penal settlement.
The show is set in 1834, and takes you through a dramatic and comedic story of ten prisoners who stole a ship, with the hopes of escaping the harsh convict life.
Making it inclusive and interactive with audience members, it is an hour and fifteen minutes of absolute fun and entertainment. The play operates every evening at 5.30pm, but only between the months of September and May. In winter, check The Round Earth Company website to see if any performances are scheduled.
Henty Sand Dunes
Kilometres of sand dunes, that stretch as far as your eyes can see, are just a fifteen-minute drive from the heart of Strahan.
With an almost desert like feel to it, you can easily feel lost amongst the vastness, which is fifteen kilometres wide and spans seven kilometres inland from the Indian Ocean. Walking to the shoreline along the soft white sand, is no mean feat!
For those looking for a day of fun and adventure, sand toboggans are available for hire from the Big4 park in Strahan. Bring a lot of water, and high energy, because sliding down provides immense amounts of entertainment, but walking back up is hard work.
If you aren’t keen on thrill-seeking, not to worry, the views you experience in the Henty Sand Dunes are worth a visit on their own merit. Arrive at sunrise or sunset, and the phenomenal scenery is taken to the next level.
Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
An hour away, along the Lyell Highway heading east, you can visit an easily accessible section of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.
If you are doing a road trip from Hobart, or on your way there after exploring Strahan, you will have to take this route. You can’t miss the opportunity to sightsee this region on the way through!
You will pass Queenstown and a couple of great sightseeing spots before reaching the National Park. This includes Horsetail Falls, which you can easily see from the highway, unless you prefer to take the walk and view from the mountain. The other stop is the Iron Blow Lookout in Gormanston, the remnants of a gold mine, which is a spectacular spot to view the mountains in the distance, as well as the colourful open cut mine with bright turquoise water inside.
Soon after this optional stop, you will come to Nelson Falls Track, which has a dedicated carpark, with toilet facilities nearby. A gentle stroll through the rainforest will have you arriving at the magical Nelson Falls, which cascade thirty metres down, in a spectacularly lush rainforest environment.