The views of Macquarie Harbour from our accommodation at Strahan Village were superb and after a good night’s sleep, we were excited to actually get out onto the water and take a half day cruise on the Gordon River.
After a hearty breakfast at Banjo’s Bakery Cafe in Strahan, the two of us boarded the Lady Jane Franklin II and headed up the stairs to the Captain’s Premier Upper Deck. This was the definition of cruising in luxury – leather seating, a private viewing deck and a dedicated guide.
We were that relaxed and comfortable in our seats, it was a challenge to stay awake! But fortunately there was plenty to see as we headed through Macquarie Harbour to Hells Gates and onto the Gordon River.
The water here looks like Coca Cola, tannin-stained from the wood in the area.
Guests were treated to complimentary beverages and a tasty Tasmanian Cheese Platter with Leatherwood honey before the time came to disembark the vessel for the first time at Heritage Landing.
This ancient cool temperature rainforest is as close to nature as you can possibly get as passengers strolled along the boardwalk positioned above the forest floor.
There were trees here that were over 2000 years old and the Tasmanian Wilderness was named a UNESCO World Heritage Area in 1982, satisfying 7 out of the 10 criteria. Amazingly, Heritage Landing receives between three to six meters of rain per year.
As we stepped back onto the boat, the buffet lunch was ready to dig into with many different cuts of meats (including smoked wallaby!), a warm lamb stew and plenty of sides to go along with it.
It was then time for our next stop at Sarah Island, a former penal colony that operated between 1822 and 1833 that had a reputation as one of the harshest settlements in Australia at the time.
At first glance it looked like a beautiful island with brilliant views over the Harbour…
But as our guide showed us around and told us the stories from the settlement years, it quickly became evident that this was a place that you wouldn’t want to have been at the time. In fact, many would go on to describe it as “Hell on Earth”.
This guided tour was one of the highlights of the cruise and as we boarded the ship for the return to Strahan, we came to the conclusion that this would have to be one of the best day trips in Tasmania when the weather is nice.
Although a Gordon River Cruise is probably suited more towards an older demographic than the two of us, if you’re on Tasmania’s West Coast it’s well worth a look.