Located around 300 kilometres north-west of Hobart is the flourishing harbourside town of Strahan, one of the most fascinating travel destinations on Tasmania’s West Coast. As part of the massive Macquarie Harbour, Strahan is the gateway to the amazing Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. This thriving tourist town is the main stopping point for boat cruises heading up the Gordon River to take passengers to the immaculate rainforests beyond. Strahan is filled with stories of convicts and early settlers trying to survive the wild west of frontier Tasmania, with nearby Sarah Island containing the remains of a notorious convict prison. Apart from learning the history of the town, you can also experience the gorgeous surrounding landscape with lush forests and long stretches of wild ocean beach to explore.
Things to Know about Strahan
Before booking a tour of Strahan, here’s some information about the town.
The land around Strahan is the traditional land of the Mimegin and Lowreenne bands of the Toogee tribe that occupied the Macquarie Harbour region. While convicts had been living on nearby Sarah Island since as early as 1821, the port of Strahan did not come to exist until around 1877. The town was officially founded in 1880 and named after Major George Strahan, who was the Governor of Tasmania between 1881 and 1886. Strahan developed as a port to serve the timber industry and inland mining fields of Tasmania’s west coast. With the introduction of industrial refrigerators in 1956, commercial fishing became another major economic activity for Strahan. In the second half of the 20th century, the natural beauty of Strahan and Macquarie Harbour saw the township develop into a tourist resort, with cruises up the Gordon River starting in 1969. The annual Piner’s Festival began in 1995 to celebrate the Huon pine and its importance to the region. With several modern hotels and restaurants, Strahan is the primary tourist destination on the west coast of Tasmania.
Gateway to the Tasmanian Wilderness
Located in the heart of Tasmania’s west coast, Strahan is a logical starting point for tours heading into the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. With 19 national parks and regional reserves surrounding Strahan, there’s no shortage of natural wonders to experience in this region.
What to Do Around Strahan
Here are some of the most popular points of interest and attractions around Strahan, Tasmania.
Located in People’s Park, enjoy a comfortable walk through towering gum trees and rainforest trees (such as leatherwood, sassafras, and myrtle) before arriving at the gorgeous Hogarth Falls. The waterfall drops over a series of rocks that have tilted vertically over time, and sometimes platypus can be found in the creek below. This 1.2-kilometre return trek is suitable for all age groups, with its gentle slopes and occasional steps providing a minimal challenge.
Gordon River Boat Cruise & Sarah Island
One of the main attractions of Strahan is undoubtedly the Gordon River boat cruises. One of these cruises operating out of Strahan will take you to experience the beauty of the Gordon River as well as see Sarah Island. At Sarah Island, you can enjoy a guided tour of the convict site from actors who perform in the local play The Ship That Never Was.
The Ship That Never Was
The Ship That Never Was is a small yet highly enjoyable local theatre production that tells the story of the last convict ship to be built on Sarah Island. The 75-minute play is considered a must-see for anyone passing through Strahan and teaches a great deal about convict history.
West Coast Wilderness Railway
The West Coast Wilderness Railway is another of Strahan’s popular attractions. The historic steam railway was first built to serve the region’s mines but now serves to ferry tourists between Queenstown and Strahan. There are tours you can take along the railway, which will stop at heritage sites and include a walk through the rainforest.
Morrison’s Huon Pine Saw Mill
The felling of Huon Pine is integral to the history and development of modern Strahan, as the first convicts to arrive would use the wood to create and repair boats. Morrison’s Huon Pine Saw Mill is a chance for you to learn about the history of the pines, how they were harvested, and the lives of those who made their living here. There’s a gift shop with plenty of souvenirs, and free woodcutting demonstrations take place at 3 pm every day.
Water Tower Hill
Water Tower Hill offers excellent views overlooking Strahan and is a great place to experience the sunset over Macquarie Harbour.
Ocean Beach & The Henty Dunes
Ocean Beach is the longest beach in Tasmania, extending from Macquarie Heads to Trial Harbour for 30 kilometres. This stunning sandy beach is usually quite isolated, allowing you to soak up as much of it as you want without worrying about other groups. Just behind Ocean Beach are The Henty Dunes which can extend up to 30 metres in height and deceptively seem to emerge out of the forest. You can try to climb the huge dunes or take a path through them to reach Ocean Beach.
Macquarie Heads is the entrance to Macquarie Harbour and is accessible via a gravel road 15 kilometres from Strahan. Macquarie Heads is home to a popular camping area and is known for having calmer winds than Ocean Beach, making it ideal for those who want a more relaxed day on the sand. This is another location with breathtaking sunsets, so make sure you have a good camera handy.
Hell’s Gates is the name given to the notoriously shallow and hard-to-navigate entrance to Macquarie Harbour. The channel exists between Macquarie Heads (on the west side) and Entrance Island (on the east side) where there is an old lighthouse.
Reasons to Visit Strahan
With its picturesque landscapes, central location, and fascinating history, it’s no surprise why Strahan is the capital of tourism on Tasmania’s west coast. If you want to experience all that the Tasmanian wilderness has to offer, then you can’t avoid Strahan and the plethora of options it gives you. Whether only stopping in the town for a brief visit or planning a longer stay, there’s no shortage of things to see and do around Strahan to make your trip worthwhile.
AAT Kings' Tours of Strahan
Several of AAT King’s Tasmanian tours include a visit to Strahan, where you can spend a night enjoying scenic views of the harbour from your accommodation at Strahan Village. In the morning, take a boat cruise on the Gordon River to experience many of the region’s landmarks, including Hell’s Gates. Find our related tours below.