From Queenstown we drove the last 41km to Strahan. Strahan (rhyming with corn), is almost 300km west of Hobart, and about 280km from Launceston. It is at the north-east end of Long Bay, on the northern side of Macquarie Harbour, which is the only protected deep water port on the western coast of Tasmania. The entrance to Macquarie Harbour (named after Lachlan Macquarie) is through a narrow, turbulent opening between Macquarie Heads and Entrance Island, or Hells Gates as it was later called by convicts arriving at the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island. Captain James Kelly first navigated the narrow passage in 1815, and then spent three days exploring the huge 285km² natural harbour he found inside. Within a year of his subsequent report, bushmen had arrived and begun cutting down the trees, particularly the much prized, ancient huon pines. The area was surveyed in about 1820, but Strahan itself wasn’t founded until about 1877 when it became a vital port for the nearby tin mines at Mt Heemskirk. It was named after Major George Strahan who later became Governor of Tasmania. As the timber industry grew, and nearby mines became more productive, Strahan became one of the busiest ports in Tasmania, servicing both ‘mining and pining’ industries. In 1890 a railway line was built between Strahan and the mining boom town of Zeehan, and in 1899 a further line from Queenstown was added.
Strahan is now a flourishing centre for tourism in the area, and has a small fishing fleet that fishes for crayfish, abalone and shark.
Risby Cove, where we stayed, is at the head of Strahan Harbour, a short walk from Strahan itself, and is named after Charles Wallace Risby, a timber merchant who established a saw mill on the north side of the inlet in 1889.
Both Risby Cove and Strahan are very picturesque, nestling close to the water’s edge, and Strahan is an ideal centre for exploring the wilderness around. It is relaxed and peaceful, and somehow seems to be lagging slightly behind the pace of modern life, which is delightful. Between Risby Cove and Strahan waterfront is a harbour area, with a jetty, where fishing boats are moored at night, their mast lights shining across the water. Cruise catamarans moor up on the waterfront, adjacent to the ubiquitous tourist and information centres that sell river and harbour tours, and souvenirs, and across the road are cafes and bistros. Further still along the waterfront are fishing, boat building and timber industries. A specialist timber store sells expensive, but beautifully produced furniture and crafted wooden objects, while Morrison’s Saw Mill is more of a workshop, heady with the scent of highly aromatic huon pine wood, and selling goods more reasonably priced for my pocket!
I loved the few days we had in Strahan, the weather wasn’t brilliant, but it didn’t stop us doing what we wanted, and enjoying it. The pace of life was definitely less hurried, but we still managed to do a Harbour and Gordon River Cruise, and take a couple of trips out and about (more about all those later). The scenery was certainly stunning. In many areas thickly growing trees reached right down to the water’s edge, throwing out beautiful reflections. Mostly the water was calm and peaceful. I would have happily spent a few more days there.