The small fishing village of Strahan in Tasmania’s ‘wild west’ is known as the gateway to the state’s fabled world heritage listed wilderness areas… but it deserves more than mere stepping stone status.
Founded in 1881, the town boasts a 19th-century streetscape and a cluster of museums, galleries and cafes. During the summer season, Strahan – which has a permanent population of around 700 – transforms into a bustling (by fishing village standards) tourist hub.
As well as boasting a rich fishing heritage, Strahan was once a significant port town and an important centre for the timber industry, and it has retained links to these central strands of its history. Its main street faces the majestic waters of Macquarie harbour.
Grey nomads can stroll along the waterfront and visit an historic sawmill where craftsmen create magnificent sculptures from Tasmanian specialty timbers, including Huon pine.
As you might expect, there are plenty of places to sample and enjoy the region’s fresh seafood, fine wine and gourmet produce. However, try as it might to keep travellers in town, sooner or later, Strahan has to admit defeat as they are all inevitably lured away to the nearby wilderness areas.
Driving through the mountainous landscape, visiting historic mining towns, and exploring the truly incredible national parks here will be one of the highlights of your Big Lap adventure, no matter how long, or how far, you travel.
Other than getting out there yourself, there are quite a few ways to experience one of the last remaining examples of pristine temperate rainforest on the planet. You can board Gordon River Cruises from the Strahan waterfront to journey into the World Heritage area, or bust the budget and take scenic flights over the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.
While it may not take you into the world heritage area itself, boarding the fully-restored steam railway from Strahan to Queenstown will take you through dense rainforest, cavernous gorges, and rushing rivers in unforgettable style.
Strahan is also the base for boat trips to Sarah Island, a former penal settlement that earned a reputation as being one of the harshest in the Australian colonies. In Strahan, the Round Earth Theatre Company performs a daily play about Sarah Island. ‘The Ship That Never Was’ has now been performed more than 5000 times and is Australia’s longest running play.
Also on Strahan’s doorstep is Ocean Beach, which stretches for over 30 kilometres; a huge mass of sand dunes called the Henty Dunes; and the Hogarth Falls which can be reached via a 40-minute scenic stroll through the People’s Park.
There is then so much to see and do in this remarkable part of the world … and that’s even before you’ve got the rods out and started dreaming of salmon or trout for dinner!