OZ and Tassie travel blog

View south from Swan Basin, Macquarie Point

On the Gordon River

The entrance to the Gordon River


2 February

A quiet night and beautiful clear and sunny skies this morning, nice and warm. We wandered down to the dock and booked a Gordon River Cruise for tomorrow before heading to ‘The People’s Park’ just kilometre around the bay. This Park was donated to the town back in the early 1900s in anticipation of the growth of tourism! It provides a 1.2km walk into the temperate rain forest to the Hogarth Falls at the end of the track. We walked in, and it was peaceful, we could hear the birds. Huge trees, blackwood, myrtle and black gum with a mixed and dense understorey including many ferns and tree ferns. Pretty Falls at the end.

Back to our cabin for lunch, one of our favourites; smashed avocado on toast with bacon and a poached egg, yummy!

After lunch we drove to Macquarie Point which is at the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, the huge body of water, allegedly the second largest harbour in Australia (after Phillips Bay). The narrow entrance is called ‘Hell’s Gate’. It is where the waters of the Harbour meets the Southern Ocean and at certain times of the tide can be pretty awesome. The road turned to gravel shortly after leaving Strahan town and continued for about 16km. A bumpy ride, it was not well graded, but judging by the speed at which some cars were driven perhaps it is not such surprise the road condition is so poor. Anyway, we reached the end without incident, parked and walked through the low dunes to the beach, and wow, what a beach! Long flat white sands ran away from us left and right with the Harbour waters rushing past.

There were a number of 4x4s and utes on the beach (driving on this beach is permitted, sadly) and the occupants were all fishing, a great Australian pastime. We walked the beach for a bit, but given the scale, we just walked far enough to see Hell’s Gate and the lighthouse. Back to the car and back along the road until we reached the Swan Basin Reserve, complete with picnic tables and a superb view of the coastal mountains to the south. On again until we reached the Ocean Beach Road, another gravel road but only 3km long.

Ocean Beach is 40km long, it too is wide and flat, and yes, cars are allowed to drive on it. It is a magnificent beach with waves crashing in from the Southern Ocean, the swell just a couple of metres high today, but we tried to imagine it with 40 metre high waves (which have been recorded here, though who would be stupid enough to stand there and watch is beyond me!) We wandered onto the beach, down to the waters edge, where we were suddenly attacked by hordes of what the locals call ‘march flies’, and wow, they could bite. We beat a hasty retreat, a pity as it was so awesome. Maybe later in the day tomorrow?

So back to the cabin to catch up with emails and stuff, booked our accommodation in Stanley, our next stop, before heading our for dinner at a recommended restaurant overlooking the harbour, ‘View 42 degrees’. A buffet dinner, principally of seafood and it was delicious and the views across the harbour were great too. A lovely evening, we stayed until after sunset, just to watch the sun go down. Wonderful.

3 February

Up early for our river cruise. It had rained a little during the night and was still overcast, but the forecast was fair. We joined the boat, a purpose-built catamaran and set off. The cat picked up speed and at 25 knots we headed out to Macquarie Harbour and west to the entrance at Hells Gate, a narrow passage (200 metres) to open ocean. The water was a muddy colour, the result of the water passing through buttongrass peat picking up the tannins, on its way to the rivers thence to the Harbour. We passed through the Gate and a short way along the coast, apparently the wind was in the wrong direction for the boat to go further. Even though we were in the ‘Roaring 40s’ (we were at 42.5 degrees south), the ocean was almost calm, just a gentle swell. So, back through the Gate and heading south, next stop Sarah Island a former convict colony. It took an hour to motor to the Island where we docked and joined a guided tour. Very entertaining talk and although Sarah Island had a reputation as being a ‘hell hole’ latterly, and just before it was closed conditions improved. There’s not much left of the old convict settlement, just a few ruins, but there are plenty of info boards.

Now for lunch. Back on board we enjoyed a buffet lunch whilst the boat cruised gently south and into the mouth of the Gordon River, great view of the coastal mountains as we slipped slowly into the River. Forests down to the waterline and views opening up as we rounded bends in the river, it was very atmospheric as the river narrowed. We stopped at a dock for a walk along an elevated boardwalk into the temperate rain forest. Our guide was very amusing, similar in delivery to Jo Brand, I thought! She was very knowledgeable and amusing at the same time. The walk was to introduce us to the huon pine, a very long lived tree, second oldest living tree on earth, after the bristlecone pine in the US, it can live for over three thousand years. So back on board we headed back to Strahan, even at 25 knots, once clear of the River, it took a while, it is almost 40km. A great cruise, very comfortable and entertaining.

Back to our cabin, clothes washing duties called. Once completed we drove back to the dock for a performance based on the story of a famous escape from Sarah Island; ‘The ship that never was’. It was hilarious, only two actors but members of the audience were dragged in to taking part. Well worth going back for.

Dinner, bed.

We liked Strahan, a small town but everyone we met was friendly and helpful. Some lovely old buildings and access to some great activities. We enjoyed our time here, but tomorrow we head north, the route depending on the state of the bushfires to the north of here.

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