This post covers off the best things to do in Strahan, including day trips, places to stay and where to eat in the Local area.
This guide is built from our first-hand experience of Strahan, a place we’d wanted to visit ever since a recommendation from an ex-colleague of mine who loved the place so much she sold her place in Melbourne and bought a B&B here with her partner.
We stopped here as part of our trip around Tasmania and found an ever-increasing fondness for the disconnected lifestyle and kind people of Strahan the longer we spent here.
From a boat-trip through the mysterious temperate rainforests of the Franklin-Gordon National Park to one of the best plays we’ve ever seen, Strahan is a great base for a mix of experiences.
Things To Do In Strahan
Gordon River Cruise
Taking a Gordon River Cruise was pretty much the main reason for wanting to come to Tasmania. Not only did it satisfy my geeking out over UNESCO Heritage Sites, but I’d also had it recommended to me by an ex-colleague from work, who said it was one of the most beautiful trips she had ever done.
She wasn’t wrong.
I’ve honestly never experienced anything quite like my cruise with Gordon River Cruises (it cost me $199 for a window seat on the main deck). A whisper-quiet electric boat winds down the Gordon River, surrounded by mist-topped trees in more shades of green than I knew existed. It felt like an old-fashioned adventure through the Amazon or deep in Africa, like something Disney would turn into a motion picture.
The cruise included a trip all the way out to the Hell Gates at the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, a wander along the boardwalks in the rainforest at Heritage Landing and a guided tour of Sarah Island, the ex-convict penal settlement.
Henty Dunes & Sandboarding
The Henty Dunes are about 15 minutes from Strahan, on the route to Zeehan. They’d fall into the ‘nice-to visit’ rather than ‘must-visit’ category for me, but probably because we’d been to Little Sahara on Kangaroo Island the year before and they were more accesible.
They certainly were big, towering over me, with some getting over 30 meters high. Be prepared for a significant scramble up from the car park to get to the top. We didn’t get far across the dunes, but I hear they’re really impressive when contrasted against the ocean,
The Henty Dunes aren’t just for admiring though, you can hire sandboards from the Strahan Village (they are not available at the dunes) and hurtle down the steep slopes.
As you can see from the photo, they are quite a climb, and I spent about a week clearing the sand from my boots at the end. If you’ve not seen anything like this before, they are impressive, but I feel like we rushed through a little on our way to Cradle Mountain so probably needed a bit more time to appreciate them.
West Coast Wilderness Railway
This was due to be the second-biggest highlight of our time in Strahan, but ended up getting cancelled through no fault of the railway (see box below ‘Our Plans Derailed‘).
We didn’t get to do the trip, but I got a photo of the quaint station on the far side of the little bay Strahan sits on.
I can’t write about our experienced, but I can write about the reason we booked.
The West Coast Wilderness Railway has a number of family-friendly options on a mix of steam and diesel trains, but we’d opted for the River and Rainforest Tour, which runs from Strahan, up the King River to Dubbil Barril where you get to stop for a walk in the rainforest. At $270 we felt it was well-priced for such a memorable adventure, and five hours felt about right for a three-your-old’s attention span.
Our Plans Derailed
It doesn’t matter how much planning you put into a trip, sometimes things just don’t work out. We were really excited about a trip on the West Coast Wilderness Railway, but a low-speed train derailment the day before meant we missed out. They were great to deal with though and very apologetic and issued a prompt refund.
The Platypus Walk takes you alongside the winding Manuka Creek through the BIG4 campsite in Strahan.
It’s a peaceful walk (depending on how many bikers are rocking up that day!) which takes ten to twenty minutes, with various viewpoints into the dark waters, all of which seemed perfect for a platypus.
Alas, my search for a view of a wild platypus continues.
It wasn’t an entirely unsuccessful walk though, as I got a glimpse of the rare (less than 250 individuals in the wild) Azure Kingfisher which the community in Strahan have been working so hard to provide the right habitat for. It certainly worked for this little fella, who happily flitted around the trees without paying me any real attention.
Macquarie Heads is the kind of beach that looks like it could be in the Caribbean, well until you put your toes in the frigid water!
It is about a 20-minute drive from Strahan, located through a camp ground.
Well worth a visit, especially if you haven’t made time for the Gordon River cruise, as you get a view from the shore of the narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbour and the little lighthouse on Bonnet Island.
Hogarth Falls & Forest Walk
Ahhh, Hogarth Falls. This little walk brings back happy memories of our last day in Strahan.
The walk is a leisurely one, about 1.5 kilometres through the woods with only a little hill at the end near the waterfall.
Named after William Hogarth, a British artist who was known for his depictions of nature and landscapes, you can see why he loved this place. It is a pure slice of Tassie rainforest gorgeousness, this is Tasmania in a microcosm. Damp, mysterious, cool and feeling like you’re in the middle of absolutely no-where even though it’s just out of town. We got there early in the morning as the early sun cut through the canopy, with only the birds completing their morning catch-ups to accompany us.
Hogarth Falls is a nice reward at the end. Not the best waterfall on Tasmania, but good enough. But as with so many places, it wasn’t about the destination, it was about the journey.
Make sure you do the Hogarth Falls walk if you come to Strahan, it is perfection.
Kayaking and Boating Tours
Given its location next to the iconic Macquarie Bay, it’s probably not a surprise that there are a number of opportunities to get out on the water.
Kayak Tours can take you right up to the Gates of Hell, where you can see the massive rock formations up close. Companies like Roaring 40s Kayaking offer epic adventures through the Bay and up the Gordon River.
If you’re feeling really ambitious, you can also charter a yacht for the night through West Coast Yacht Charters, who take passengers for a 24-hour adventure up the Gordon River and have permission to travel further into the rainforest that the big boats that do the Gordon River cruises.
Ocean Beach Lookout
About 5km from Strahan, Ocean Beach Lookout this is one of the best sunset spots on the west coast of Tasmania.
We instead chose to visit on a day of fine rain and ocean spray, turning it into a rugged and beautiful seascape (the joys of having to work a trip around the needs of a toddler).
Well, at least it had nostalgia, reminding me of windswept holidays on the North Devon coast as a kid. And we got to see some of the short-tailed shearwater (or muttonbird due to their delicious flavour!) come back to roost.
The Ship That Never Was: Local Play
Yeah yeah, there’s a good play by a local amateur dramatics society. When isn’t that advertised in these rural towns?
Having heard how good it was for about the twentieth time (it’s pitched almost everywhere) we signed up for some seats and, well…..WOW!
It was brilliant. Funny, interactive, clever, technical. This was a big-theatre production without the budget and pretentiousness!
It broadly tells the story of The Frederick, the last ship built by convicts on Sarah Island in Macquarie Bay, that is ‘borrowed’ by the convicts for their escape.
Honestly though, the story didn’t matter.
What made it so clever was the way the actors gradually build the ship through the story, turning it from a mess of parts into a full functioning (well, for a pretend wooden ship on land) boat by the end.
What made it so memorable was the interaction. There are only a few members of the cast, but they supplement their numbers by getting audience members involved. They somehow manage this in a non-cringy, cheeky way that brings the best out of the people involved.
It all culminates in multiple volunteers being brought up to participate in a storm. Armed with spray bottles, the mother of all water fights break-outs to simulate said storm, with even the most stiff-upper-lipped of tourists drawn into the battle.
If you need any more convincing, take one look at the smile on little Gracie’s face. She jumped on stage with me, spending her entire time soaking me, and only me. It got such laughs that we were stopped multiple times on the rest of our trip around the island!
You don’t get to make memories like this very. It was totally unique and utterly wonderful. Go and see it!
Bonnet Island Penguin Colony
Bonnet Island is a small outcrop of rock at the entrance to Macquarie Harbour. At first glance, it appears to have nothing more on it than the timber-clad lighthouse which helps ships navigate the 120-metre gap into Macquarie Harbour.
But it also plays host to a colony of Little Penguins. The smallest of all penguins, they are found in Australia and New Zealand. Whilst there are populations along the Victorian coast at Philip Island, St Kilda and Port Fairy, the majority of their breeding grounds are on Tasmania.
You can get a sunset tour to Bonnet Island to see the penguins come in at night after a day off hunting at sea.
Built into an old sawmill, the Cove Gallery in Strahan contains a mix of work by Tasmanian artists – from photography to jewellery.
It is located just across the road from the Hogarth Falls car park, so can be combined with a walk to the Falls.
For fishing enthusiasts, Strahan is a paradise. Strahan Marine Charters offer half-day and multi-day fishing excursions exploring the Macquarie Heads and surrounding waters. You can fish for giant crab, lobster and snapper, though make sure you throw back any of the highly endangered Maugean Skate which are only found here.
As with nearly everywhere on the hiking paradise that is Tasmania, there are a number of trails that leave from Strahan to be enjoyed.
Sarah Island Convict Tour
Sarah Island was one of the toughest penal colonies is Australia, convicts who’d offended for a second time after arriving from Europe were sent. It only a convict site for 11 years, but in that time it dished out some of the harshest punishments seen in the country, setting out conditions so harsh that some of the people held here even turned to cannibalism.
It also became a hub of shipbuilding in the area thanks to the Huon pines from the rainforest, the free labour of convicts and the skill of David Hoy.
Sarah Island is one of the stop offs for a Gordon River Cruise, but you can also take tours which stop off just as the island, such as this evening cruise, complete with wine, dinner and stories from the crew of ‘The Ship That Never Was’
Strahan Scenic Flight Tour
For something a little different, why not take to the air for an aerial view of the Tasmania west coast.
There is a small airfield just outside Strahan offering helicopter trips over the rainforest, an experience unlike any other in the area.
Day Trips From Strahan
Strahan is in a fairly remote location on the west coast of Tasmania, but there are a number of day-trips that are worth taking.
We flew through Queenstown on our way over from Hobart, thinking it was not much more than a dusty mining town, but when we found the town centre on a day trip we loved this quaint country Tasmanian town.
The town is known for its rich mining history and stunning natural scenery. It is a popular tourist destination for those who seek adventure, especially mountain bikers.
The town offers some of the best mountain bike trails in Australia, with a range of trails suitable for all skill levels. The Queenstown Mountain Bike Park is a popular destination for riders, with over 30km of trails that wind through the stunning Tasmanian wilderness. The park offers trails for beginners, intermediate riders, and advanced riders, with features such as jumps, drops, and berms. We saw the sign in the main square and some of them sound terrifying! The park is open year-round, and you can book your mountain bike tours and rentals with the Queenstown Visitor Centre.
Iron Blow Lookout
Iron lookout is about 3.5km from Queenstown up a steep alpine road with multiple switchbacks that gradually shows you a view of Queenstown in the rearview mirror. The lookout is located on a former open-cut mine that was once the largest copper mine in the world, and now has a walkway out above it, one not best suited to those with vertigo!
Just over the road from Iron Blow Lookout you’ll find Horsetail Falls. After parking up you’ll cut your way up the side of a mountain on a boardwalk that is an engineering marvel, to get a perfect view not only of the falls, but of the steep roads winding up from Queenstown.
I’d suggest you stop off at Nelson Falls on the way from Hobart, if not it is a windy 70km drive back from Strahan.
As our first experience of the Tasmanian rainforest it was a striking one, with boardwalks snaking through the otherwise impenetrable emerald scrum of trees and ferns, leading to a delightful little falls at the end.
Cradle Mountain is just about a day trip from Strahan, with a two-hour journey in each direction taking you to and from Tasmania’s most iconic sight.
Don’t underestimate the amount to do here, with hundreds of kilometres of walk through the national park, a bus required to get you from the visitor centre and even a Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary.
It goes without saying, the trip is worth it. The views are the type that will stick with you forever, ones that reminded me very firmly of the Scottish Highlands. If you’re going to do it as a day trip from Strahan though, just make sure you set off early to maximise your time here.
Unfortunately we didn’t get to Montezuma Falls, but it is just over an hour from Strahan, not far off the road you’d take to get to Cradle Mountain.
It is the highest waterfall in Tasmania, with a drop of 104 meters and located in the Montezuma Falls Historic Site, which was once a thriving mining town. Today, the area is a popular tourist destination, with visitors coming to see the stunning waterfall and learn about the area’s mining history. The walk to the falls is on the route of an old tramway, so is fairly flat, but us three-hour return trip, taking you through lush rainforest and past old mining relics.
History of Strahan
Strahan was established in the late 19th century as a port for the mining industry. It was named after Sir George Strahan, a British Military officer and the Governor of Tasmania at the time. The town quickly became a hub for the shipping of minerals, including copper, silver, and gold. In 1896, the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company opened a railway line from Queenstown to Strahan, which further boosted the town’s economy.
Strahan also has a significant convict history. The town was once home to a convict probation station, which was established in 1833, designed to house convicts who had been transported to Tasmania for a second or subsequent time. The convicts were put to work building roads and other infrastructure in the area, and was closed in 1844. The convicts left their mark on the town. Many of the original buildings in Strahan were built by convicts, including the striking Strahan Post Office near the sea front and the Court House.
During the early 20th century, Strahan became known for its timber industry. The town was surrounded by dense forests of huge pine trees, and the timber industry provided jobs for many of the town’s residents. The logs were transported down the King River to Strahan, where they were loaded onto ships and sent to markets around the world.
In the 1970s, tourism became an important industry in Strahan. Visitors came to see the stunning natural scenery of Tasmania’s west coast, including the Gordon River and the Franklin River. The town also became a popular destination for fishing and boating enthusiasts.
One of the most significant events in Strahan’s history was the Gordon-below-Franklin Dam controversy. In the 1980s, the Tasmanian Government proposed building a dam on the Gordon River, which would have flooded much of the area’s pristine wilderness, which is almost unbelievable to consider today having seen its beauty with my own eyes. The proposal sparked a national debate, and protests were held across the country. In 1983, the High Court of Australia ruled against the dam, and the area was eventually declared a World Heritage Site, which now means it’s protected for the future of mankind (I do love you UNESCO!).
I hope you enjoyed this post, and I’ve inspired you with these amazing things to do in Strahan and you make it one of your destinations when you visit Tasmania.
If you have any questions then feel free to add them to the comments and I’ll get back to you.
P.S. – if you’re wondering how I get the moody images in this blog post, I use a Fuji X-T3 and a recipe called nomadic mood. These images come straight out of the camera as JPGs, no messing around in Lightroom, which is why I love Fuji so much. I enjoy photography, but don’t like investing the time in editing, so this allows me to set a ood for the photos before I take them.
Where is Strahan?
Strahan is on the west coast of Tasmania about 300km or 4 1/2 hours from the state capital of Hobart, or 270km and 3 1/2 hours from the island’s second city of Tasmania.
What is the weather like in Strahan?
Strahan’s climate is typically characterized by cool and wet weather, with mild temperatures that remain consistent throughout the year. The area experiences an oceanic climate, with average temperatures ranging from 5°C to 18°C annually.
The warmest months are from December to February, with average temperatures around 18°C. Conversely, the coolest months are from June to August, with average temperatures around 8°C.
Strahan also receives a substantial amount of rainfall throughout the year, with an average annual precipitation of approximately 2,000mm. The wettest months are from May to August, with an average of around 200mm of rainfall per month. It is advisable for tourists to prepare for cold and damp weather, and to bring suitable clothing and rain gear, especially during the winter season.
What is the best time of year to visit Strahan?
Strahan’s mild temperatures and consistent climate make it a year-round destination, however, visitors should be aware of the wet and cool weather, which can be more prevalent during the winter months.
The summer season, from December to February, is the warmest and most popular time to visit Strahan. During this time, visitors can enjoy outdoor activities and take advantage of longer daylight hours.
The shoulder seasons, from September to November and March to May, offer milder temperatures and fewer crowds.
Visitors who prefer cooler weather and enjoy winter activities may find the winter months, from June to August, to be the best time to visit.
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