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Looking to immerse yourself in the Tasmanian wilderness?
Gordon River Cruises, based on the isolated west coast of Tasmania, in the tiny harbour town of Strahan, offers you exactly that.
Visit the remote and pristine Unesco world heritage listed wilderness of Tasmania in style and comfort on board their state of the art ship, the Spirit of the Wild.
No need to trek through dangerous and inhospitable terrain anymore.
Instead your journey can be aboard their purpose built 33 metre catamaran. Relaxing in your comfy chair, sipping your favourite beer or wine, and enjoying the scenery through the ships large viewing windows.
Leaving Strahan, the ship cruises out into Macquarie Harbour and heads towards the treacherous passage known as Hells Gate.
The onboard tour guide shares some interesting history about the region during the journey and points out some of the more easily overlooked areas.
Such as explaining the low breakwater you’ll see running along the passage entrance.
This giant underwater rock wall was built to reduce the passages width. The hope was this would increase the flow into the shallow passage and create a deeper and safer entrance into Macquarie Harbour.
It’s was a very bold feat of engineering, considering they didn’t really know if it would succeed or not!
Upon reaching Hells Gate, the ships pilot gets to show off their skills by squeezing the Spirit of the Wild through the narrow passage.
This is a great time to head up to the captain’s cockpit and watch the action.
Leaving Hells Gate, its once more back into Macquarie Harbour cruising towards Gordon River.
During the harbour crossing the ship passes the tiny rocky outcrop know as Bonnet Island and the giant floating salmon pens.
As soon as you enter Gordon River it becomes apparent why this area is World Heritage listed wilderness. The scenery is jaw dropping.
Delicate mist can be seen rising from the treetops to envelope the landscape. Lush green rainforest hugs the river’s edge and stretches as far as the eye can see. And the mirror smooth surface of the dark tannin stained water acts like a giant mirror, reflecting all the surrounding beauty.
The Spirit of the Wild gracefully glides its way around the beautiful curves of the Gordon River. It’s a very peaceful and calming part of the cruise and a great time to sit outside on the viewing deck and just soak in the serenity and nature.
This tranquility is ensured by the purpose built design of the Spirit of the Wild. The hybrid engines switch to a near silent electrical propulsion to minimise noise and disturbance in this delicate ecosystem.
This silent cruising not only enhances the peaceful nature of the river, but allows you to get up close to the wild life in the area without alarming them.
We managed to catch two majestic White-bellied Sea-eagles flying along the river banks hunting for lunch. And they hardly even noticed the silent and sleek Spirit of the Wild gliding past.
Before turning back for the return trip down the Gordon River, the ship makes a short stop at the Heritage Landing.
This is great spot to stretch your legs and take in the sights of this beautiful boardwalk through some of Tasmania’s pristine temperate rainforest.
Dotted along the boardwalk are information boards detailing all the different types of timber that used to be harvested from the area. Such as sassafras, myrtle, and the slow growing huon pine, which only grows around 1mm a year!
You’ll also discover some of the amazing ways the local Aboriginal people harnessed the forest to travel, create shelter and survive in this wild region.
The tour guide explains why these uniquely Tasmanian timbers are so important and the unique properties that made them perfect for ship building, such as resisting rot and repelling mosquitoes.
After the guided walk, the Spirit of the Wild cruises back down the river towards Macquarie Harbour.
Lunch is served on the return journey and Gordon River Cruises certainly put on an impressive buffet feast. We had a fine selection of salads, marinated chicken, cold meats, freshly baked rolls and all the locally grown smoked salmon you can eat.
With everyone’s bellies full, its full steam ahead towards Sarah Island.
This is the last port of call for the cruise and one of the most interesting. While the island is beautiful, it’s not the visual, but the history that makes it so fascinating.
Predating Port Arthur, Sarah Island was one of the earliest penal colonies in Australia, opening in 1822. Named “Hell on Earth” by the convicts for its harsh conditions, bad food and regular floggings.
Nature has reclaimed most of the island and many of the original buildings are gone or scavenged. All that remains are piles of old bricks and the skeletons of the few remaining buildings.
The facts about this island are unbelievable. With hundreds of escape attempts, ghastly murders, the sinister side hustles to earn money, cruel punishments including convicts receiving up to 8000 lashes per year, and even a touch of cannibalism.
The hour long guided tour encompasses the history so well, from the islands harsh beginnings to becoming a thriving ship building hub.
There are simply way to many fascinating stories from the island to share. Which means you’ll have to take the cruise yourself if you want to know all the islands grizzly, gory and outrageous past. It’s a captivating tour and not to be missed!
Gordon River Cruises have a number of different cruise packages to choose. These include the Gordon River cruise, the Bonnet Island experience, the afternoon highlights tour and fishing charters.
Different seating/ticket options are available to suit everyone’s budget. These include main deck central, main deck window, premier upper deck and family tickets.
If you plan to stay the night in Strahan, the accommodation/cruise package might be for you.
Snacks, souvenirs, beer and wine can be purchased on the ship.
Check Gordon River Cruises official website for current prices, cruise options and bookings.
After a long day of cruising and the isolation of Strahan, we definitely recommend staying the night after the cruise.
We stayed at the Strahan Village, and honestly you couldn’t get a better location.
Its perched on the hill overlooking the harbor and has some stunning views. And it’s only a few minutes walk to the Gordon River Cruises terminal and a few minutes drive from the West Coast Wilderness Railway station.
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