We drove through the barren, craggy plains of the aptly named Tasmanian western wilderness to a small, unassuming fishing village that goes by the name of Strahan (pronounced Strawn). Underneath this quaint exterior however, were all the signs of a booming tourism empire. It seems that many aspects of the town are run by and for the tourism sector, though this simply means that your experience, while not entirely an ‘authentic’ one, will be smooth, pleasant and hassle free. Besides, people don’t come to Strahan for an authentic fishing village experience, they come because it is the gateway to an experience unlike any other.
Going by the nickname ‘the Edge of the World’, Strahan is the departure point of a cruise to the famous Gordon River. A world heritage area that scored 7/10 in the qualifying criteria, it is one of the highest scoring world heritage areas on the planet. Amazing biodiversity, relics from extinct civilizations, and species of flora and fauna not found anywhere else on earth all contribute to its incredible appeal.
We booked in to the Captains Deck Premium cruise with Gordon River Cruises, the main cruise provider from Strahan. While perhaps a splurge for the budget-conscious, we found the upper deck to be worth every cent. From the moment we stepped on board we received attentive and constant service from our server: complimentary teas, coffees (even soy chai lattes), local Tasmanian wines, James Boags beer, Cascade sodas and juices were constantly available and topped up by our server. We were served salmon pâté, quiches and cookies while cruising. There was a cheese platter on offer all morning filled with Edam, double cream Brie, roaring forties blue, and Ashgrove Wild Wasabi, surrounded by a extensive selection of fruits, crackers and local leatherwood honey.
For lunch, tickets to the Captains Deck include a premium buffet, containing such delicacies as smoked wallaby and local ocean trout. The wallaby was quite tender with a distinct gamey taste, much like rabbit. The local ocean trout was basted in a sweet and sour sauce, accompanied by braised chicken and mushroom ragu, a crisp green salad coated in pesto, a mustardy potato salad, and some beautiful fresh smoked salmon. A head above the offerings on the lower deck, the lunch alone warranted the price difference. Not to mention unlimited premium drinks, leather recliners, private viewing decks and the undivided attention of our hostess.
The tour itself is precise, well-tuned and perfectly executed. The captain chimes in with interesting facts at various points along the way, and the itinerary sets a leisurely pace but with enough activity to prevent idle time (besides, any idle time on the upper deck is taken up by eating).
First stop was Hell’s Gates, the entrance to the river from the sea, and the reason Strahan is literally on the edge of the world. Looking out through Hell’s Gates, the next land mass is the bottom of South America. Sailing out just past the lighthouse into the open sea, it strikes home that you are sitting in one of the most southern places on the planet. Empty and wild, there is something magical about standing on the top deck, breathing the cleanest air in the world and basking in unpolluted sunlight.
Next stop is a sail past the Strahan Atlantic Salmon farm. The government has just announced a $7m grant to expand this farm, where salmon ‘fingerlings’ from all around Tasmania come to mature. Salmon ‘ponds’ comprise of a net 6-7 meters deep, that allow the fish movement and the ability to swim and live in some of the healthiest and cleanest waters in the world. The top of the net is attached to a buoyant circle, and covered with a bird net to protect small fish from winged predators. With constant feedings salmon can grow from 100 grams to 3 kilos in just 12 months, they are then shipped back to their owners who prepare them for sale.
Having tasted salmon all around the world, I can attest to the fact that the salmon and trout that swim and live in these waters are the most flavoursome fish I have ever had the pleasure of eating. Certainly producers deserve a lot of the credit, but there is certainly something in the water down in Strahan.
Next stop was in a beautiful, lush spot down the Gordon River, and a walk through the temperate rainforest that lines the banks of the river. Home to hundreds of thousands of flora and fauna, the forest floor is teeming with life. The air was thick under the canopy and heady with the scent of the living, breathing ecosystem that surrounded.
Cruising back along the Gordon River, the last stop was at Sarah Island where passengers had an hour to explore and go on an intriguing tour of the oldest and harshest penal colonies in Australia’s history.
Ruins of the buildings, including a bakery with a scotch oven, are still standing.
At around 1:30PM we head back towards Strahan, after a full day of (rather sedate) adventuring and delicious food. Content to sit back in our recliners and relax, we warmed up with our last complimentary drinks and some Tasmanian made cookies.
When I at first commented I clicked the -Notify me whenever new articles are added- checkbox and now each time a comment will be added I purchase four emails with the same comment. Is there in any manner you can remove me via that support? Thanks!
Definitely the highlight of our Tasmanian trip, we were continually surprised at how perfect every aspect of the day was – while a little pricey, I highly recommend the Upper Deck ticket as it delivers an absolute VIP experience. While not much else to do in Strahan, it is certainly a compulsory stop for tourists and locals alike.
Gordon River Cruises
Prices start from $95 for Adult Standard, and $220 for the all-inclusive Adult Premium Captains Upper Deck