Strahan, Tasmania

We stayed 3 nights in apartment 2 at the Aloft Boutique Accommodation, Strahan, and found it up with the best of accommodation in which we have stayed anywhere. You get a spacious bedroom, modern bathroom, and separate living area with kitchen off it. All are well fitted - dish washer, washing machine, tumble drier, microwave and full cooker. Two TV sets, should you need them!. Modern furnishings, and a decent heating system. The apartment is serviced daily, and they supply cereals, tea and coffee. It works out at about 170 dollars a night in this apartment, but there are cheaper options here as well. We had a very friendly welcome, and after that they let you get on with it. We had one day with very bad rain, a fairly common occurrence here, and the apartment was a pleasant refuge from the weather. The only downside, which did not worry us was that it was a 7 minute walk to town, thought the supermarket was only 2 minutes away.

You go to Risby Cove Restaurant because of the views towards the sun setting over the water. Ducks at play right in front of you. The food is good but not gourmet. One of our main courses was stone cold, plates were stone cold. They cooked another lamb to replace the cold one, and that was excellent, but by the time it arrived, I had long finished my own tepid dish. The smoked wallaby starter was interesting, and the panna cotta average. Was it value for money at 140 dollars for two including everything ? Well it probably was. But it could have been so much better if the food had been hot. And whilst on the subject of warmth, the restaurant was not that warm in the evening, so you need to wrap up warm

And another meal was at Bushman's Cafe. The fact that the cafe is the best rated eating place in Strahan says as much about the other places with lower rankings as it does about Bushman's ! We had lunch here on a wet Thursday in December, and the fire was a bonus. Though note you should avoid a table near the door, as you get a nasty draft every time the door opens. We moved tables to get closer to the fire. The choice of food at lunch was limited - I had a ( very good) steak sandwich, and my wife a toasted sandwich, these and one cup of coffee came to 22 dollars. The interior is polished wood, modern and clean. Chairs are a bit hard! It offers a pleasant place to eat, but is, as it says on their exterior " cafe and bar ". Strahan is a tourist town, and does not offer anything in the way of fine dining. Bushman's is as good as it gets. We tried number two on TripAdvisors list, Risby Cove, where the ambiance was much better, but the food average. Other visitors can take their choice between these two, nothing else in a Strahan seems worth trying

The first settlement at Macquarrie Harbour was on Sarah Island, a small island in the harbour. This island was used as a prison for recalcitrant prisoners from other settlements in Tasmania, due to its extreme isolation and extreme climate. Later the small port of Strahan was developed on the shores of Macquarrie Harbour to support the nearby mining settlements at Queenstown. Today Strahan is unquestionably a tourist town. The King River which cuts through the West Coast Range and the Gordon River empty into Macquarrie Harbour. The narrow entrance to Macquarrie Harbour has hazardous tidal currents and is called Hell's Gates. The Queen River, King River and Macquarrie Harbour were all polluted by mine waste from the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company until its closing in 1994. It is estimated that 100 million tonnes of tailings were deposited into the Queen River. The Mount Lyell Remediation and Research and Demonstration Program was carried out by the Tasmanian Department of Environment over the following two years. The result of the program was a marked reduction in the waste material entering the rivers and harbour.

Today commercial shipping does not enter Hells Gates, it is just too dangerous and no ship large enough to carry away mine ores in commercial quantities can get in. So the mines no longer export via Strahan and Macquarrie Harbour.

Morrison's Huon Pine Sawmill now operates from The Esplanade as a tourist attraction. Huon Pine is the most famous and highly prized Tasmanian timber. It is Australia’s oldest living tree and one of the oldest known living organisms on the planet. It had a traditional use as the best boat building timber due to its natural durability and ease of use. Freshly milled or dressed Huon pine wood is initially straw coloured and has a distinct aromatic perfume but it ages after contact with air and light to a rich golden colour. It is a very forgiving timber to work with: from turning, veneer/inlay to cabinet making. Whilst care may be needed in finishing due to its inherent oiliness, it produces a high lustre. Eighty five per cent of Huon pine forests are conserved in National Parks and fifteen per cent are managed by Forestry Tasmania. Forestry Tasmania plants Huon pine seedlings to ensure sites are fully regenerated.

The mill is family owned, with the fourth generation of the Morrison family now working at the mill. The cruise boat drops off its passengers here, so you are funneled into their talk and shop. A variety of natural Tasmanian timbers are available. Bread/cutting boards, coasters, cheeseboards, hot pot rings (trivets), doorstops, wine bottle holders, coat racks,clocks, barometers and other hand made crafts are available for purchase at the mill. They claim that all their Huon Pine comes from old stockpiles or from pine found washed up on the shore - as a tourist I have no idea how true this is. But I can say that the bigger sculptures in the shop were very appealing, and that the management had to point out to me the difficulties of shipping such a piece back to Malta

The self named "World Heritage Cruise" has two operators, in similar boats with similar prices. I thought that it was a really good day out, if a little expensive.

We started at 9 am, and got back 6 hours later. The ship visits Hells Mouth, the entrance to Macquarrie's vast natural harbour. This is really fascinating, and worth the trip alone. The area is littered with wreck sites. We were allowed onto the Bridge at will and could have the seat beside the captain - not many people seemed to realise this, so Chris and the Boys were able to hog the view.

Then via one of the salmon farms. Vast quantities of farmed salmon are raised here, and the business is expanding. There appears to be a fair amount of local controversy, as the businesses are Chinese owned and their environmental record is not particularly good.

Then to Sarah Island, the original convict colony. Where you have an hour to explore and listen to a guide.The guide is an actress, and part of the local theatre company. Therefore the presentation as we walked around was a little over the top for me, but I think Chris and the Boys liked it.

Lunch is on board en route to the Gordon River. Truth to tell, the buffet lunch was not anything special, and drinks are not included, even though we had paid for Gold Class. Gold Class really did not buy you much more than a morning cup of tea and a bun.

Then up the Gordon River to a board walk through the rain forest. Again there is a guide, one of the ship's crew. She was a bit mousey voiced and difficult to follow, and I was more than happy to wander by myself. You could not get lost, as the boardwalk was circular, and you could not stray into the rain forest. Back on board for the final run back to Strahan. I was glad we had taken this trip, and we were lucky that the weather was good - next day would have been a complete washout.

On to Cradle Mountain

Australia 2013/2014