Strahan and the West Coast
The wild west coast of Tasmania sits right in the teeth of the "Roaring Forties", the huge Southern Ocean weather system that has driven mariners from Magellan onwards around the globe. The coastline is battered by the wind and waves generated this weather system, and only the brave and hardy venture offshore. Hell's Gates is a small opening to the large and tranquil Macquarie Harbour, and nestled at Risby Cove is the sheltered township of Strahan (pronounced "strawn").
A village that was once home to miners, timbercutters (piners), fishermen and convicts and their keepers, is now a major tourist centre and the gateway to the Tasmanian West Coast Wilderness. Reminders of the miners, piners and the convicts are everywhere, but only the fishermen, the local Strahan residents and the visitors are here today.
If you have arrived by road, you will know that it is a very good idea to have your accommodation booked in advance - it is a long way back to the last outposts of civilization. Check out the Tasmania.com - Hotels in Strahan to compare prices and features at Strahan accommodation. Also look at Hotels in Strahan.
Hell's Gates and Sarah Island Convict Station
The narrow channel that linked Strahan and Macquarie Harbour to the outside world in the 1800's, was named Hell's Gates by the convicts imprisoned on Sarah Island. This small island, situated south of Strahan in Macqarrie Harbour, was established as a place of banishment for the worst offending, escape-prone convicts of the Australian convict penal system.
It was considered that escape was "next to impossible," and conditions were such that the entrance to the harbour itself was thought by convicts the gates to hell on earth - Sarah Island. The best way to visit Hell's Gates and Sarah Island is by taking the Gordon River Cruise from Strahan. You may never get back to Strahan again, so be sure to book ahead to get on the right boat, and secure the best level of service on this "once in a lifetime" experience.
Miners and Piners of Strahan and the West Coast
The history and development of Tasmania's West Coast and Strahan itself is tied to the tough, independent men who first developed the area. The "Piners" were a rugged breed of men who cut timber (mainly Huon Pine for boatbuilding), taking the valuable timber from the areas around Strahan, Macquarie Harbour and the Gordon River.
The Mount Lyell Mining Co. opened in 1892, and established the railway between Queenstown and Strahan as the only way to move copper ore to the deepwater port at Strahan for access to the outside world. The railway ceased operations in 1963, but was then re-opened as a tourist attraction in 2002 as the ABT West Coast Wilderness Railway.
This attraction has been suspended for operation from the end of April 2013. The State Government of Tasmania is responsible for track maintenance, while Federal Hotels run the actual Railway. We hope that once issues between the Government and the operator are resolved, the West Coast Wilderness Railway will re-commence operation.
Destinations in Tasmania