If there was one place in Tasmania I really wanted to go (that I hadn’t been before, briefly) it was the west coast. Being a nature lover, I couldn’t wait to see the pristine forests and water of the mid-west coast of Tas around Strahan. I knew the two main tourist features there included the day trip steam train and a day trip cruise. I also knew due to price and a 1 year old, the train was probably not an option (the confinement would have been unbearable) and so the boat was our only choice and ended up being an excellent one.
I personally found that Strahan itself as a town was pretty underwhelming, and in fact, I was quite worried that two nights there would be one too many! It really was very isolated and just a bit… well… bland. Thanks again to the LP for giving us unrealistic expectations as it claimed Strahan had once been dubbed (by an American newspaper) the ‘best little town in the world’ (um… yeah… ok…). I guess the poor weather didn’t help, but I just didn’t find it all that interesting. The ladies at the Information Bureau were friendly, but it just had the feel of a very sleepy town, and I guess I was hoping for something a little more upbeat. At the end of the day, the issues were really with my expectations and not the town itself, but it was small, and quiet, and needed a lot of the ‘make-your-own-fun’ attitude I seemed to have left back in Stanley.
We did have an incredible lunch around at the Risby Cove Cafe with a very helpful hostess who was most gracious with my million food related questions and was very tolerant of our one year old running around being his usual destructive toddler self. We also enjoyed a lovely meal at the very busy Bushman’s Bar and Café for dinner, where our son made friends with the host, but we didn’t find much else do to there during the day (could be because thanks to a lack of sleep and excess car time, we were trying to find things not involving driving, and also inside thanks to the rain) so I was glad we had a boat cruise booked for the following day to fill up some time.
We chose to go with World Heritage Cruises because they offered a reasonable departure time in the morning. The cruise itself was pretty great, even if we did have poor weather, again. There were three levels of seating options each with their own price tag and I am so thankful we only paid for the cheap seats as it was not a full cruise and people ended up sitting wherever they wanted anyway. There was no ATM or card facilities on board, which we weren’t warned about, but thankfully they were agreeable to a ‘tab’ taking our license as security. There was also a ‘kids play area’ which was just a room with some toys and a big screen to watch movies on, where most of the bigger kids sat literally all day… I’m not sure they even knew we were on a boat (and there was zero supervision). BUT, the scenery was gorgeous and my favourite part was stopping to visit Sarah Island, and old convict settlement.
My son had fallen asleep quite comfortably across the chairs so my husband opted to stay with him (even though several of the staff had offered to mind him while we roamed) so I went alone appreciating the complimentary umbrella and the excellent guides we had (separate company to the boat) who gave us a great, scripted rendition of the history, experience and mystery of Sarah Island. There was another stop later and a boardwalk around the forest where we were given information on the Huon Pine, however, it was raining so we actually scooted back to the boat not wanting us, or our son, to get wet. The boat was large, lots of places to view outside from and lots of areas to wander so it didn’t feel confining or claustrophobic at any point, in fact it was quite comfortable and the prices for food and drink were reasonable (including a good sized buffet lunch). I’d really recommend doing this and can only imagine how wonderful it would have been if the sun were actually out! At the end of the cruise you can walk through a woodwork display of men carving Huon pine and there are two main shops/galleries where you can check out lots of things made from the timber from clocks to musical instruments. All very beautiful and all very expensive. We had a look and moved on. (I did happen to buy a $10 shaker for my son but it broke within the week. I’m glad we didn’t spend more.)
This really concluded our activities at Strahan. I was happy with what we saw and were able to do with our son but I can’t say I’ve any real desire to go back. I did happen to like to drive out of Strahan (or into it, depending on what way you came) through Queenstown. It was pretty spectacular. With my husband growing up in a mining town and me being born in the same one, we both have an appreciation for those scarred landscapes, and although Queenstown felt rather desolate (it did have a fun park for us to stop and play in for a bit) the winding round out of Queenstown was pretty scenic and we enjoyed checking out the old hollow of a mine and the emerald lake, which had filled it in.
A few people had strongly recommended we stop in Derwent and check out The Wall In the Wilderness (aka ‘the carving’) but we opted not to pay what we felt was a steep $30 entry fee (for two) after reading some reviews, and continued on to Junee Cave, which the LP made sound amazing (yes, you think we would have learnt by now…) but it really, it wasn’t. Again, it was a nice walk, but not exactly the gushing waterfall and river out the mouth of a cave we’d envisioned, thanks again to some liberal describing from the LP. Thankfully one thing did live up to our expectations- in fact exceeded it, and that was Mt Field National Park. Check it out in the following blog… coming soon!