This west-coast town has many must-dos – from exploring elemental tracts of wilderness to absorbing powerful stories.
Strahan sits snugly at the end of the epic Lyell Hwy, about 300km north-west of Hobart, and seemingly remote from everywhere else. Boats bob in the bay beside this quiet village on the cusp of a contrastingly wild national park. Just beyond the bay lies the vast Macquarie Harbour, once home to Tasmania’s most punishing penal settlement.
Kiah Davey is well attuned to the charm of Strahan and the ruggedness of the Sarah Island convict site. The manager and owner of the Round Earth Company puts on daily performances (September–May) of Australia’s longest-running play, The Ship That Never Was, in Strahan, and delivers more theatrics during her guided tours of Sarah Island with Gordon River Cruises and World Heritage Cruises. Both pursuits highlight the region’s remarkable history.
Davey has spent nearly 30 years re-enacting the daring tale of 10 convicts’ escape to Chile in the side-splitting play written by her father, Richard Davey.
We came here to do a play and then discovered how much that play resonates with this place.
“From there, we started to discover more and more stories that were really relevant to the area.”
What keeps her here is her connection to the friendly Strahan locals and travellers attending the play.
“The whole community convinced us to stay, and here we are.”
But for those just passing through, here are Davey’s top recommendations.
Whether visiting by day or night, Henty Dunes is magical.
“It’s a hard trek to get up to the top, but if you’re dragging a toboggan, it’s worth it, because you can toboggan all the way down,” Davey says. “It’s absolutely heart-pumping and exhilarating.”
Hire a toboggan from Gordon River Cruises and select Strahan businesses, shield your eyes from the glare and grit with sunglasses, and away you go.
Stretching from Strahan into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Macquarie Harbour is Davey’s rainforest playground. Her preferred mode of transport? A trusty kayak.
“I absolutely love going in and landing on a beach that I’ve never been before,” she says.
The southern reaches of the harbour merge with Gordon River – an inky waterway coiling deep into Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. This wild terrain is a festival of Huon pine, leatherwood, myrtle and sassafras trees.
“It feels like it's untouched,” Davey says, “and you feel like you’re being embraced by nature.”
From chocolate eclairs to cream puffs, Davey can’t go past the Coffee Shack for a Strahan feed.
“They make excellent coffee there, and homemade cakes and nibbles,” Davey says.
Or stroll along the esplanade for an “amazing hamburger” at her other favourite joint: Tracks on Point Cafe at Regatta Point Railway Station – the Strahan terminus for the thrilling West Coast Wilderness Railway.
Davey’s favourite place for a culture fix? She doesn’t hesitate to answer: “I am the culture fix!”
But pantomime-style exploits aside, Davey ventures further afield to Zeehan – a 30min drive north of Strahan – for her fill of live music, opera and ballet at the grand old Gaiety Theatre, or to Queenstown (40min north-east of Strahan) to catch a film or live band at the Paragon Theatre.
The locals take advantage of Strahan’s low light pollution by snapping colourful exposures of the Southern Lights on their cameras.
“Every now and again you'll actually see a pale light on the horizon that's moving and rippling, usually green or yellow,” Davey says.
If the Aurora Australis is out-of-action, Davey lies upon the cool Henty Dunes, high above the tree line, watching satellites and falling stars above the ocean.
Davey loves a good west-coast market. Her top pick is Zeehan’s annual Gem and Mineral Fair, held each November.
Pore over an impressive mineral collection from the historical Zeehan School of Mines and Metallurgy, and ponder the mining boom and bust heritage earning Zeehan its ‘Silver City’ moniker.
You can be down there on a beautiful day and it's absolutely gorgeous. Or you can go down there on a wild day and you practically have no beach, and there are waves crashing up against the sand dunes. Every day is spectacular out there.
Next time you’re out west, expect a weekend of adventure, serenity and wonder.
How far from Hobart to Strahan?
If you’re travelling to Strahan from the state capital, buckle up for a 300km, 4hr 30min ride along the Lyell Hwy. Part of the fun is experiencing the Western Wilds drive journey: watch sweeping plains morph into dense rainforest, then sprawl away to reveal enormous mountains. Here are some things to do and places to go on a Western Wilds road trip.
How to pronounce ‘Strahan’
For a simple town, figuring out how to pronounce ‘Strahan’ can be quite complex. Please, whatever you do, don’t try to sound out the ‘aha!’ in ‘Strahan’. The key to nailing the correct pronunciation is simply remembering that ‘Strahan’ rhymes with ‘prawn’…or ‘lawn’. Or even ‘yawn’. Don’t overthink it: one syllable is all you need.
What to do in Strahan
This small town sits in solitude on Tasmania’s central west coast. When you’re wondering what to do in such a remote place, look to the beauty and history surrounding you. Cruise from Strahan into Australia’s second-largest natural harbour and drift along the Gordon River; take an easy walk through lush rainforest to Hogarth Falls; or discover Strahan’s unique sawmilling heritage at the Huon Pine Shop and Gallery. Here’s what to do in Strahan.