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Discover convict history, ancient forest and the Gordon River’s mirror-like reflections.

Boat trips depart from Strahan, once Tasmania’s second-largest port. They cross Macquarie Harbour, a body of water six times larger than Sydney Harbour, and cut through the perfect reflections of the Gordon River.

“The dark tannin water provides the perfect backdrop for mirror-image reflections that have to be seen to be believed,” says Bella Hart, of World Heritage Cruises. 

Cruising the Gordon is special, she says, because of “the way the dense rainforest blankets the steep gorges all the way down into the river itself. 

“And it’s the beautiful crisp air that makes you feel as though you’re cruising into a magical land far, far away from everyday life.”

Beautiful high shot of the bridge leading to Sarah Island.
Gordon River Cruises - Sarah Island
Supplied Courtesy of RACT Destinations
Gordon River Cruises
Gordon River Cruises
Supplied Courtesy of RACT Destinations

River runs

Two companies sail the Gordon River daily. World Heritage Cruises has been exploring the region’s waterways since 1896. It was established by the Grining family, who moved to Strahan in 1887 after a bushfire wiped out their home in Trial Harbour. 

The fifth and sixth generations of the family continue to run the business with a newly built catamaran, showing visitors “the wide-open spaces, the fresh air, and the feeling of all your cares just floating away into a distant place when you get out on the water”, says Hart.

”You feel a bit like a little kid again. Our guests are also definitely surprised by the amazing history of Sarah Island, Strahan itself and, of course, the Gordon River. It’s been a very industrious part of the world for such a remote settlement.”

Gordon River Cruises explores the river aboard the Spirit of the Wild, a purpose-built 33.8m catamaran equipped with diesel and electric engines. As the boat enters the Gordon River, the diesel engines are turned off, and the world slips into almost total silence.

The inky waters are typically glassy, providing incredible reflections of the surrounding forest and Huon pines as guests enjoy a buffet lunch and a glass of Tasmanian wine while knowledgeable guides explain the area’s natural and human history. 

World Heritage Cruises
World Heritage Cruises
Supplied Courtesy of World Heritage Cruises
World Heritage Cruises
World Heritage Cruises
Supplied Courtesy of World Heritage Cruises

Island hell

Both cruises include a tour of Sarah Island, the infamous penal colony built to house repeat offending convicts, and edge through the narrow and notorious harbour entrance known to convicts as Hells Gates.

“I love the roar and power of the sea at Ocean Beach [at 40km, Tasmania’s longest beach] and Hells Gates,” says Hart. “And getting out to see Cape Sorell Lighthouse is also pretty special. 

“Growing up here we have done plenty of recreational fishing, driving along the beach and cruising the waterways. It’s definitely hard to beat an Ocean Beach sunset.”

Gordon River Cruises
Gordon River Cruises
Supplied Courtesy of RACT Destinations
Gordon River Cruises - Premier Upper Deck
Gordon River Cruises - Premier Upper Deck
Supplied Courtesy of RACT Destinations
Need to know 

Strahan is a 4hr 30min drive (300km) north-west of Hobart, and a 3hr 30min drive (270km) south-west of Launceston. 

World Heritage Cruises sails daily at 9am, returning at 3pm. Afternoon cruises depart in summer at 3.15pm, returning at 8.30pm. Gordon River Cruises departs daily at 8.30am, returning at 2.30pm. Evening dinner cruises operate on select days through summer.

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