Day 8 – On the Gordon

When I was about 12 years old my parents took my siblings and I on a trip around Tasmania. One of my fondest memories of that trip was getting to go on the Gordon River cruise. The weather on that day was truly atrocious but rugged up in a raincoat my sister and I stood out on the front of the boat getting smacked by the wind and rain and loving every second. Nearly 20 years later I really wanted to do it again so Matt and I booked in.

The ferry departure time of 8.30am and the 40 minute drive into town from our camp meant we were faced with a pretty early start. I was certainly grateful for my Banjo’s coffee and breakfast quiche that we ate while looking at the harbour.

At about 8:15am we wandered over to the cruise terminal and browsed the gift shop before we were called to get on the boat. Thanks again to COVID-19 the number of passengers was next to no one so we had a ton of space to ourselves and the company was waiving the window fee which saved us $35pp. The tickets were still expensive $140 each but with the free lunch, two guided tours, and nearly 6 hours of cruising we thought that it was good value.

The boat started off by travelling out of Macquarie Harbour past the fish farms where the seals were swimming lazily around looking for escapees. The harbour is 6 times the size of Sydney and reaches a depth of 50m. We made our way through the black water and towards the mouth of the harbour Hells Gates, as named by the convicts entering Macquarie Harbour bound for Sarah Island. Near the entry we were lucky enough to see a couple of southern right whales bobbing around in the bay on the left.

Heading South/East back along the harbour coastline we sat back and enjoyed the view whizzing by and had a cup of tea. In Trip Advisor there are a couple of complaints from people that the cruising time is too long and boring but if you think that you’re really missing the point. Tasmania is all about going slow and taking in the beauty around you. The weather was on our side as the boat slowed and entered the Gordon River so we were treated to the famous reflections. Matt and I stood on the deck and looked out at the rainforest above and below.

Our first stop for the day was Heritage Landing, a short boardwalk stroll into the dense rainforest where we learnt about some of the plants and animals native to the area. I really enjoyed the information cards as I’m notoriously challenged when it comes to identifying plants. When we got back onto the boat after about 20 minutes we were organised into groups and told to come up and collect our lunch. Returning once more to our chairs, plates piled high with smoked salmon you couldn’t wipe the grins of our faces. Too good.

The second stop for the day snuck up just as we were finishing lunch, Sarah Island. We were given two options, make our own way around or complete a guided tour. Almost everyone opted for the tour and it was fantastic. I’d hoped it would go into more detail about the cannibalism of Alexander Pearce but instead learnt a huge amount about ship building, day to day life on the island, and the living conditions of the convicts. Just as we got back on the boat it started to rain.

We returned to Strahan at about 2.30pm and decided that there was enough time and daylight left to hightail it to Queenstown and stay the night next to the famous gravel footy oval. Unfortunately it was closed because of COVID so we drove up and around the bends to head down to Lake Burbury. On our way we stopped to enjoy the lookout at Iron Blow, the site of the earliest mine at Mt Lyell. That somehow turned into climbing the barren hills and then watching the sun set over the valley.

Campsite Review

Thureau Hills Boat Ramp – The no fossicking signs got me off side immediately but the spot itself was beautiful. There were toilets and a little creek which was running nicely. I think Matt may have got some cooking water from it but I don’t trust water supplies in Queenstown. One of the rivers has a disturbing habit of running orange. Not bad, not great 6/10.

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