Australia’s island state of Tasmania is known for its wilderness and remoteness, especially if you venture into its west coast, characterized by rugged mountain ranges, 20 –meter waves and mighty winds. One of the wildest and most beautiful sites in Tasmania has got to be Macquarie Harbor. Situated between the Franklin and Gordon Rivers, Macquarie is about six times bigger than the Sydney Harbor. Ironically, this pristine site was once called “Hell’s Gate” as this was the harbor where notorious convicts would go through to reach the penal colony on Sarah Island.
Today, this large natural harbor is part of the UNESCO World Heritage area that covers about 20 percent of Tasmania. It is surrounded by rainforests housing ancient Huon Pines and hundreds of endemic animal species like Eastern Quoll and Tasmanian Devil. It is in Macquarie Harbor that you can find one of the very first crustaceans in the world; the Mountain Shrimp. Because of its wild characteristics, the harbor attracts many travelers who are looking for wilderness frontier adventures. And this is exactly what you’re going to get in Macquarie.
Most visitors enter the region through the small port of Strahan. To access the port, you can either take a bus or rent a car from the cities of Launceston or Hobart. Once you get to the harbor, you will immediately notice the several fish farms populating its center. If you walk to the south of the harbor, you will find the Cape Sorrell Lighthouse, one of the iconic landmarks in the area.
To cool down, head out to Ocean Beach, which lies on the west of Strahan. Stretching 40 kilometers, this impressive beach is characterized by huge sand dunes, and offers visitors front row views of the powerful Great Southern Ocean. Another nice spot to visit is the Macquarie Heads, which protects the natural harbor. Here, you can enjoy beach fishing, and if you get lucky, catch glimpses of swimming dolphins.
One of the best ways to enjoy the wild beauty of Macquarie Harbor is to go on an exciting river cruise. Most cruise trips offered in the area take at least 6 hours or more, and include stops to notable attractions like the Frenchman’s Cap, the historic Pillinger ghost port, and the Birchs Intet Sanctuary, which is home to one of the rarest birds in the world, the orange-bellied parrot. A more thrilling alternative to big boat cruising is a catamaran adventure sailing on the harbor and river.
A tour around the Sarah Island Historic Site is a must-do activity. This early 19th century penal settlement reflects Australia’s colorful history and humble beginnings. If you’re not going on a river cruise, you can take a boat from Strahan to reach the island. The lower course of the Gordon River is home to extensive unspoiled rainforests and gorgeous waterfalls. While here, it is highly recommended that you take the Rainforest Walk, which will reveal the raw beauty of the roaring rivers. Aside from exploring this area by boat, you can also book a seaplane trip that will give you a rare bird’s eye view of the magnificent and wild Macquarie Harbor.