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On Walkabout In: Strahan, Tasmania

Next Posting: Queenstown, Tasmania


After driving across Tasmania’s Wilderness Highway and exploring Australia mining past in Queenstown; my wife and I then finally rolled into the small, but popular tourist city of Strahan on the island’s remote west coast:

Before Strahan became a tourist city with it’s brightly colored historic cottages, it was in fact known for being the port city for one of the worst penal colonies in the entire British empire:


The prison itself was located on Sarah Island out in Macquarie Harbor that Strahan was the port city for.  Sarah Island was the Alcatraz of the Australian penal system due to the prison being on an island in the remotest reaches of Tasmania.  Anyone escaping from this prison would literally have to walk back from the end of the world in order to reach civilization again.  However, this didn’t stop convicts from trying to escape.  The only one to successfully escape is also Australia’s most infamous cannibal Alexander Pearce who I profiled in this prior posting.



However, this cute little town actually didn’t get started because of the penal colony, but as a port for the mining and timber industries that found vast riches in the wilds of western Tasmania in the 19th century.  Now a days the tourism industry is a leading economic driver in this city and for good reason because this remote area of Tasmania is stunningly beautiful:


There is even a small airstrip at Strahan that is used to take tourists on sightseeing flights around Western Australia.

Fishing is also another major economic activity in Strahan as is quite evident with the number of fishing boats that can be seen tied up at the harbor:


However, the tourists don’t come to this small city of 637 people to eat fish, instead they come to ride the tour boats around MacQuarie Harbor:


The Macquarie Harbor reaches deep into the interior of Western Tasmania and has long been the major transportation route to reach this remote area of the island:


The other reason tourist flock here is to ride the West Coast Wilderness Railway which the terminus can be seen across the harbor from Strahan at Regatta Point:


My wife and I drove around the bay and over to Regatta Point and here is the view looking back towards Strahan:


This railway was originally constructed back in 1897 to bring the minerals from the mines around Queenstown down to the port here at Regatta Point.  This rail line was closed in 1963 when shipping minerals by truck became more economically feasible than shipping it by rail. Interestingly enough the carriages from this railway were shipped to Victoria and are used on the well done Puffing Billy Railway outside of Melbourne.  This railway wasn’t reconstructed and reopened for tourism until December of 2002.

Here is an old diesel locomotive used to pull the train the day we visited, but there are a number of steam powered engines as well that were pulled out of museums and reconstructed to support this railway:


Here are the cars that passengers ride in on this rail journey:


After spending the day exploring both Queenstown and Strahan my wife and I looked forward to the next day where we planned to travel to the place we most wanted to see on our tour around Tasmania, which is the beautiful Cradle Mountain.

Next Posting: The Road to Cradle Mountain

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