Looking to immerse yourself in the World Heritage-listed Tasmanian wilderness?
Gordon River Cruises, based on the isolated west coast of Tasmania, in the tiny harbour town of Strahan, offers you exactly that.
Visit the remote and pristine wilderness of Tasmania in style and comfort onboard their state of the art ship, the Spirit of the Wild.
No need to trek through dangerous and inhospitable terrain anymore.
Instead, your journey can be aboard their purpose-built 33-metre catamaran. Relaxing in your comfy chair, sipping your favourite beer or wine, and enjoying the scenery through the ships large viewing windows.
Table Of Contents
Crossing Hells Gate
Leaving Strahan, the ship cruises out into Macquarie Harbour and heads towards the treacherous passage known as Hells Gate.
The onboard tour guide shares some interesting history about the region during the journey and points out some of the more easily overlooked areas.
Such as explaining the low breakwater you’ll see running along the passage entrance.
This giant underwater rock wall was built to reduce the width of the passage. The hope was this would increase the flow into the shallow passage and create a deeper and safer entrance into Macquarie Harbour.
It’s bold feat of engineering, considering they didn’t know if it would succeed or not!
Upon reaching Hells Gate, the ships pilot gets to show off their skills by squeezing the Spirit of the Wild through the narrow passage and out into the ocean.
This is a great time to head up to the captain’s cockpit and watch the action.
The ship does a quick turn around and leaves Hells Gate in its wake, once more venturing into Macquarie Harbour and begins cruising towards Gordon River.
During the harbour crossing the ship passes the tiny rocky outcrop known as Bonnet Island, home to a thriving colony of Little Penguins.
Picking up speed, the ship starts racing towards the entrance to Gordon River. Along the way, you’ll pass some stunning scenery, as well as the giant floating aquaculture pens, used to farm that delicious Tasmanian salmon.
Gordon River Cruise
As soon as you enter the Gordon River it becomes apparent why this area is World Heritage-listed wilderness. The scenery is jaw-dropping.
Delicate mist can be seen rising from the treetops to envelop the landscape. Lush green rainforest hugs the river’s edge and stretches as far as the eye can see. And the mirror-smooth surface of the dark tannin-stained water acts like a giant mirror, reflecting all the surrounding beauty.
The Spirit of the Wild gracefully glides its way around the beautiful curves of the Gordon River. It’s a very peaceful and calming part of the cruise and a great time to sit outside on the viewing deck and just soak in the serenity and nature.
This tranquillity is ensured by the purpose-built design of the Spirit of the Wild. The hybrid engines switch to a near-silent electrical propulsion to minimise noise and disturbance in this delicate ecosystem.
This silent cruising not only enhances the peaceful nature of the river but allows you to get up close to the wildlife in the area without alarming them.
We managed to catch two majestic White-bellied Sea-eagles flying along the river banks hunting for lunch. And they hardly even noticed the silent and sleek Spirit of the Wild gliding past.
Before turning back for the return trip down the Gordon River, the ship makes a short stop at the Heritage Landing.
This is a great spot to stretch your legs and take in the sights of this beautiful boardwalk through some of Tasmania’s pristine temperate rainforest.
Dotted along the boardwalk are information boards detailing all the different types of timber that used to be harvested from the area. Such as sassafras, myrtle, and the slow-growing huon pine, which only grows around 1mm a year!
You’ll also discover some of the amazing ways the local Aboriginal people harnessed the forest to travel, create shelter and survive in this wild region.
The tour guide explains why these uniquely Tasmanian timbers are so important and the unique properties that made them perfect for shipbuilding, such as resisting rot and repelling mosquitoes.
After the guided walk, the Spirit of the Wild cruises back down the river towards Macquarie Harbour.
Lunch is served on the return journey and Gordon River Cruises certainly put on an impressive buffet feast. We had a fine selection of salads, marinated chicken, cold meats, freshly baked rolls and all the locally grown smoked salmon you can eat.
With everyone’s bellies full, its full steam ahead towards Sarah Island.
This is the last port of call for the cruise and one of the most interesting. While the island is beautiful, it’s the history that makes it so fascinating.
Predating Port Arthur, Sarah Island was one of the earliest penal colonies in Australia, opening in 1822. Named “Hell on Earth” by the convicts for its harsh conditions, lousy food and regular floggings.
Nature has reclaimed most of the island and many of the original buildings are gone or scavenged. All that remains are piles of old bricks and the skeletons of the few remaining buildings.
The facts about this island are unbelievable. With hundreds of escape attempts, ghastly murders, the sinister side hustles to earn money, cruel punishments including convicts receiving up to 8000 lashes per year, and even a touch of cannibalism.
The hour-long guided tour encompasses the history so well, from the islands harsh beginnings to becoming a thriving shipbuilding hub.
There are simply way too many fascinating stories from the island to share. Which means you’ll have to take the cruise yourself if you want to know all the islands grizzly, gory and outrageous past. It’s a captivating tour and not to be missed!
Gordon River Cruises Options
Gordon River Cruises have several different cruise packages to choose. These include the Gordon River cruise, the Bonnet Island experience, the afternoon highlights tour, fishing charters and many more.
Different seating/ticket options are available to suit everyone’s budget. These include main deck central, main deck window, premier upper deck and family tickets.
Price varies depending on cruise type and seating option.
Gordon River Cruises terminal is open daily from 07:30-17:00.
Check the official website for up to date information.
- Gift shop
Address: 24 The Esplanade, Strahan. Tasmania, Australia.
Click to view map to Gordon River Cruises.
When To Visit
Gordon River Cruises can be visited year-round.
- We recommend bringing cash to pay for car parking and purchasing snacks, souvenirs and alcohol on the cruise
- Due to the remoteness of Strahan, we recommend an overnight stay. We stayed at Strahan Village, which is a few minutes walk from the cruise terminal
- Wet weather gear
- Warm clothing
Gordon River Cruises is an absolute must when visiting Tasmania! The World Heritage-listed wilderness is simply stunning and the reflections on the Gordon River must be seen to be believed.
The tour guides are fantastic and have a depth of knowledge about the brutal and fascinating history of the area, which will intrigue everyone.
- West Coast Wilderness Railway
- Hogarth Falls