We left our cabin at Cradle Mountain with the feeling that we needed another day in this wilderness area. Sadly when we left our next destination at Strahan, we felt the same way. The journey to Strahan was the usual beautiful Tasmanian countryside but the theme of ‘mining country’ quickly became apparent. The first major town we encountered was Rosebery which was settled when gold was discovered here in 1893. The reasons for mining in Rosebery changed in the 20th century to other ore bodies, particularly zinc and still continues today. Tasmania’s highest waterfall, Montezuma Falls is not far from town. It was difficult to resist the turnoff to the falls but we decided to pass by as we would need the time when we got to Strahan.
It was another 25 kms to Zeehan and we had decided earlier in the day that it would be our morning coffee stopping point. Unlike Rosebery, Zeehan’s history goes back centuries. When Abel Tasman sailed down the west coast of Tasmania in 1642, he sighted two mountains which he called Mount Zeehan and Mount Heemskirk, the names of his two ships. Zeehan was established as a township in the 1880s when silver-lead deposits were found nearby. This started a mining boom which saw Zeehan become the third largest town in Tasmania. As we drove into town, we quickly picked up that Zeehan’s best days were long gone, with apparently only a little mining going on here these days. We passed a huge collection of tin dormitories that we assumed were used in the old days for mine-workers but they were now clearly abandoned. It was Saturday morning and the town wasn’t very busy, we felt we were lucky to find the only open café; on the main street but well past the centre of town.
After a pleasant morning tea, we drove back to the centre and had a look at some of the interesting buildings left over from Zeehan’s heyday. The building on the left above is the Gaiety Theatre, built in 1898 and bigger than the Hobart Town Hall at the time. As a theatre it enjoyed the prosperity of the boom times and was a venue for the big stage shows that were brought down from Melbourne. The building on the right is the Zeehan Post Office which stands next to the West Coast Heritage Centre. Like so many Australian towns that rode the boom to bust mining days, Zeehan is looking to reinvent itself as a tourist town as well, like Derby, a site for the mountain biking industry. The image on the right below shows a section of the heritage centre devoted to some of the left over trains once used to haul ore from Zeehan.
From Zeehan it is about 44 kms to Strahan which we covered in about 40 minutes. It was too early in our day to check into our accommodation, so we did a slow drive into town and along the shores of Risby Cove.
We got most of the way around Risby Cove before we realised we were running out of town so we decided we would go back and check out the sign pointing to Hogarth Falls. The sign over the entrance was called ‘Peoples’ Park’ and it housed some pleasant looking facilities such as car-parking, BBQ facilities and toilets! It was a very interesting area having been dedicated as a park for the locals back in the 1890s. Even the sign over the entrance to the park has been much admired since just after Federation. Apart from all the social facilities, we discovered we had encountered another one of our favourite features of Tasmania, one of its great Short Walks. The usual sign explained what we could look forward to…“An easy creek-side stroll beneath towering forest trees to the delightful Hogarth Falls. Interpretation signs along the way describe the experience through the eyes of children from Strahan Primary School.” It was, 1.2 km one way walk and the return trip would take 40-50 minutes.
It was an excellent, well-surfaced track and I particularly enjoyed the information boards that regularly occurred along the way. There were a lot of Tree ferns and one of the info boards explained… “Fossilised fern spores have been found in many places in the southern hemisphere, with some spores estimated to be as old as 130 million years. It seems dinosaurs dined on these fern’s ancestors, just as green rosellas do today”.
We would be receiving a lot of information about trees over the next two days given that we were staying in a forestry town. Another info board explained the following about Dogwood trees. “Dogwood are one of the first pioneering species to re-establish after a fire. They store their seeds in the soil for many years, ready for prolific germination after fire.” Other trees to be found along this path are leatherwood, sassafras and myrtle.
Although not marked on the map to the left above, the walking track meanders beside Botanical Creek all the way to the falls. We were told in advertising material that Platypus are occasionally seen in the creek but alas we didn’t spot any. The falls themselves were beautiful and when asked on the way back by tiring walkers, “Is the walk worth it? we immediately encouraged them to keep going, it was a beautiful waterfall!
At the end of our walk, we decided it was lunchtime so we headed away from the built up area of town to a hotel we had seen over the road from the old railway station on Regatta Point. It was a pleasant lunch and before heading back to the centre of Strahan, we decided to go over and check out the railway station as it was also the office of the West Coast Wilderness Railway Journey. Just to add more interest to our visit, the train itself pulled in after we had checked out the possible train journeys available so we could see that the seating was fairly impressive.
We decided it would be great idea to do a half day journey but time was not on our side. On the map to the right can be seen the half way point in the line called Dubbil Barril. You can do half-day return journeys from either Strahan or Queenstown and turn around at Dubbil Barril or a full 9 hour tour from Strahan to Queenstown and back.
After checking out the Wilderness Railway, we drove back into town and found a car park where we could do some exploring of the main street as well as finding out where the wharf was where we would catch our boat tomorrow for a cruise around Macquarie Harbour.
It was a small but very attractive centre of town, particularly some of the cottages that have survived since the late 19th century. There was a pleasant hotel/restaurant there that we ear-marked for dinner tomorrow night. We couldn’t miss the Tourist Boat wharf as it simply took up all the waterfront on the other side of the main street.
It was time to find our accommodation which was a B&B further back along the coastline on the Esplanade near Strahan Point. Its website described the building as follows…
Your ideal Strahan accommodation, Ormiston House is a grand federation mansion situated on the shores of Macquarie Harbour in Strahan on the stunning West Coast of Tasmania. The Heritage B&B accommodation offers 5 beautifully appointed en-suited rooms, affording you a unique experience of quality, service and hospitality. Ormiston house is superbly decorated, your chance to ‘step back in time’ as our guest & relive the grandeur of a bygone era.
It was a lovely house and we enjoyed our two nights’ accommodation there very much.
It was a coincidence that two of our friends were in Strahan at the same time as us that night and so we were meeting them for dinner at the Risby Cove Restaurant. The views from here were lovely as the sun was setting over Strahan Harbour.