Down the Lyell Highway towards Hobart

The navigator settling in for the cruise

The navigator settling in for the cruise

It was an earlier than normal start for us on Saturday morning as we had to up pick and make our way from the Strahan Golf Club to the town’s wharf area by 8.30am where we were to catch our boat for the cruise. We parked on the jetty, picked up a coffee and then made our way on board.

We selected a World Heritage cruise, owned and operated by the Grining family who are in their 5th generation of cruise operations. Our vessel was a luxurious alluminium catamaran 35 metres long, 9.5 metres wide and with a cruising speed of 27 knots. We decided to treat ourselves to ‘business class’ which meant we were on the top deck in a very comfortable lounge environment with morning tea, buffet lunch and wine provided. We decided that if we were going to be on board for six hours, we would do it properly!!

Macquarie Harbour from the 'Eagle'

Macquarie Harbour from the ‘Eagle’

On departing the wharf, we made our way to the entrance of Macquarie Harbour, commonly known as ‘Hells Gate’. Macquarie Harbour is twice the area of Sydney Harbour however the entrance to Macquarie is only 60m wide and 20m deep with rocks on one side of the entrance and sandbars on the other. Many a ship in the 1800’s and 1900’s came to grief on trying to enter or leave the harbour. Because the sea was calm on Saturday, the boat managed to take us out of the harbour entrance and back in again. Once back in to the harbour, we made our way inland stopping off at many points of interest on the way. There are a number of salmon and trout farms in Macquarie Harbour – smoked salmon was a favourite at lunchtime.

Sarah Island (or Devils Island) created fear in the hearts and minds of prisoners sent to the colony

Sarah Island (or Devils Island) created fear in the hearts and minds of prisoners sent to the colony

One of our stop off points in the Harbour was Sarah Island or otherwise known as ‘Devils Island’. The island was set up as one of the first places in the British Penal System to use ‘behaviour modification’ techniques to resolve criminal activity. Prisoners sent to Sarah Island were normally already prisoners on the mainland or in Hobart who need that ‘added incentive’ to get their act together. The colony was active from 1822 to 1833 and was a dreaded ‘posting’ within the prison system. Hard labour, cruel and vicious punishments were encouraged and occurred on a daily basis. Interestingly, many of the prisoners became excellent boat builders such was the plentiful supply of good wood on the island and its surrounds. They often became sought after as boat builders once released from prison.

At the top of Macquarie Harbour is the entrance to the Gordon River. The Gordon River is one of the major rivers of Tasmania. It rises in the centre of the island at Lake Richmond and flows westward for about 193km where it empties into Macquarie Harbour. The entire course of the Gordon River is an uninhabited wilderness area. The cruise boat was only permitted to travel 14km up the river but the journey reminded us very much of cruising the Queen Charlotte Sound in places. Prior to turning the boat around and heading back down the harbour, we were able to go ashore and wander around a section of the rainforest via a boardwalk that had been built by the tour group. We were back at the jetty in Strahan by 3pm.

What a great day – words do not do the journey justice. More shots of our day HERE .

Queenstown from the 'top of the hill' on the way east

Queenstown from the ‘top of the hill’ on the way east

Back at the motorhome, and because it was still quite early in the afternoon, we decided not to stay a second night at Strahan but to make our way east to Queenstown. Queenstown is a town in a valley on the western slopes of Mount Owen on the West Coast Range. The towns history has long been tied to the gold and copper mining industry specifically at Mount Lyell. The mining operation at the original Mount Lyell mine still continues today with its copper concentrates being shipped to India for processing. We did intend staying at Queenstown for the night but after viewing the area designated for overnight camping we decided to give it a miss.

Lake Burbury

Lake Burbury

Sixty kilometres further east, and over some of the steepest roads we have driven in Australia, we arrived at Lake Burbury. The lake is man-made, has a surface area of 54 square kilometres and is created by the Crotty Dam. Its waters feed the one of the regions hydroelectric power stations. The camp ground at the Lake was grassed but on peat soil so we kept a careful eye on the weather. Rain on peat soil means we could be stuck up to our axles. The weather was on our side so we ended up staying at the Lake on Saturday and Sunday night.

We departed Lake Burbury this morning and continued our way east. There was no plan for the day however there was one or two ‘points of interest’ we wanted to stop off at. We decided that wherever we were by about 3pm, that is where we would stop for the night.

Nelson Falls just off the Lyell Highway

Nelson Falls just off the Lyell Highway

Our first stop was the nelson Falls. Situated beside the Lyell Highway in the Princess River Conservation Area in the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park, the falls are an easy 30-minute return walk from the highway. To make things even easier, the Conservation Park has constructed a boardwalk from the highway to the falls. If you are passing by this way, pause for an hour. The walk through the rainforest to the falls and back is a treat.

Our second stop for the day was at “The Wall”. Located 1km east of Derwent Bridge in the Central Highlands and on the Lyell Highway, ‘The Wall”, consists of 100 metres of timber paneling that has been sculptured to depict the history, hardship and perseverance of the first settlers to the area. The wall is mostly rare Huon Pine, uncanningly real and is the work of Greg Duncan who we were fortunate to meet while there. Camera’s were not permitted at the work so we cannot show you any shots but if you are passing, it is worth pausing for an hour to have a look at his work. Very spectacular.

Rod strolling through the rainforest at Nelson Falls - a peaceful environment

Rod strolling through the rainforest at Nelson Falls – a peaceful environment

We are now parked up at Hamilton on the Lyell Highway and have made it our home for the night. We travelled a total of 160km today with most of it on steep and windy roads. At a guess our average speed for the journey was probably about 60kph. The plan tomorrow is to pass through Hobart (about 70km away), and pick up fuel and LPG before making our way 100km south of Hobart to Southport. The plan is to work our way north along the east coast from there.

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One thought on “Down the Lyell Highway towards Hobart

  1. Thanks for the memories. We enjoyed a couple of weeks driving around Tasmania a few years ago. Not in a motor home like you, but we had a rental car and pub stay combination deal which worked out very well.

    Robin and Jenny from http://www.romanyrambler.blogspot.com

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