Friday, 15 March 2013


At some time in their lives all the males in our house have been train fetishists....the wooden Brio/Thomas the Tank Engine train set has been strewn from one end of the house to the other for the last seven long years....and they ALL still play with it. It will come as no surprise then that my husband panicked when recent stories hit the news that the West Coast Wilderness Railway was being threatened with closure. It prompted him to buy tickets. So, on the weekend we loaded the family into the car and drove the best part of four and a half hours west to get to Strahan to go for a train ride:

The long drive from Hobart, through the picture perfect almost Jurassic Park scenery of the national park is incredibly beautiful....until you reach the outskirts of Queenstown where the landscape suddenly becomes an arid wasteland having been absolutely decimated over the years by the mining and smelting of copper. It was an environmental catastrophe:

Luckily, the devastation was localised mostly to where the acid rain fell so by the time you reach the town of Strahan, forty odd kilometres down the road, it all looks to be green,verdant and wildernessey again. Which is lucky as Strahan is a tourist town which trades almost exclusively in the business of wilderness adventures:

Every morning this tranquil harbour is abuzz with activity as not only the Wilderness Railway but also helicopters, seaplanes and a flotilla of boats depart to show visitors such sites as Macquarie Harbour, Hells Gates and the pristine Gordon River:

In the middle of Macquarie Harbour is the teeny, tiny Sarah Island which was where the most heinous convicts were incarcerated in abysmal conditions back during colonial days. There's not much there now except for the stories - think 'For the Term of His Natural Life' and the real life tale of Alexander Pearce who somehow managed to escape, not once but twice. On his first attempt he was at large for 113 days during which time he may have eaten three of the men who were with him. In Hobart, having been apprehended after his second attempt, it was reported in the local paper that Pearce didn't look like he was 'laden with the weight of human blood, and believed to have banqueted on human flesh'....even though body parts were found in his pockets.....while he still had food left.

Here's a Huon Pine tree which only grows in certain parts of Tasmania, including the area around Strahan:

You see an awful lot of it at the Salamanca Market....turned into hair clips, salad bowls and pepper grinders so you'd probably be surprised to hear that it is a protected species and cannot be felled......these days only wood salvaged from the forest floor and river beds can be used.

The township of Strahan, like most major tourist destinations, is part real and part construct. On the surface it's hard to tell which is which....the pub may be original yet perhaps the Banjo's isn't.

We stayed in the mock red brick Federation style cottage....behind the facade it was just like any other motel room around the country.

On the fringe of the wilderness we payed through the nose for pub meals which were served by transient waiting staff from India, Texas and the UK.....and lied to at the breakfast buffet by a Tasmanian.....'Sorry, we're all out of mushrooms for today'....only for mushrooms to materialise ten minutes later in the bain marie.

No matter, the West Coast of Tasmania is incredible for it's natural beauty. It really has to be seen to be believed.



  1. Wow - it really is otherworldly. Shame about the Copper mine, but you can easily see why Tasmania has such a large proportion that vote Greens - the evidence is clearly on your doorstep. Not so sure about Strahan though - love heritage, but loath faux heritage. Sounds like a lovely little family adventure all up. We were never a household madly into trains although we have a very large Brio set, but I hope the real train and purpose of your trip doesn't close down. Modern trains definitely lack the atmosphere, don't they?! xx

  2. Yes, shame about the mine....such a current contentious debate down here wilderness and mining vs tourism.....don't think either are perfect! Was underwhelmed by too was faux heritage and cost the Tasmanian taxpayers a fortune and now they want to spend more to maintain it. Took most of the day and was a headache with a small child (but then what isn't?) and lunch was on par with what Qantas would feed you on a domestic flight! Modern trains do lack atmosphere except of course for the TGV which gets you to Paris quickly, you can have a nice restorative glass of wine and children can't open doors while the train is kind of combination! Rx

    1. Small children plus pretty much anything that lasts longer than 5 minutes is always difficult in my opinion. We are off to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang the musical in April with our three, and I'm nervous as to how the 2 year old will go.... as for your comment on Qantas - do you mean that they gave you an apple for lunch?! (and that was because you rejected the pie in plastic wrapper handed to you instead?) xx

  3. Such beautiful scenery. The convict island looks all a bit spooky! 'Specially now I know the body part story....

    The trains sounds fun though. I always enjoy the first hour or so of a train trip then get a bit bored. (Unless the train is whizzing through somewhere exciting which is alas often not the case.)

    Bet the kids enjoyed the weekend though.


  4. The boys love their trains. We've found a nearby line that does the "Polar Bear Express" around the holidays, I hope we get the chance to go. More abut the train ride though, less about the scenery - I have a feeling I would have rather spent my time in the Wilderness than looking at it from a train in your case. Good that you did both! I really enjoyed this post, I know so little about Tasmania that I immediately switched to google maps to orient myself. Bisous!

  5. My boys still play with the Thomas/Brio train tracks as well. I remember some well meaning person telling me not to spend too much money on train tracks, warning me that they would grow out of it very quickly. It actually has turned out to be one of the best toy investments we made.

    I can't get over the destruction caused by the mining and acid rain. Heartbreaking. x


I LOVE hearing your thoughts! Rx