Cradle Mountain to Strahan

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Today was cold and wet and all the scenery was obscured by the rain. So we headed straight to Zeehan and visited the West Coast Heritage Centre which was a perfect place to get out of the rain. Zeehan has one of the oldest settler histories in Tasmania, when Abel Tasman sighted this area in 1642. It was a mining area (silver, lead) and you can still see remnants of this as you drive into town. Railways were essential in the early history of the west coast towns and all this is celebrated in the museum.

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The museum itself is a collection of historic buildings connected by walkways around the back, as well as a mock mining cave to explore. The Zeehan School of Mines and Metallurgy was filled with amazing displays of minerals, such as this piece of orange crocoite (lead chromate) from the Dundas mineral field.

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We visited the old post office, a display about the local Masonic Society, and a courtroom where one could pick up a script and play out the roles therein. The last building on the street was the old theatre where you could watch old silent movies. There was a lot of old machinery in the outside display area, but the rain kept us away from that.

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Zeehan was quite a depressing experience because it was a town with so much heritage but no life now that its main source of employment had vanished. So, please do stop by in this museum if you are passing this way.


Strahan is the base for boat trips to Sarah Island, a notorious penal settlement which was much feared by convicts. We explored the Visitor Centre with its exhibition about early life in this area and the importance of the Huon pine and the logging industry. This region of Tasmania was the birthplace of the Green Movement when people got together to protest about damming the Franklin River; a protest that was successful against all the odds.

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Next to the Visitor Centre was an outdoor amphitheatre which had been showing the play called ‘The Ship that Never Was’ for over 25 years! The play is the story of convicts who escaped from Macquarie Harbour and sailed to Chile. There are only two actors in the play, but a cast of thousands played by members of the audience. It was an absolutely fabulous experience, as all live theatre should be. We were sheltered by an awning over our heads and a blanket around our legs, but the actors were often standing under the rain or sitting in puddles of water (it never stopped raining!). They were great improvisors as sometimes the audience cast did not quite do as expected. What a great way to learn history.

The next morning, Strahan had put on another face, and looked positively interesting in the sunshine. As we ate our breakfast, the boat was already whisking off passengers for a cruise through Hells Gates, through to Macquarie Harbour and up the Gordon River. There’s also the West Coast Wilderness Railway using a steam train to take passengers inland from Strahan to Queenstown. So, Strahan is a place to leave from, not to stay in!

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© Helen Gray 2021