Gordon River Cruises: Breathtaking World Heritage Wilderness Cruise

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.

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!

Underwater breakwater at Hell Gate passage, Strahan, Tasmania
The easily overlooked but fascinating breakwater

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.

The wake of the Gordon River Cruises ship as it passes between the channel known as Hells Gate in Strahan, Tasmania
Passing through Hells Gate

This is a great time to head up to the captain’s cockpit and watch the action.

Inside the cockpit of the Gordon River Cruises ship, the Spirit of the Wild
Ronin loved sitting in the “Pirate Captain’s” cockpit

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.

Bonnet Island Lighthouse near Strahan, Tasmania
Bonnet Island Lighthouse

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.

Rainforest on the edge of the Gordon River, Tasmania
Rainforest right to the river’s edge

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 reflection of the forest on the mirror smooth water found in the Gordon River, Strahan, Tasmania
Mirror surface of the Gordon River

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.

Sweeping curves of the Gordon River near Strahan, Tasmania
Sweeping curves of the Gordon River

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.

White-bellied Sea-eagles on the hunt over Gordon River, Tasmania
White-bellied Sea-eagles on the hunt

Heritage Walk

Before turning back for the return trip down the Gordon River, the ship makes a short stop at the Heritage Landing.

Gordon River Cruises ship, the Spirit of the Wild docked at Heritage Landing
Spirit of the Wild docked at 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.

Boardwalk through the temperate rainforest of Tasmania
Heritage Landing Boardwalk

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.

Information board dotted along the boardwalk at the Heritage Walk, Tasmania
Information boards are dotted along the boardwalk

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.

The forest found along Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania
Back to 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.

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 remains of the penal colony building on Sarah Island, Tasmania
The remains of the penal colony

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.

Tour guide talking about the history of the penal colony on Sarah Island, Tasmania
Our guide Michael was a fantastic storyteller

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.

Gordon River Cruises terminal and the Spirit of the Wild ship docked in Strahan, Tasmania
The adventure begins here!

Tour Price

Price varies depending on cruise type and seating option.

Opening Hours

Gordon River Cruises terminal is open daily from 07:30-17:00.

Check the official website for up to date information.

Facilities

  • Toilets
  • Seating
  • Gift shop
  • Drinks
  • Snacks
  • Meals

Location

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.

Additional Information

  • 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

Recommended Equipment

  • Wet weather gear
  • Warm clothing

Conclusion

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.

Nearby Attractions

  • West Coast Wilderness Railway
  • Hogarth Falls
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4 thoughts on “Gordon River Cruises: Breathtaking World Heritage Wilderness Cruise”

  1. This sounds and looks absolutely amazing. A day you wouldn’t want to end. This is definitely a must see when we visit.
    Thanks for posting this.

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