Hop on board the Great Adventurer
and head through Tasmania's western wilderness.
The Gordon River, in Tasmania's Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, winds its way through the beautiful forests of the southwest. The rainforests of southern and western Tasmania are the only places in which grow Huon pine, a rich golden-textured tree which is wonderful to smell and touch. Its wood is one of the best boat-building timbers thanks to its durability and strong oil which gives it excellent resistance to water penetration.
The downstream portion of Gordon River almost met its demise in the 1980s when it was to be dammed as part of a hydro electricity scheme, but government intervention saved the day.
In 1872 the Grining family moved to Tasmania's west coast. Charles Grining was born in Prussia in 1837 and after many years at sea settled in Victoria's goldfields. There he met and married Mary Minnock, who was born in Ireland, and they produced eight children.
Charles and his two eldest boys worked the Heemskirk mineral fields. A fire took all they had in 1887 and they moved to Strahan. Once established in the town, they built one of the town's first hotels and at Macquarie Harbour once more became involved with the sea. Charles Grining eventually became a successful and influential businessman.
In 1895 Grining Bros. Charter and Cruise Operators was formed and that company is still run by the family five generations later, with the sixth generation in the wings.
Guy and Troy Grining and their wives operate Grining Bros. World Heritage Cruises in the family tradition. They began in 1991 with a small single-hulled Tamar River ferry called Wanderer which was replaced in 1999 by Wanderer II, a high tech, environmentally friendly catamaran.
At the end of 1999 Wanderer III arrived and in August, 2002, the Adventurer was launched to replaced Wanderer III. This is 30m long and cost $2.8 million to build.
More than 100 years of experience has been passed down the line and cruises are made special with the operators' wealth of knowledge and genuine love of the area.
Tours start from Strahan Wharf at 8.30am and 30 minutes later pass through Hells Gates to the heads which is where Macquarie Harbour becomes the Southern Ocean. The passage is just 80m wide and there is a training wall used to speed up the water, keep the channel open and increase its depth.
You pass a lighthouse called Entrance Island and sometimes there are dolphins swimming around the headlands. In another 20 minutes you reach a salmon and trout farm where you will see the fish being fed.
You stay for around 15 minutes at the farm and then head to Sarah Island which is your first disembarkation stop. The island was a penal settlement between 1822 and 1833 and there are some good ruins remaining the bakery and comparatively large penitentiary are interesting. Convicts built 130 vessels in those years using Huon pine from the Gordon River. Folklore has it that a group of convicts escaped to South America in the last ship they built and their descendants still live there.
Lunch is served on the next leg up the Gordon River. Smoked salmon from Macquarie Harbour, smoked beef, ham, several salads, Tasmanian cheeses, fresh fruit and bread are prepared and served on board. Tea and coffee are served and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages are for sale.
The Heritage Landing stop is a 400m bordered walkway into rare temperate myrtle rainforest which grows in a few cold places on earth. It is very dense and on the 30 minute stopover you can walk to the centre to a giant Huon pine which is split in half.
The Adventurer has a fully enclosed seating area which can be comforting in the sometimes unpredictable climate, but there is plenty of outdoor seating as well. It seats 200 passengers and its configuration is such that you don't have your back to other people. The third level has an observation deck and the wheelhouse. Passengers can have a chat with the captain, and of course the views are wonderful from there.