Just a short trip outside your comfort zone, at the last stop before the gates to hell lies the town of Strahan, on the shores of Macquarie Harbour. Our harbour is home to a number of small islands, one of which is the infamous ‘Sarah Island’. Known to Aboriginal people as ‘Langerrareroune’, but called ‘Sarah Island’ by the British who operated a penal colony on the site back in the early 1800s. The island is remote and isolated. The perfect location to house convicts to ensure their continuous captivity it would seem…
If you have an inclination for convict history, the visit to Sarah Island will likely be a highlight for you on your Gordon River Cruise.
Gliding up to the jetty aboard Spirit of the Wild and seeing the striking natural beauty of the island makes it hard to imagine it as the miserable place it once was. The rainforest has largely reclaimed the island, ironically, creating a beautiful and peaceful setting. In the early 1800s, the island was completely barren, striped of any greenery and home only to scattered station buildings.
The history of the island is incredibly dark. It is said to have been one of the most appalling and cruel of all the convict stations. Convicts living here described the settlement as ‘hell on earth’.
Stepping ashore, you are greeted by a guide ready to take you on a one-hour guided tour of the island. Your guide isn’t just a guide either… they are an actor from the Round Earth Company that runs ‘The Ship that Never Was’ play in Strahan. So without giving too much away, it wont be like any dull historical tour you have experienced before!
There are numerous ruins and informative displays around the island that provide insight into how the convicts once lived and worked. Navigating from ruin to ruin, many tales are told. Some tall, some true, including the story of Alexander Pearce, the multiple escapee who turned to cannibalism to survive. The tour is both entertaining and interesting. The island is truly one of Tassie’s ‘somewhat hidden’ gems.
If you prefer to explore the island without a guide, you are welcome to. Just make sure you make it back on the boat before it departs. We can’t be sure what might happen on an island like this at night…