Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is the main reason to visit Strahan. This is the best-known section of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, with its mountain peaks, untouched rain forest, and deep gorges and valleys that wind through the wilderness. In the late 1970s and early 1980s this area was the focus of one of Australia's most bitter conservation battles, when a hydroelectric power scheme was proposed that called for damming the Franklin River and flooding the river valley. Conservationists eventually defeated the proposal, but tensions remained high in the community for years.
About 50 km (31 miles) of the Lyell Highway, which stretches from Hobart to Queenstown, winds through the heart of the park to the west of Derwent Bridge. Making this drive is a great way to appreciate the area's natural beauty, there are several well-signposted walks along the way that let you do some easy exploring. The Franklin River Nature Trail is a 1-km (½-mile) wheelchair-accessible
route through the rain forest; the Nelson Falls Nature Trail is a pleasant 20-minute stroll that takes you to the waterfall of the same name. The more challenging Donaghys Hill Wilderness Lookout Walk (40 minutes round-trip) is one you should bring your camera for; it brings you to a beautiful panoramic lookout dominated by the peak called Frenchmans Cap.
The park is also accessible by boat from the town of Strahan; cruises from there take you across Macquarie Harbour and into the early reaches of the Gordon River, where you can stop for a short walk in the rain forest. Some cruises include a stop at Sarah Island, once one of the harshest penal settlements in Tasmania, and venture out through the narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbour for a glimpse of the tempestuous ocean beyond. Half- and full-day cruises run daily; some include a smorgasbord lunch and other refreshments.