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We will be traveling to Australia from the USA in March, 2013 and spending 11 nights in Tasmania among other places. Two of the nights will be spent in Strahan because we plan on doing the Gordon River cruise and taking the West Coast Wildnerness Railway tour. That brings me to my questions. Apparently, there are two cruise companies that operate from Strahan. One, the World Heritage Cruise company (which I think is a locally run operation) and the Gordon River Cruise. Was wondering if anyone has had experience with either and which one you would recommend. The last part of the question concerns the Railway tour. Since we'll be driving into Strahan from the east (Queenstown), was wondering if the scenery seen on the train tour will be any different than what we'll be seeing from the car?? Has anyone taken this tour? I've attempted to find out tour times but not getting any responses to my email to the booking company, Pure Tasmania. Thanks in advance for any input.

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    I don't think there's a lot of difference between the two, except one company also runs the railway tour and there's a discount if you do both tours. I would email them directly, don't email the marketing company, Pure Tasmania.

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    The two cruises do slightly different routes. World heritage cruises goes via the aquaculture pens.

    The Gordon cruise offers "Premier Upper Deck" experience.

    We haven't been to that part of Tasmania for about 10years. So can't comment on the train or cruises.

    From memory both cruises were much the same. We happened to have a discount voucher for one of them so went with them.

    Depending on your interest find out which spends the most time and detail on Sarah Island.

    BE WARNED when we went,the tour guide was VERY pro convicts. "These poor people, butter wouldn't melt in their mouth etc." Barely mentioned that these were the repeat offenders. Ones who had committed crimes whilst in other prisons. It is true that the prison and conditions were one harshest in Australia, but they were given the opportunity to learn trades as they built ships. The conditions for the guards weren't too flash either!

    It is also a myth that most convicts were first offenders and were transported for stealing a handkerchief or some such. Most were repeat offenders and thieves or worse (except for many women - mainly to even up the numbers), some were political prisoners, others agrarian rebels (they were often fist offenders - but for arson and riot).

    Few were poachers - they were the DVD pirates of the day. Selling what people wanted although illegal. Very few were jailed let alone transported. Where would you get your meat if they were out of a job?
    Few were transported for major crimes.These were either life sentences or death.Hangings were rare - 300 a year if that - which is small considering there were over 200 crimes with the death sentence.
    Women were burnt at the stakefor counterfeiting.

    The cruises both go the same distance up the river to the Houn Pine.

    REMEMBER the road from Queenstown to Strahan is short in distance but long in time as it goes over the mountains with lots of bends.

    We haven't done the rail trip.

    Enjoy. It is a fanstastic part of the world. We are going to Tas for a month over Christmas so if you want we can do some fieldwork for you.

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    Susan7: Couldn't find a direct email to the company. everthing kept leading me back to Pure Tasmania which never responded. I gave up after sending two emails.

    PeterSale: Always enjoy reading your posts. Enroute to Strahan from Hobart, we are spending the night in Tarraleah so we will have to drive the Queenstown to Strahan route either way. I was just wondering if the rail tour would cover an area we wouldn't be seeing from the car. We plan on taking the morning rail tour from Queenstown (11am) and returning via coach and then driving onto Strahan where we have booked for two nights (so we can do the cruise the next day). Someone mentioned in March, there might be an afternoon rail tour from/back to Strahan. If so, we'll do that but I don't see any mention of this yet on the website. Do you happen to know how late it stays light until in mid to late March, generally?

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    This is a fantastic website for all you weather, tides, moon sunsets etc.

    At the begining March sunset will be about 8.00pm by the end of March it will be about 7pm. You then have about 30minutes until last light.

    Where are you heading after Strahan? Bcause you could split the train trip and not have to drive. Strahan is quite small and it should be no problem getting to your accommodation.

    I'll do some digging for you and get back to you about the afternoon train.

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    Thanks again Peter. We'll have the car for the 11 days we're in Tassie. So, either way we'll have to drive that Queenstown to Strahan portion. Just thought I would add the train ride as well if we see something different from the train that we don't from the car. Also, wanted to do that cruise since I read so many positive reviews. From Strahan, we head up to Cradle Mountain for two nights before continuing north up toward Stanley.

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    Okey dokey here's what I've dug up.

    TRAIN - New time table will be in operation by March.
    QUEENSTOWN to Strahan departs 10am arrives Strahan 2.30. Bus back departs 4pm arrives Queenstown 5pm. Then you will need an hour to drive back.
    STRAHAN to Queenstown departs 10.15am arrives Queenstown 2.30. Bus back departs 3pm arrives Strahan 4pm.
    Tourist $130 includes lunch and coach return
    Premier $220 includes lunch beverages and morning and afternoon tea (and I assume coach return although she didn't say it).

    You will follow the King River in all its remoteness. It can't be accessed by road. You will be in rainforest (technically forest in a high rainfall area - up to 4 metres a year in some part of the west coast) and will see the old bridges the miners built.

    The girl on the phone recommends going to Strahan and doing the boat and train from there.

    There is no way you can take the train both ways.

    I emailed Heritage Cruises last night and got a reply this morning. Their website actually works, unlike Pure Tasmania's that was hopeless.

    This is what I asked - pardon the liberty in calling you a friend, but pen pal or forum friend didn't quite seem right.
    "I am trying to decide between your cruise and the Gordon River Cruises. What do you offer that they don't? (apart from a website that works.)
    I will be travelling in January and friends of ours will be travelling in March."

    This is their reply.
    "We are the locally owned and operated family company, this family have been operating for 5 generations on the river ,our meal is prepared fresh on board daily ,you have access to the whole of the outside of our boat on all deck levels , " Eagle "our boat is only 4 years old ,you also can go into the wheelhouse and see the operations of the boat and have a talk to the captain ,we go to Morrisons sawmill on return there you have a demonstration about Huon Pine ,our price structure is different ,our children ages are older ,so hope this helps you,I have attached our seating plan and prices for you.
    Regards Maree"

    The seating chart is a word document with picture but is very similar to the website. The saw mill sounds interesting.
    Here is the words part:-


    1st October 2012 to 30th September 2013

    HERITAGE MORNING CRUISE including a buffet lunch
    DEPARTS: 9.00am RETURNS: 3.00pm (Daily)

    STANDARD – including a buffet lunch
    ADULT: $105.00
    CHILD: $50.00 (5-16 yrs inclusive)
    FAMILY RATE: $260.00 2 adults and up to 3 children (5-16 yrs inclusive)

    PREMIUM – including a buffet lunch
    ADULT: $130.00
    CHILD: $75.00 (5-16 yrs inclusive)
    FAMILY RATE: $340.00 2 adults and up to 3 children (5-16 yrs inclusive)

    GOLD – including a buffet lunch & morning tea
    ADULT: $150.00
    CHILD: $80.00 (5-16 yrs inclusive)

    HERITAGE AFTERNOON CRUISE including a buffet Dinner
    DEPARTS: 3.15pm RETURNS: Approx 8.30pm
    29th December to 20th January only
    Prices as above


    Freshly prepared onboard daily the buffet consists of smoked salmon, cold meats, a selection of salads, fresh fruit, Tasmanian cheeses and local bakery bread rolls.
    Gold seat also includes morning tea – a choice of tea, espresso coffee or soft drink with a muffin or slice

    Licensed Bars onboard for the purchase of drinks and snacks.

    So there you go. I would go with them.

    If you have time I would take the detour from Zeehan through Corinna to Savage River. Or at least follow the Pieman road and come out just north of Rosebery (mining town that has little to offer the tourist really) The Western Explorer (google it) is a great trip, over dirt roads though. Make sure you have a full tank of fuel as there is no fuel stops until you get back on the highway. There is a Pub at Corrinna and a cruise up the river too.

    Floggings were not as common as one might expect. Statistically 25% of convicts were flogged at an average of 46 lashes. Mind you, considering there were 160 000 convicts between 1788 and 1860 that's 40 000 convicts. But given that some convict received hundreds of lashes this bodes well for the others.

    The most fascinating thing I find is that jails today are filled with the same type of people that filled them 200 years ago, with the minor exception that today poverty is not a reason to be a criminal - it is an influence - but no one here is so destitute that they must steal to eat.

    The arguments for tougher jails haven't changed either. Jails are too soft, crims get it too easy etc. 8lb leg irons were considered "toys" by some who wanted harsher punnishments.

    By and large Transportation did work. Few convicts served out their full sentences. If you had some get up and go, you could get work relatively easily and prosper. You were removed from the influences at home. Your family was brought out in many cases.

    But like today, if you didn't want to work for a living like everyone else, then you spent your time in institutions.

    Hope this has all helped. Thanks for the compliments. Tasmania really is special. Let me know if you need anything else.

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    Thanks again Peter. Can't believe how far you went to get all that information for me. Pure Tasmania is too big of a conglomerate I guess. They failed to respond to two emails I sent, so local company it is. I probably would have gone with them anyway as I prefer to support the little guy. We would have liked to have taken both the train and the cruise out of Strahan (so we wouldn't be carting our luggage) but since we'll be overnighting in Taralleah on the 17th, won't be able to make it all the way for the 10:15am departure. So I guess we'll do the 10am train from Queenstown on the 18th and the cruise on the 9am on the 19th. We'll definitely follow your suggested route on our way up to Cradle Mountain. Again, thanks for all the time you put in for me and all the wonderful things you've written previously, many of which I have incorporated.

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    No Worries. Glad I could help. That's what locals are for. It was one email and one five minute phone call (local fee). If that is all it takes to make you make you have a better holiday, I'd become a travel agent tomorrow!

    That pure Tasmania site kept crashing and was hopeless. I did email the train but am still waiting for a reply. So I rang the Pure Tasmania number. At least they had someone working and who knew what was what.

    I thought you would choose to do the train from Queenstown given your itinerary. Leaving Queenstown at 5pm still gives you plenty of day light to get back to Strahan with photostops on the way. Stating the obvious - you will be driving into the sunset but as it is a windy road it will not be constant, just watch it around some of the bends

    As you have 1.5 hours (give or take) in Strahan before the bus takes you back to Queentstown have you considered checking into you accommodation then, assuming it is close enough? That way you can take your time getting back and enjoy the sunset and after a long day go straight to your room when you get back.

    Trip advisor has lots of reviews of both trips if you haven't already checked them out.

    You have probably been told already,but Tasmania can be cold and wet at any time of the year. Carry enough clothes on your day trips to be warm and dry. My sister spent Christmas day one year in snow on Cradle Mountain and went swimming at the beach the next day.

    When you get to Stanley, I suggest taking the chairlift up The Nut and walking down. It is quite a nice walk and much easier than walking up.

    If you are inclined to do so, wander the rocks around Stanley at dusk you might see some Fairy Penguins. There are tours at various places around the coast as well. I don't know if Stanley has one.

    Let me know if you want info on anything else. It is often easier just to make a quick local call, than to stuff around with dead end emails.


    By the way Daylight Saving goes back to standard time on the first weekend of April - (put clock back before bed on the 7/4),if you are still here (VIC, TAS, NSW). It will be in the papers and news. But if you are like us, they are few and far between when traveling. (QLD does not does daylight saving.)

    We got "caught" in Scotland wondering how we could get tickets for a 11am tour at 11.45! Just as well it wasn't the next day when we were flying home - that just would have added to our disaster. Our travel agent had changed our flight times and didn't tell us - he also booked 8 seats for the two of us on the original flight without confirming any of them so the airline cancelled all of them. We made it to Heathrow for our connecting flight with minutes to spare. They kept check-in open just for us.

    That should do you for now.

    PS What do you know about California and Arizona? That's where we are going next year for Christmas for 5 weeks.

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    Peter: Again, thanks for the time you're putting into our trip. I wish I could reciprocate with your request, but I live in South Florida. If you have any questions about Miami Beach, sure could provide info but Calif and Arizona, I've visited awhile ago. Of course, we did the Sedona, Scottsdale, Grand Canyon trip but that was probably 15 yrs ago. I've driven the Pacific Coast Hwy from San Francisco to LA (should do it in that direction)and also up along the Oregon Coast (scenery very similar to the West Coast of AU) and have been to San Diego and various other parts over the years. But I'm not an expert like you are on all things Australian. I have family that live in Cupertino (Silicon Valley area south of San Francisco) and if you have specifics, I can ask them.

    I still wish I could do the train out of Strahan but that would mean driving from Tarraleah in time for the 10:15am departure. Although mapquest indicates the driving time to be only 2 1/4 hrs, I have a feeling that's not accurate. Sightseeing along the way isn't as important because we'll go the day before to the Derwent Bridge area and do some of the walks around Lake St. Claire and then double back to Tarraleah as we'll have a lot of time that day leaving from Hobart and we tend to be early morning risers. We've already visited Mt. Field NP, New Norfolk so we'll head directly to Tarraleah. Did you by any chance find an email for the train company (not Pure Tasmania). I was wondering if we could bring our luggage on board or if it was safe to leave in Queenstown if we go from there.

    When we head north from Cradle Mountain, we're actually staying in Burnie and the drive up to Stanley will be a day trip before returning back. We were running out of time because after Burnie, we head to Launceston for an overnight and then onto Cole's Bay for 2 nights before departing from Hobart.

    Our trip actually starts in Melbourne with 4 nights on the GOR and one on the road between the Grampians and Melbourne. Where is your December travels taking you?? Can't wait to read the report.
    Sorry to the readers for monopolizing this post, but Peter is so informative.

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    The train people replied to my email.Nothing new except for:-

    Our train journey is unique and offers a commentary with insight into the railway’s pioneering history. There are stops at stations along the track and the journey allows you to get up close and personal with the West Coast Wilderness including exquisite views of King River Gorge and over 40 bridges, unique untouched rainforest not accessible by road.

    Their email address is [email protected]

    I would leave your luggage in your car. Take the most valuable items with you. Australia is fairly safe that way. Put as much as you can in the boot (trunk).

    If you like whiskey the Hellyer's road distillery near Burnie have very nice ones for around $70 a bottle. One is aged in a pinot cask giving it a rounder flavour.

    Between Burnie and Stanleky is Dip Falls - slight detour needed. They are small but very pretty.

    Our December travels are a month in Tasmania. We will be focussing on the North East - Ben Lomond, Blue Tier, Mt William National Park and then South -Mt Field and Hartz Mountain etc. We will also be learning to scuba dive out of Hobart (if they email me back) and will do some dives around there. We also intend to go to Bruny Island and do the adventure boat trip. We did the Tasman Island one last time.We have a campervan and will drift from place to place. But those are are four main things.

    Don't worry about hogging a thread - it is yours after all.

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