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Hell's Gates Lighthouse

Home > Strahan > Day Trips | Family | Outdoor | Photography | Places of Interest
by Paula McManus (subscribe)
Photography obsessed writer and urban explorer. Lover of nature, art and long weekends. Adelaide, South Australia.
Published October 2nd 2016
West Coast Wilderness
Hell's Gates in Strahan is an intimidating sight. The Gates signal the entrance to one of Australia's most dangerous harbours - the Macquarie Harbour in Strahan on the rugged and wild west coast of Tasmania.

Hell's Gates Strahan Tasmania
Hell's Gates, Strahan Tasmania (©paula mcmanus)

At just 120 metres wide, the channel entrance is not just narrow, it is extremely shallow. The two headlands guarding the entrance - Macquarie Heads and Entrance Island, each have a lighthouse to warn of the dangerous conditions.

The entrance name dates back to the early 1800's. The first convicts who arrived and who were imprisoned in the Macquarie Harbour Penal Settlement on nearby Sarah's Island named it. They described their arrival through the entrance as the "entrance to hell". The dangerous conditions caused by the "Roaring 40s" also contribute to the title. The Roaring 40s are strong westerly winds found in the Southern Hemisphere at latitudes of 40 and 50 degrees south.

Hell's Gates Strahan Tasmania
Hell's Gates, Strahan Tasmania (©paula mcmanus)

Strahan's Macquarie Harbour is the second-largest natural harbour in Australia after Port Phillip Bay in Victoria and is six times the size of Sydney Harbour.

Macquarie Harbour was discovered in 1815 and within a year, the Huon Pine timber cutters arrived. Navigation of the channel was a huge shipping and boating hazard and a signal station was installed at nearby Cape Sorell in 1822. The signal station was manned by convicts and is the second highest lighthouse in the Southern Hemisphere.

Silver and lead were discovered in nearby Zeehan the 1890's and the population of the area increased greatly.

Hell's Gates Strahan Tasmania
Hell's Gates, Strahan Tasmania (©paula mcmanus)

Improvements to the harbour entrance were made and two six-sided wooden lighthouses were erected - one on each of the headlands: Macquarie Heads and Entrance Island. The Entrance Island lighthouse is the most photographed lighthouse in Tasmania.

Accessing the lighthouses is by boat only. There are regular tours that leave the harbour at Strahan and incorporate the lighthouses, Sarah Island and the Franklin/Gordon River wilderness area.


Strahan Tasmania
Strahan, Tasmania (©paula mcmanus)

Strahan, on the west coast of Tasmania is a pretty harbourside village set on the edge of the World Heritage Area of the Franklin/Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. It is located approximately 300kms from Hobart on the east coast and 270kms from Launceston on the north coast.

The west coast has a dark and interesting convict and pioneer past. From 1822 to 1833, Sarah Island was the home of a harsh convict settlement and tours to the island and other historical sites are definitely worth adding to your itinerary when visiting the region.

A visit to Strahan will give you unforgettable memories of the World Heritage Wilderness and the pristine rainforests of the Gordon River.

Atlantic Salmon fish farming Strahan Tasmania
Atlantic Salmon fish farming, Strahan Tasmania (©paula mcmanus)

Strahan is also a fishing and aquaculture hot spot. Atlantic Salmon fish farms play an important part of the local economy. The pure air and nutrient rich waters of the harbour are a perfect breeding ground for the highly prized fish used in Japanese restaurants to make Sashimi.

Strahan is also the destination and departure point for the West Coast Wilderness Railway that runs between Queenstown and Strahan

There are just so many reasons to stay and explore Strahan and the west coast. My visit was not long enough and a return visit is most definitely on my list of future travel adventures.

Strahan Tasmania
Strahan, Tasmania (©paula mcmanus)
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Why? Tasmania's wild west coast is a place like no other
Where: Strahan
Your Comment
Great article, Paula - your photos are superb!
by Elaine (score: 3|9218) 2365 days ago
Yet another one to add to the bucket list. It looks gorgeous
by Steve Hudson (score: 3|1251) 2365 days ago
An interesting article Paula and as always, awesome photos.
by Gayle Beveridge-Marien (score: 4|10456) 2365 days ago
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