8. Cruise the Gordon River
The former logging port of Strahan (pronounced “Straw-n”) is now the gateway to the enormous South West Wilderness. Covering nearly a quarter of Tasmania’s area, it’s one of the world’s last truly pristine landscapes—an almost impenetrable terrain of raw mountains, dense rainforests and untamed rivers that have carved their way through dramatic gorges. In the early 1980s, a battle to stop the damming of the lower Gordon and Franklin rivers became Australia’s most significant environmental test, and the subsequent victory of the “greenies” led to the area’s protection as a World Heritage site. Today, daily boats from Strahan provide a taste of all that raw nature, setting off into the vast Macquarie Harbor, whose narrow entrance to the sea was named Hell’s Gates by 19th-century sailors for its murderous currents. Boats then enter the Gordon River, whose steep banks, covered by cold-climate rainforest, are mirrored in the calm tea-tinted water (the color derives from tannin exuded by grasses). Boardwalks lead among rare, ancient Huon pine trees. More adventurous travelers can sign up for white-water rafting trips on the Franklin, or catch a light plane to the trailhead for Tasmania’s ne plus ultra, the 51.5-mile South Coast Track—a grueling, nine-day-long trek across the southern rim of the Antipodes, where you are unlikely to encounter another soul.