Exploring Tasmania on the West Coast Wilderness Railway

Aug 15, 2019

We awaken to rain hitting our hotel room window and grey clouds hanging over the spectacular Macquarie Harbour. But, we’re not surprised by this weather - chances are, when visiting the West Coast of Tasmania, it will rain. In fact, it rains all but 15.7 days a year in this part of the world! Weather aside, we head out to catch our train for the day – the West Coast Wilderness Railway.


The West Coast Wilderness Railway departs from Strahan, a tiny town on the Wild West Coast of Tasmania – the most southern and only island state in Australia. Tasmania is located 240km to the south of the Australian mainland and is the 26th largest island in the world. It has a small population of around 520,000 people - over 40% of whom reside in Hobart, its capital. Strahan, where the West Coast Wilderness Railway commences, is a 4-hour drive west of Hobart. 


The West Coast of Tasmania is filled with natural, rugged beauty - with rivers, mountains and dense forests that look very little like mainland Australia. The area around Strahan is particularly remote and is home to Tasmania’s UNESCO-listed Wilderness World Heritage Area, with its verdant mountains and ancient temperate climate rainforests.


Strahan is the largest coastal town on the West Coast (with a booming population of 700!) and draws many tourists to its beautiful Macquarie Harbour and the spectacular Gordon River, accessible by luxurious cruises which depart the town’s wharf. Nearby Queenstown (the destination of the West Coast Wilderness Railway) is rich in mining history and known for its resulting moon-like landscapes.


Today we’re travelling on the West Coast Wilderness Railway’s first journey this year that covers the entire line from Strahan to Queenstown (as the train only operates on sections of the line over the winter season). We’re very lucky to be traveling in a Heritage Class Carriage – the first-class service on the train.


We board the train at the tiny station in Strahan and are shown to our carriage. As we Board, our carriage steward, Katrina, offers us a choice of Tasmanian sparkling wine, local apple juice, tea or coffee. 


Did we mention that Tasmania is known for its rich local produce and amazing culinary scene? Well, it is, and the West Coast Wilderness Railway embraces this!


We grab a couple of drinks and sit down in our seats – 19 and 20, which are on one side of a table facing forward at the end of the wood-paneled carriage, directly abutting an open-air balcony and the steam engine that will pull us along our journey.