Macquarie Harbour

Macquarie Harbour is a large, shallow, inlet on the West Coast of Tasmania, Australia.


James Kelly entered on the 28th December 1815, however Charles Whitham (see below, p.110) discovered variations on this date.Surveyor-General Oxley of New South Wales in March 1820 battled with the seas around the heads and Hells Gates. Surveyor-General Evans travelled in the area in 1821-22. The harbour was established as a prison which was a place of "extreme physical and mental torture" (Flannery, 1994, ch28). Flannery, T.F. (1994) "The Future Eaters: An ecological history of the Australasian lands and people" Chatswood: New South Wales ISBN 0802139434 ] It was built for British convicts but many Irish patriots and Tasmanian Aborigines were also detained there. Flannery (1994) explains how inmates would occasionally murder each other which inevitably led to their execution and subsequent removal from the prison. Flannery, T.F. (1994) "The Future Eaters: An ecological history of the Australasian lands and people" Chatswood: New South Wales ISBN 0802139434 ]


The King River which cuts through the West Coast Range and the Gordon River empty into Macquarie Harbour. The narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbour has hazardous tidal currents and is called Hell's Gates. Outside of the Harbour the entrance area is known as Macquarie Heads, and the most western point is Cape Sorell. The sheer volume of fresh water that pours into the Harbour through the rivers, combined with the narrow exit result in barometric tides. When there is rain in the mountains surrounding the Harbour, the tide rises, and it falls when the atmospheric pressure reverses and results in less rain.

The Queen River - King River and Macquarie Harbour were all polluted by mine waste from the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company until its closing in 1994. It is estimated that 100 million tonnes of tailings were disposed of into the Queen River. Mount Lyell Remediation and Research and Demonstration Program which was carried out by the office of Supervising Scientist and the Tasmanian Department of Environment and Land Management over the following two years. The result of the program is there are much reduced wastes that might enter the rivers or harbour any more.


The first settlement at Macquarie Harbour was on Sarah Island, a small island in the harbour. This island was used as a prison for recalcitrant prisoners from other settlements in Tasmania, due to its extreme isolation and extreme climate.

Later the small port of Strahan was developed on the shores of Macquarie Harbour to support the nearby mining settlements, mainly Queenstown. Another port was developed on the south east section of the harbour in Kelly Basin which had the townsite of Pillinger, the settlement and port were short lived as was the company that developed the facilities - North Mount Lyell.

Named Features

: Birch's Inlet - at south west end of harbour: Bird River - mouth in Kelly Basin: Bonnet Island - in Kelly Channel at entrance to harbour (42° 13ˡ S, 145° 14ˡ E}: Braddon River - mouth on mid-eastern shore: Entrance Island - at entrance to harbour (42° 12ˡ S, 145° 14ˡ E): Farm Cove - at south east side: Gould Point - adjacent to Farm Cove: Gordon River - mouth on south eastern end of harbour: Hell's Gates - mouth at north west end of harbour: Kelly Basin - port/town at southern end of harbour - also named Pillinger: Kelly Channel - at entrance to harbour: King River - mouth at north east of harbour: Lettes Bay - between Regatta Point and King River mouth: Liberty Point - on mid western shore: Long Bay - south of Regatta Point: Philips Island - adjacent to mouth of Braddon River on east shore: Pine Cove - just south of the King River Mouth: Regatta Point - eastern side of Risby Cove: Risby Cove - water between Strahan Harbour and Regatta Point: Rum Point - on western shore south of Sarah Island: Sarah Island - in southern part of Harbour : Sophia Point - on mid-eastern shore: Strahan Harbour - from Strahan Point parallel to 'The Esplanade': Swan Basin - near Hell's Gates


Today Strahan is the base for tourism on the west coast. The West Coast Wilderness Railway takes part of the north eastern shore of the Harbour, before turning inland at the mouth of the King River.

Boats take tourists to Hell's Gates and Macquarie Heads, Sarah Island and up the lower reaches of the Gordon River. Also charter flights utilise Strahan Airport for helicopter and fixed wing flights.


**notably the 'Account of Macquarie Harbour' by T.G. Lempriere from the "Tasmanian Journal of natural Science of 1842-6" on pages 39-46 of Western Tasmania... below:-
*: 2003 edition - Queenstown: Municipality of Queenstown. :1949 edition - Hobart: Davies Brothers. OCLC|48825404; ASIN [ B000FMPZ80] :1924 edition - Queenstown: Mount Lyell Tourist Association. OCLC|35070001; ASIN [ B0008BM4XC]


* Kelly, James, 1791-1859. First discovery of Port Davey and Macquarie Harbour p 160-181 "Royal Society of Tasmania: Papers and Proceedings, 1920. Issued separately 24th December, 1920" Microfiche. Canberra : National Library of Australia, 2004.

See also

* Convicts on the West Coast of Tasmania
* Convictism in Australia

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