Cycle Tasmania, Mountain Bike Ride, Hell’s Gates
Cycle to the virtual end of the world at the narrow entrance to Macquarie Harbour - the so-called Hell’s Gates - on quiet roads with wide views, incorporating Tassie’s favourite tourist town and its longest and wildest beach.
A generally flat ride through open heathland and buttongrass plains, with some low climbs through pine forest towards Macquarie Heads. The bulk of the ride is on good dirt roads, with a mountain bike recommended.
Light traffic, limited mostly to campers, boaties and the occasional log truck.
Strahan is 300 kilometres from Hobart, reached along the Lyell Highway through Derwent Bridge and Queenstown. Out of Queenstown, turn onto the B24. Tassielink coaches operate between Strahan and both Hobart and Launceston.
Food and Drink
For a major tourist town, Strahan is surprisingly light on for cafes. The ubiquitous Banjos dishes up carbos and coffee, while Hamer’s Bar & Grill does pub grub that’s a cut above the norm.
At the Macquarie Heads Road corner, continue straight ahead for around three kilometres to reach wild Ocean Beach, from where the next landfall across the furious ocean is South America. Sunsets here are magnificent if you have lights for the ride back into town.
The ride starts in the heart of Strahan, the tiny town once labelled by the Chicago Tribune newspaper as “the best little town in the world” - little wonder it’s become one of the requisite stops on the Tassie tourist circuit. Leaving town, the ride hugs the shores of Macquarie Harbour, passing a scrum of holiday cottages.
Past a line of jetties and moorings at Strahan’s western edge, the ride turns up and inland through low heath to meet Macquarie Heads Road (C251) where, beside the aerodrome, there are glimpses across to Strahan. More striking is the sight of the rock-strewn peaks of the West Coast Range rising beyond the town. For much of its length, Macquarie Heads Road pushes through windswept heathland and buttongrass plains - everything here is stunted except the wind - making for wide views and brilliant spring displays of pink and white wildflowers.
Slowly the road creeps back closer to the tannin-stained waters of the harbour, edging along beside the Swan Basin State Forest and returning to the harbour shores at the Swan Basin picnic area, where a pair of short walking trails branch out along the coast and up the hill to a harbour lookout. From the picnic area, the road climbs into the forest, up and across a low ridge, pine trees swallowing the view, before descending again to the harbour shores and the Macquarie Heads camping ground.
About one kilometre past the caretaker’s home, the road ends at the heads, where the opening to the harbour narrows to only 75 metres, with a string of lighthouses standing testimony to the fury of the waters. Unsighted from here (but visible from Ocean Beach on the side trip) is 45-metre-high Cape Sorell lighthouse, the second tallest light station in the southern hemisphere (the tallest is at Cape Wickham, on King Island). If the sea and entrance look brutal now, imagine them from the perspective of a convict bound for Sarah Island, the state’s oldest and perhaps most notorious convict station.
Unsurprisingly, the heads became known to convicts as Hell’s Gates. Around the point, which is invariably strewn with ocean debris, you can stroll on up Ocean Beach, Tassie’s longest beach, stretching north for more than 30 kilometres, before following your wheel tracks back to Strahan.
30.995 km / 19.26 mi
222 m / 728 ft
219 m / 718 ft
40 m / 132 ft