Our Next Tasmania Report: Port Davey (Tasmania, Australia)

Jan – April, 2017

As I mentioned before, Port Davey is considered the jewel in the crown of cruising Tasmania. Its remote location is considered really difficult to get to. Aussies in general consider Tasmania a wild and dangerous place for a boat, while Tasmanians themselves consider the trip to Port Davey a wild and dangerous place for a boat. Thus, making the trip to Port Davey is considered, danger-wise, like doing a great white shark dive without a cage.

The reality: this can be a nasty piece of ocean, but if you make the trip in the dead of summer and wait for a good weather window, even the Little Girls on Legacy can manage it. We motored to Port Davey in calm seas, little to no wind, on a warm sunny day.

My initial expectations about Port Davey had been formed by the remarks of other people, saying it’s a wild and remote place. I pictured giant trees and thick rainforests, but I was wrong. Although it does have forests, much of it is rather tundra-esque.

It’s definitely an exotic place, featuring a 7-mile long channel that runs, fjord-like, amid hills and mountains. The far end of the channel opens up into a large body of water called Bathurst Harbour which is much like a lake. Off this lake is another very narrow channel, about 3 miles long, which leads to Melaleuca, a large flat area of land with an old homestead, a small airstrip, and rare Orange-bellied parrots. Below, an interactive map of the area.

Bathurst Harbour
Bathurst Channel
Bathurst Narrows
Port Davey, Outer Harbour

This area is ruggedly beautiful, but what makes it most special is the water: very clear and very dark–black where it’s deep and amber in the shallows because of the high tannin content (which leaches into the water from the area’s vegetation).

The dark tannic fresh water sits over a layer of clear saltwater. Some marine species that normally live deep in the ocean are also able to live here because of the layer of black water above. This is the only place in the world like this. The other thing the dark water does is beautifully reflect the mountains above it. When it’s still it creates a remarkable mirror image.

I will mention I wasn’t completely convinced ahead of time that we’d love this place as photos don’t really capture the feeling of it. It looked very rugged and remote, almost barren in some areas. Being here, though, has a feeling peace and beauty that doesn’t come through in photos. We spent about a week there, and it definitely lived up to the hype.

Travel Note: While being here on a boat is fantastic, it’s also possible to take a package tour, flying in by small plane, then getting to ride in one of the small boats they use to show visitors the area. They also offer dive trips that go under the black water layer to see the very strange marine life. Or, after you fly in, they can drop you at one of the hiking trails. Bottom line: you don’t need to have your own boat to experience Port Davey. Below, a few photos from our time here (click to enlarge/scroll).–Cyndi

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