Cruising Tasmania's southwest wilderness

Candice Marshall
Tasmania's southwest, inaccessible by road, is one of the state's quietest corners

It's late afternoon in Tasmania and we're moored in a sheltered cove in one of the island's remotest corners.

There isn't a human to be seen - bar the eight people on our boat. Neither are there buildings, signage, jetties or buoys. The only noises are the water lapping at the boat and the distant sound of birds.

With so little to distract me here in southwest Tasmania's Port Davey, and with no phone reception or internet, I'm able to immerse myself fully in the Tasmanian Boat Charters' Port Davey Expedition Cruise we're about to undertake.

We're in good hands. Our skipper on Odalisque, the 20-metre expedition vessel that is our home for the next four days, is Pieter van der Woude, a former abalone diver. He knows these waters, both on and below the surface, like few could. His love for this wild and unpredictable place becomes more infectious each day.

Then there's Peter Marmion, our guide, who's knowledge of Port Davey is extraordinary. A member of multiple conservation groups, he has bushwalked all over the area and is passionate about preserving and protecting it.

"Every rock and every island has a story - and there are a lot of rocks and islands here," he tells us.

He's right about the stories. Port Davey isn't populated but settlers have come and gone, seeking riches from the whales and the pines. There is a trove of tales, of both triumph and loss against the harsh elements and isolation. We also hear about the indigenous people who first called this wild place home.

We get plenty of chances to step off Odalisque and explore the area's secluded beaches, isolated coves, rocky outcrops, caves, forests, creeks, lakes, gorges and mountains.

We spot wombats, pademelons and countless birdlife, who completely ignore us. We even stumble across the extremely rare orange-bellied parrot and azure kingfisher, and trace footprints of the Tasmanian Devil.

The weather here can be unpredictable but we're blessed with sunshine and calm conditions, which means we can venture beyond the sanctuary of Port Davey to the Breaksea Islands and Southern Ocean.

On our jet boat we island-hop, weaving among jagged rocks and the tips of kelp forests.

Pieter gets us as close to everything as he can - whether its pulling up next to a family of sunbaking seals or finding a way into the caves tucked into the bases of cliffs.

At one point it's like threading the eye of a needle as he waits for a wave to carry us through a small opening between rocks. The swell lifts us through, assisted by slimy kelp and sea foam.

At times my heart races and my knuckles whiten. But with Pieter's prowess on water and Peter's bushman skills on land, we always feel safe.

Back onboard, chef Ken Mellers creates a parallel adventure, a culinary journey that showcases Tasmania's amazing produce in every mouthwatering meal, alongside local wines and beers.

The Odalisque is a restaurant and hotel floating in the middle of nowhere. There are warm beds, hot showers, comfy couches and good coffee. The views are ever-changing but always spectacular.

In complete luxury, I listen to the water lapping at the boat, feel the sun on my back and the cool breeze running across my cheeks.

But each time we step off the boat, things get a little wild. We tackle steep hills, slippery slopes, dense shrubbery, prickly plants and jumping ants nests. We're reminded of just how rugged, untamed and inhospitable this isolated corner of Tasmania can be.

It's a wonderful place to feel present.



Port Davey is not accessible by road so Tasmanian Boat Charters' Port Davey Expedition Cruise begins at Cambridge Airport. Pick-ups can be arranged from Hobart Airport, or any Hobart accommodation.

Hobart is serviced with direct flights from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane.

Travelling by car from the mainland is possible by ferry. Visit

From Cambridge Airport guests travel in a light plane to Melaleuca airstrip. A jet boat then takes guests via Melaleuca Inlet, through Bathurst Harbour and Bathurst Channel, to Port Davey, where Odalisque is moored.


Odalisque has three double cabins, two with private ensuites, and another two bathrooms on board. There are double / single bed alternatives. For more info, visit


Cost includes scenic flights, all food and alcohol, accommodation and National Park entrance fees.

The writer travelled as a guest of Tasmanian Boat Charters.