Accessible only by boat, aircraft or on foot, this region must surely be one of the most magnificent landscapes on the planet. Gold-green ranges, with bony quartzite ridges, rise sharply from the southern ocean and the broad interior waterways of Port Davey. Four major rivers and numerous creeks cut through gorges and snake across open plains, draining their rust-coloured waters into the Port Davey Marine reserve.
This area is the only large estuary in southern Australia without road access or significant human impact. Apart from two small tin leases near Melaleuca Inlet, no development has occurred. A very unusual marine environment has been created by a deep layer of dark red-brown, tannin-rich freshwater, which overlies tidal saltwater. Of the region, explorer Matthew Flinders said: "The mountains and the most stupendous works of nature I ever beheld and are the most dismal and barren. The eye ranges over these peaks with astonishment and horror."
This region must surely be one of the most magnificent landscapes on the planet. Gold-green ranges, with bony quartzite ridges, rise sharply from the southern ocean and the broad interior waterways of Port Davey. Small islands dot the surface of the dark waters. White quartzite sands fringe the shoreline. Mt Rugby the highest and most prominent peak bordering the reserve rises grandly from the western shore of Bathurst Harbour. On a fine, calm day the marine reserve s waters reflect the landscape to endless perfection.
The underwater landscape is even more surprising. In Bathurst Harbour and Bathurst Channel a very unusual marine environment has been created by a deep layer of dark redbrown, tannin-rich freshwater, which overlies tidal saltwater. The tannins restrict sunlight penetration to the top few metres, limiting the growth of marine plants. In their place live colourful and delicate marine invertebrates. In the clearer marine waters of Port Davey away from the influence of the freshwater tannins - a more typical Tasmanian underwater world exists. Diverse kelp forests and abundant fish thrive beneath the surging Southern Ocean waves.
Little was known of the Port Davey/Bathurst Harbour Estuary until the Hydrological and Ecological Survey of 1988-1989. However, even if nothing had been known, this area would have been described as unique, because it is the only large estuary in southern Australia without road access or significant human impact. Apart from two small tin leases near Melaleuca Inlet, no development had occurred. At the time of the survey, the area's permanent population consisted of three tin miners, and during summer months, a daily transient population of about one hundred fishermen, bushwalkers, sailors, and airborne tourists. A very unusual marine environment has been created by a deep layer of dark red-brown, tannin-rich freshwater, which overlies tidal saltwater.
- Port Davey Marine Reserve
History: The French navigator Marion du Fresne was the first European to record the inlet now called Port Davey, in March 1772. On the 11 December 1798, during the f…=amous voyage of the twenty-five ton sloop Norfolk, when Matthew Flinders was off the West Coast, he mentioned Marion's small chart of the area. Flinders noted the northern point of the Port, and named it Point St. Vincent. He tried to take the Norfolk in closer to investigate the opening marked on Marion's chart. That opening was clearly marked on Flinders' first map of "Van Diemen's Land" Published in 1800. His intended examination was prevented by a northerly breeze, and the actual discovery of the Port - as far as available records go-was not to eventuate for another quarter of a century. James Kelly has always been recognised as the first to discover Port Davey, however Kelly would have seen Flinders' maps and may have had them with him. It is quite within the limits of possibility that the port had been visited by whalers before this, for it must be recalled that the old whalers went far afield in the early days, and left but few records.
In the 1800s, a small piners settlement and boatyard was located on Payne Bay on Port Davey's north. The settlement remained until the 1900s when the Huon Pine trade ceased. Another temporary settlement was located at Bramble Cove behind the Breaksea Islands to serve the whaling industry in the early 1800s. Nothing remains of the site except for a few huon pine headstones from an old cemetery.
Port Davey was named in honour of Thomas Davey, 1st Lieut. Governor, Tasmania, 1813-19 by Kelly on 17 December 1815. The Inner West Point of Port Davey was named Point Lucy in Honour of Miss Davey" Daughter of the Lieut. Governor. On the 17th May, 1842, the colonial schooner Eliza, whilst bringing Sir John and Lady Franklin back from their overland journey to the West Coast, called in at Port Davey. Lady Franklin named the rocky islet on the northern side of the entrance to the inner harbour, Kathleen Island, a name which it still retains, although her "Gunn Islap.d" after Ronald Campbell Gunn) has given place to "Break-sea" and her "Mavourneen" (for the rocky outcrop to the north) has been replaced on modern maps by "The Needles."
Up until the 1880s, there were fifty people residing in the vicinity of the Davey River, engaged in getting Huon Pine, whilst a piner named Joe Page had a small establishment at Spring River. He gave his name to Joe Page Bay (formerly Long Bay). At the time, Hobart's supply of Huon Pine came almost exclusively from Port Davey.