Dani Wright escapes with her family to Tasmania's Wild West Coast.
There are two types of people in this world — those who love blue skies and sunshine, and those who crave dark skies and storms. It's no surprise, given the dark convict past and windswept coastline, that the people of the isolated fishing village of Strahan, on Tasmania's west coast, prefer more rugged conditions than the calmer East Coast offers.
In fact, they're very proud of the dark skies and inclement weather that come with being at the "ends of the earth".
In the gift store, where I buy a fridge magnet proclaiming just that, I ask the lady behind the counter what she likes most about living out west. She says it's the ruggedness of the region and weather. In the pharmacy, the owner agrees: "It rains a lot, it's wild and when it's the beginning of winter, that's when it's just starting to get good."
Gordon River Cruises has capitalised on the pull of the rugged landscape and is doing so well it has a brand new boat — Spirit of the Wild — that carries up to 190 passengers.
I rush on to the boat with my daughter Georgie (10) and son Henry (13), escaping the rain and settling into comfortable seats with plenty of viewing options — we never have to fight for position to see a view or take a photograph like some other boat touring options we've been on.
We travel across Macquarie Harbour, past impressive fish farms and through Hells Gates into the swirling Southern Ocean. Stopping to sway in the washing-machine swell, there's plenty of time for all the photographers on board to snap the lighthouses nearby.
As we travel down the smooth Gordon River, our guides Lucy and Jock tell us of the intriguingly brutal convict history. It's here that re-offending criminals were housed on Sarah Island, some men attached to ball and chain so they couldn't escape.
We disembark to walk around the island and hear that 131 ships were built by the convicts in just 12 years, and how there were 180 escape attempts. One convict always took a friend with him when he escaped, not as a sign of friendship, but so he had some "food" with him. "He invented the takeaway meal," says Jock, making light of the gruesome past of the island.
At the rubbled remains of the bakehouse we read about the more usual food criminals had — bread and salt beef or pork. Vegetables were a reward for good behaviour — a fact that makes my children very confused.
Military or civilians on the island had much better fare, including tea, sugar, eggs, rum and for a post-dinner smoke, tobacco.
Later, we travel to an island with a calmer history. It's overflowing with native plants in a lush environment. We're shown a 1200-year-old huon pine tree that was felled by a lightning strike 20 years ago and now lies on the rainforest floor with 145 plants growing from its trunk. There's also vibrant fungi to find.
As we travel back to Strahan, the water is so glassy that the trees growing on the edge of the river are mirrored, making symmetrical memories for all the photographers on board.
I ask host Lucy what she likes most about living here and her comments mirror those of the people in the town.
"It's pretty cold and we have so much rain here," she says, proudly. "But, it's so green because of this rain — you don't live here if you just want blue skies."
The rain also produces spectacular double rainbows off the back of the boat for more photographic opportunities.
Later, we fill up on the freshest seafood at View 42 Restaurant & Bar at Strahan Village, overlooking the harbour and Gordon River Cruises' impressive operations base.
There's a local whole-baked ocean trout with wasabi mayonnaise, giant king prawns, the plumpest Woody Island oysters, house-smoked Norfolk Bay mussels in lemon myrtle dressing, Thai spiced seafood salad and pan-seared melt-in-your-mouth calamari.
To finish the day, we head 40km down an unsealed road to Ocean Beach — it's well worth the long and bumpy drive. Swirling winds fling open the car doors and we step out to stare at an expanse of sea as the sun goes down. Pushed along by the powerful wind, heavy rain lashes our faces as we reach the sandy shoreline.
It may be the ends of the earth, but the dark skies and windswept isolation somehow make us feel more connected to the environment, and to each other.
Tasmania can be a great add-on to a Melbourne family holiday. Hop on the ferry from Port Melbourne to Devonport on a night or day-sail option. Book a cabin to relax on the journey in private.
Stay at one of the accommodation options at Strahan Village .