History of World Heritage Cruises
Harry Grining and his brother took their first paying passengers into the Gordon River more than 100 years ago.
Five generations on, the Grinings continue their century-old family tradition, adding a wealth of local knowledge to the mystery and serenity of this special place.
Settlers and pioneers
The Grinings were among the settlers of the fledgling port of Strahan on Tasmania’s West Coast and pioneered tourist cruises into the mighty Gordon River in 1896 – beginning a family tradition which to date spans more than 100 years and five generations.
Charles Grining was born in 1837 in Memel, Prussia (today known as ‘Klaipeda’, Lithuania). He ran away to sea at the age of 11, becoming a cabin boy. After many years at sea he arrived in Australia, finding work around the mining fields of Victoria where he married an Irish lass, Mary Minnock. Mary was born in Kings County, Ireland, in 1841, in an area known today as Offlay. They were married in Daylesford, Victoria, and raised eight children.
In 1872 the Grinings moved to Trial Harbour (then known as Remine) on Tasmania’s West Coast, where a ninth child was born.
Charles and his two eldest sons worked the Heemskirk mineral fields for about eight years, but on the night of February 26, 1887, their lives were changed forever. A massive bushfire swept through the town, destroying everything in its path and driving the residents down to the sea for protection. With the family home destroyed, Charles decided to move his family to the new settlement of Strahan.
After re-establishing in Strahan, Charles built one of the town’s early hotels and became a sea-farer once more, this time building boats to ply the waters of Macquarie Harbour. He is remembered as one of the more influential businessmen of the period.
Two of the Grining boys followed their father down to the sea – Charles jnr as a sailor and Harry as a boat builder who was to distinguish himself as a master of his craft, building, among other boats, many of the famous Gordon River punts used by the piners.
The first Cruiser
The Eagle Harry's first vessel was used to transport cargo and passengers to many of the settlements around the Harbour including Kelly Basin, Sarah Island, and on the Gordon and King Rivers. Harry also serviced the mining town of Teepookana before a railway line was eventually driven through from Strahan. The infamous Hells Gates regularly claimed ships attempting to navigate its narrow channel and Harry played a key role in many salvage operations.
By 1895 Harry and his brothers, Edward and Frederick, had formed Grining Bros. Charter and Cruise Operators.
The business passed to Edward’s son, William, who, in turn, passed the business on to his son Don. Don married a local girl, Sandra Morrison, whose family bought the last vessel built by Harry Grining, a boat named the ‘Mayfair’. The boat began service in the 1940s as a tug for Huon Pine logs and to carry passengers to and from the Gordon River.
The tradition continues
Don and Sandra have two sons, Guy and Troy, who together carry on the Grining association with the Gordon River under the banner of their family-owned business, World Heritage Cruises.
The Grinings continue to share their love of Tasmania’s West Coast, Macquarie Harbour and the Gordon River with the tens of thousands of visitors who annually make a pilgrimage to this unique World Heritage Tasmania Area.
With a sixth generation of Grinings (three sons and a daughter between them) now following in their parents’ footsteps, it seems certain that the family name will remain synonymous with the cruises down the Gordon River for many years to come.