Historic Harberton dates from 1886, when missionary Thomas Bridges resigned from Ushuaia’s Anglican mission to settle at his new estancia at Downeast, later renamed for the Devonshire home town of his wife Mary Ann Varder. Thomas Bridges, of course, was the author of the famous English-Yámana dictionary, and their son Lucas continued their literary tradition with The Uttermost Part of the Earth, an extraordinary memoir of a boyhood and life among the indigenous Yámana and Ona (Selk’nam).
Harberton continues to be a family enterprise—its present manager and part-owner, Tommy Goodall, is Thomas Bridges’s great-grandson. While the wool industry that spawned it has declined in recent years, the estancia, which still has about 1,000 cattle, has opened its doors to organized English- and Spanish-language tours of its grounds and outbuildings; these include the family cemetery, flower gardens, woolshed, woodshop, boathouse, and a native botanical garden whose Yámana-style lean-tos are more realistic than their Disneyfied counterparts along the Ferrocarril Austral Fueguino tourist train. Photographs in the woolshed illustrate the process of cutting firewood with axes and transporting it by raft and oxcart, and the tasks of gathering and shearing sheep.
In addition, American biologist Rae Natalie Prosser (Tommy Goodall’s wife) has created the Museo Acatushún de Aves y Mamíferos Marinos Australes (www.acatushun.com, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. daily mid-Oct.–mid-Apr., US$4 pp), a bone museum stressing the region’s marine mammals but also seabirds and a few shorebirds. It’s also possible to visit Magellanic penguin rookeries at Isla Martillo (Yecapasela) with Piratour for US$18 pp; a small colony of gentoo penguins has established itself on the island, making this a more intriguing trip for those who’ve seen Magellanic penguins elsewhere.
Estancia Harberton (contact Alejandro Galeazzi, tel. 02901/42-3123 in Ushuaia, alejandrogaleazzi [at] speedy [dot] com [dot] ar, www.estanciaharberton.com) is 85 kilometers east of Ushuaia via paved RN 3 and gravel RC-j, but work has stopped on a new coastal road from Ushuaia that would shorten the distance. The estancia is open for guided tours (US$8 pp) 10 a.m.–7 p.m. daily mid-October–mid-April except Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Easter. Because of Harberton’s isolation, there is no telephone, and email communications—which require a trip to Ushuaia—can be slow.
With written permission, free camping is permitted at unimproved sites; the estancia has also remodeled the former cookhouse (one double room and another with a bunk bed, with shared bath, US$70–90 pp) and the shepherds house (two triple rooms with private baths, US$90–120 pp). Dinner or lunch costs an additional US$25 pp.
Harberton’s teahouse, Mánacatush, serves a three-course lunch without drinks for US$25. A separate afternoon tea is offered for nonguests, with a four-guest minimum. Its restaurant, Parrilla Acawaia, serves clients on the penguin tour.
In summer, several companies provide round-trip transportation from Ushuaia, but renting a car is more convenient. From Ushuaia’s Muelle Turístico, Piratour (tel. 02901/15-60-4646, www.piratour.com.ar) offers a US$66 package with overland transportation and a visit to the penguin colony. It also operates out of Harberton Travel (San Martín 1162, tel. 02901/42-2367).
Catamaran tours from Ushuaia are more expensive and spend less time at Harberton but do include the farm-tour fee.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition