The oldest estancia in Patagonia

Ushuaia, Argentina

Estancia Harberton is the legendary ranch founded by Thomas Bridges and his family in 1886, making it the oldest in this area. It is a scenic and beautiful place with an enchanting history; we made it our first destination in Ushuaia on an excursion this morning with Canal Fun.

After an 8:15 a.m. pick-up, we made our way along National Road 3 — which runs not just the length of Argentina but is also the final leg of the Pan-American Highway, which originates in Fairbanks, Alaska — while chatting with others and sipping maté. After about 45 minutes, we turned off of RN3 and onto RC-J, one of the many gravel roads used here in Patagonia. By around 10 a.m. we had arrived at the estancia.

Once inside, our multi-activity tour kicked off with rafting on the Beagle Channel. We geared up in rubber boots, waterproof pants and life jackets and looked even more hardcore than usual.

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The sky, which had been overcast, cleared as we slowly made our way down the estuary. We rowed in unison as Martín, our guide, steered us — we spent much of the time talking with the other well-traveled folks in our boat, including a couple from Switzerland, another from the Netherlands and a college student studying abroad in Buenos Aires.

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An hour later, we hit the shore and carried our raft across a beach littered with petrified trees. On the other side, the wind had picked up, turning our leisurely paddle into a sweat-inducing workout.

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Our next stop was the grounds of the famed Harberton Ranch, where we had lunch waiting. Afterward, we walked around, taking in the scenic backdrop.

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We boarded a zodiac for a short ride to Isla Martillo (Hammer Island), which is home to the only penguin colony in the Beagle. The ranch has granted exclusive access to Canal Fun, and fewer than 80 tourists are allowed to visit on any given day. We felt lucky to find ourselves so close to these magnificent little creatures.

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Afterward, the zodiac dropped us off on Gable Island, a largely untouched part of Patagonia. We trekked for several hours and found a lookout toward Puerto Williams, which is the southernmost town in Chile. And all along, we could not have asked for better weather.

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The boat picked us up and we returned to Ushuaia. Our bus ride back was complete with the tunes of Rod Stewart and Aerosmith (bonus!). Macondo recommended Kuar for dinner, a nice spot overlooking the Channel. The seafood salad included some king crab; my salmon was cooked to perfection; Burt would have liked the cod more had he been able to finish it (disappointing).

Late night, we met up with some friends from earlier in the day at Dublin, one of the few bars in town. It seemed like everyone was there – we even bumped into Daniella, our guide from the cruise yesterday. It was a late night but when we left, Irish tunes were still being belted from the pub. Apparently, Ushuaia has a happening nightlife.

Who would have known?

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