A Coast That Glows: The Best of Tasmania's East Coast

20 April 2017

Along Tasmania’s east coast, nature is stark, raw, and somewhat super-real. Mountains drop close to talcum white sand that squeaks underfoot, neon turquoise water is framed by boulders coated in orange lichens and the villages appear straight out of a watercolour. To drive from Launceston to Hobart along the east coast is to inhabit scenes where shapes, textures and colours are so vividly rendered, you’ll have to convince yourself they’re not photo-shopped.

Highlights

  • An abundance of untrammelled coastal, forest and rural landscapes
  • Fishing towns and heritage villages where churches and historic hotels dominate the skyline
  • Foraging at markets and farm gates to sample renowned cheddars, pinots and artisan chocolate.
  • Arts events such as the Festival of Voices and numerous food festivals
  • Convict ruins on Maria Island and the opportunity to swim with playful seals
  • Eerie underwater beauty of kelp forests, caves and sponge gardens
Launceston is a wonderfully walk-able city, filled with beautiful Georgian architecture. (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Day 1 Launceston

Compact, diverse and cosmopolitan, Launceston is a wonderfully walkable city. Settle into the slower pace by strolling the riverside boardwalk that passes Ritchies Mill gallery.    

Wherever you look, you’ll see arresting Georgian, Victorian, federation and Gothic architecture and parks adorned by beautiful gardens. Follow your nose around charming neighbourhoods replete with funky cafes in atmospheric settings, like the grand Albert Hall. 

Day 2 Scottsdale and Ghost Towns 

Almost-Tuscan vistas unfurl as you drive past lavender fields on the 67 kilometres towards Scottsdale. Here, romantic timber cottages are ringed with rose gardens and picket fences, creating a storybook effect echoed in cosy bakeries and eateries.

It’s only another 98km to the coastal hub of St Helens, however Tassie’s north east highlands reveal tucked away treasures.   

Beyond the emptied mining settlement of Goulds Country is Piomena, a ghost town on the Blue Tier, a sub-alpine plateau offering rainforest walks along old pack trails.  

Pyengana village has a traditional cheese factory that warrants a pause, especially if you’ve walked to nearby St Columbus Falls.  

Bay of Fires is simply breathtaking with its vibrant colours and textures. (Image: Getty)

Day 3 Bay of Fires

An iconic wilderness, the Bay of Fires extends from Binalong Bay, 10 kilometres north of St Helens. Distinctive for its orange lichen coated boulders and ideally explored on foot or in a kayak, this natural haven is also eye-boggling underwater.

A rewarding sequel to this photogenic coastline is the bird and wild-flower festooned heathlands of Humbug Point.

You can visit these guys at Natureworld in Bicheno. (Image: Getty)

Day 4 Bicheno and Beaches

Cruising south towards Bicheno -75 kilometres from St Helens- detour into St Marys, a charming hamlet overlooked by rugged mountains; home to Georgian Christ Church and quirky Cranks and Tinkerers museum.

Nudged by the mountains and marshes of Douglas -Apsley National Park, a series of empty beaches unfurl north of Bicheno.  

Bicheno’s pretty fishing harbour is picnic-perfect and there’s lovely foreshore trails nearby and penguin tours each evening. Visit Tasmanian devils and other native cuties at Natureworld sanctuary.  

The dramatic jagged peaks of Freycinet National Park stand out against the surrounding undulating landscape. (Image: Getty)

Day 5 Freycinet National Park

At Freycinet National Park, pink granite peaks rise dramatically from opalescent water. It’s the stuff of postcards and it’s accessed from the village of Coles Bay (37 kilometres from Bicheno), a hub for outdoor pleasures like kayaking, cruising and oyster indulgence.

Perfectly formed Wineglass Bay steals the show, however other nearby bushwalks offer splendid views and secluded beaches. 

Kayaking in Great Oyster Bay is a must do when visiting Swansea. (Image: Melissa Rimac)

Day 6 Swansea

43 kilometres from Bicheno, Swansea’s handsome Georgian buildings feature Freycinet’s radiant purple silhouette as a backdrop.

Fancy a tipple? Swing into Spring Valley Vineyard’s cellar door - situated in a stable built by convicts.

If secret beaches are your thing, try Spikey Beach and Kelverdon Beach – where sheep graze almost to water’s edge- near Swansea’s convict built Spiky Bridge.

Spend the night in the history -rich village of Triabunna and take a sunset stroll around the picturesque marina. For nightlife, check out the community run Odeon cinema at nearby Orford.

These sandstone cliffs on Maria Island are a spectacular sight. (Image: Getty)

Day 7 Maria Island

A 30 minute ferry ride from Triabunna gets you to Maria Island, ideally explored by bike. Far-flung in feel and fabulously wild, Maria Island National Park is a place for strolling along crystalline beaches and exploring World Heritage listed convict ruins. Cruises from Triabunna visit otherwise inaccessible areas where dolphins and whales swim come close to the boat.

Day 8 Buckland to Hobart  

Stately homesteads are hidden in valleys around Buckland, 24 kilometres on. Pause amid the painterly sheep- country to admire the stained glass in St John the Baptist Church and stroll through the Tasmanian Bushland Garden. After time – travelling at Twamley Farm, huddle around the Buckland Inn’s big fire.

With Hobart is 62 kilometres from here- you’ll arrive in time for dinner at Salamanca’s inimitable eateries. 


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Melissa Rimac

Melissa Rimac is a travel writer and photographer. You can follow her adventures on instagram at @snorkellingqueen and online at snorkellingqueen.com