Sample the splendours of Tasmania’s stunning east coast, from seafood and wine to lush rainforest and powder-white beaches.
By Alissa Jenkins
Taking in some of Tasmania’s most beautiful wilderness, this action-packed drive begins in Hobart before venturing north through spectacular national parks, along surreal coastline, before finishing in the remarkable Bay of Fires.
From Hobart, follow the Tasman Highway north just over an hour to Triabunna and take the 30 minute ferry to beautiful Maria Island for the day. With no shops or cars, this remote island is a tranquil haven for bushwalking, wildlife watching and a glimpse into Tasmania’s convict history. There are plenty of hikes to choose from but the easiest way to see the island in a day is aboard a guided tour with East Coast Cruises. Tours, which run from November to April, include a scenic cruise around Maria Island's stunning coastline, visiting the beautiful Painted Cliffs and Fossil Cliffs, a two hour walk around the World Heritage listed Darlington convict settlement, plus a gourmet lunch featuring Tasmanian produce and wine. There’s also the option to swim or snorkel at one of the island’s many beaches – scuba diving is also popular at the marine reserve in the island’s north. Then return to Tasmania’s mainland and stay at the charming Orford Riverside Cottages on the Prosser River, which features a spacious timber deck with barbecue.
Start the day with a bushwalk through the Wielangta Forest along the Three Thumbs Track. This four kilometre loop (2.5 miles) takes you through eucalypt forest and temperate rainforest, with majestic views of Orford, Spring Bay and out to Maria Island. Then enjoy one of the country’s most scenic coastal drives – roughly an hour and a half north – toward the white sandy beaches and pink granite peaks of Freycinet Peninsula. Drop into Kate’s Berry Farm and pick up a punnet of fresh berries and her famous chocolates, then visit one of the local wineries such as Milton Vineyard for its signature Pinot Noir and Riesling. Spend the afternoon swimming, surfing or diving around the picturesque Mayfield Bay Coastal Reserve or visit the wetlands of Moulting Lagoon, where you can watch black swans and pelicans glide by. Spend the night at a bed and breakfast such as Redcliffe House with five guest rooms, including ensuite, to choose from.
Pack your camera and muster all your energy for a day of outdoor adventure around the perfect contours of Wineglass Bay. From one of Tasmania’s most celebrated locations, Wineglass Bay Lookout, walk the 11 kilometre (seven mile) Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach Circuit, which loops around a portion of the Hazards mountain range, down to beaches, coves and marshland, before returning to the top. Afterwards sea kayak, snorkel or scuba dive around the bay, or on the other side of Freycinet Peninsula, swim in the sheltered waters of Honeymoon Bay. Retire to one of the peninsula’s many upscale hideaways such as Freycinet Eco Retreat with eight striking, self-catered eco studios, or Freycinet Lodge, where you can savour fresh seafood and local wine at one of the impressive on-site restaurants, before sleeping in a well-appointed cabin. If you're overdue for an indulgence, book a stay at Saffire Freycinet, an award-winning lodge with suites, dining experiences and a spa.
Drive roughly 40 minutes north to the family-friendly holiday town of Bicheno and see some of the region’s most treasured wildlife at East Coast Natureworld. Set on 150 acres (60 hectares) of natural parkland and lagoons, it’s home to Tasmanian devils, quolls, koalas, snakes and parrots. Continuing north, make a detour into Douglas-Apsley National Park – dotted with gorges, waterfalls and bushwalks – and stop for a swim at Apsley River Waterhole. Then refuel at Mount Elephant Pancakes, famous for its European-style sweet and savoury pancake menu. Spend the afternoon exploring the shops and galleries in the charming fishing village of St Helens. From town, you can also walk or drive to Peron Dunes, a great spot for sand boarding. Stay in a pretty cottage or contemporary villa at Pelican Point Sanctuary.
Visit the St Helens History Room for a taste of the region’s colourful past, from the Georges Bay indigenous people to whalers, sailors and Chinese tin miners. Next, head 20 minutes north to the resort town of Binalong Bay, gateway to the Bay of Fires, where you’ll find a cluster of idyllic lunch spots such as Moresco Restaurant. Afterwards, hop aboard The Gardens afternoon cruise to see the southern reaches of the Bay of Fires, which at certain times of year is home to whales, fur seals, sea lions and dolphins. Then venture into Mount William National Park and explore some of the gorgeous coastal walks threaded through the surrounds. While there is the four day Bay of Fires Lodge Walk, those pushed for time will love the Mount William Summit walk. An easy 90 minute return walk, it features panoramic views of the coastline and its iconic red lichen-covered boulders, out to the distant Bass Strait islands. Finish the road trip at a typical Tasmanian beach house such as contemporary Belle Vue Beach House, Sea Eagle Cottage or Bay of Fires Seachange– all with magnificent ocean views.