Exploring Tasmania’s East Coast

Tasmania’s east coast is better known for it’s location as a summer getaway, with long white sandy beaches and small coastal towns. But the amazing thing about the east coast is that it is just as welcoming during winter.

Being coastal, the area is not as cool as some of the more alpine regions of central and western Tasmania during winter and this region is easily accessible from both Launceston and Hobart.

Depending on which way you travel will vary the route and what you see along the way, but all locations are within three to three and half hours drive from both major cities, and the drive along the east coast of Tasmania is one of the most scenic and easy going roads in the state.

About an hour’s drive east of Hobart you will arrive at Orford, a small coastal community of both locals and holiday home owners. This is a good stop for a stretch of the legs, a coffee and perhaps a stroll along Spring Beach. This wonderful beach overlooks Maria Island, one of Tasmania’s convict settlements.

Day trips to Maria Island can be accessed via a 40 minute ferry service and guests can explore the remains left on the island today. With no permanent human population, the only locals you will come across are the wallabies. There are plenty of short walks on the island and for the more active, there are mountain bikes available to hire to see more of the island quicker.

Further up the coast is Swansea, but before you reach this town (around 14ms out of town) stop for a look at the Three Arch Bridge. This heritage construction is actually located under the existing highway, and you’ll need to walk the 40m track to get a good look at it. While on the subject of bridges, another 7km up the road is the Spiky Bridge. Another convict built bridge designed to help the notoriously dangerous original roadway in 1843. The spiky jagged rocks are said to have been put in place to prevent cattle falling over the side! On the other side of the road is Spiky Beach, with an amazing view out to the Tasman Sea.

Swansea is a great half way point, and a great place to stay a night. The town is the east coasts oldest established town and overlooks the Great Oyster Bay and the Hazard mountain range of the Freycinet Peninsula.

From Swansea, the drive meanders past olive and walnut plantations and vineyards which stretch up and down the coast. Springvale Wines is one of these vinesyards. This family business has had its roots in Tasmania since the early settlers, but today boasts incredible award winning Pinot Noir that is worthy of a quick stop.

Probably the best known, and most visited destination on the east coast itinerary is Freycinet. This peninsula is home to Wineglass Bay, located inside the Freycinet National Park, famous for its turquoise water and soft white sand beach. But to reach it you are going to have to work for it. The only way by foot into Wineglass Bay is via the 45 minute climb up to the saddle of The Hazards, a pink granite formation that at the top presents you the most amazing views you will see on your Tasmanian experience. This walk is worth it. Wineglass Bay regularly makes it in to the lists of the world’s top 10 beaches!

Cruises also operate into the bay, so if you don’t feel like the climb, there are still ways to appreciate this incredible location.

While in the area, there are loads of other activities on offer, especially for the active. The region has plenty of great mountain biking tracks, guides that will take you kayaking the coastline, bushwalking or even abseiling.

If you don’t want to work too hard, love adventure and want to see the best of the peninsula, why not consider a quad bike tour. Rug up with a jacket and explore with a smile on your face as you hit the fire trails!

Once you are done, head up the road to the fishing town of Bicheno. This town was built on whaling, but while those days are long gone, fishing boats are still a common sight bringing in the freshest catches. Heading out for a walk will be the best way to explore the town, perhaps finding yourself at the blowhole or depending on the tide and the exposed sandbar, a walk to Diamond Island. If you are staying the night, perhaps book to experience the fairy penguins as they return to the rookery for the evening.

The next day, make time to head just out of town and go for a walk in the Douglas Apsley Waterhole and enjoy the short stroll to the waterhole. This freshwater swimming hole will be far more popular in summer than winter, but is a relaxing place to stop for a moment and enjoy. There is also a 2-3 hour return walk to the Gorge that is well worth the trip if you have the time.

If you are wanting to engage with the locals, then perhaps a stop at East Coast Natureworld is an option. Kids will love getting close to the Tasmanian Devils, koalas, reptiles and birds including the pelicans.

If you don’t mind a short diversion due to your stomach needing attention, turn off at Elephant Pass Rd and drop in for what would be Tasmania’s best know pancake shop, Mt Elephant Pancakes.

Heading on through St Mary’s to St Helens you will find another coastal town that has a heritage in mining and forestry. More importantly, it is the gateway to Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires. This state reserve houses some of the most incredible coastal landscapes you will find. Hop out of the car and walk the rocky granite foreshore. The bright orange covering on the rocks you will see is a lichen and it contrasts amazingly with the sea.

The road out of St Helens takes you inland through State Forest, but be sure to stop off for lunch at the “Pub in the Paddock” or the “Holy Cow Café” at Pyengana Dairy.

To walk lunch off, up the road is St Columba Falls. This 90m waterfall is best seen from the viewing platform, a short walk from the carpark.

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