Sunday, 16 May 2021

The "must do" guide to Tasmania's East Coast

With world-class beaches, national parks and myriad gourmet distractions, the East Coast of Tasmania is where many of the locals choose to take their holidays.

There are several icon destinations here: Maria Island with its furry locals, spectacularly beautiful countryside and, of course, the Bay of Fires with pristine white sandy beaches, crystal clear water and orange lichen-covered rocks.

Freycinet National Park is known for its granite peaks and spectacular scenery, while Wineglass Bay has been named as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. 

Freycinet National Park was founded in 1916 and is one of Tasmania’s oldest parks. Add some adventure by taking an ATV tour, paddling in a kayak or snorkelling into an underwater paradise.

Townships like Coles Bay and Bicheno, sleepy during the off season, come to life in the summer months as local descend on their holiday homes, known locally as “shacks” even though many are luxurious.

Throw in destinations like Freycinet Vineyard, Milton, Spring Vale, Priory Ridge, Craigie Knowe, Gala Estate. MacLean Bay and Devil's Corner (about to undergo a massive expansion) and there is plenty to keep wine lovers happy, although local seafood is also a huge drawcard.

Check out the crustaceans at the Lobster Shack overlooking the Gulch on the Bicheno waterfront (the crowders are also outstanding) and be prepared to line-up for the outstanding fish and chips at Tasmanian Coastal Seafoods. Well worth the wait. 

Mussels and oysters are harvested fresh daily at Freycinet Marine Farm.  

WINE 

The East Coast is one of the fast-emerging regions in Tasmania and new vineyards are being planted all the time. Boomer Creek and Overtime are among the newest cellar doors on a strip that includes several bigger names.

Mel’s Kitchen at Spring Vale, Milton and Devil’s Corner all have on-site restaurants.

In Bicheno, The Farm Shed, aka the East Coast Wine Centre, always has several local wines available for tasting, or by the glass, and sells over 50 wines from more than 20 regional producers, large and small. 

The experienced team of Subi Mead and Helen Bain, formerly of Swansea's Left Bank, pour the wines and tell the story of the vineyards in question. 

OUTDOORS

The coastline stretches 220km with some of the most scenic, coast-hugging roads imaginable.

Many visitors saddle up and go mountain biking. Whether you like to shred some serious downhill, enjoy some cross-country flow or just want a fun day on the trails with the family, St Helens Mountain Bike Trails has an experience for everyone.

Sometimes walking is the best way to discover something wonderful in the bush, maybe take a stroll before bathing in the crystal blue waterholes in Douglas Aspley National Park. 

A hike to St Columba Falls – one of Tasmania’s tallest waterfalls with a drop of over 90 metres – is on a track suitable for most ages.

History lovers can follow the trails of the convict settlers by taking a bush walk along the old convict road, which runs beside the Prosser River to the ruins of the Paradise Probation Station or stop off at Spiky Bridge and learn why it was built with such an unusual design. 

Peaceful Kelvedon Beach is much loved by shell collectors. The cobbled rock patches and sands are littered with beautiful shells to collect. While you are there, be sure to check out the old boatshed, which stands solitary on this exposed strip of beach.

For golfers there are courses at St Helens, Scamander, Fingal, St Mary’s, Bicheno, Coles Bay, Swansea and Orford.  

HIGHLIGHTS

Visitors to the Freycinet Peninsula have the chance to experience the national park at its finest with a new five-and-a-half-hour guided walk starting and finishing at Freycinet Lodge, a fabulous spot to kick back and escape from life for a while.

The Freycinet Walking Tour, for a maximum of eight guests, starts with a gentle 45-minute climb to the Wineglass Bay viewing platform.

From there, walkers descend to Wineglass Bay beach for a up of tea before heading west to the peninsula along the Isthmus Track to Hazard's Beach, an impressive stretch of largely empty beach. 

Guests will learn about the unique animals that live there and the peninsula's history, including the pink granite peaks of the Hazards Mountains.

After a gourmet picnic lunch at the southernmost point of Hazards Beach, the Freycinet Aqua Taxi will pick guests up off the sand for the 30-minute journey back to the Freycinet Lodge jetty.

The walk is offered by Experiential Tasmania and provides a qualified and experienced walking guide, day packs, rain jackets, a water bottle, thermos, lunch, morning tea, sunscreen and water.

Guests need a reasonable level of fitness and must be comfortable walking between eight and nine kilometres carrying a lightweight day pack along beaches, rocky headlands and steps.


ANIMALS

Natureworld, at Bicheno, is a fabulous one-stop shop to get up close with Australian native animals, including wombats, quolls, bandicoots, kangaroos and wallabies. 

The stars of the show, however, are Tasmania's own fiery indigenous creatures: Tasmanian Devils.


Natureworld is surrounded by lagoons, forests and ocean - and many of the animals have been rescued and are being returned back to full health. 

Three times a day, a handler comes out to explain to visitors the history of the Tassie Devil - and its prodigious carnivorous appetite. 

ACCOMMODATION

Saffire is the standout luxury resort on the coast, an all-inclusive resort in a spectacular setting. Packages include breakfast, lunch and dinner including selected beverages, complimentary mini bar and exclusive local experiences.

The new Coastal Pavilions at Freycinet Lodge (recently purchased by NRMA) are just a little bit fabulous – and more affordable. Freycinet Lodge (below) is an eco-lodge with a superb waterfront setting.

St Helens Waterfront Holiday Park is ideal for families, while Piermont Retreat, south of Swansea is a long-time favourite.

For those that prefer to camp, there are terrific locations at Freycinet National Park, Maria Island and the Bay of Fires.

FAST FACTS

# Take a ferry from Triabunna to the Maria Island National Park, which is teeming with wildlife and has a fascinating history. You will need to walk everywhere as no cars are allowed – choose from easy self-guided walks to challenging ascents of Mount Maria or Bishop and Clerk.

# Anyone driving to or from Hobart to the East Coast will want to stop at The Fish Van at Triabunna, which sells fresh fish from the local fleet cooked to order.

# This is an edited version of a story that first appeared on TrulyAus, which features stories on all states and territories of Australia. See www.trulyaus.com/   

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