March 11, 2019 / By Laura Pattara
Tasmania’s East Coast is home to some of the island’s most prized highlights so if you’re visiting the Isle for the first time this is definitely an area you’ll want to explore. Both Launceston and Hobart make great springboards for your adventures: just jump in your car and off you go.
The East Coast stretches for 400km so plan to base yourself somewhere such as the charming seaside town of Bicheno which sits in the centre of this region. From Bicheno, there's the stunning Freycinet National Park and the historic site of Port Arthur to the south and the fiery red rocks of the Bay of Fires to the north.
Along the way, you’ll pass some of the best wineries and fresh produce growers in the state, so it’s wise to dedicate a whole day to each highlight to make the most of your journey and have ample time to stop where your whim dictates. Don’t worry, we’ll steer you in the right direction and suggest some of our favourite epicurean stops along the way!
One of the most popular holiday destinations for Tasmanians, Bicheno is a beautifully laid-back town, with the feel of a fishing village and the amenities of a bona fide tourist destination. Exceptional seafood features on every menu including crayfish, abalone and salmon. Take a glass-bottom boat ride to explore the underwater world of the nearby reef without getting your feet wet, enjoy a leisurely walk to the Bicheno Blowhole, soak up the stunning sunset at the Whaler’s Lookout or book an evening Penguin Tour to see hundreds of the little furry creatures return to their favourite rookery. Bicheno would have to be one of Tasmania’s most under-rated destinations and choosing it as a base to explore the East coast is a win-win, no matter which way you look at it.
Freycinet National Park
The most beautiful national park in Tasmania – subjectively speaking, of course – sits on a picturesque peninsula in the heart of the East Coast, merely 40 km south of Bicheno. Set on a dramatic granite mountain range and covered in luscious wilderness, Freycinet is best known for being the home of the breath-taking Wineglass Bay, a crescent-shaped bay framed by a verdant forest and glistening white sand.
If you choose to tackle the 4-5 hr Wineglass Bay hike to Hazards Beach and back up to Honeymoon Bay, the delightful turquoise waters will be one of many highlights you’ll see. The jagged coastline of Freycinet is sensational and the elevation – although arduous on the legs – offers some of the most unforgettable views of all.
Port Arthur Historic Site
Australia’s most famous convict-era settlement at Port Arthur is Tasmania’s historic treasure and one of the country’s protected UNESCO-listed sites. Set in stunning grounds and housed in sandstone buildings, which hide centuries of history behind every brick, Port Arthur is an incredibly beautiful place to visit. Its grand gardens and peaceful setting belie its painful past and a visit is a very emotional experience for many Australians who pay homage to the people who lost their lives here, both in the past and recent times.
An entry ticket will give you access to all the historic buildings and gardens for two consecutive days and includes a 40-minute guided introductory tour as well as a short boat ride (which kids love) to a nearby islet. Many visitors feel that one full-day visit is sufficient so you could visit on a day trip from Bicheno (200km) or perhaps on your way back south if you're travelling out of Hobart.
The Bay of Fires (above)
The terracotta-hued boulders of the famed Bay of Fires are undoubtedly some of the most photographed highlights in all of Tasmania. The setting is utterly surreal: a seemingly endless stretch of fiery red boulders on white sandy shores, lapped by a stunning turquoise surf. On a beautifully sunny day, with the backdrop of sapphire skies, it makes for a truly startling scene. What makes this place so special (and yes, it totally lives up to all the hype) is that the Bay of Fires is part of the Mt William National Park so instead of an overcrowded tourist town, what you’ll find here is simply a magnificent stretch of pristine coastal wilderness. Head to Cosy Corner for easy parking and fabulous photo shot opportunities or, if you’re feeling particularly energetic, bring a bottle of water and head north along the coastal trail, scrambling over boulders and relishing the peacefulness and stunning scenery along the way.
East Coast Wine Trail
Revered for being a foodie’s paradise, Tasmania is replete with boutique cheese factories and wineries - perfect if you’re a cunning gourmand equipped with your own wheels. The East Coast Wine Trail along the Great Eastern Drive is one of Tasmania’s best food and wine trails and links a dozen or so award-winning vineyards whose cellar doors are open to the public. Many of these offer the full Tassie gastronomic experience, combining tastings of their best drops with samples of locally-made cheeses, fruits, berries and seafood delights. Some of the most famous wineries and best varieties to try are the Pinot Noir at Darlington Vineyard (Orford) and Devils Corner (Apslawn), the Chardonnay at Freycinet Vineyard (Bicheno) and the delectable Sauvignon Blanc at Kelvedon Estate (Swansea). There are then at least a dozen more wineries within close proximity. Do check opening times, however, as many of the estates run tasting tours by appointment only.
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