Tasmania is one of my favourite places to visit. I have many more plans to visit more regularly for years to come. At only a 2.5 hour direct flight from Brisbane to Hobart, it is really all too easy to get over to this tiny island state to discover why people keep on coming back.
The first thing I think of with Tasmania is just how varied it is particularly being so small. Drive for just a couple of hours and you can go from crystal clear beaches to rugged mountains and lakes that give off epic Jurassic Park vibes. From sunny beaches to snowy mountains there is literally a landscape to suit everyone and you will never be far away from your next adventure.
On my first visit, one of the things that stayed with me was the experience along the east coast. With aqua blue and crystal clear water on one side and green farmland abundant with sheep and vineyards on the other, it was a place that I knew I would need to come back and explore deeper.
The Tasman Highway takes you from Hobart all the way up the east coast, and the stretch between Orford and St Helens is a popular tourist trail called the Great Eastern Drive. Along this road you will find many towns to explore, beautiful national parks, and an abundance of local food and wine. Come hungry and with walking shoes, there is a lot to explore!
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Orford, Triabunna & Maria Island
The first stop along the Great Eastern Drive is around Orford. About an hours drive from Hobart this is a great place to stop and stretch your legs. Both times we have driven along this road we have just had to pull over at Raspins Beach. This is the first time you will lay eyes on the incredible water of the Tasman sea and it deserves your full attention.
Choose to stay in Orford, or continue 10 km down the road to Triabunna where the ferry to Maria Island departs. Pull into the Colonial Tea House for a delicious cup of coffee and one of their homemade pies and be charmed by the service and the old fashioned decor.
Rain, hail or shine, a visit to Maria Island is a must (but hope for shine). Get up close to some iconic Australian wildlife and admire the beauty of an island untouched by people.
To read more about visiting Maria Island, check out this blog post.
Coles Bay & Freycinet National Park
From Triabunna, drive about an hour and a half to reach Coles Bay. Make a stop in Swansea for some coffee along the water’s edge but don’t fill up just yet. Stop along the way at one of the many cellar doors such as Spring Vale to taste their famous Pinot Noir, or Devils Corner which also has a viewing platform to look out over oyster bay and The Hazards mountain range, before taking the turn off the highway towards Coles Bay.
Stop in at the Freycinet Marine Farm for some of the freshest oysters in Tasmania. Sample some of the other seafood specialties like scallops, mussels and abalone for the more adventurous. All locally farmed and fresh as can be. Wash it all down with a glass of local wine, because hey, you are on holidays.
Plan to stay in Coles Bay as there is a incredible national park waiting to be discovered. If you only choose to do one thing, make sure it is the walk to the Wineglass Bay lookout to get incredible views (like the photo below). This is one of the most beautiful views on the east coast so well worth the steep uphill walk. If you are feeling up to it, continue down the path to end up on the perfectly white sand and find out for yourself why this is considered one of the top 10 beaches in the world.
To read more about exploring Coles Bay, check out this blog post.
A stone’s throw away from Coles Bay is the quaint seaside town of Bicheno. Famous for being a place to encounter penguins, it also boast some delicious seafood and is well worth the stop.
Stay the night to join one of the penguin tours which depart at dusk, or brave the cold and try and find them for yourself.
The Sealife Centre Restaurant is a great place to wind down and enjoy some of the local produce while looking out over the ocean. Sample their local beer of the month to get a taste of some of Tasmania’s craft brew scene or simply sample some more of your favourite local wines. Check out the specials board for a taste of what is fresh and seasonal.
For something more low key, head down to the Gulch for fish and chips and enjoy walking over the rocks and watching the waves crashing at the Bicheno blowhole.
Continue your drive north for an hour from Bicheno to St Helens. St Helens might just be my favourite town in Tasmania. It’s a place that kind of feels like home..
Plan to stay around 3-4 days as there is so much to explore around the area and you don’t want to feel rushed. From St Helens you can choose a number of activities and day trips for every type of person.
For the keen fisherman, it is the perfect place to try and catch a few. If you are serious about it look into a charter where an expert guide will show you the best spots and ensure you don’t come home disappointed.
Take a day trip out to Pyengana, a 30 minute drive from St Helens, past beautiful farmland, arriving at The Pyengana Dairy Company to taste traditional cheeses among beautiful green dairy pastures. Head down the road for lunch at the Pub in the Paddock to say hello to a beer drinking pig.
Finish of your day trip with a stop at St Columba Falls. A short descent into the dense rainforest will have you come face to face with powerful waterfall cascading down a 90 metre drop.
To read more about things to do around St Helens, check out this blog post.
Binalong Bay & The Gardens
Located just 20 minutes drive from St Helens you will arrive in Binalong Bay, the gateway to the Bay of Fires.
Set foot on the spectacular white sandy beach and marvel at the pristine aqua coloured water. Explore the area, climbing over giant rocks covered in the iconic orange lichen or take a boat tour to get a unique perspective of the coast.
Take your time, sit down and relax. It is the perfect spot to take a picnic and just watch the horizon for any passing whales and breath in the crisp ocean air.
Still keen for more bay of fires? Take the turn to The Gardens along the road between Binalong Bay and St Helens. When the road narrows and you feel as though you are in the middle of nowhere, you are close.
When the road ends, you will be in the car park of The Gardens viewing area. Much quieter than Binalong Bay it gives you another perspective of this beautiful part of the world.
To read more about visiting Binalong Bay & The Bay of Fires, check out this blog post.
I have visited in both March and November and I would have to say my preference was in November. Both times were outside of the peak summer time and gave a mix of rainy days and beautiful sunshine, with cool days and some cold nights. What I loved about November though was that it was springtime. Beautiful wildflowers were out along the road, and calves and lambs were out in force in all the paddocks we passed. March was a little dryer having come off a harsh and hot summer.
But really, depending on what you want to do and if you are partial to the colder or the warmer months, anytime will still allow you experience the beauty of the area.
The east coast of Tasmania really is full of quaint little towns, epic coastal landscapes and an array of fresh local produce, making it the perfect road trip. I hope this post gives you a little perspective of what it is like to visit, but I think the best part of a road trip is exploring places on your own and taking your time to get to know a place.
This is when we have some of our best experiences.
So what are you waiting for?