A Guide to Covering Tasmania’s East Coast in a Day
Everything looks better under a clear sky, especially in the photographs of beaches that entice people to places they’ve never been before. As luck would have it though, the weather forecast on my first visit to Tasmania‘s east coast indicated I wasn’t going to get any sunshine.
Drab skies were the best I could hope for, and plenty of overdue rain was predicted for the rest of my time there. Great for the Australians who rely on rainwater, but not so great for me. At least having a rented vehicle made it possible to cover the distance while the weather stayed fair. At least I didn’t have to worry about sunburn.
A night of cards and alcohol with the Dutch roommates, plus a quick morning tour around the James Boag brewery meant that Guy (my passenger) and I only set off from Launceston at 11. Thankfully, the two-hour drive to our lunch stop in St Helens was easy; we took the southern Esk Highway instead of the mountainous road to the north. I definitely could have done without the latter while I was getting used to the car.
Compiling a playlist for the drive? I have five songs for the journey.
The Bay of Fires
The clouds kept up with us until we arrived in the Bay of Fires, so named for the fires that the Aboriginal Tasmanians used to set on the shore. This was one of the most pristine beaches I had been on; the fine sand seemed to stretch on forever to the north. The campers behind the bush were well obscured, but there wasn’t any stray litter to be seen either. Hours slipped by as we drove along the coast, hopping out of the car occasionally to look for a site where Guy could pitch a tent, checking out the lagoons and beaches at the same time.
The nature of the coast changed entirely as we headed south towards Binalong Bay,. It consisted of rocky shores painted in striking hues, just a stone’s throw from what must be some expensive homes. The orange bands on the tide’s edge are the work of a common orange lichen found throughout the state. Even against a grey backdrop, the tricolour scheme jumps right out at all but the most colour deficient people. It’s hard to resist searching for a chunk of rock that is entirely covered in orange, but we force ourselves to move on after failing to do so for another hour.
I dropped Guy off in St Helens and continued the journey south towards Bicheno, where I was to stay for the night. The cloud cover seemed to stop just a little after Scamander, but I didn’t pay much attention to the scenery. I barely noticed the scrubland, the coastline, the vineyards and a brewery in my peripheral vision.
Four Mile Creek
Four Mile Creek looked like a good place to take a rest stop though. I stepped out to take in the stunning beauty that I was racing past. The blue sky and water complement the orange rocks even better than grey clouds, and vice versa. Les Fauves would have marvelled at the sight.
It did not take long to reach Bicheno thereafter. Check-in at Bicheno Backpackers was complete by 5.30pm; it left me with just enough time to see Wineglass Bay, the star attraction in Freycinet National Park, before darkness fell. That would have multiplied the risk of running down the wildlife and I was eager to keep the car in one piece.
The National Park office had closed before I got there. Envelopes were left outside so people could still pay for the permit to enter the reserve. One could just drive on and park up, but there’s a fine for not displaying a valid permit in the car. I’ll leave it to you to decide if the risk and the savings are worthwhile.
The climb up The Hazards to the Wineglass Bay lookout point takes an arduous 25 minutes if one chooses to run. It’s great training for staircase races. But, my God, what a stunning view to I catch my breath to. Fading light, minuscule waves, a perfect arc of sand and not a building or boat in sight.
A glimpse of the setting sun was the only thing that could make this better. As it turned out, it was doing spectacular things on the western side of the peninsula.
That bit of clear weather towards the end was a pleasant bonus. With a hectic day of sightseeing completed, I could take it easy on the drive back to Bicheno. There was still one more surprise in store before the day was out – I spotted a suicidal wallaby by the roadside. And like all good roadkill wannabes, it had the deer-in-headlights look.
I cleared that return trip successfully, peckish but alive. The upshot of this jam-packed Tassie road trip was the luxury of sleeping in the next morning with the rain falling outside!