With long white sandy beaches washed by crystal clear blue waters lined by the unmistakable granite rocks and cliffs stained pinky-orange by lichen, Tasmania’s east coast is understandably one of the most photographed stretches of coastline in Australia. The mild climate, even during winter months, and pristine secluded bays make for stunning holiday experiences by car, by foot, bicycle, kayak and boat. All five means of transport can easily be included in a tour of this delectable part of Tasmania. Wildlife is abundant both on land and in water, with seals and pods of dolphin year round, and from May to November, whales now a daily sight just off the shore as they migrate north.
Visitors tend to head straight for the iconic Freycinet Peninsula and Coles Bay which abounds with lovely walking tracks such as the classic Wineglass Bay walk, either to the Lookout which gives spectacular vistas down to the perfect arc of white sand, or down to the beach itself, and for those looking for more than a ramble, the slightly longer Hazards Circuit around the granite mountains.
Don't miss the opportunity of exploring Freycinet by boat - Wineglass Bay Cruises is a fantastic four hour trip with Irene and Duncan, accompanied by Rastas their intrepid dog, often dolphins, albatross and sea eagles, and a lovely ploughmans lunch while at anchor.
From November to May, the Freycinet Peninsula itself can be explored much more comprehensively and privately via the delightful Freycinet Experience three night guided walk which is based out of the Friendly Beaches or ‘Invisible’ Lodge, hidden in bush off the magnificent Friendly Beaches. Arguably this is the only way to truly get under the skin of this lovely part of Tasmania although those with less time and money to spend will also value the insider knowledge of Alan and Margaret Morgan at Sheoaks-on-Freyinet, a true B&B that also has wondeful home cooking in the evenings! For a really wonderful nature retreat, the luxury cabins on Mt Paul - Freycinet Eco Retreats - are unbeatable and quite unknown to most visitors.
To miss out on the coastline that stretches from Hobart to Freycinet, however, is a shame, and visitors are wise to take their time exploring the olive groves, wineries and bays that line the glittering drive north from Hobart, taking in the fishing town of Orford, pretty Spring Beach and the delightful historic town of Swansea with views across to Maria Island, Tasmania’s ‘Noah’s Ark’ for endangered wildlife including Tasmanian devils, and all 12 endemic birds. This is also the site of a World Heritage listed penal settlement, Darlington, and another of the Great Walks of Tasmania, the three night marsupial-rich Maria Island Walk, which combines two nights in beach camps and a third night in Bernacchi House. The little homestead is named after Diego Bernacchi, an Italian Count, who, beguiled by the beauty of the island which rises majestically from the sea with two mountains, cloud forests and white beaches, attempted to create the Australian Riviera in the early 20th Century and after a brief period of boom, busted spectacularly. The island was left to nature and wildlife until the Maria Island Walk gave a handful of visitors at a time the chance to explore it by foot. It is also possible to visit the island by day, and even to camp in the old penitentiary but other than that no further accommodation is available.
The town of Swansea, once a whaling and farming settlement, has some beautifully preserved colonial architecture and is as lovely a place to stay as the Freycinet Peninsula with the added advantage of being just slightly less in demand and an easy drive from the Freycinet National Park that attracts most of Tasmania’s visitors at some point during their stay. It has a couple of excellent restaurants and the must-visit Kate’s Berry Farm which does what Tasmania always does best, and turns a relatively simple concept of a fruit farm into an experience in a league of its own! Having acquired the taste for Tasmania’s gourmet delicacies, visitors to this part of the state will revel in the excellent wineries – Springvale and Freycinet being just two – and the Freycinet Oyster Marine Farm on the Peninsula where it is possible to don waders and enjoy the whole nine yards as well as some of the freshest oysters on earth. The Freycinet Peninsula is also home to Australia’s newest luxury lodge, Saffire, which opened to much acclaim in 2011.
Heading north you will come to the small fishing and diving town of Bicheno which can equally be used as a base from which to explore Freycinet and the surrounding beaches and fairy penguin colonies, and just a couple of miles away, the Douglas-Apsley National Park which has lovely walking and even some fairly challenging tracks for those intent on some serious hiking. As with all Tasmania’s national parks and walking, care must be taken when venturing too far off the beaten track.
The far north east of Tasmania became a surprise celebrity in 2009 when Lonely Planet declared the Bay of Fires to be the ‘hottest place on the planet’. In reality the Bay of Fires three night, four day walk and Bay of Fires Lodge (for walkers only) had opened some ten years previously and had helped a few hundred people a year to discover the stupendously beautiful and remote beaches for themselves (or more accurately with the help of excellent guides). However other than the Bay of Fires Lodge which is only open to walkers in spring through to autumn, accommodation in and around the Mount William National Park and the Blue Tier is very difficult to come by. Four Mile Creek is a lovely spot midway beween Bicheno and St Helens and to spend a few days at the lovely little B&B here of the same name is a delightfully easy way to while away a few days in paradise.