Tasmania’s postcard-perfect East Coast draws visitors from all over the world. The long stretches of sparkling white sand, azure waters, and forested mountains make for truly spectacular scenery, with a new favourite view to be found around every corner.
But the East Coast is not a region you should rush through, chasing the next photo opportunity. Instead, take your time to explore the lesser-known beaches, savour the fresh seasonal produce, and chat with friendly locals in the coastal communities that call this place home.
St Helens and the Bay of Fires
St Helens is the largest town on the East Coast, a lively fishing port that serves as the gateway to the Bay of Fires – an area once named the world’s hottest destination by international travel guide Lonely Planet. You’ll find plenty of casual eateries and shops to visit during the day, and several restaurants overlooking beautiful Georges Bay that are perfect for long, relaxing dinners in the evening. With fresh seafood so readily available, your tastebuds are in for a treat.
St Helens has recently turned into a mountain biking hub, with experienced riders tackling the Bay of Fires Trail, and a wider range of more accessible trails available at the Flagstaff Stacked Loops. The town is well located if you want to drive inland for waterfalls, walks, and a visit to Pyengana Dairy. Alternatively, head east towards Binalong Bay and The Gardens to enjoy those long quiet stretches of ocean beach and find your own mermaid pool for a dip.
The Surf Coast
Stretching all the way from St Helen’s Point in the north to Bicheno in the south, the main towns along the surf coast are Bicheno and Scamander. Both have a relaxed vibe, shops to hire or buy surf gear, and wide sandy beaches.
Bicheno in particular offers a great range of activities and attractions even for visitors who don’t want to hit the surf. There are penguin tours, a wildlife park, a glass bottomed boat tour, and plenty of cafes and fresh seafood to satisfy hungry tummies. Scamander is a popular fishing destination, with many good angling spots along the banks of the river.
A pretty town with a rich colonial history, Swansea boasts some of the best views on the East Coast, sweeping right across Great Oyster Bay to the granite peaks of the Hazard Mountains. There’s a small but charming museum that shares the town’s history and artefacts, several popular beaches, and a selection of small cafes and galleries.
Swansea makes a great base if you’re keen to visit some of the nearby wineries, cellar doors and farm gates. Kate’s Berry Farm, just south of the town, is especially popular. Fresh berries are available during picking season (November to May), and the Just Desserts Cafe serves waffles, scones and ice cream – best enjoyed sitting outside in the sunshine on the wisteria covered deck.
Coles Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula
Coles Bay is the bustling holiday town at the base of the Hazard Mountains. It’s where you’ll find thevisitor centre for Freycinet National Park – a 10,000-hectare area of spectacular coastal scenery that you can explore on foot, on the water by kayak or cruise, or even from the air on a scenic flight. This is a great spot for wildlife lovers, with seals, dolphins and whales a regular sight in the water, pademelons and wallabies on land, and sea eagles soaring in the sky above.
Hike to the iconic Wineglass Bay lookout – it can be busy in peak season, but quieter at other times of year – or enjoy one of the many other beaches in the area. Cape Tourville lighthouse is an easy walk that brings the reward of panoramic ocean views. If you want to enjoy all the amenities of Coles Bay in the day, but prefer the tranquillity of bush surroundings at night, Freycinet Resort is the perfect choice, just an easy fifteen-minute drive away.
Triabunna and Orford
Tucked within sheltered Spring Bay, Triabunna is a small but busy fishing town. Head to the local marina for fresh scallops, mussels and abalone. If you’re an experienced diver, the waters off Triabunna offer some of the best dive sites in Tasmania, with kelp forests, coral reefs, and abundant marine life.
Just south of Triabunna, at the mouth of the Prosser River, lies the township of Orford. A traditional holiday destination for Tasmanian families, Orford is all about beaches and bushwalks. The most popular beaches include Raspins, Shelleys and Spring Beach, with all three linked by a pleasant coastal walk.
One of Tasmania’s most special national parks, Maria Island is accessed by ferry from Triabunna. The island is car-free, so you can explore on foot, bring across your own bike, or hire a bike once you get there. Advance bookings are recommended if you’re planning to hire.
There’s something for everyone on this small island: it’s a haven for wildlife, so you can expect to see wombats, pademelons and even – if you’re lucky – Tasmanian devils. There’s also convict history, plenty of opportunities for birdwatching and hiking, and some spectacular geological features. The ancient creatures at Fossil Cliffs and the beautiful colours at The Painted Cliffs are both well worth the walk.
If you want to extend your stay on the island beyond a day, free camping and basic bunkhouse accommodation are both available.
– Ruth Dawkins ( commissioned by Freycinet Resort)