Tasmania is an island with more than its fair share of natural beauty. Apart from the mountains and lakes, mostly on the western side, you have the equally beautiful Tasmanian islands and coastline. Whatever the weather or season, there’s something to enjoy. We visited in early autumn and after a drier summer than usual, the rains arrived to follow us as we moved around. Fortunately, the roads aren’t that busy, so driving wasn’t difficult, but it did mean we weren’t able to stop off and enjoy the beautiful beaches as we’d wanted. However, there is still plenty to do, even if the weather isn’t ‘perfect’.
There are a number of beautiful and accessible islands around the coast of Tasmania, but we only managed to make it to Bruny Island, about an hour or so south of Hobart along the Channel Highway, past small towns with interesting names, like Snug. You’ll need to cross by Ferry and fares (for the two way trip) currently need to be paid in cash. Pedestrians travel for free, motorbikes for AU$6 and for four wheeled vehicles start from AU$33 (off peak) for a sedan car. The link above has fares and sailing times.
You need to be comfortable driving on unsealed roads to drive on Bruny. Most of the central spine road is sealed, but there a number of sections that are not, so be careful to follow road advice. Some hire car companies don’t allow their vehicles to to be taken to the island.
There were two stand-out spots we especially enjoyed (apart from the berries and ice cream, of course). First would be the penguin rookery at the northern end of the narrow neck joining North and South Bruny. The rookery is open to all visitors, but you won’t see any of the penguins until they come home in the evening to nest in the slope beside the staircase. This is not at all commercialised and you can also read the information boards at the top of the climb, with tributes to Truganini, last of the Tasmanian aboriginal people.
The second stand out was the lighthouse at the southern end of the island, which offers spectacular views over the nearby hills and bays. The walk up is worth the effort, on a well marked and maintained path. The lighthouse does offer (paid) tours with times noted on a sign at the base of the walk up.
Had we arrived back at Kettering earlier we would have ‘gone the long way home’ and driven across to the Huon Highway which runs along the Huon Valley, home to many of the best berry farms and apple orchards. This could be a day trip by itself. We did stop in Margate on our way home to have a good look at the restored steam train. Kids of all ages are welcome to climb aboard the engine and pretend to be the driver.
Along the Coastline
The rain set in just before we reached our overnight stay at Scamander, just south of St Helens, jumping off spot for Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires. Our plan to enjoy the sunrise from the long stretch of beach at Scamander was ended by the rain, but our host recommended the coffee at the Post Office nearby, along the Tasman Highway and we enjoyed that looking out over a very rough sea. While you wait for your coffee, check out the model railway that runs around the room, a bit below head height.
Our top picks along the East Coast would have to be:
Iron House Brewery
Less than half an hour down the road from Scamander, just past the turn off to the small town of Four Mile Creek, watch for the sign on your left pointing in to the Iron House Brewery. The brewery has a fantastic position overlooking the sea, which can be enjoyed from the verandah on a good day, or the glass walled restaurant on one that is cold or stormy. Producing top quality beers and whiskey, the brewery has glass walls around where it all happens with information about each stage of both processes. Tasting platters are available, but be aware that Australian drink/drive laws are strictly enforced, so if you’re not the designated driver, buy some supplies to take away for later. There is accommodation available, if you want to enjoy their beer and whiskey and not have to worry about driving.
Further down the East Coast along the Tasman Highway is the small seaside town of Bicheno, which we reached in good time for lunch. We enjoyed our picnic in the covered rotunda in the park round to the left of the main town area, overlooking the beach. The seagulls are very friendly – they want to share your lunch – and afterwards you can take a drive round the shoreline to the Bicheno blowhole, which is certainly made more impressive in rough weather.
The Tesselated rocks
South of Hobart, on your way to Port Arthur and the old convict settlement, stop off at the Lookout over Pirates’ Bay, on the left just before you reach Eagle Hawk Neck. Look out for the sign that mentions the ‘Tesselated Rocks’. The Lookout makes a very pleasant lunch stop, though we couldn’t find a toilet handy. There is a coffee truck parked by the side of the road if you’re in need of a pick-me-up. Continue on down the same road, which will take you downwards to sea level and watch for the sign on your left. The tesselated rocks are a natural geological formation which has been formed over a long period of time, the straight splits in the rock sediments look as if they have been man-made, they are so regular and straight, but read the information on the sign, which will explain the process.
Two things we didn’t manage to see were two of the iconic wildlife representatives – the Tasmanian Devil and the Quoll. You can see them in Nature Parks – there is one on Bruny Island, but sadly we saw many on the roads who’d lost the battle with a car. Drive carefully, especially in the early evening when they are likely to be out.
Neither were we able to enjoy all the National Parks along the coastline, it was just too rainy and the low clouds really meant that we had to just stop where we could and enjoy what was visible when the clouds lifted. Distances aren’t that far in Tasmania, so if you can find a base at the top or bottom of the Tasman Highway or travel in a Camper, you could easily fill a week with day trips to many of the beautiful spots we missed. P.S The rough seas do add a sense of drama to your photos though!