The Great Eastern Drive up Tasmania’s undulating east coast is 176 km of pure bliss. Around every gentle bend lies another set of jaw-dropping scenery. The road itself takes you from Orford in south up to St Helens in the north, and it’s the perfect size and shape for simply cruising along at your own speed in any transportation that you see fit, be it a car, Kombi van, motorcycle, bike, or even a unicycle – if you’ve got the skills!
If you’re coming from the interstate, then you can easily hop aboard the Spirit of Tasmania ferry and get your transportation of choice across that way, or, if you prefer flying, then there are many rental options once you arrive.
How Long Does It Take? How long is a piece of string? Not helpful, right? Okay, well you could smash it out in a weekend if you wanted to, or take a more leisurely pace – like a week perhaps. But, if you’re in a particularly ambling mood and want to make sure that you take in all the glories of the road ahead, then that wise-cracking string answer becomes a little more relevant.
What Do You Need to Bring? A camera. That’s about as thorough a list as one can make before knowing what kind of trip you’re looking for. If it’s luxury accommodation, wine touring and world-class food, then the camera and a few sets of pants should do the trick. If it’s hiking, biking, and camping, then there’s no real limit to what you might want to take.
From a food perspective, The Great Eastern Drive is practically bursting with incredible, fresh produce, local seafood and top-notch wine. If you’re in the mood to dine-in, then there are a plethora of vineyards with accompanying restaurants and wineries offering up free tastings, as well as a load of other independent cafés and restaurants along the way. If you just want snacks for the journey or a romantic picnic to take someone special, then you’ll find countless farm gates and provedores dotted along the road selling every manor of delicious local treats.
In terms of accommodation, you’ll find just as big of a range as you did with transportation. Camping sites, beach houses, eco-lodges, heritage homes, cheap motels, upscale resorts and luxury retreats. The choice is yours.
The Route Breakdown For simplicity’s sake, we’ve broken this trip down into four separate legs: Orford to Triabunna and Swansea, Swansea to Coles Bay, Freycinet National Park and Bicheno, Bicheno to Scamander and Scamander to St Helens, Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires. Here we go!
Orford to Triabunna and Swansea Orford is where you’ll get your first taste of the stunning coastline with the white sandy beaches of Raspins, Spring and Rheban. Spend a leisurely morning swimming in their crystalline waters before exploring the old convict road which travels along the Prosser River. If you’re into wine, then the Darlington Vineyard is a great pit stop to sample a few fine drops before taking the quick ten-minute drive up to Triabunna.
Triabunna is a lovely little town with historical architecture. Stop by The Fish Van for a lunch of crispy fish and chips and a seaside stroll along the Pelican’s Walk on the foreshore. Triabunna Marina is the departure point to get to the Maria Island National Park. Spend the day here (or longer if you wish) exploring the island and the World Heritage-listed Darlington Probation Station (where you’ll find jailhouse-style accommodations, if you prefer staying the evening). If you can muster the strength, then head out on the 4-day Maria Island Walk – which has been named as one of the Ten Great Walks of Australia.
On your way from Triabunna to Swansea (a 40-minute drive dotted with picturesque beaches such as Little Swanport and Mayfield Bay), make sure to stop off at Kate’s Berry Farm, where you can pick your own fruit (in season) to take with you on the road.
Swansea to Coles Bay, Freycinet National Park and Bicheno The road from Swansea to Bicheno is home to some of the very best vineyards in the region such as: Milton Vineyard, Gala Estate, Spring Vale Wines, Devil’s Corner and Freycinet Vineyard. Be sure to head into a few cellar doors to sample the wines offered.
The Freycinet Peninsula is a much-loved destination along the east coast, and it’s easily reached by a turnoff from the Tasman Highways onto Coles Bay Road, which will lead you into the National Park. If you feel like shucking down a few fresh oysters, then a stop at the Freycinet Marine Farm is a must. From the park, you can head out on yet another 4-day hike, also listed amongst the Ten Great Walks of Australia. Coles Bay is a vibrant little town offering up a bit something for everyone including: cruises, kayaking trips, fishing charters, guided walks, quad biking adventures and scenic flights.
Bicheno is a hub of activity for wildlife enthusiasts. Visit the Natureworld Wildlife Sanctuary to observe the infamous Tasmanian Devils up close, or spy on the shy and oh-so-wee fairy penguins.
Bicheno to Scamander Known as the Surf Coast – the beaches along the Bicheno to Scamander coastline are stacked with reliable breaks, offering up rolling waves and clear waters, pretty much year-round. You’ll find surf shops in most towns, where you can rent equipment and try to tap into some local knowledge on the best spots to hang ten.
The Douglas Apsley is located a little while inland and has some terrific long and short walks available, like the Apsley-Myrtle Rainforest walk (around 30 minutes) or the more challenging overnight hike to Heritage Falls.
Scamander is a laid back, vacation town with a relaxed vibe. Spend some time here walking along the bright white sands, surfing the town’s local breaks or exploring the local nature reserves and the Scamander River.
Scamander to St Helens, Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires Drive 20 minutes north from Scamander and you’ll find the deep sea fishing hub of St Helens. As such, you’ll also find a multitude of excellent fishmongers and seafood restaurants like the Blue Shed Restaurant or Salty Seas Seafood market.
Aside from dominating in everything piscatorial, St Helens is also the gateway to the world-famous Bay of Fires, which is home to the third of the Ten Great Walks of Tasmania to make it onto this road trip – The Bay of Fires Walk.
While you’re in the area, head inland until you reach the quintessentially Tasmanian Pub in the Paddock in the St Columba Falls Hotel. After sinking a few cold ones, take a side trip over to Ralphs Falls and St Columba Falls – Tasmania’s tallest waterfall.
Now that this amazing road trip’s highlighted in your BUCKiTDREAM diary, why not add the 5 Best Australian Road Trips or the Top Fifteen Australian BUCKiTLIST Items to your Australian bucket list. Happy traveling!