It’s the stuff of car commercials – sweeping bends beside azure seas. No wonder it’s recently been named the Great Eastern Drive. It’s so great it took me seven hours from Hobart to the Bay of Fires – a destination Lonely Planet named the hottest on the planet in 2013. There were spikey bridges to capture and lookouts that left me standing, motionless, for longer than planned. Here are 20 reasons you should explore this coastline.
1. COAL VALLEY VINEYARDS
Start your trip with a little detour to Richmond. Along the Coal River Valley there’s Frogmore Creek Vineyard with its upstairs gallery, Coal River Farm for handcrafted cheese and chocolate supplies, Puddleduck with its fancy new space (fitting for the growing flock of Bubbleduck champagne lovers) and elegant Pooley’s up on the hill who just won Tassie's best Riesling after double golds at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. Wine lovers are spoilt for choice in these parts.
2. SPIKEY BRIDGE
Built by convict hands back in 1843, Spikey Bridge has prickled the intrigue of many. Rumour has it the field stones were placed upright to save cattle from toppling over the bridge’s edge. Who knows – what we do know is Olde Spikey Bridge Peanut Butter is available at Salamanca Market and its delicious!
3. GULCH FISH & CHIPS
At Bicheno drop into The Gulch for the tastiest fish and chips – best enjoyed at Bicheno blow hole further along the road. Park yourself at a picnic table on the rocks for a front row view at nature’s cinema.
4. BICHENO POST OFFICE
Where else in the country can you pop a letter in the post and pick up a pair of shoes made from seaweed? The Bicheno Post Art and Design is brimming with handmade Tasmanian wares, from Duncan Meerding’s famous cracked log lamps to Huon pine picnic planks perfect for tucking under your arm with local cheeses and heading straight to the waterhole at Douglas Apsley National Park. And stay tuned for exciting changes for the post office...
5. FRIENDLY BEACHES
Friendly Beaches is a local favourite. Long sweeping beaches that are usually all yours to mark with fresh foot prints. My welcome was particularly friendly and I trust the wallaby welcome party is not unusual.
6. SEA KAYAKING
Ever thought to experience Freycinet National Park from the seat of a kayak? With Freycinet Adventures, the Ultimate Weekend is the best two days 295 dollars can buy. Departing from Coles Bay and heading south, this is the ultimate way to explore the sparkling waters and pink granite peaks of Freycinet.
7. WINEGLASS BAY CRUISES
If you’re after a touch of luxury, head for the Sky Lounge of Wineglass Bay Cruises. Over four hours prepare for sea caves, hidden coves, impromptu dolphin appearances and a hearty Ploughman’s lunch. While you’re there give Irene and Duncan a hug – no doubt they miss their dolphin-spotting dog Rastus.
8. WINEGLASS BAY ON FOOT
You simply can’t visit Tasmania’s east coast and not see Wineglass Bay. There’s good reason it’s been named among the world’s best beaches many times over. If you have time, go beyond the lookout. Walk down and get that squeaky white sand between your toes or climb Mount Amos. It’s worth the hike.
9. WINEGLASS BAY SAIL WALK
On the Wineglass Bay Sail Walk we were taken to an incredible wetlands that few people visit. Just along from the Wineglass Bay Beach entrance you’ll find it –head in the direction of the frog chorus. These guys also serve the best beach dinner in the whole wide world.
10. KISS A FISH COOKERY SCHOOL
Kissed a fish recently? At Roz MacAllen’s private home in Binalong Bay you can do just that, if you so wish. The Kiss A Fish Cookery School offers day and evening classes that vary depending on the latest catch. You might visit Lease 65 Oyster Farm, forage for sea asparagus, peel open a sea urchin or prepare a whole Salmon in the wood-fired oven. Most times the menu is sourced almost a line-cast beyond the deck.
11. DEVIL’S CORNER
Something is happening at Devil’s Corner. Something big and something tall. Just beyond the Great Oyster Bay lookout you’ll notice what will soon become a viewing platform and all kinds of other wonderful. Stay tuned as we shared more about this vineyard’s new happenings.
12. COSY CORNER
Cosy Corner and the Bay of Fires. There are no words to describe it – just go and if you have the time – take a tent with you. Trust me, you won’t want to leave. If you’ve got a spare four days, explore with Bay of Fires Lodge Walk or hop on the newly launched, family-run Bay of Fires eco-cruise.
13. SPECIAL STAYS
If you’re looking for somewhere special to stay there’s plenty on offer. Take a look at the Storekeeper’s Boutique Accommodation in Buckland (Twamley Farm nearby is opening soon), or choose from Avalon Retreat, Malibu on the Beach, Thalia Haven , The Ocean Retreat, Freycinet Lodge, Bay of Fires Arthouse or gorgeous Saffire Freycinet. Alternately, those who like their east coast experience served with gourmet Spanish fare, head for 10,000 private acres at Brockley Estate.
14. MARIA ISLAND
Maria Island is a must visit. Whether you go for days (do it in style with The Maria Island Walk) or circumnavigate with East Coast Cruises and venture into its sea caves, this Noah’s Ark of sorts will reward with wombats, Cape Barren Geese, rich history and perhaps even Tassie devil sightings.
15. PENGUINS AND DEVILS
The penguins of Bicheno are particularly friendly. So friendly they might nip your toes. Come dusk is when some of the east coast’s best wildlife viewing takes place from Bicheno Penguin Tours to the Devils in the Dark experience at Natureworld.
16. BEER & WINE
From Ironhouse Brewery at White Sands Estate (complete with ocean-view swimming pool) to Priory Ridge at St Helens there’s plenty of reason to fill a glass along the Great Eastern Drive. Drop into eclectic Gala Estate, Devils Corner, Freycinet Vineyard, Milton Vineyard and Springvale Wines. If this sounds overwhelming just come for the Bicheno Food and Wine Festival (Nov 21, 2015).
17. EAST COAST DINING
Settle in for dinner at Mohr & Smith. Follow gnocchi and Pyengana meatballs up with a visit to Pyengana Dairy Company where they’ve been perfecting the art of cheese making for some four generations.
18. FLINDERS ISLAND
Don’t forget about Flinders Island – the place to go hunting for diamonds of the Killiecrankie kind. There’s a place there known as The Docks that if you find, you may never want to depart.
19. OYSTERS BY HELICOPTER
Want to see the east coast movie-star style? Arrive at the Freycinet Marine Farm by helicopter for Tassie wine, oysters, mussels and abalone before being whisked back to the capital of Hobart. Par Avion also can deliver you to the front door of Saffire Freycinet.
20. JUST STOP
Just Stop. Do exactly what the marketers tell you. Don’t hurry the east coast – take seven hours like I did. This is a coastline to be savoured and sipped slowly. Enjoy.
As usual there’s too much goodness to share- next on our list is Sail Freycinet, and there’s word of a hovercraft jetting from Swansea to Freycinet National Park, with a retired 747 captain at the helm.
Words and images: Alice Hansen (except Freycinet Adventures image)
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