The east coast of Tasmania is all about the beaches. The sand is a brilliant white and the water a magnificent crystal-clear blue that you usually see on travel brochures and postcards. The big grey rocks with splashes of bright orange act as the beach’s bookends, while the native bushland that often lines the beach’s edge remains virtually untouched.
The beaches are not tropical. Instead they are rugged, wild and sometimes isolated. And despite the Great Eastern Drive from Orford in the south to St Helens in the north being famous the world over for its spectacular coastal views, you’ll often have the beach to yourself if you choose to stop for a swim or a walk.
Anywhere else on Earth, and a coastline like this would be a magnet for hotel chains, global tourist operators and real estate developers. But for some reason Tasmania’s east coast remains a quiet, charming and relatively undiscovered corner of the world lined with quaint little towns and spectacular national parks.
We spent five days exploring the east coast from our rental home in Four Mile Creek, a town consistently of exactly four streets, a children’s playground and a cricket ground. Our balcony overlooked the incredible beach, and for our entire stay, we could count on one hand the number of people we saw each day taking advantage of it. It should have been teeming with tourists, but instead it was just us and one or two locals. Madness if you ask me.
Here is a brief recount of the beaches we visited during our stay on Tasmania’s magical east coast.
Wineglass Bay is without a doubt the jewel in Tasmania’s stunning eastern coastline. It regularly features in ‘world’s best beaches’ lists, and it’s easy to see why. It’s located within the Freycinet National Park, so to gain access you’ll need to buy a park pass. Just stop at the tourist centre on the way into Coles Bay. It costs $24 per car, and this covers up to eight people in the vehicle across a number of the region’s national parks. Extraordinary value.
Once you park your car at the Wineglass Bay car park, it’s a 2-2.5 hour round trip walk to Wineglass Bay. You’ll climb up and over The Hazards, the pink-hued granite mountains that form a formidable wall between the township of Coles Bay and Wineglass Bay. At the top of the walk there is the Wineglass Bay lookout where you will enjoy some of the most breathtaking views you’ll ever experience.
Along the hike you’ll often see rather tame and almost domesticated wallabies. They are more than happy to join the throngs as they often get an easy feed, and in exchange the tourists get to pat a native Australian animal. You’re advised by park rangers not to feed the animals as it can turn them into a pest for the locals, but that doesn’t stop the tourists.
Once you’re on the beach you can sit down and relax, take a swim, eat some food and soak up the experience. On a previous trip, before Jack was born, Sarah and I literally had the entire beach to ourselves. It’s hard to imagine any beach in the world as spectacular as this being so free of people. On this occasion, there were probably 30 people there, still an incredibly low number given it was summer in the week before Christmas!
From here you have a few options. There are walks that continue through Wineglass Bay and away from Coles Bay, but these will require lots of planning and potential stopovers at one or more of the campsites. Or you can loop back around through Hazards Beach on your way back to the car park, another beautiful beach that will add around 1.5-2 hours to your trip.
A word of warning, the walk over The Hazards is not easy. You can make it regardless of your fitness levels, but if you are unfit, you’ll need to take a few breaks on the way up and down each way. But there are several spots to have a rest and take a photo, so don’t miss out because you think it might be too hard, it’s well worth the effort.
Binalong Bay and The Gardens
Drive through St Helens, the east coast’s unofficial capital with a population of around 1,500, and head out to Binalong Bay. This tiny town is located at the southern end of the incredible Bay of Fires, a chain of beaches that runs from Binalong Bay north to Eddystone Point, that has been named by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s hottest travel destinations.
Once again, you’ll come across clean white sand, crystal clear blue water and those unmistakable orange tinged boulders. And once again there’s every chance you’ll be sharing the beach with just a handful of people.
Just out of town, as you head back towards St Helens, there is a turnoff for The Gardens. About 10 minutes down the road you’ll come across a stretch of 10-15 houses that hug the coastline. Once through the town, we stumbled across a dirt road called Honeymoon Point Road. We parked at the end, wandered through a small opening in the bush and 20 metres later found ourselves in a small but beautifully enclosed beach about 50 metres wide that could easily be mistaken for the private beach of the four houses that back onto it. It’s these kinds of incredible encounters that make Tasmania’s east coast such a magical place for aimless wandering and discovery.
We carried on driving to the end of Gardens Road, parked the car and followed the short-looped walk around the edge of the rocky point. You can probably guess what we discovered? That’s right, more brilliant white sand, turquoise waters and huge orange boulders. But the truth is no matter how many times you see beaches like these, it never gets old or tired.
Four Mile Creek
It would be remiss of me not to include our little holiday beach. Four Mile Creek feels to me like the town Tasmania (and the rest of the world) forgot. Or maybe they don’t even really know about it! It’s a tiny little town with a truly beautiful beach. And while it displays all of the traits of the other beaches, i.e. white sand, blue water, orange boulders at each end, we’ve never seen any more than three people on the beach at any one time along the one kilometre stretch of sand.
The beaches mentioned in this article are just a handful of the amazing beaches along the Great Eastern Drive route. There are so many beaches that we didn’t get to but have incredible reputations for much the same reasons as the others. These include:
- Orford – Raspins, Shelley and Spring Beaches
- Swansea – Nine Mile Beach
- Freycinet Peninsula – Richardson’s Beach, Muir’s Beach and Friendly Beaches (and of course Wineglass Bay)
- Bicheno – Waubs Bay and Redbill Beaches
- Scamander – Steels Beach
If you’re looking for a relaxing and quiet summer holiday spot where you can enjoy world-class beaches and small coastal towns, then it’s hard to go past the east coast of Tasmania. And the best bit is, once you’ve had your fix of incredible beaches, it’s only a few hours to stunning Hobart, the spectacular Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park district, or Strahan and the rugged and untamed west coast.
You truly can’t go wrong when you visit Tasmania, and it should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.