St Helens Point
The St Helens Point Conservation Area is an extensive area of low sand dunes and ocean beach, a short drive from the town of St Helens. St Helens Point is popular for surfing, fishing, beach walks, boating, bird-watching and camping.
Extensive sand dunes are a feature of the St Helens Point Conservation Area (1066 ha). In the past, the introduced marram grass Ammophila arenaria has been used to help stabilise eroding dunes. Where it occurs, the native grass Spinifex hirsutus also plays an important role. Its sand-binding ability prevents sand from moving inland and allows more complex plant communities to develop. The sand dunes can be damaged by both foot and vehicular traffic. This can lead to 'blowouts' and damage to the sensitive beach environment. For this reason vehicular use is restricted to an area set aside at Peron Dunes. Toilets with wheelchair access are available.
The signposted road to the southern section of St Helens Point turns off the A3 just 6 km just south of St Helens. To access the northern section drive south of St Helens to Parkside, turn left and continue on for 11 km to St Helens Point.
St Helens Point Road runs along the rear of a series of protected usually calm pockets of sand spread along the shore between Blanche Point beach and the boat ramp at Burns Bay. The unpatrolled beach at Blanche Point is a 50 m long strip of high tide sand bordered and fronted by granite rocks and boulders. The beach at Burns Bay occupies a 100 m long curving embayment, with small rocky points to either end, and a few rocks off the beach.
Dora Point beach is located at the western side of the entrance to Georges Bay within Humbug Point Nature Recreation Area.. Strong tidal currents flow through the entrance and maintain a deep tidal channel and extensive ebb tidal delta, which extends a few hundred metres seaward of the beach. The beach is 250 m long and faces east across the tidal shoals and deeper channel towards St Helens Point. It is is accessible by vehicle with the camping area located 500 m south of the beach just inside the bay.
Maurouard Beach (also known as Perons and Perrins Beach) commences on the southern side of the rocky point and curves to the southeast, then south in lee of St Helens Island for 8.5 km to the beginning of a 2 km long section of rocky shore. The beach is well exposed to southerly waves, which average about 1.5 m and maintain a well developed 100 m wide transverse to rhythmic bar and beach system, with at times up to 30 rips forming along the beach, including a permanent rip against the southern rocks. The bars and rips can produce some good breaks the length of the beach.
The entire beach is backed by the Peron Dunes, a 500 m wide zone of transgressive dunes, which become more destablised to the north and reach 20 m in height. The dunes are vegetated with marram grass resulting in peaky vegetated dune topography, an artifact of the exotic grass. The St Helens Point Road backs the northern half of the dunes, with beach access on foot across the dunes, together with a northern car park on the boundary point. A series of discontinuous wetlands backs the southern half of the dunes including Moriarty, Windmill and Jocks lagoons, none of which connect with the sea.
Beer Barrel Beach consists of two parts. The northern section is a 100 m exposed, southeast-facing, low gradient beach bordered by the rocky shore of the point to the north and a 50 m wide rocky point to the south. It receives waves averaging about 1.5 m which break across a 50-100 m wide rock-studded surf zone, with a permanent rip flowing out against the southern rocks. The main beach is 300 m long and includes a 50 m long pocket of sand at the western end. It extends from the dividing point to a 400 m wide 20 m high headland. It also has rocks in the inner surf zone with strong rips forming to each end. Both beaches are backed by a small grassy foredune then vegetated slopes rising to 40 m. There is a car park on the slopes behind the central headland with easy access to both beaches. There is surf amongst the rocks with best conditions during northerly winds. The point camping area is located 500 m north of the beach.
The Peron Dunes, are a major feature of the 1066 ha St Helens Point Conservation Area. To get there, from St Helens take the St Helens Point road and drive 13 km (about 15 minutes) to Peron Dunes. They are part of Saint Helens Point conservation area and are definitely worth a visit. A normal 2 wheel drive vehicle will get you to the edge of the dunes. Access to the dunes is difficult for 4WD vehicles because of steep loose sand at the entry point and deflation of tyres is necessary on the dunes due to the soft sand. Only licensed drivers with registered vehicles are permitted. Coastal camping is available at Humbug Point and Dianas Basin.
The sand dunes are named after French zoologist Francois Peron, who sailed to Australia in 1800 as part of the largest scientific expedition ever to leave Europe. Also on board the expedition, headed by Nicolas Baudin, were the artists Charles-Alexandre Lesueur and Nicolas-Martin Petit as well as astronomers, geographers, botanists, zoologists, mineralogists, gardeners and a pharmacist. Two young naval officers, Louis and Henri Freycinet were also on board, and the Peninsula, and now National Park, is named after them, although it was Faure and Bailly on their longboat voyage who made the discovery. The journals, exquisite artworks and maps of this expedition provide us with a unique window through which to view this area and its indigenous people pre-settlement.
Hundreds of French names were bequeathed to us by this expedition, many of which dot Tasmania's east coast, including Peron Dunes, which were named in February 1802 by the expedition.