St Helens, Tasmania
Situated on Georges Bay, St Helens is the largest town on the north-east coast of Tasmania. A popular resort for fishing, swimming and other aquatic activities, its position makes St Helens a good base from which to explore the whole north-east corner of Tasmania. The town is famous for its crayfish, scallops, abalone and flounder. The Scamander River is noted for its bream.
St Helens' economy is dependent on fishing, timber and tourism. And, when it comes to tourism, the town prides itself in its warmth and sunniness - the result of a microclimate produced by surrounding hills and warm ocean currents. Consequently St Helens is warmer than Melbourne in winter and enjoys an average of 22ºC in February. Such is the popularity of the area that it is estimated the population increases tenfold in summer.
Events: St Helens Game Fishing Classic is held every March.
Lookouts: St Helens Point is an elevated headland from which magnificent views of the coast can be obtained.
Where Is it?: St Helens is 256 km north east of Hobart via Midland, Esky and Tasman Highways, and 160 km east of Launceston via Tasman Highway (via Scottsdale) or Eask and Midland Highways (via Conara).
Visitor Centre: 61 Cecilia St. St Helens. Ph (03) 6376 1999
Explore the history of the region
Why not frame your visit to the St Helens and Break O'Day area with some historical and cultural context.
The St Helens History Room provides a snapshot into the history of the area from the mountains to the sea including Indigenous heritage, maritime history and the tales of our local pioneers including the Chinese Tin miners.
Georges Bay, on the shores of which St Helens stands, has 50 km of shoreline. The beaches around Georges Bay are ideal from swimming and surfing. The beaches on the southern side stretch from St Helens to St Helens Point.
By the 1830s Georges Bay was being used by whalers and sealers. Not surprisingly the settlement which grew up on the shore became known as Georges Bay and the local Aborigines became known as the Georges Bay tribe. Today, the bay is well used for recreational purposes. It is a very popular spot for boating and fishing, and there are plenty of sheltered coves and bays where families can swim and children play in its waters. The ocean beaches of St Helens Point are popular with surfers.
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.
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.
Humbug Point Nature Recreation Area extends for 5 km south of Binalong Bay to Humbug Point, at the head of Georges Bay. It incorporates 5km of rocky shoreline and several kilometres of the cal;m shoreline of Georges Bay. There is vehicle access to Skeleton Bay, Skeleton Rock, Grants Point and Little Elephant in the north and Dora Point in the south at the entrance to the bay. Camping areas are located at Grants and Dora Points.
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.
Brief History of St Helens
The first European to explore the St Helens area was Captain Tobias Furneaux who sailed up the coast in 1773. He named the southern point of Georges Bay, St Helens Point. By the 1830s Georges Bay was being used by whalers and sealers. Not surprisingly the settlement which grew up on the shore became known as Georges Bay and the local Aborigines became known as the Georges Bay tribe.
The first official land grant was provided in 1830 and in 1835 the small village was renamed St Helens. It would have continued to be an inconsequential port had not tin been discovered at Blue Tier in 1874. Suddenly the port, and the routes to the tin mines, were awash with mines. Over 1000 Chinese moved through the port. From 1874 until the turn of the century the tin mines prospered. When the mines closed the miners moved to the coast and many of them settled in St Helens. Slowly the port changed so that today it has a major fishing fleet which is supported by boat building, ships chandlery and other ancillary activities. In recent times tourism, driven by fishing and the town's mild climate, has become important.