North East Tasmania Drive
Bay of Fires
A diversity of both inland and coastal scenery, quaint old mining towns and seaside resorts, dense rainforests, waterfalls and high mountain peaks contrasted by a rugged granite coastline awaits travellers on this interesting drive through the north eastern corner of Tasmania.
What You Will See: The drive begins with quiet bays and vistas across Bass Strait, all not far from the cool climate wineries of Pipers River. Travelling inland, we enter heavily forested country known for its raging waterfalls, the enormous 'White Knights' of the Evercreech and Ringarooma forests and numerous old tin mining towns. Panoramic views to the ocean are afforded from the tops of Mt William and Ben Lomond, Tasmania's second highest peak. The lichen-covered granite headlands and boulders of the Bay of Fires mark the far north-east corner the state. We pass Tasmania's best surfing beaches and take in the view across Great Oyster Bay to Coles Bay and Freycinet Peninsula before heading inland to a number of Georgian era colonial villages on Midland Highway.
Length: 440 km
Duration: Minimum: 2 days
The journey: The drive is a loop and can be commenced and completed from any of the following places, or driven in sections between any of those places: Launceston, Scottsdale, St Helens, St Marys, Bicheno, Campbell Town, Evandale. This description commences at Launceston in a clockwide direction.
Day One: Launceston to St Helens (203km)
From Launceston, travel north via East Tamar Highway. Near Mowbray take Lilydale Road to Lilydale (27km). Take Lalla Road to Pipers River (27km), passing through the Pipers River wine region. At Pipers River you can take a detour to George Town, Low Head and the mouth of the Tamar River (56km return) or continue driving east to Bridport (31km).
Bridport is a small seaside village on the north coast of Tasmania that is a centre for scallop, trout and lobster fishing industries. Bridport has become a very popular holiday location with the population increasing markedly in summer. It has beaches, swimming, sailing and other water sports. A ferry operates from Bridport to Flinders Island.
A detour at Bridport, following the road to Gladstone, takes in Ringarooma Bay, Cape Portland (north east tip of Tasmania and the western entrance to Mt William National Park. If you take the Gladstone detour, continue through Gladstone, joining Tasman Highway near Herrick.
If you do not take the Gladstone detour, drive from Bridport to Scottsdale (19km). Join Tasman Highway and travel east towards St Helens. A detour to Ringarooma (Ralphs Falls) and an impressive series of carved commemorative trees at Legerwood are worth visiting (16km return). Branxholm is a pretty spot for a drinks break.
Derby is a fascinating former tin mining town, which wanders along a hillside overlooking the Ringarooma River, retains the atmosphere of its pioneering history. A classified historic town, it lies about halfway between Launceston and the east coast and therefore has become something of a natural stopover point for travellers. The old Tine Mine Centre are picturesque Derby (32km) is very interesting.
St Columbia Falls
At Pyengana (39km), a visit to St Columbia Falls is a must. Pyengana is home to the Pub in the Paddock (licenced since 1880) and the famous Pyengana Cheese factory. Pyengana is not nor has ever been a town, but a community that grew around the home of pioneering settlers George and Margaret Cotton who settled here in 1875 and raised a family of nine children at a property they called St Columba. The name recalls Saint Columba 521-597), a Gaelic Irish missionary monk who propagated Christianity among the Picts.
Day Two: St Helens to Bicheno (80km)
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. A short journey north from St Helens along and coast brings you to Binalong Bay and Bay of Fires and Eddystone Point beyond.
The Gardens, Binalong Bay
Before leaving St Helens, be sure to take the short drive up the coast to Binalong Bay, which marks the bgeginning of the Bay of Fires. Here there are some great photo opportunities with long sweeping sandy beaches and orange lichen-covered granite outcrops. The road is sealed all the waqy to The Gardens (52km return to St Helens).
Travel south from St Helens passes the surf beachside communities of Beaumaris, Scamander and Falmouth. Take Esk Highway to St Marys. At St Marys you can take a detour, continuing on Esk Highway to the pretty village of Fingal. At Fingal (Hardings Falls), follow the road to Mathinna, an old gold mining town of the 1890s, which once boasted a population of 5,000 (Mathinna Falls).
Evercreech Forest near Fingal
On the road to Mathinna is the turn off to Evercreech Forest Reserve. The reserve has forest walking trails among the White Knights, Australia's biggest gum trees. From Mathinna, you can continue towards Upper Esk and beyond which leads to Ben Lomond Ski Village, National Park and summit. Return from Mathinna to St Marys via Fingal (62km return).
From St Marys, proceed towards the coast via Elephant Pass (lunch at Mt Elephant Pancakes at the top of the pass is almost obligatory, and the view from the lookout is superb). At Chain of Lagoons (17km), travel south to Bicheno (27km).
A charming fishing port on Tasmania's east coast, which in recent years has grown in popularity as a holiday resort. Just off the coast to the north of Bicheno is the Diamond Island Nature Reserve. It is possible to walk across from the mainland at low tide. The granite island is home to large numbers of fairy penguins. Marine life and seabirds abound in Governor Island Marine Reserve.
Bicheno to Campbell Town (80km)
From Bicheno, travel south along Tasman Highway. 11km south of Bicheno is the turn-off to Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park. The park is home to The Hazards mountain range and the most photographed location in Tasmania - Wineglass Bay. Continue on Tasman Highway to Cranbrook (16km) where there is a lookout with sweeping views over Great Oyster Bay towards The Hazards and Freycinet Peninsula.
Jutting out between The Tasman Sea and Great Oyster Bay on Tasmania's east coast, the Freycinet Peninsula is a rugged and beautiful stretch of land, noted for its white-sand beaches, secluded coves, panoramic vistas, rocky cliffs and excellent bushwalks through the Freycinet National Park.
Wineglass Bay lookout, Freycinet Peninsula
The park is famous for Wineglass Bay, named one of the world's top 10 beaches by Outside magazine, just one of its white sandy beaches and the pure clear turquoise waters that are perfect for sea kayaking, swimming and scuba diving. The Hazard Range offers climbing, abseiling and mountain walking, and the coastal heathlands have wonderful half and full day walks.
After passing through Cranbrook, take the turn off to Campbell Town. Short detours to Meetus Falls and Lost Falls are recommended. The Meetus Falls viewing platform provides fantastic views of this impressive waterfall as it plummets over the rock escarpment into the valley below. Although difficult to view all the falls the views over the steep forested gorge to Lost Falls is breath-taking. Proceed to Campbell Town (62km), a sheep farming town between Hobart and Launceston rich in history and colonial buildings.
Once one of the early coaching stops between Launceston and Hobart, Campbell Town is nestled on the banks of the Elizabeth River on the main road between Hobart and Launceston. The town has an impressive collection of colonial buildings from the Georgian era.
Campbell Town to Launceston: 67km.
Before returning to Launceston from Campbell Town, you might like to take the short drive to Ross (26km return). One of Tasmania's beautiful and fascinating 19th century colonial towns, Ross is renown for its stone bridge (1836). A small historic town that is the commercial centre for a district that produces high-quality merino wool, Ross has a very English country village feel, with its warm Ross sandstone reminiscent of the towns of the Cotswolds or North Oxfordshire, England.
From Campbell Town, return to Launceston via Midland Highway. Just off the highway is Evandale, a classified historic town, with many of its 19th century buildings remaining largely in original condition. It is famous for a popular Sunday market and as host to the annual World Penny Farthing bicycle Championships. Access to Ben Lomond Ski Village, National Park and summit from Evandale is via White Hills, Blessington and Upper Blessington (120km return from Evandale).