Launceston to Binalong Bay
From Launceston Airport, head for the hills. The Pyengana Dairy Company have some seriously happy cows. Here, they have a special back scratching contraption and pretty much milk themselves. The company has been making hard cheese here for more than a century – get your fill at the café.
Take a detour and stop by St Columba Falls. It’s one of the island’s highest multi-tiered waterfalls. Then head to Binalong Bay, take a deep breath, relax and let the view work its magic. Walk the beach, taking in that salty air before driving to Bay of Fires Bush Retreat.
Settle in to your own bell tent. This isn’t standard camping. There’s a generous queen-sized bed, a jar of marshmallows to roast on the fire and a heater just in case the evening turns chilly. Book in advance and Tom, a well-accomplished chef, will serve up a local feast. Come nightfall, it’s all about gathering round the fire pit and making new friends under the stars.
Another very special way to experience the Bay of Fires region is on the Aboriginal owned wukalina Walk. This four-day guided walk offers cultural insights into the larapuna/Bay of Fires landscape and accommodation in architecturally-designed domed huts.
Binalong Bay to Bicheno
Today, cruise azure waters on-board the Bay of Fires Eco Tours. Most likely your guide’s father built the boat. He’s worked hard to make this dream happen and the family business is thriving. They’ll take you right up to Eddystone Lighthouse and back. On the way keep a look out for dolphins, whales, and hardy surfers.
On the drive through to Bicheno, stop in at Swims East Coast Coffee, a recycled shipping container great for a casual lunch. Chat with the owner who likely has already been surfing that day. They welcome sandy feet!
Come nightfall in Bicheno there’s some mates to meet. Hop on the Bicheno Penguin Tour website website for the arrival time of your welcome party, then join the tour to learn all about them. Wear closed toe shoes because these friendly little ones like to nip – that’s how close you’ll get.
Plenty of places to stay tonight including Cod Rock Point (penguins in your front garden) and Bicheno Hideaway Chalets, hugged by bush on the Maclean Bay waterfront. Another option are the self-contained Apartments on Fraser.
Bicheno to Coles Bay
Start your day at The Farm Shed in Bicheno, packed full of wares and wine. Shop and taste your way through the shed then drop into the Lobster Shack at the Gulch and if you’re visiting in November, be tempted by a freshly caught Southern Rock Lobster. This is a pretty delish township and no more so than 16-18 November when the Bicheno Food and Wine Festival is in full swing.
Get your fill before taking the 30 minute drive to Coles Bay. If time allows, drop into the family owned Overtime Vineyard for stunning sea views to enjoy with your pinot noir. Spend the rest of today exploring outdoors. Walk to Wineglass Bay and if the uphill return climb doesn’t appeal, take the Aqua Taxi to Hazards Beach for a relatively flat sojourn into Wineglass. Another option is Sleepy Bay. Head down the steps for quaint, egg-like granite boulders that invite one to climb inside.
Feel like spoiling yourself? The Coastal Pavilions offer east coast luxury with stunning views from curved glass and an outdoor bath. Another favourite is Saffire-Freycinet, the ultimate indulgent experience including a state-of-the-art spa ready for your heated stone massage.
Hit the water today. Head out with Wineglass Bay Cruises on a four hour cruise to the famed bay complete with lunch. Or slip on a skirt (a kayak skirt that is) and join Freycinet Adventures to experience the peninsula just centimetres from the water. Dip a paddle in and listen to stories about French explorers. Follow this up with wood fired pizza on the deck at Geographe Restaurant + Espresso Bar.
Come afternoon, take off for Friendly Beaches. You’re on your own here – a car park, a beach that stretches for kilometres and probably a wallaby or two. Let that sea breeze cast its spell.
Come back to the main road for some amazing seafood at the Freycinet Marine Farm. Oysters fresh from the farm and the recent catch from fishermen – abalone, scallops, lobster – all the good stuff.
Coles Bay to Swansea
Plenty of vineyards dot the Great Eastern Drive en route to Swansea. At Devil’s Corner climb up the lookout and take a peek at where you came from. The view is just amazing! Back downstairs there’s some wonderful wines to enjoy.
Nearby at Craigie Knowe Vineyard, sip the latest wines including 2017 rosé and pinot gris. This is the oldest vineyard on the coast, started when a Hobart dentist planted vines back in 1979, much to the amusement of his farming neighbours. Today they win big awards. With a fire pit, bean bags and a rustic cellar door, park yourself to suit the season. At Milton Vineyard, let French chef Sophie transport you to Bordeaux where she trained (note, the restaurant is closed during winter). Try a lively rosé then drop into Spring Vale Vineyard, the cellar door is a former convict-built stable dating to 1842 and is also a fine place to sample Splendid Gin, created by east coast locals.
Tonight, it’s Piermont. Enjoy an evening saunter along the beach before dining in the onsite restaurant. Then again, does a gypsy van take your fancy? It is one of the accommodation options at Belmont Homestead, a 14.5 acre property just outside Swansea nestled by the Wye River.
Tuck into fresh crayfish, scallops, oysters and local catch at The Fish Van in Triabunna while waiting for the Encounter Maria Island ferry service across to Maria. In town, The Rusty Devil is a great little store to pick up some handcrafted goodies or a piece of local art.
Enjoy a coffee on the ferry ride over to Maria – you won’t find a latte once you’re there. Explore Darlington and spend an hour or two walking out to Painted Cliffs. Keep an eye out for Tasmanian devils, there’s a healthy population on the island. You may prefer to hire a bike. It’s a great way to explore, especially as there are no cars to contend with, just the odd Cape Barren goose or wombat. Spend the night at the Penitentiary (bookings essential) or pitch a tent at the camp ground.
From Maria Island, make your way back to Hobart Airport. You won’t want to rush after such a relaxing break. Stop at Barilla Bay and have your last taste of Tassie oysters before heading home. You might fit in a glass of bubbles, too.