With its sweeping beaches, crystal clear water and distinctive red lichen-covered rocks, Tasmania’s paradisiacal Bay of Fires region in the state’s northeastern corner achieved global recognition in 2015 when it was named one of Lonely Planet’s top ten places to visit in the world. One of the island’s best kept secrets was definitely out, but today it can still feel like you have the place all to yourself. Here are eight amazing this to do in this sublime landscape.
1. Walk pristine white sand beaches
We’re talking Maldives-white, and as unpopulated as an exclusive Tahitian tropical resort. This stretch of Tasmania’s remote northeastern coast, between Musselroe Bay and Cosy Corner, offers kilometre upon kilometre of pure white sand just waiting to receive your footprints. Walking these sands is a great opportunity to commune with nature or your own thoughts and the perfect antidote to city crowds and traffic.
2. Feast your eyes on a unique colour palette
From pale turquoise to the deepest sapphire, the blues of the ocean here are a delight and a true surprise. Who knew that such a wild corner of the world would offer such crystalline beauty? Granite boulders turned bright orange by lichen add another magic ingredient to the colour palette. This combination of orange rocks, blue water and white sand is a photographer’s dream, and with many of the rocks shaped by the wind into sculptural forms, the whole region resembles an outdoor art gallery.
3. Swim in the Tasman Sea
Sure, it will be cold, but it will also be gloriously refreshing and wonderfully private. From sparkling beaches to translucent rockpools and secluded, shell-strewn coves, you’ll find plenty of fabulous swimming spots. Binnalong Bay, the area around Picnic Rocks and the southern end of Cod Bay are all good places for a dip, as are many smaller, unnamed coves. Remember, most of these beaches are unpatrolled and far from support services, so make sensible decisions about where and in what conditions you enter the water.
4. Hang out at The Gardens
If you only see one section of this coastline, it should be The Gardens. There aren’t actually any gardens – the wife of an early Governor of Tasmania, Lady Jane Franklin, invented the name in appreciation of the many wildflowers she saw growing here. With its dramatic rock formations and classic Bay of Fires colour scheme (orange, blue and white), The Gardens epitomises the area’s distinctive beauty. It’s also easy to get to, being only a short drive and walk from the regional centre of St Helens – itself worth a visit for its picturesque bayside setting and relaxed, small-town feel.
5. Encounter Indigenous history
It wasn’t the orange rocks but the many campfires along the shore that led navigator Tobias Furneaux, when he passed this way in 1773, to name the area the Bay of Fires. Tragically, those campfires were soon extinguished under the devastating impact of European settlement, but glimpses of the ancient lifeways of Indigenous people can still be seen. Massive piles of discarded oyster shells tell of a population well fed by the bounty of the sea in a way of life sustained for thousands of years. Perhaps one day, in recognition of that deep history, the area’s traditional name – Larapuna – will be more widely used.
6. Visit Eddystone Lighthouse
This pink granite tower topped with a glass lantern bespeaks the eternal European ambition to master new environments through technology. Built in 1889 to safeguard shipping routes along Tasmania’s east coast, it stands on Eddystone Point, so named (again by Tobias Furneaux) after the notoriously dangerous Eddystone Rocks in the English Channel – also the site of a famous historic lighthouse. The Tasmanian Eddystone Lighthouse is a graceful, somewhat melancholy structure and a reminder of harsher and more uncertain times in our history.
7. Meet the local wildlife
You may not see many other humans as you explore this coastline, but encounters with Aussies of the furred, feathered, scaled or spiky kinds are relatively common. Wallabies, wombats, pademelons, quokkas and echidnas all occupy the coastal heathland and while it would be rare to sight the elusive Tasmanian devil, you may very well see evidence of its presence. Can’t tell your sand plover from your ruddy turnstone? These beaches provide plenty of opportunities to hone your birdwatching skills. Bird life is abundant, with pelicans, gannets, sea eagles and oystercatchers all to be seen on the shore, while black swans haunt the nearby estuaries.
8. Climb Mount William
A gently inclined track followed by a short, steep scramble brings walkers to the top of this 216-metre peak (technically a hill rather than a mountain). The windswept summit yields impressive 360-degree views. On the ocean side, you overlook Bass Strait, with Flinders Island visible in clear weather. On the inland side, the outlook is of rolling green farmland. As you ascend and descend, keep watch for animal tracks and other evidence of native fauna, as well as colourful lichens and bush orchids.
Need a place to stay?
Tasmania’s second city, Launceston, is the gateway to the Bay of Fires area, so if you’re coming from interstate that’s probably where you’ll fly in. Historic buildings, a thriving food and drink scene, stunning city parks and easy access to the lush Tamar Valley are all good reasons to spend some time here before you head over to the coast. The distinctive Tudor-style Comfort Hotel Olde Tudor is located just a short drive from the CBD, and is home to a swag of amenities – comfortably furnished rooms, a pool and spa, and family bistro with kids play area. Constructed back in 1847 to house a grammar school, Quality Hotel Colonial Launceston offers an atmospheric stay in a fabulous heritage setting, right on the edge of the Launceston CBD. The hotel couples modern facilities with old-world character and charm.
The relaxed coastal hamlet of St Helens is located just a short drive from the Bay of Fires region and makes a good home base. St Helens is the largest town on Tasmania’s north-east coast, but it’s small enough to maintain a very intimate feel. The town enjoys gorgeous weather, thanks to its position on tranquil Georges Bay. With a stunning location overlooking Percy Steel Reserve and the bay, Comfort Hotel Bayside offers comfortable and contemporary accommodation, along with an inhouse bistro and bar.
Roslyn travelled with Park Trek Walking Holidays on their 4-day Bay of Fires walking tour. Park Trek specialises in small group nature-based walking holidays throughout Australia.
About the writer
Roslyn Jolly is a freelance travel writer whose work has appeared in Luxury Travel, Get Up & Go, The Sunday Telegraph and The Australian. In her former career as an English Literature academic, she studied and taught the work of great travel writers, such as Henry James, Herman Melville and Robert Louis Stevenson, and became fascinated by the history of travel and tourism. Two years at school in Wales and three years at university in England allowed her to travel extensively in Europe and North America, which she continues to do.