For those who do like to be beside the seaside (as the song goes), the relaxed coastal hamlet of St Helens in Tassie’s picturesque north-east makes the perfect short break destination. Located an easy two-hour drive from regional hub Launceston, St Helens is actually the largest town on the north-east coast, but you wouldn’t guess it. The vibe is intimate and the welcome warm – in more ways than one. This region actually enjoys some of the best weather in the country, thanks to the topography surrounding the town, its position on tranquil Georges Bay, and the ensuing temperate ocean breezes.
Here are five great reasons to plan a St Helens short break. Book your accommodation at ChoiceHotels.com and pack your swimmers.
1. You can immerse yourself in the beauty of the Bay of Fires
The fire breathing dragon that stands guard outside the St Helens Visitor Centre is an appropriate introduction to the fact that the town is the gateway to one of Tasmania’s most renowned natural landscapes – the Bay of Fires (the dragon actually relates to something entirely different, but it’s a nice metaphor). Named as one of Lonely Planet’s top ten regions to visit in the world back in 2015, the Bay of Fires’ sweeping white sandy beaches, clear waters and fiery red lichen-covered rocks attract nature lovers, walkers and photographers in equal measure. The Bay of Fires stretches for about 50 kilometres from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point, and the excellent staff at the Visitor Centre will be more than happy to help you plan your journey of exploration.
2. You can step back in time at the St Helens History Room
Once you have your Bay of Fires odyssey planned, spend some time delving into the history of the region in the Visitor Centre’s excellent History Room. There’s a small fee to enter but the surprisingly large collection is well worth the investment. There are some 2,000 pieces of memorabilia to peruse, and displays cover the town’s maritime history, tin mining in the region and Indigenous habitation. The aforementioned dragon is actually part of the Trail of the Tin Dragon, which charts the boom and bust heritage of Chinese tin miners across Tasmania’s north-east in the late 1800s.
3. You can enjoy lazy days by the water
St Helens is all about enjoying the coast and there are several beaches around the protected waters of Georges Bay. Chances are you’ll be able to have one all to yourself, the further you go into the St Helens Point Conservation Area. You’ll eventually come to stunning Beerbarrel Beach. There’s a walking trail that takes in the Peron Dunes (where sand boarding on boogie boards is a popular pastime). While competent surfers choose to brave the waters here, there’s no patrolled swimming area and rips, reefs and rocks are an ever-present threat.
4. You can enjoy some of Tasmania’s best fishing
With the demise of the tin mining industry at the turn of the 20th century, St Helens’ fortunes were bolstered by the rise of boat building and a fishing industry, and today the town is renowned as one of Tasmania’s best recreational fishing destinations. It also boasts one of the state’s largest fishing ports. Charters are popular. Michael Haley’s Gone Fishing Charters gets great reviews and offers half and full day fishing trips with a maximum of five participants. Reef and estuary fishing trips are offered, and all equipment is provided.
5. You can indulge in sensational seafood
Unsurprisingly, and underscored by the vast numbers of resident cormorants and gulls, the seafood served up around town is sensational. Moored at the marina, Skippers Fish Shop is popular with locals and visitors alike. This rustic floating fish and chippery has plenty of character and serves sustainably sourced and local (were possible) seafood. The over-water Wharf Bar and Kitchen is known for serving up a pretty mean seafood chowder, while Lease 65 harvests and hands over pacific oysters directly to customers. They’re unbelievably good!
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.