By Shell on Dec. 14, 2021
DAY 1: Hobart to Orford
While Hobart is not officially part of the Great Eastern Drive, chances are you will begin your road trip here. Before you leave this nature-blessed city, detour to the Museum of Old and New Art for eye-popping paintings and installations. And a much-needed coffee.
It’s 80 kilometres from Hobart north to Orford. Break up your journey at the Tasmanian Bushland Garden, one of the state’s few public gardens dedicated solely to Tassie’s native flora.
From here, the road weaves through bucolic countryside home to wide-eyed cows – and little else. Then Orford comes into view, a petite town with a big personality set at the mouth of the Prosser River. Stretch your legs on the clifftop walk from East Shelly to Spring Beach for stellar views to Maria Island, then check in to heritage-listed Sanda House B&B.
DAY 2: Orford to Swansea
It’s an easy drive north to Triabunna, the gateway to idyllic Maria Island. A 30-minute ferry ride takes you across Mercury Passage to this designated national park that is completely car free, which means the only ways to get around is on two wheels (you can hire bikes when you step ashore) or two legs. Be sure to stroll around heritage-listed Darlington, home to a convict probation station, before exploring trails leading further afield. Whichever route you choose, keep watch for Tasmanian devils – the population here is thriving
Back on the mainland, pull up beside the Fish Van. The location of this takeaway joint, metres from a fleet of fishing boats, speaks of just how fresh the bounty is.
Maria Island lingers in your rear-view mirror as you drive further north along the coast, pausing to pad along the beach at Little Swanport – the only thing between you and the Freycinet Peninsula is a gleaming curve of Great Oyster Bay – and sample the wares at Kate’s Berry Farm. We highly recommend the fruit pies.
A few kilometres before Swansea, you’ll cross dramatic Spiky Bridge. Built by convicts in 1843, the odd structure is said to have been designed with enormous stone spikes to stop cattle falling over the edge – or to weather harsh winds.
There are few East Coast towns quite as pretty as Swansea, its ocean views only outshone by the grand colonial buildings lining its main street. Your base for the night is luxe Dragonfly Lodge (there’s space for six people) – once you’ve dropped off your bags, head to Piermont Homestead Restaurant for roasted lamb with preserved lemon, or grilled king prawns with crab and chevre anchoïade.
DAY 3: Swansea to Bicheno
Follow your nose to the Bark Mill Tavern and Bakery, where the aroma of coffee, croissants and fruity tarts draws crowds. A carb or two is essential this morning – there are a number of vineyards on your itinerary. This is part of the East Coast Wine Trail, a scenic stretch dotted with almost a dozen cellar doors.
Pop into Devil’s Corner for a tasting paddle of wines enjoyed overlooking Moulting Lagoon; Freycinet Vineyards to tour the estate, sip pinot noir and try olive oil fresh from the grove; and finally, Spring Vale Vineyard, where the cellar door occupies an 1842 former stable. Drink responsibly – there’s more driving to come. Take away a bottle of the house gin or shiraz instead.
Turn off the Tasman Highway and you’ll find yourself at the dreamy village of Coles Bay on the edges of Freycinet National Park. From here, set out on a hike to the Wineglass Bay lookout, your backdrop the postcard-perfect, pink-granite Hazards mountains.
Reward your efforts at Freycinet Marine Farm by ordering a platter of freshly shucked oysters, pan-fried abalone and sea urchin from Coles Bay.
Around Bicheno you can take a tour to spot penguins or see Tassie devils in the wild at Natureworld – the ‘Devils in the Dark’ experience sees these nocturnal creatures frolic through the bush while you watch on with a glass of wine and cheese platter.
Set your GPS for the Apartments on Fraser, your accommodation here replete with a kitchen, so you can prepare any produce you’ve picked up.
DAY 4: Bicheno to Scamander
Undo some of the indulgences exploring inland Douglas-Apsley National Park, where waterfalls thunder into deep river gorges and mossy gullies are fringed with rainforest. Make sure you have your swimsuit with you – the waterholes are tempting when the sun shines.
Back on the road, you can refuel at BrewHaus Café on White Sands Estate when you reach Four Mile Creek. Then it’s on to Scamander – a town where time stands still. Nothing happens in a hurry here, so prepare to switch off your motor, and your mind. Cast a line into the river, spot birds around Henderson Lagoon or tee off on the nine-hole golf course before blissing out in a safari tent at Scamander Sanctuary Holiday Park.
DAY 5: Scamander to the Bay of Fires
You’re just a 20-minute drive from St Helens, overlooking the turquoise waters of Georges Bay. This is the state’s second-largest fishing port, so steel yourself for an epic seafood feast. Take your pick of waterside restaurants – the Wharf Bar & Kitchen does a mean Tasmanian lobster roll.
You’ll enter St Helens’ East Coast Village Providore with one thing on your list to buy, and leave with a full basket. This is a shrine to Tassie produce, from boutique wines to cured meats and cheese. Or go straight to the source – Pyengana Dairy is just inland, and you can drop in to sample vintage cheddar or a piquant blue.
Food aside, St Helens is the gateway to Binalong Bay and Bay of Fires, where a cascade of rocks covered in rust-hued lichen and mussel shells drape the coastline. The water is like the smudge of blues on an artist’s palette, running from the ink of midnight into sparkling azure in rock pools where starfish float.
You’ll want to linger. But when it’s time to move on, Launceston is three hours west on the edge of Cataract Gorge.