Coastal Dreaming: a Launceston to Freycinet Driving Holiday

Bay of Fires

Ready to indulge two of their favourite passions – good wine and seaside adventures – Sarah and Chris head to northern Tasmania, where the grapes are plentiful and the next Bay of Fires beach is more beautiful than the last.

Tasmania is fast becoming one of mine and Chris’ favourite places to road trip – it’s beautiful, there’s heaps to do yet there are so few other cars on the road – and this time around we’re taking a week off to explore the northeast and east coasts. First, though, we’re picking up our car from Apex Car Rentals at Launceston Airport.

Raise a Glass: Launceston to Bay of Fires

Rows of grapevines growing beside a dirt track at Jansz Tasmania in the Tamar Valley

We’re not long out of Launceston, before Chris begins pointing out signs indicating Tamar Valley wineries. Since we are heading to places where self-catering is the norm, it doesn’t seem like a bad idea to stop at one or two and taste their wares. As a massive fan of pinot noir, this part of the world is a bit of a dream – northern Tassie pinots have rightly earned themselves a damn fine reputation. Tamar Ridge is reason to get excited, as the winemakers here specialise in pinot noir – creating it, they say, is 50 per cent Sidney Nolan and 50 per cent Albert Einstein – and we do a seated tasting of the signature drops before stashing a few bottles in the car boot.

Heading towards the coast our attention is diverted once again, this time by Pipers Brook Vineyard, where we have a lunch of fresh Tassie produce – OK, it was a cheese platter – at Nadine’s Cafe before adding a couple of bottles of Kreglinger Brut to our collection.

We’re soon driving along the north coast, admiring the views and planning what to eat with the wine we’ve brought. Just before Bay of Fires, we head off the main road to visit Eddystone Point Lighthouse. There’s a cluster of shacks at Ansons Bay, long white beaches and finally the lighthouse, which has been beaming light out over the ocean since 1889.

Bright Spark: Bay of Fires to Scamander

A person stands on orange-coloured boulders overlooking crashing waves at Bay of Fires, Tasmania

The Bay of Fires was given its name by Captain Tobias Furneaux, who could see fires made by Aboriginal people along the beach from the deck of the HMS Adventure. These days, there are far fewer fires on the sand, but the bright orange of the lichen that covers many of the boulders along the water’s edge are a similar colour. It’s just one of the striking shades from the natural palette of this 50-kilometre stretch of coastline. The water is an almost fluorescent turquoise, and the sand is pure white.

Chris and I decide simply to take the car, park it when the feeling takes us and walk to see what we can find. It’s such a relaxing way to explore, and, at high tide, we discover amazing rock pools on a secluded beach near the Cozy Corner camping ground. At the Gardens, at the end of the road from Binalong Bay, we stop and admire the view before walking down to Fancy Beach. We rock hop from Sloop Reef to Swimcart Beach then sit and eat sandwiches we brought with us – there are no shops once you’ve left Ansons Bay at the north end of the conservation area or St Helens in the south. It’s the sort of place I could happily bum around for a week.

By the time we reach St Helens after a long day of sand, sea and sun, Chris is ready for dinner, so we decide on The Wharf Bar & Kitchen, where the Tassie oysters with nam jim, pan-seared scallops and lobster ravioli – all reasonably priced – are served with a side of water views. After a few days, we say goodbye to Bay of Fires and head south.

Sweet Isolation: Scamander to Freycinet

A woman sits at a lookout high above Wineglass Bay on a clear day, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania

Chris makes a good point as we’re driving along the coast: Tasmanians really do have access to some of the most beautiful beaches imaginable. Anywhere else in the world, they’d be overrun with sunbakers and swimmers, but here you sometimes only share the sand with hooded plovers scurrying around trying to keep their distance.

We’ve been lucky enough to visit Freycinet National Park before (you can read about what we got up to here), but, such is its beauty, it has an irresistible pull. This time around Chris and I have brought our wetsuits and snorkelling gear because we were pretty sure last time around that there would be loads of life beneath the ocean’s surface. We head to tiny Honeymoon Bay, where it’s easy to stroll in off the beach and the colourful reef and fish keep us occupied for hours. For a few hours, we drag ourselves away from the ocean and visit the Moulting Lagoon, cut off from the sea by Nine Mile Beach, where waterbirds, including black swans and pied oystercatchers, congregate and breed. We see them all, as well as musk ducks, herons and cormorants. Before we leave, we take a final walk to the Wineglass Bay Lookout and admire this magical part of the country once more.