By the Bays: Launceston to Freycinet Travel Guide

Take the road less travelled in northern Tasmania. Pause in the Tamar Valley to visit world-class wineries, play a round at what might be the country’s most spectacular public golf course then spend days relaxing at Bay of Fires.


A woman leans on a wine barrel in the barrel room at Pipers Brook Vineyard, Tamar Valley, Tasmania

What could be better than flying into one of Australia's smaller cities then shooting off through countryside dotted with vineyards producing some of the finest cool-climate wines in the country to a coastline that is not only stunning but also largely bereft of other visitors? Not much, as it turns out. Take the long road on a journey from Launceston to the Freycinet National Park on the state’s east coast. Along the way you’ll discover any number of quaint townships, snorkel kelp gardens and spend time exploring what some claim is one of the most beautiful beaches in the world (it’s Bay of Fires, if you’re wondering). Give yourself at least four days, but add more if you want to recharge by the sea.


Great Walks of Australia Bay of Fires Lodge Walk

It first came to public attention when an architect-designed lodge opened as part of the four-day Bay of Fires Walk in 1999. But you don’t have to make such a lengthy commitment to enjoy Bay of Fires, named by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches. Explore those beaches, scramble across boulders covered in orange lichen and snorkel in the turquoise waters – chances are you’ll be sharing them with pods of dolphins. The coastline stretches for 50 kilometres and is often blissfully peaceful, so spend a few days relaxing and exploring its length. Also consider joining Bay of Fires Eco Tours for one of its cruises.


  1. The sea off Tasmania is rich with marine life, but if you’re not keen on scuba diving visit Seahorse World at Beauty Point. What started as a farm to produce this tiny fish for traditional medicine (reducing the impact on wild populations) has now expanded so visitors can view all types of seahorses and sea dragons. There’s also a Southern Ocean aquarium, featuring creatures, including giant cuttlefish, from Tasmanian waters.

  2. The Tamar Valley is home to wineries producing world-class cold-climate varieties – particularly good are the pinot noirs and sparkling wines. There are more than 30 wineries in the region, but book into Jansz Tasmania for the picnic and you’ll taste the sparkling wine collection, choose a bottle then take it and your local gourmet pack out into the grounds.

  3. It’s not often a regular golfer can book a round at a world-class course. But that’s the case at Barnbougle Dunes, where the course of that name and neighbouring Lost Farm both rank among the world’s best links courses. The changing weather can make them tricky, but even if you’re a duffer you won’t ever forget playing these spectacular courses.

  4. St Helens is the largest town in northeast Tasmania, and a great spot to base yourself if you’re wanting to do a fishing charter or dive a kelp forest. Otherwise take the one-hour walk to St Helens Point and over the magnificent Peron Dunes to vast beaches.

  5. In Freycinet National Park, Coles Bay is framed by the pink granite peaks of the Hazards and the waters of Great Oyster Bay. This pretty coastal town is where most Freycinet activities commence, whether you’re thinking of cruising to Wineglass Bay, doing a quad bike tour or wanting to tuck into some local oysters.


The Shack at Bay of Fires

Book well in advance to stay at The Shack at Bay of Fires, right in the conservation area. It’s a simple bungalow, with the main bedroom looking directly over the beach. Cute and cosy, it’s fitted out with a full kitchen, board games and boogie boards, which is great because the nearest town is 26 kilometres away.

The Surfside Beaumaris

Go the low-key option at The Surfside Beaumaris, a beachfront motel with rooms for couples, families and groups. There’s a relaxed restaurant and bar with ocean views, and it’s still close to Bay of Fires.

Beachend Bicheno

Set yourself up for a couple of days at Beachend Bicheno, just north of Freycinet National Park. The self-catering cabins are right on the water, and you can walk down to the sand at sunset to watch the penguins.


Cycling along kanamaluka / River Tamar

Before you arrive at Launceston Airport, book a suitable vehicle with Apex Car Rentals to collect on arrival. Rather than drive south from Launceston directly to Freycinet National Park (about 180 kilometres), travel north along the Tamar River then follow the coastline all the way around. It almost doubles the distance, but it’s far more interesting and you can still see most of it in four days.


A vintage car sits in the driveway of Woolmer Estate, a historic property near Launceston, Tasmania

On the way back to Launceston, take the more direct route through the countryside. When you’re almost there, visit Woolmers Estate, the home of the Archer family from 1817 to 1994. The architecture of Woolmers House is beautiful and the home includes many personal possessions collected by the family over six generations. Just outside Launceston is Josef Chromy Wines, with its spectacular grounds and restaurant. Lunch, perhaps?