When travellers visit Australia, they often neglect Tasmania (or ‘Tassie’ for short) as a destination. Those who do venture there however are pleasantly surprised by the state’s beauty and vast range of activities. Coastal Tasmania – east or west – is blessed with some of the best panoramas the world has to offer; unspoiled, clean and compelling.
Head along the west coast and come face to face with forest and ocean wilderness in all its pristine grandeur. Travel the east coast and experience award winning foods and wines while exploring a dazzling coastline that boasts billion dollar views around every corner.
Here is some inspiration for things to do in Tasmania … and hopefully it will help you decide which coast to explore.
Known as the gateway to Tasmania’s wilderness, the island state’s west coast is like a scenic wild frontier, far less populated than other areas but with its own incredible charms.
The largest population (close to 2,000) resides in inland Queenstown but on the coast, fewer than 700 people live in the town of Strahan. Situated 302 kilometres north west of the state’s capital, Hobart, Strahan was originally a port for the area’s mining settlements and the Huon pine timber industry.
The British condemned their most hardened criminals to serve out their lives on Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour as early as 1821, creating a penal colony of unimaginable hardship.
The harbour itself opens to the Great Southern Ocean and features a cold, wet climate that surely must have been miserable for all those who lived there. Strahan is now Tassie’s west coast tourist hub, from where travellers set off on journeys further inland or up and down the coast.
When in Strahan, history lovers will visit the Strahan Wharf Centre which houses displays concerning the area’s Aboriginal ancestry and the conflicts that occurred when European settlers arrived. You can pick up literature and national park passes before heading off on further trips.
Take a walk around the federation-era buildings including the Post Office and Customs House. An attractive two-storey brick and stucco building, it is a well-known landmark of the town.
Walk a couple more kilometres to the east in the brisk, fresh air and you’ll reach Regatta Point Railway Station. You can actually take a steam train journey through the magnificent temperate rainforest where the majestic Huon pine trees stand tall and proud.
The half and full day experiences give you the opportunity to learn about the construction of the railway line and how it was relied upon throughout its decades of service to keep the community thriving. You’ll enjoy sparkling wine or juice on arrival plus morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea and children are welcome.
Spend some time reading the headstones on the graves at Strahan Cemetery and you’ll get a feel for the history of the area. Among other significant local figures, Frederick Henry is buried there. He founded the Strahan township in 1883.
Rupert Cecil Alabaster who managed the Oonah mine and smelter at Zeehan also lies there. When the mine was closed in 1911, Alabaster grew severely depressed and committed suicide in the Customs House.
‘Dip your toe’ because you wouldn’t want to swim there. Subject to strong rips and currents, Ocean Beach is not safe for swimming but it is a relaxing location from where you can watch stunning sunsets over the undulating sand dunes.
The east coast of Tasmania is quite different from its western counterpart. The Great Eastern Drive offers a food and wine lover’s journey through delightful vineyards, villages and valleys, all with their own unique attractions. If seafood is your pleasure, then consider that Tasmania’s pristine seas and inland streams offer a rich bounty of freshwater trout, rock lobster, abalone, oysters and mussels. At Freycinet Marine Farm, you can eat your fill of fresh oysters and mussels. The farm itself encompasses six different growing regions including estuarine and wholly marine growing areas.
The region’s mild climate is ideal for growing succulent, sweet berries and cool climate wine varieties. The east coast is home to Pyengana Dairy Co, where you can watch the cows being milked and the cheese being hand-made, then sit down to a scrumptious lunch featuring the very types of products you saw being created.
While cruising the Great Eastern Drive, you will come across some of the world’s most spectacular coastal vistas, complete with pure white sand beaches and vast expanses of blue ocean. You will be tempted to stop more times than you can count because you won’t want to miss a thing. If surfing is your thing then the beaches from Bicheno to Beaumaris offer excellent surf that is said to be better than anywhere else in Tasmania.
It’s a wonder the world’s celebrities haven’t earmarked this spot as their own but lucky they haven’t because it’s something of a well-kept secret that remains affordable for the average traveller. You can pitch a tent, swap stories with fellow tourists at a backpacker hostel or treat yourself to luxury accommodation.
Wineglass Bay, Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park are all synonymous with incomparable natural beauty. There, you can relax on the sand or go bushwalking, rock climbing, sea kayaking or head out on a boat and go fishing.
It’s just a short boat ride from picturesque Triabunna to Maria Island and you can spend all day long exploring the rich historic ruins or getting to know the local wildlife. Hire a bike and cycle around the island, and stop for multiple photos.
The island has no cars, electricity or shops so you will be wonderfully cut off from ‘civilisation’ while there. Use the time to reconnect with nature. Do a spot of fishing or birdwatching or try scuba diving, snorkelling or boating.
Wherever you go in Tasmania, beauty is all around and the climate and clean environment will revitalise your soul. Nature, food, wine, adventure, relaxation, luxury, views and isolation are all there for the taking, on either the west or east coast. You won’t find crowds, traffic, humidity, pollution or frazzled people, which is why so many tourists return time and again to recharge and regroup.
From the Australian mainland, you can fly in to Launceston or Hobart, or you can take the Spirit of Tasmania overnight sea voyage from Melbourne and disembark in Devonport.
At the airports and seaport, you can hire a car or book yourself on one of the myriad tours that depart either location.