Travellng Further North up Tasmania’s East Coast

We had a very pleasant time in Swansea and left yesterday morning to drive the short distance north to St Helens. The road passed the northern end of Great Oyster Bay. At one point there was a lookout over the bay but it was a bit confusing as it was located in the grounds of a winery. However, there was a lookout tower that gave a superb view over the bay to the Freycenet Peninsula.

There are stil some old colonial style buildings to be seen along the way such as this former house that looked to be used more as a hayshed  than a lived-in house.

Along the highway, we found the little Llandaff Apslawn Cemetery. It is a humble cemetery and very neat and tidy with the highway on one side and sheep paddocks on the other three sides. I thought that it was worthy of a photograph. Times must have been tough in the late 1800s as a number of the old graves were for chldren between 9 months and 9 years.

The turn off to Freycenet was just a little further along the road so we visted this peninsula to see some of its stunning coastal views. Jill was not too impressed with this deviation as she was looking forward to getting to Bicheno for a coffee. We stopped off at a number of little stopping areas for some photographs. 

Occupying most of Freycinet Peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast, the Freycenet National Park has dramatic pink granite peaks, secluded bays and white sandy beaches. Walks lead to bays and beaches, while the waters are good for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking. The main body of the national park covers Freycinet Peninsula’s southern tip, but it also extends along the peninsula’s east coast, taking in the Friendly Beaches and stretching almost to the coastal town of Bicheno. With Mount Field, Freycinet is Tasmania’s oldest national park.

You need a ‘Parks Pass’ to visit this, or any other of the dozen or so parks in which we have spent time on this trip. It is actually less expensive for us oldies to buy a one-year pass that grants entry to every national park in Tasmania. I bought ours online before leaving Melbourne, but we could have obtained one on the ferry to Devonport.

Another side road took us to the Cape Tourville lighthouse. The ligthouse structure itself was not very interesting (just a white lighthouse) but the views from the track up the hill were superb.

I was able to make up for the inconvenience of our diversion by stopping at the Freycenet Marine Farm for a lunch of oysters and a glass of white wine.  This place was very busy with other tourists but we managed to find a table and enjoy a grand lunch.

At Bicheno, we found the first example of the characteristic orange lichen covered granite boulder coastine that is common in this area of Tasmania.

Tasmania is made mostly of dolerite, a rock only found in Australia, but a blowhole at Bicheno is made of granite. For thousands of years, the ocean has battered the granite to carve out a sea cave underneath the coast. The water, battering the inside of the cave with increasing force, found a weak spot in the ceiling to blow a hole through the rock. Now water rushes into the cave, hits the walls, swells with increasing pressure and it all erupts out of the hole in the ceiling. This creates a geyser effect for those standing on top of the sea cave. The blowhole was not blowing much when we visted as the sea was too calm.

We stopped at a number of beaches before reaching St Helens. Most of them were very long ocean beaches with white sand and crashing waves.

At one beach, I saw a sign that pointed out that it was a  ‘Sensitve Bird Area’.  I read the sign carefully and walked with great care down to the water. All the time, I kept my mouth shut in case I might have said something that these sensitive birds could have taken offence at. I surely didn’t want to upset any and make them cry. I have enough trouble with sensitive people, let alone sensitive birds.

On reaching St Helens (one of the larger towns on the east coast), we found our accommodation. On it was describef as a ‘cottage’ however it was really a fully furnished and fully equipped three bedroom house. It was about seven kilometres out of town at a location on the headland called Akaroa. The main impact of this distance was that we had to think twice about what we would do for dinners in the evenings. On the first night, we bought a rotiserie chicken and some salads at the town’s supermarket and on our second night, we ate at a modern restaurant attached to one of the local caraven parks.

On our second day here in St Helens, we spent most of our time driving the short distanced north to ‘The Gardens’ where the road stops at the southern end of the Bay of Fires National Perk. This very scenic part of the East Coast was named by Lady Jane Franklin, wife of the governor of Tasmania in the early 1800’s, due to the abundance of wild flowers in the area.

This area is a photgrapher’s delight. The rocky headlands and outcrops along the beaches provide a multitude of fascinating scenery. It is hard to stop clicking the shutter button on the camera with scenery as good as this.

On the way back, we stopped at Binalong Bay. This is the starting point for any vist to the Bay of Fires. It has a wonderful combination of clean white beaches, clear azure seas and granite rocks covered in orange lichen. The Bay of Fires was named by English navigator Tobias Furneaux in 1773 when he saw fires burning along the coast, lit by Tasmanian Aboriginal people. Aptly, the area of Iarapuna, which includes the Bay of Fires, is the setting for one of Tasmania’s first Aboriginal tourism ventures.

We still had a litle time to fill in the afternoon, so we drove back to the town of St Marys which we missed as we travelled up the coast road, rather than the main highway through St Helens. It is a tiny town only 10 km inland and is nestled under the impressive St Patrick’s Head, a conical shaped rock outcrop.  

St Marys (it has never had an apostrophe) was named by an early settler, Francis Groom, after St Marys Church at Harefield in England. Groom had settled in the area around 1837-1838 and called his property Harefield. When the village began to develop he renamed it St Marys. 

Among some of the older buildings in St Marys is the railway station. It was the terminus of the 75km long Fingal branch line. This line, which was opened for traffic in 1886, branched off the main line and runs up the valley of the South Esk and Break O’Day River through Avoca and Fingal to St Marys. The main traffic on the line was woodchip logs from Malahide and Jubilee and coal from the Duncan mine near Fingal. Coal was originally the major traffic on the line. St Marys become unattended in 1981. 

It was fitting that after all the time that we had spent along the coast, that we should finish our day in a contrasting environment in the bush like at St Marys.

One thought on “Travellng Further North up Tasmania’s East Coast”

  1. Hi B&J, sounds like you are enjoying TAS. We have in the past. Enjoying your pics (good foreground interest).
    We bat on each day; Nicky is actually a bit better; the iron infusion maybe.
    cheers, John B 👨‍🦳

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