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Great Eastern Drive
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Total 295 km

Great Eastern Drive - Itinerary

One of Australia's most dramatic and beautiful coastal drives, you'll find spectacular national parks, beautiful beaches, wildlife and maritime experiences, all set in a temperate natural paradise.

Start: Hobart

Duration: 2-5 days

Print: Great Eastern Drive [PDF 384KB]

National parks:

Hobart – Orford

  • Depart Hobart for Orford, first established as a mainland port for the convict settlement on Maria Island.
  • Orford has clean, picturesque beaches - including Raspins, Millingtons, Spring and Rheban - with a popular campsite at Raspins Beach. Nearby is the well-regarded nine-hole Orford Golf Course and the Darlington Vineyard.
  • Take one of several enjoyable walks including the Convict Trail along the northern bank of the Prosser River on an old convict road, the coastal walk along the cliff tops between East Shelly Beach and Spring Beach or the scenic Thumbs Lookout in the nearby Wielangta Forest with a spectacular view of    the region.
  • Continue on to the visitor centre in Triabunna to buy a ticket for the 30-minute passenger ferry ride to Maria Island National Park where native animals roam free in this wildlife haven.
  • On Maria Island visit the remains of the Darlington convict settlement dating back to 1825 and wander among the ruins of the mess room, miller's cottage, barn, hop kiln, chapel, prison cells and religious instructor's house.
  • Take a short walk to view the spectacular Painted Cliffs and Fossil Cliffs.
  • Return to mainland Tasmania by ferry.
  • Overnight Orford or Triabunna.

Maria Island - Swansea

  • Drive north from Orford towards the Freycinet Peninsula on one of Australia's best stretches of coastal scenery.
  • Enjoy the stunning view across the long curve of Great Oyster Bay, encompassing Maria Island and the rugged Freycinet Peninsula, tipped by remote Schouten Island.
  • Before Swansea, look out for the convict-built Spiky Bridge (1841), known for its unusual construction.
  • Also approaching Swansea is the entrance to Kate's Berry Farm where you can sample strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and youngberries, not to mention lunch and truly great ice-cream.
  • Stop at the seaside town of Swansea – another lunch option.
  • In Swansea, take a look at the Bark Mill and Tavern - Australia's only restored black wattle bark mill. You can inspect the steam-driven engine once used to milk the bark of wattle trees before returning to the present day for lunch at the mill bakery.
  • Within a few kilometres north of Swansea you can also sample award-winning cool-climate wines at the cellar doors of wineries including Spring Vale, Freycinet, Milton, Apsley Gorge, Coombend and more.
  • If you're staying overnight in Coles Bay, continue on the Tasman highway then take the well-signed turn-off to Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park.
  • Overnight Swansea or Coles Bay.

Swansea – Coles Bay

  • Depart Swansea for Coles Bay, a pleasant 45-minute drive.
  • Stop at the Freycinet Marine Farm, 10 minutes before Coles Bay and enjoy a casual seafood lunch with shellfish, including abalone, straight from the water.
  • At Freycinet National Park (park fees apply), walk to a choice of magnificent locations.
  • Climb the trail to the Wineglass Bay lookout, with its picture-postcard view of Wineglass Bay, one of the world's most photographed beaches, or climb over the top of the Hazards (mountains) and down to Hazards Beach (2.5 hours return).
  • Great drives in the vicinity of the national park include Sleepy Bay on the eastern side of the Peninsula, Cape Tourville Lighthouse (breathtaking view), Bluestone Bay (4WD only) and Friendly Beaches (always beautiful).
  • There's also a range of magic scenic flights available.
  • Enjoy the unspoiled coastline in a kayak, take a four-day guided walk, explore the coastline by all-terrain vehicle or head out to sea on a cruise.
  • Relax on the deck of Freycinet Lodge and enjoy the great food and wine of the region - another great way to experience this beautiful part of the world.
  • Alternatively continue north and overnight at Bicheno.

Bicheno – St Helens

  • Depart Coles Bay for Bicheno, a 30-minute drive.
  • At Bicheno, explore the Gulch and the Blowhole or take a ride in a glass-bottomed boat for a close up view of protected marine life.
  • Join a penguin tour and see delightful fairy penguins parading around their beach-side burrows of an evening as up to 600 Little Penguins emerge from the water, en route to their beachside rookery.
  • Visit East Coast Natureworld, 8 km north of Bicheno - a great place to see Tasmanian devils, wombats, snakes and birdlife, many in a natural environment.
  • Just out of Bicheno is the Douglas Apsley National Park – stop in summer for a refreshing dip in the Apsley River Waterhole, or just an enjoyable walk in the national park.
  • Continuing north, discover scenic coastal vistas all the way to Chain of Lagoons where an inland turn-off leads up the winding Elephant Pass. Don't miss the renowned stopover for pancakes before continuing on through the rural township of St Marys and looping back to the coast.
  • Back on the coast, walk on an expanse of pristine white sand in the beachside townships of Scamander or Beaumaris.
  • Further north is St Helens, a pretty fishing village located on the shores of Georges Bay inlet and a base for serious game fishing. Charters are available. Family fishing is also popular in the sheltered estuaries, bays and rivers, and boats are available for hire.

Day 2: St Helens

  • In St Helens, the St Helens History Room showcases the region's tin-mining history and Aboriginal and Chinese heritage.
  • Just north of St Helens, take the short (12 km) detour to Binalong Bay and Humbug Point Reserve with its exceptional views, walks, white beaches, swimming, fishing, diving and estuarine bird watching.
  • Take time to explore the beautiful Bay of Fires, stretching from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point in the north with its brilliant white beaches, emerald coloured waters, lagoons, wildflowers and lichen-covered granite rocks.
  • Continue inland to Launceston following the North East Trail from St Helens.
Leg Time / Distance
Hobart to Orford  1 hr 5 min / 78 km
Orford to Swansea  40 min / 60 km
Swansea to Bicheno 33 min / 43 km
Bicheno to St Helens  1 hr 30 min / 114 km