Activities North East - Explore North East
The defining features of this corner could not be more different from each other, beaches, wine and snow. The coastline boasts a number of quaint seaside fishing villages with excellent beaches and seafood, inland are the rolling hills and green pastures of Tasmania’s farms, providing fresh produce and the excellent wines of the Tamar Valley, and beyond are the Alpine ski fields of Ben Lomond National Park.
The second-largest city in Tasmania, Launceston is known the state’s ‘Northern Capital’, and is just a 50 minute flight from Melbourne. An attractive and historically interesting city (settled in 1805) with many old buildings, it's situated right on the banks of the Tamar River, with the sights and wineries of the beautiful Tamar Valley wine region just a 10 minute drive from the city.
Stop in at the Boag’s Brewery or take a more interesting (possibly spine chilling) historical tour of the city at night with Launceston City Ghost Tours. You can cruise the waters with Tamar River Cruises or visit Launceston's number one attraction Cataract Gorge Reserve, a stunning park next to the city centre, where you can bush walk, swim, take a chairlift ride or find a wonderful picnic spot. If you're in the mood for some shopping head to Recycled Relix and have a poke around their antique and bric-a-bracy wares, you may just find a treasure! Other tours include the Launceston City Sightseeing Tour, a three hour bus tour of the city for $44, or the Launceston Afternoon Highlights Tour, a coach tour around the city and out to the Tamar Valley for some wine tasting from $74 per person.
Scottsdale is a town of approximately 2,000 people, located 70 km north-east of Launceston along the Tasman Hwy, about a one hour drive. The small town is in a "chocolate box" setting, complete with rolling green paddocks, red volcanic soil and surrounding blue-tinged hills, and a great base to explore the north-east region.
Bushwalking is a popular activity here with many super walks in the surrounding forests, and you can visit Forestry Tasmania's controversial Forest EcoCentre at the towns entrance, were you can learn about Tassie's forests and buy some local crafts. It has received equal parts of both praise for its innovative, environmentally friendly design, and criticism as a thinly disguised marketing ploy to spin Tasmania's deforestation positively. Make up your own mind! For a special keepsake visit the Bridestowe Estate Lavender Farm in nearby Nabowla, a very popular attraction in Summer when the lavender is in bloom. A visit to the Northeast Park, bizarrely on the south-eastern end of town, has free campsites and is good for a picnic lunch and a gentle stroll; try and spot the resident platypus in the creek!
St Helens is a beach resort town on Tassie's north-east coast, a two hour drive from Launceston along the Tasman Hwy. Sitting pretty on Georges Bay, it's a sleepy rural coastal town with fun beachy things to keep you occupied, hence, in Winter it can be pretty quiet.
Just north of town is one of the most outstanding beaches you'll ever see, the Bay of Fires, so named due to its white sandy beaches and crystal clear water contrasting with the spectacular orange lichen covered rocks which surround it. Admire it from its lookout point, The Gardens, or duck into any of the campsites peppered along the road leading there for a relaxing beachside holiday as you frolic in the splendourific waters, providing the weather is on your side!
St Helen's game fishing is the best in the state, so head out with Michael Haley's Gone Fishing Charters who have half day estuary tours for $350. If that sounds a little steep, rent a line and give it a go from any of the bay's jetties, or rent a boat and tour the bay yourself, just ask at the St Helens Visitor Centre for trusted local line and boat rental places. The scenic beauty of the bay extends underwater too, so consider scuba diving with the East Coast Scuba Centre who rent out snorkelling equipment as well as providing diving charters.
If you're on a foodie's tour of Tassie, there are some particularly noteworthy producers surrounding St Helens. Just out of town is the Pyengana Dairy Company who still make their delicious cheddar the same way the pioneers did, or you can visit the Cerise-Brook Fruit Orchard for freshly harvested plums and cherries, who also have small a 9-hole golf course amongst their trees of all things!
Bicheno (pronounced "Bisheno") is a tiny beach town just south of St Helens on the Tasman Hwy. It's primarily a fishing port due to the substantial quantities of crayfish, abalone, scallops and trevally in the surrounding waters, but also a holiday resort town with a range of accommodation, some craft shops, cafes, a bakery, winery, two small aquariums (one on the highway, and one by the Gulch) and a Visitor Centre. The local speciality is crayfish (Southern Rock lobster) and it is genuinely caught locally, so try it while you can!
Whilst tripping the light Bicheno, visit the Little Penguin colony and sanctuary on adjacent Diamond Island, which lies just off the coast. It’s possible to walk there through shallow water at low tide or take a surf ski - be wary of currents and tides! The island has clear rock pools and in Summer up to 800 penguins come ashore nightly. Bicheno Penguin Tours has minibus tours there nightly for $20, but book ahead during Summer. Diving and snorkelling is also popular in this little town, with a couple of good sites around the rocks and beaches, and a marine park further out. Contact the Bicheno Dive Centre for details about diving in these magical waters.
Freycinet National Park
Freycinet National Park (pronounced "Fray-sin-ay") is on the Freycinet Peninsula, just below Bicheno on the east coast of Tasmania. It lies 125 km north-east of Hobart, and a 2.5-3 hour drive from either Hobart or Launceston along sealed roads will get you there.
The park's landscape consists of giant knuckles of granite mountains all but surrounded by green bush, azure bays and pure white sand beaches. This includes the famous Wineglass Bay, a perfectly shaped white sand beach consistently voted in the worlds top ten by travellers and writers like us! It is an icon of Tasmania and appears in many of the tourist campaigns. As you enter the park you'll be welcomed by a dramatic line of granite peaks known as The Hazards (no, not a gritty punk band circa 1982), and you'll find other pretty red and pink granite formations spotted throughout.
Freycinet is a gorgeous park to drive and walk through; stop at the Freycinet Visitors Centre when you arrive for suggested short (or long) walks and maps. You can camp or stay at the lodge within the park (see: Shelter North East) or in the nearby township of Coles Bay. This is a beautiful part of Tasmania (as if that’s unusual!) and a must do on any itinerary.
If you'd like a guide and all the equipment you need to navigate the park organised for you, check out the 3-Day Freycinet Walking Expedition from Launceston which will do just that for $950 per person. Not too bad if you consider the price of a tent and sleeping bag alone!
Ben Lomond National Park
The Ben Lomond National Park is 50 km east of Launceston and holds Tasmania's second highest mountain, the park's namesake, Ben Lomond. In Summer it sees hikers traipsing its peaks, but it is in the Winter ski season as the snow accumulates that's its popularity can truly be felt.
The ski village on the plateau can be accessed via a zig-zag road known as "Jacobs Ladder", which you'll need chains and anti-freeze for in Winter. Otherwise, during Winter McDermott's Coaches provides a daily shuttle service to and from the park from Launceston. You can stay at the only hotel on the mountain, the Ben Lomond Creek Inn, or, if staying in Summer, there is a camping area 1 km in from the park border with six unpowered sites, a toilet, water and a lookout.