Just stop and wander on the Great Eastern Drive
Experience one of Australia’s greatest road trips on the Great Eastern Drive. This is a true journey of discovery that will lead you to the best-loved places and experiences of Tasmania’s east coast region. Here, every turn unveils a new view to take your breath away, and a new invitation to stop and explore. In this road trip itinerary we show you what’s on offer from south to north, or if you prefer from north to south. Just choose and shape an adventure to suit you.
176 kilometres of reasons to just stop and wander
The Great Eastern Drive extends between Orford and St Helens on Tasmania’s east coast. At around 176 kilometres, this is a road trip that can be experienced in a weekend, a week, or longer. The more time you spend here, the more you will discover and enjoy, so take your time, just stop…and wander.
You can start your Great Eastern Drive road trip from St Helens in the north, or Orford in the south. Follow the road’s gentle curves through east coast wine country, beach towns, forests, farmland and the open coast. Stop off along the way at the world’s best beaches, visit cellar doors to taste award-winning cool climate wines, taste the region’s wonderful produce and seafood and explore its famous national parks. Travel inland to explore valleys, waterfalls and mountains and drink in the endless views of the vast, blue ocean as you journey along the coast.
There are all kinds of ways for you to experience your Great Eastern Drive road trip. We’ve put together some suggestions for your journey here, with Orford as the starting point. But, if you’re in the north of the state you can easily experience the same trip in reverse, starting in St Helens.
Orford to Triabunna and Swansea
In Orford, you’ll experience your first taste of beautiful east coast beaches, including Raspins, Millingtons, Spring and Rheban. Take a stroll or swim or enjoy some of the great walks from Orford, including the coastal walk between Shelley Beach and Spring Beach or the old convict road along the Prosser River. Stop in for a meal or snack at the Gateway Café or Scorchers Pizza in town and pay a visit to Darlington Vineyard for a chance to taste fine east coast wine before taking the 10-minute drive north to Triabunna.
You can take a self-guided walk in Triabunna to see the town’s historic architecture, or stroll the Pelican’s Walk along the foreshore. You can also visit the Tasmanian Seafarer’s Memorial and call into the Visitor Centre to see the display of tapestries depicting the town’s history, development and culture. And, be sure to call into Spring Bay Seafoods for a taste of fresh, organic east coast mussels and scallops, stop by the Fish Van to buy fresh seafood and crispy fish and chips or visit Gallery Artspaces for good coffee and local art.
Triabunna is also the departure point for the Maria Island National Park—a short boat trip from the marina. You can spend a day or longer on the island visiting World Heritage-listed Darlington convict probation station, taking the short walks to Painted Cliffs and Fossil Cliffs (1-2 hours return) or longer walks to the summit of Bishop and Clerk (3-5 hours return) or Mount Maria (6-7 hours return). Bring your own bike or hire one on the island to explore the national park and see its historic ruins, landscapes and wildlife. Return to Triabunna at the end of the day, or stay overnight in the convict penitentiary rooms at Darlington. Maria is also the location for the award-winning four-day Maria Island Walk—named as one of the eight Great Walks of Australia.
Triabunna to Swansea
The drive north from Triabunna to Swansea takes around 40 minutes, and is characterised by superb views of Great Oyster Bay and Maria Island. Factor in some extra time to stop and take photos along this stretch of the road, or to take side trips to visit local beaches at Little Swanport, lovely Mayfield Bay and Nine Mile Beach, near Swansea. The convict-built Spiky Bridge, just south of Swansea, is also well worth a visit, as is the delectable Kate’s Berry Farm, where you can enjoy hand made chocolates, ice-creams and tasty meals.
Continue to indulge your tastebuds in Swansea’s cafes and restaurants, like the waterfront Saltshaker Restaurant, or try the fresh seafood at Oyster Bay Seafoods in the centre of town. For an indulgent, gourmet dining experience, treat yourself to an evening at Piermont Resort’s fine restaurant (and perhaps stay in one of the resort’s beautiful stone cottages). Make sure to spend some time strolling Swansea’s streets to discover the town’s cafes, galleries and shops, including Artifakt Gallery and Café, and the Bark Mill Museum—call into the Bark Mill Tavern and Bakery for a tasty snack or light meal as well.
- Distance Orford to Triabunna: 7.5 km/5 mi. Driving time: 10 minutes.
- Distance Triabunna to Swansea: 50 km/31 mi. Driving time: 40 minutes.
Swansea to Coles Bay, Freycinet National Park and Bicheno
Sample a cellar door
You’ll find some of the best vineyards of the East Coast Wine Route between Swansea and Bicheno. Visit cellar doors at Milton Vineyard, Gala Estate, Spring Vale Wines (which also has a fantastic pop up seafood restaurant), Devil’s Corner and Freycinet Vineyard—where you can also sample Freycinet Extra Virgin Olive Oil, made from olives grown on the adjoining grove. Many cellar doors offer tasting plates or meals, or even a gourmet hamper of Tasmanian produce to enjoy in the vineyard or at a nearby beach.
Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park
The Freycinet Peninsula is one of best known and loved destinations on Tasmania’s east coast. Take the Coles Bay Road turnoff from the Tasman Highway to reach Coles Bay and the Freycinet National Park. Take some time to visit the Freycinet Marine Farm on your way and taste fresh oysters and mussels, or enjoy a long walk along the breathtaking Friendly Beaches. This is also the location for the Freycinet Walk—a luxurious four-day guided walk that has been named one of the eight Great Walks of Australia.
Coles Bay is a vibrant seaside village on the edge of Freycinet National Park. From here, you can take full advantage of countless outdoor experiences, from cruises, sea kayaking expeditions and fishing charters to guided walks, quad biking and scenic flights. Take in the postcard views of the peninsula from the Wineglass Bay Lookout or explore the walking trails and beaches of the national park. Coles Bay has beautiful beaches, including Muir’s and Richardson’s Beach, and some great places to eat, like Tombolo Cafe, (which also serves fantastic espresso coffee) and the Bay Restaurant or Richardson’s Bistro at Freycinet Lodge, within Freycinet National Park.
This part of the coast is a hub for wildlife experiences. Apart from the native wildlife you’re bound to see as you walk in the region’s national parks and cruise the coastline, there are some great wildlife experiences around Bicheno. Visit Natureworld wildlife sanctuary, five minutes’ drive north of Bicheno, to see Tasmanian devils and other native wildlife, or book your place on the nightly Bicheno Penguin Tour or Devils in the Dark experiences. And, for a glimpse of life below the surface of the sea, join a tour aboard the Glass Bottom Boat.
Bicheno has a huge range of accommodation, and great places to eat—including Blue Edge Bakery, Pasini’s Wine Bar and Deli, Granite Seafood and Bar or the Sea Life Centre for fresh seafood. If you’re here in November, don’t miss the Bicheno Food and Wine Festival—an annual celebration of east coast produce, winemakers, chefs and gourmet food producers. Check our Food and Wine blog for more suggestions.
Take some time while you’re here to browse Bicheno’s galleries and shops, and spend time walking along the foreshore trails and lazing a day away on one of the uncrowded local beaches.
- Distance Swansea to Coles Bay: 58 km/36 mi. Driving time: 45 minutes.
- Distance Swansea to Bicheno: 43 km/26 mi. Driving time: 35 minutes.
Bicheno to Scamander
The coastline between Bicheno and Scamander is known as the Surf Coast, and the beaches here offer surfers reliable swells year round, with crystal clear waves rolling into smooth white sand just about everywhere you look. You’ll find surf shops in towns all along this stretch of coast, where you can buy or hire gear and acquire some local knowledge on where to find the best breaks.
Douglas Apsley National Park, located inland from Bicheno, has some excellent short walks, including Apsley Waterhole and Lookout (10 minutes to the lookout, or take a 2-3 hour return walk from the river) and the Apsley-Myrtle Rainforest walk (30+ minutes). If you have time, you could also take the more challenging overnight walk to Heritage Falls and the Rainforest Circuit (7-9 hours return).
To experience a different kind of east coast landscape, take the turnoff from the highway and travel into the mountains to St Marys, at the head of the Fingal Valley. Spend some time browsing the town’s shops and galleries, including the wonderfully quirky Cranks and Tinkerers museum, the Purple Possum Cafe and Wholefoods, and visit Mt Elephant Pancakes for delicious European-style sweet and savoury crepes, and wonderful forest views.
Return to the coastal road near Falmouth and take some time to drive to Four Mile Creek and visit the BrewHaus Bar and Café at White Sands Estate to sample the Ironhouse range of beer, stout and spirits. Travel north along the coast to Scamander—a classic Tasmanian beach holiday town. Try out the local surf beaches, take long strolls on the white sand, explore the local nature reserves or fish for bream in the Scamander River. You’ll find a good range of accommodation here as well, including motels, bed and breakfasts, and self-contained accommodation.
- Distance: 58 km/ 36 mi. Driving time: 45 minutes.
Scamander to St Helens, Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires
Take the short drive north from Scamander to reach St Helens. This area is a hub for fishing charters and is the perfect place try your hand at deep sea or game fishing. You’ll find delicious fresh seafood at the town’s fish punts and restaurants, like Captains Catch or Salty Seas Seafood market. There’s great shopping, cafes and art galleries here too. Explore the town to discover gems like the Lifebuoy Café and Quail St Emporium, East Coast Village Providore and the Suncoast Gallery. Visit the History Room at the St Helens Visitor Information Centre to discover the Trail of the Tin Dragon—a series of experiences from St Helens to Launceston that tells the story of Chinese tin miners who lived and worked in north east Tasmania.
St Helens is the gateway to Binalong Bay and the world-famous Bay of Fires. Here, you’ll find a range of coastal accommodation and classic east coast white sand beaches to explore. This is the location for the award-winning Bay of Fires Walk—named one of the eight Great Walks of Tasmania. From St Helens, you can also take the one-hour return walk to the beautiful Peron Dunes and the vast ocean beach.
Travel inland from St Helens to reach Pyengana, and visit the Pyengana Dairy Company to sample award-winning cheeses and have a meal in the Holy Cow Café. Or, for a true Tasmanian country pub experience, visit the Pub in the Paddock—the St Columba Falls Hotel. Take some time for a side trip to Ralphs Falls and St Columba Falls—Tasmania’s tallest waterfall.
- Distance Scamander to St Helens: 19 km/12 mi. Driving time: 20 minutes.
- Distance St Helens to Binalong Bay: 11 km/7 mi. Driving time: 15 minutes.
How long will I need?
Your Great Eastern Drive road trip can take anywhere from a weekend to a few days, a week or longer. Whatever your passion is—from exploring the east coast’s stunning natural places, to sampling the region’s fine food and wine, treating yourself to a luxurious escape or simply relaxing—you’ll find it here. The more time you can spend on Tasmania’s east coast, the more you’ll discover, so choose your favourite experiences and take the time you need to explore one of Australia’s greatest road trips.
For more inspiration to help you plan your Great Eastern Drive road trip, check our other Great Eastern Drive blogs and Things To Do.
Where will I stay?
You’ll find a huge range of accommodation on the Great Eastern Drive, from beach houses and bed and breakfasts to eco-lodges and family-friendly holiday resorts, motels and apartments to luxury retreats and heritage homes.
Are you ready to plan your Great Eastern Drive itinerary?
Take a weekend, a few days or longer to explore, feast and wander on the Great Eastern Drive, and experience your own Great Eastern Drive road trip.
Contact us below to get started.
PS. To help plan your visit, you can check our travel times and driving distances.