Of all the places to visit in Tasmania, the northeast may not be well known but it’s just as beautiful as other parts. Some of the Apple Isle’s best attractions can be found in its far less chartered north east Tasmania.
There’s etiquette involved in driving the deserted roads of Tasmania’s far north-east but just remember the most important rule: don’t forget ‘the wave’.
I’m not talking about a full hand wave; no, that would just signpost your naivety; a quick flick of your index finger as a car passes will suffice.
Blink and you might miss it, but that microsecond of greeting speaks volumes about people… and life… in the north-east.
- 1 North East Tasmania – the forgotten corner
- 2 Driving around North East Tasmania
- 3 Bay of Fires
- 4 10 adventures in North East Tasmania
- 4.1 1- Golf at Barnbougle Lost Farm
- 4.2 2- Quad biking by the sea
- 4.3 3- Mountain biking at Hollybanks Reserve
- 4.4 4- Blue Tier Mountain bike descent
- 4.5 5- Take a multi-day hike across the best beaches on Earth
- 4.6 6- Go fishing
- 4.7 7- Hollybanks Reserve Zipline
- 4.8 8- Climb through the heart of Launceston
- 4.9 Discover Tasmania
- 4.10 Wineries to visit in North East Tasmania
- 4.11 Where to stay in North East Tasmania
North East Tasmania – the forgotten corner
Not that you’ll see many cars as you drive through this often-forgotten corner of Tasmania; through tiny farming communities where surrounding green rolling hills make the landscape every bit as pretty as New Zealand.
Yet where steep, sharp ranges of sky-scraping gums and gnarly bush full of kangaroos look as harsh as anything you’ll see on the mainland.
Even on roads to pristine northeast Tasmanian beaches, you’ll find few fellow travellers; it can get lonely out here, little wonder people wave as they pass.
But if this all suggests that isolation (not to mention a fair helping of ‘country-bumpkin-ness’) might be the region’s only draw-card, that’s where you’d be wrong… gloriously wrong.
Try these tasters out for starters: the northeastern corner of Tasmania is home to Australia’s highest-rated public golf course, the world’s best sparkling wine region outside only Champagne (check out these Tasmanian wineries) and one of the world’s best beaches.
On past visits to Tasmania, I’d overlooked the northeast in favour of better-known regions like Cradle Mountain.
But inspired by the princely reputation of the region’s sparkling wine region, Pipers River (which forms the northern part of the Tamar Valley Wine Route), I venture north of Launceston for the first time.
Driving around North East Tasmania
It’s a pretty drive out – there are as many farmers on tractors around here as fellow wine tasters but it’s the sparkling wines and Pinot Noirs of this region that have made wine judges the world over stand up and take notice.
If the planet knew just how pretty the landscape is around wineries like Bay Of Fires Wines, Jansz, Dalrymple Estate and Pipers Brook Vineyard, traffic might flow as fast as it does in the Hunter Valley.
Instead, it barely flows at all, I sample wines in tasting rooms that look across national parks with no-one for company but the winemakers themselves.
With some of the best wineries in the region built a few kilometres from each other, it’s an easy task to sample all of the region’s best produce in a day, or two (if you prefer to linger).
I set out east across a landscape that climbs drastically through some of Tasmania’s best examples of temperate rainforest, in between perfectly manicured heritage homes in quaint mining villages that slope down to the roadway.
It takes two hours to wind my way to the east coast: in that time I see only a handful of cars.
Where the ranges peak to a crest, I’m offered views out across a vivid blue sea, then I ride low gear all the way to the beach.
For a time I feel as if I’m lost in this dreamy landscape with its little pockets of bright green fern forests and soaring topography and it’s hard to imagine there’s anything at all on the other side.
But then I reach St Helens and the mountains and low cloud turn to warm sunshine reflected on the inky-blue water.
The Bay of Fires begins just east of St Helens at Binalong Bay, surely one of Australia’s most picturesque beach towns.
From here the bay stretches out forever, set against inland lagoons and coastal bushland, with no-one on the quartz-white sands.
I drive north, stopping at deserted beaches with names like Swimcart and Sloop, each a tranquil, empty bay of white sands and calm turquoise water and where the Tasmania Aurora shimmers in the sky at night.
The road reaches a dead end 11 kilometres north at The Gardens, an eclectic collection of fishing shacks beside cow pastures and national parks.
Travel bible Conde Nast Traveller rated The Bay of Fires the world’s second best beach and the Lonely Planet listed the area as one of the top 10 places on Earth you must visit.
Bays stretch out along here at will, forming perfect, empty tiny havens.
The Bay continues for over 50 kilometres, most of which can only be accessed by foot.
But that’s just the beginning; the northeast corner offers many more juicy treats for anyone willing to take the time out to find them.
In summer, understandably, the numbers swell, but there’s always a slice of the northeast you’ll have entirely to yourself.
10 adventures in North East Tasmania
Tasmania’s Nort East corner has plenty to offer travellers who love adventure. Here’s what we think are the 10 best adventures in northern Tasmania for your bucket list.
1- Golf at Barnbougle Lost Farm
Established in 2005, the golfing world thought the Sattler family were crazy building such a grand course in the middle of absolutely nowhere.
But they didn’t scrimp on costs, using the best golf designers in the world.
The stunning 18-hole course’s reputation gathered momentum right across the world to the point that Barnbougle Dunes is now considered Australia’s best public course and one of the world’s top 20 golf courses.
2- Quad biking by the sea
It’s one of the best ways to get right into the bush of north-east Tasmania, mixed with a fair amount of adrenalin for good measure.
Located between the town of Scottsdale and Bridport near the Bass Strait (and not far from Barnbougle) you’ll ride a quad bike along private bush tracks, through hidden valleys and gullies and across hill climbs and big drop-offs for a different way to see the north-east.
3- Mountain biking at Hollybanks Reserve
It’s one of Australia’s most exciting new mountain bike trails – for everyone from total beginners to experts.
Just 15 minutes drive from Launceston, mountain bikers can sample brand new trails (opening in October 2014) cut through wilderness beside Hollybanks Reserve.
There’s a five-kilometre-long beginner loop through pines, Californian redwoods and gums, with an 11-kilometre loop for everyone from beginners to experts, cut through a total wilderness area full of dolerite rocks to navigate between and over.
4- Blue Tier Mountain bike descent
If you want to escape human civilization altogether, the Blue Tier mountain bike descent is for you.
It’s a challenging ride through 45 kilometres of trails that take you through the only alpine temperate rainforest in the north-east.
You’ll follow old pack routes used by tin miners a century ago amongst thousands of hectares of the Mt Arthur and Pipers River Forest Reserve.
More tracks are being built over the next two years ensuring these trails will become Australia’s best mountain biking destination.
5- Take a multi-day hike across the best beaches on Earth
It’s regarded as one of the best multi-day hikes on the planet: and it’s one of the only ways you can access one of the world’s best beaches, the Bay Of Fires.
You’ll spend four days walking along the quartz-white sand beaches beside turquoise seas, as well as walking through the fringing natural park.
You’ll also kayak and stay overnight in the luxurious confines of beach camps and the award-winning eco-lodge perched high above empty sandy bays.
6- Go fishing
There are empty rivers and estuaries teeming with fish all around St Helens in Tasmania’s north-east.
Take a full or half day fishing charter aboard Mike Haley’s six-metre boat to catch some of Australia’s best trophy bream – along with everything from Kingfish to Australian Salmon to Trevally.
You’ll be taken to the most pristine estuaries in the region, from Ansons Bay to Scamander River, or you can fish right beside St Helens in Georges Bay.
You only have to drive 25 minutes north-east of Launceston to make sure of catching yourself a fish.
You can enjoy a picnic lunch with the family in pretty surroundings while you catch a rainbow trout, golden rainbow trout, Brook trout or Atlantic salmon in a commercial fish farm – you’re guaranteed to catch one and you don’t need a licence.
Then cook your catch on a barbeque out amongst the lakes.
7- Hollybanks Reserve Zipline
There’s a unique way to see the old growth forests of north-east Tasmania as a creature of the forest does – from high up in the air.
You can ride a high-wire zip line within the canopy of the forest at Hollybanks – 15 minutes drive north-east of Launceston.
You’ll fly along high-wire lines 30 metres high – doing distances from 15 metres to 400 metres between platforms built above the forest of the Hollybanks Reserve.
8- Climb through the heart of Launceston
If you’ve fancied learning to rock climb and abseil but have baulked at the effort it takes to get to prime climbing spots, Launceston is your town.
Located right in the heart of the city, the beautiful Cataract Gorge offers over 900 climbs and abseils all within a short walk of the CBD – it’s Tasmania’s most concentrated climbing area.
Climbs vary between five and 25 metres and suit beginners to advanced.
Wineries to visit in North East Tasmania
Bay of Fires Winery, Pipers Brook Vineyard, Jansz Tasmania.