Tasmania seems only small when you compare it to the rest of Australia, but when you delve into the state the camping and 4WDing options seem endless! It is the ideal location for a lightweight tray-top camper such as the Trayon which allows you to explore the best bits without restrictions and in comfort.
On this trip we will explore some of the great spots on the eastern coast of Tasmania. This trip takes in only a small part of the eastern part of Tasmania, commencing at Scottsdale and finishing in Swansea on the lower east coast.
About 18km out of Scottsdale turn right into Snake Track which turns into Ringarooma Road and arrives in Legerwood 3.5km later. Legerwood is famous for its amazing avenue of memorial tree carvings. The trees were originally planted in 1918 by the families and friends of the tiny community's fallen World War 1 soldiers - one for each man, one for Gallipoli and one for the Anzacs. However in 1999 it became apparent that the trees had become unsafe and it was recommended that they be cut down. The community then decided to enlist a chainsaw carver (Eddie Freeman) to bring the soldiers back to life, providing the great sculptures here today.
Heading southeast from Legerwood along the Ringarooma Road, you arrive at Ringarooma. Heading through Ringarooma take the New River Road and then join the Mt Victoria Track. There are spectacular views of the mountains as you drive along this track. Eventually the track reaches the carpark for Ralph Falls which is just a short walk – the lookout offers spectacular views of the waterfall and valleys beyond. The falls usually only have a small amount of water cascading down but are spectacular after heavy rain.
The track continues along a buttongrass plain and then plunged into dense rainforest. Keep an eye out for animals while travelling through the forest – at one point we had to wait for several minutes for an echidna to cross the road and watched as he (or she?) devoured an ant’s nest on the roadside.
St Columba Falls
The next stop is the St Columba Falls, a 90m tall cascade of one of Tasmania’s highest and most beautiful waterfall. The waterfall is an easy ten-minute stroll from the carpark through the heart of an ancient temperate rainforest studded with colossal tree ferns, sassafras, myrtle and beech trees to a swiftly flowing creek of such beauty that it takes your breath away.
The St Columba Falls State Reserve is home to elusive platypuses, which make their burrows along the shores of the pristine creek. Overlooked by densely wooded hills, this heavily-forested country was prime habitat for thylacines – Tasmanian Tigers – once Australia’s largest carnivorous marsupial, which have been listed “presumed extinct” since 1986. This area was the scene of one famous 1995 sighting, when a local ranger reported spotting a tiger sitting on a rock ledge near the falls. It was just one of around many sightings of the mysterious marsupial reported in the region each year.
So keep your eyes open if visiting this area, there may well be a Tassie Tiger around the next corner!
Just a short drive eastwards on St Columba Road from the Falls is the famous “Pub in the Paddock”.
Pub in the Paddock
Licensed since 1880, the Pub in the Paddock is one of Tasmania’s oldest country pubs. Literally sitting in the middle of a paddock in the Pyengana Valley, it looked so inviting you just have to stop to check it out. Sitting under the balcony admiring the views across the farmland and enjoying the cool drinks it is very tempting to remain here and use the free camping alongside the Pub or even have a break from cooking and partake it one of their great meals.
From the Pyengana Valley the road leads back to the main Tasman Highway which needs to be followed for a little while then you can head northwards via the forest tracks to the east coast. It is quite interesting finding your way through the plantation forests with several unmarked tracks making life difficult, but is quite manageable with the help of a GPS. Fallen trees are common so be cautious through this area and remember to stop to collect firewood before arriving at the coast and the overnight destination – Deep Creek camping area at the northern end of the Bay of Fires.
Bay of Fires
The Bay of Fires is famous for its picture-perfect scenery – turquoise coloured ocean breaking onto beautiful white beaches fringed with huge boulders draped with iconic orange lichen. Extending from Binalong Bay, 10 kilometres north of St Helens, in the south to Eddystone Point in the north, the Bay of Fires is a glorious combination of untouched wilderness and perfect strands of beaches.
The overnight stop at Deep Creek is just great, with a large secluded campsite adjacent Deep Creek with a firepit and grassed area to camp. Time to setup the Trayon (which only takes a few minutes!), start a fire for cooking tea, and grab a cool beverage from the fridge.
Deep Creek is part of Mt William National Park and is renowned for its wildlife and bird life, including the protected Forester (eastern grey) Kangaroos who seemed oblivious to our presence.
This area is also a top fishing and diving spot, and you are likely to see local’s diving and fishing while camped here. Mt William National Park also has several other camping areas and walks, including a 1½-hour return walk to its highest point (Mt William 216m) which offers expansive views over the coastal land and sea.
Just down from Deep Creek is the Eddystone Lighthouse. It is a magnificent circular stone 36 metre high tower, built of locally quarried granite and is situated on the headland known as Eddystone Point. The light commenced operation on 1 May 1889. It is possible drive right up to the lighthouse to take in the fantastic views up and down the coastline.
From Eddystone Point lighthouse the track heads back through Anson’s Bay and across to the gardens, then down along the coast. Lots of great campsites right on the coast, but generally very busy due to the close proximity to the bitumen. As attractive as these places look, there are quieter spots further southwards so it is worth continuing.
The road south pasts through the thriving town of St Helens, which is a good opportunity to top up with fuel and supplement your supplies.
Continuing down the Tasman Highway to Scamander turn right into Campbell Street just past the BP Service Station passing the golf and bowls club. Veer left into Skyline Drive entering the forest and climb steeply to the ridgeline. Skyline Drive continues for another 3km to the signposted track to the Skyline Tier lookout – this short steep 4WD track is a lot of fun and the reward are fantastic coastal views at the top. After soaking in the views it is time to continue along the track and down to Skyline Link Road, then left into Eastern Creek Road. Further on take another left into Trout Road and onto a great camping ground in the Scamander Forest Reserve – Trout Creek camping area.
Trout Creek camping area is a large sheltered area with toilets and firepits adjacent to the river, with a jetty and boat ramp nearby. Known as a good spot to catch a bream, it is worth throwing in a line. We spotted some large fish from the jetty but Kerrie failed to lure any despite her best efforts. No fish for tea tonight, lucky we had a backup plan!
Leaving Trout creek, a great shortcut back to the main road is via Doc’s Track. Rated in the guides as a hard track, it is quite a challenge with a very steep climb to the ridge above. This track is a lot of fun, and an awesome way to start the day. This 2km shortcut will probably keep you entertained for a couple of hours and the top of the track is a great stop for a break with outstanding views from the ridge of the glistening blue waters bordered by white sand and forest.
Backtracking down Skyline Drive it won’t be long before you are back to the Tasman Highway, turn right and head southwards through the attractive town of Bicheno and then down to the town of Coles Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula. This is a very picturesque area of Tasmania with the clear blue waters bordered by brilliant white sand and green forested areas. It is however very popular – the national park campground is often fully booked out and caravan park usually very busy. A much quieter and better option in the area is to head to a little-known camping area at the end of a short 4WD track which you will usually have completely to yourselves for the night. This was Franks Camp and is just perfect!
The Friendly Beaches Track that leads to Franks Camp starts right from the Coles Bay township and travels through forested areas, past a beautiful freshwater lagoon with a variety of birdlife and ends right on the beach. Unfortunately the beach is off-limits to vehicles, but is only a short walk from the carpark and well worth the effort to view the classic scenery of white sand, blue waters, and orange lichen covered boulders. Deep water right off the point is great for fishing, and while we were there a fishing trawler was collecting craypots just a short distance away from our vantage point.
Taking the Friendly Beaches track back to Coles Bay it is worth heading further out on the Freycinet Peninsula and leaving the vehicle to join the walking track out to the famous wineglass bay. This popular walking track is well worth the effort as it affords great views down to the spectacular wineglass bay.
From the Wineglass Bay carpark another great side trip is out to Cape Tourville Lighthouse. The short boardwalk around the point is great and provides more fantastic views of the Freycinet Peninsula coastline.
The Bluestone Bay 4WD Track heads down to Bluestone Bay from Cape Tourville and is another great 4WD track to explore the area. The views of the sheer cliffs at Whitewater Wall at the end of the track are spectacular. There is a free camping area at the end of this track that is generally quiet if looking for another spot away from the other crowded areas on the peninsula.
Time to head back off the peninsula and around to Swansea. There are a couple of options in Swansea including the Holiday Park at Jubilee Beach that has great campsites overlooking the Freycinet Peninsula. An added bonus here is that it is just a short walk to the local tavern to sample some of the local fare and give the cook a break for the night.
Tasmania is a great destination for the avid 4WDriver and camper and the east coast does not disappoint with spectacular scenery, fantastic camping, and some terrific 4WDriving. Take the time to visit and explore the eastern section of Tasmania and make some great memories, we certainly did and just can’t wait to come back to make some more!