We spent a week driving in Tasmania on what can only be described as one of the most exciting and beautiful road trips ever! The drive from Hobart to Launceston, along the Great Eastern Drive, showcases some of the best natural scenery, parks, beaches, and historical sites Tasmania has to offer.
The Great Eastern Drive starts at Orford and ends at the Bay of Fires, and can be completed in 5 days. However, we chose to extend our road trip all the way to Launceston. By doing so, we got to see two additional gorgeous sites, the Bridestowe Lavender Estate and the Little Blue Lake. But even if you don’t go all the way to Launceston, there are plenty of beaches, vineyards, and national parks to explore along the Great Eastern Drive.
Here is a quick video of all the highlights along the road-trip to get you excited!
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So, if you’re looking for a self-drive guide from Hobart to Launceston, along the Great Eastern Drive, with all the stops and attractions along the way, read on!
Map of the Great Eastern Drive, Tasmania
But first, here is a quick overview of the Great Eastern Drive on the map.
Now let’s dive into greater detail for each destination and major attractions along the way.Best Prices for Car Rentals in Hobart
Hobart: The Starting Point
We started our road trip from Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. This historic city, nestled between Mount Wellington and the Derwent River has plenty of attractions to discover. In fact, we’ve highlighted all the best things to do whilst you’re in Hobart in this blog post. We’d recommend spending at least a couple of days in Hobart to discover the main attractions in the city, and beyond.
From the famous Salamanca Place to the Port Arthur Historic Site, there’s plenty of things to do and see in Hobart.
Accommodation at Hobart
The Great Eastern Drive Guide
Here is where our self-drive itinerary for the Great Eastern Drive starts.
From Hobart, we made our way to Swansea, a small coastal town overlooking Freycinet National Park. On the way, there are plenty of beautiful and historical sites that are worth a detour.
The drive passes through Triabunna, a historic town that is also the departure point for Maria Island National Park. The island is home to the Darlington Convict Probation Station, another convict settlement like Port Arthur. Maria Island also has several natural attractions to keep you occupied for a day. And if you do plan on exploring Maria Island, we’d recommend that you spend the night at Triabunna or Orford.
However, we decided not to explore Maria Island as our itinerary involved spending the night at Swansea.
But we did make a quick stop at the Spiky Bridge, a historic bridge built by the convicts, that was once part of the coach road that connected Swansea to Little Swanport. The bridge gets its name from the sharp rocks that jut out along its sides. Just along the Spiky Bridge, we also noticed plenty of beautiful and empty beaches. We stopped at a couple and were practically the only ones on the beach!
There’s also Kate’s Berry Farm – a popular farm for fruit picking – just before Swansea, in case you’re interested.
Once we arrived at Swansea, we noticed that there’s not much to do in this small seaside town. Most of the attractions are outside, like the beautiful, secluded beaches and of course, there’s Freycinet National Park.
Accommodation at Swansea and Coles Bay
Swansea serves as the base for exploring Freycinet National Park. Sure, you could choose to stay closer to, or even at Freycinet National Park. But we found that the accommodation closer to the park to be more a lot more expensive than the accommodation at Swansea. And honestly, the drive isn’t so bad. You can stop by the Nine Mile Beach, or at any of the gorgeous beaches along Coles Bay. There are also plenty of vineyards between Swansea and Freycinet. The one we’d recommend to stop by is the Devil’s Corner for its fantastic views.
Walks within Freycinet National Park
Freycinet National Park and the Coles Bay area are some of the most beautiful regions along the Great Eastern Drive. For those of you who love adventure and the outdoors, Freycinet National Park has plenty of walks that take you through some of the most gorgeous trails in Tasmania. A very popular one is the Wineglass Bay Walk.
You can walk down to one of the most recognisable beaches in Tasmania, Wineglass Bay Beach, and spend a day exploring Freycinet National Park. We have a complete guide to the Wineglass Bay Walk in this blog. For the more adventurous, there’s the Hazards Bay Walk and the Mt Amos Walk.
For other activities at Freycinet National Park, check out their website.
Coles Bay is a beautiful seaside village just outside Freycinet National Park. Here you can stop by one of the beaches, take a cruise, go kayaking or even take a scenic flight.
For lunch, you could stop by Freycinet Marine Farm for their exquisite fresh oysters. And on your way back make sure you stop by the Pondering Frog to taste their delicious home-made ice-creams.
Also, check out the Nine Mile Beach (yes, the beach is actually that long). It offers beautiful views of Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park. Unfortunately, we were there on a cloudy day, but the views were still quite grand.
The drive from Swansea to St. Helens isn’t really that long. This is why making a stop at Bicheno makes sense.
Bicheno is a small coastal beach town on the eastern coast of Tasmania. As you enter the town, make sure you head straight for the Bicheno Blowhole. During high tide, this blowhole is always in full action. You can park your car, and walk up to the blowhole. Of course, be careful not to stand too close to it.
The coast along the blowhole is absolutely stunning! Drive down towards the Bicheno marina where there are a couple of restaurants overlooking the sea. Here, you can also take a ride in a glass-bottom boat.
Natureworld Wildlife Sanctuary
Bicheno is also a hub for wildlife. Other than the native wildlife in the region, there are a couple of sanctuaries. The most prominent of them is the Natureworld Wildlife Sanctuary which is a five-minute drive north of Bicheno. It was here that we first saw kangaroos and the Tasmanian Devil. It’s unfortunate (and fortunate) that the devils have to be kept in the sanctuary as they are quite literally a threat to themselves. Left in the wild, they are often run over by cars or are plagued by infectious and deadly cancer.
Of course, later on, we did get to see all these animals in their natural habitat.
We arrived at the Natureworld Wildlife Sanctuary during feeding time and got to see the Tassie Devils devour their lunch, and also got to feed the kangaroos. Overall, it was a lot of fun! Entry to the sanctuary isn’t free. It’s best to check the prices directly on their website as it is subject to change.
After grabbing lunch at Bicheno, we continued on our drive towards St. Helens. But along the way, another beautiful town caught our attention, and we were forced to make another quick stop at Scamander.
Scamander is located along the Surf Coast of Tasmania. One look at the beaches and you’ll know why. Although we arrived during low-tide, it was apparent how beautiful the coastline in Scamander is really. We grabbed a coffee and took a quick stroll down the beach to stretch our legs.
After that, we made our way to St. Helens for the night.
Accommodation at St. Helens and Binalong Bay
St. Helens is a small town with a quaint town centre and a picturesque pier. It is also a very popular destination for fishing. But the main attraction is located just 15 minutes outside the town.
St. Helens is the gateway to Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires. This region is known for its white-sand beaches, crystal clear blue waters, and orange rocks. The colour of the rocks is caused by lichen, a composite organism. And trust me when I say this, we saw the most gorgeous, scenic and colourful coastline of our lives! The raw natural beauty along the Bay of Fires Conversation Park is simply mind-blowing!
We found that the best way to explore the Bay of Fires is to start at Binalong Bay, a tiny but very popular beach village. Step onto its main beach, or admire the orange rocks near the Skeleton Bay Reserve. You don’t even have to try hard to click good photos here. The area is just so beautiful that all your pictures will look stunning!
Then make sure that you grab lunch at Lichen Restaurant & Cafe. You might need to make a reservation as it’s a very popular restaurant, for a good reason. The views of the Bay of Fires from the restaurant are simply spectacular!
Bay of Fires
After exploring Binalong Bay, we decided to explore more of the Bay of Fires Conservation Area. Pro tip: Do not follow Google Maps. Google Maps will drive you into the middle of nowhere if you typed in Bay of Fires. Simply drive back towards St. Helens from Binalong Bay and turn onto Gardens Road. Along Gardens Road, you’ll notice a couple of signs for beaches and campsites. Take your pick and turn off into any of these beaches, or all of them!
We took our chance and turned towards Jeanneret Beach. The dirt road brought us to a clear patch of land for day0-time car parking. And once we stepped onto the beach, our jaws literally dropped!
This was one of the most beautiful and pristine beaches that we’d ever seen in our lives! With hardly any other person of the beach, we had it all to ourselves. We admired the clear waters, the white sands, and the orange rocks, each colour complementing the other so well.
Although the drive from St. Helens to Launceston is only 167 km, we decided to take a couple of detours to two beautiful attractions.
Little Blue Lake
The first detour takes you to the South Mount Cameron Region to visit The Little Blue Lake. The drive is a bit treacherous as it winds up and down the South Mount Cameron Region, so be prepared. At times it feels like it’s never-ending, but eventually, you make it to the Little Blue Lake.
Although this isn’t a naturally formed lake, it is still quite picturesque. The lake is a relic from the mining days in the region. The vivid turquoise colour of the Little Blue Lake is caused when the white clay exposed in the tin mining operations reflects the clear blue of the sky. It’s best to admire the lake from above because of its high acidity and toxicity. Definitely do not try swim or even touch the water.
Bridestowe Lavender Estate
From the Little Blue Lake make your way towards Nabowla, where the Bridestowe Lavender Estate is located. The drive between the Little Blue Lake and Bridestowe Lavender Estate is 81 km and should take you just over 1 hour.
Bridestowe Lavender Estate is believed to be the largest commercial plantation of Lavandula angustifolia in the world. It is open from 9 AM to 5 PM every day. Although they close entry at 5 PM, one can stay inside the farm till 6 PM. In fact, that’s when they shut down the gift shop. Inside the gift shop, make sure you buy their famous lavender ice-cream. Also FYI, if you’re travelling with a drone, you can only fly it after 5 PM over the fields.
There’s little that I can say about the beauty of the lavender estate, so I’ll let the photos do the talking. But honestly, it’s just so beautiful!
Just remember, that the best season to visit the estate is during summer when the flowers are in full bloom.
After your visit to the Bridestowe Lavender Estate continue towards Launceston where you’ll probably need a good night’s sleep after driving all this distance.
We spent our last night just outside Launceston in a town called Hadspen, in the Red Feather Inn. The hotel is an old colonial property with limited rooms and its own organic vegetable garden. The food and service was simply world-class, and it honestly was the perfect end to our Great Eastern Drive road trip!
Accommodation at Launcestion
Depending on your interests and other constraints you can make this road-trip itinerary to be as short or long as you want. But ideally, keep at least 5 days to see everything.Best Prices for Car Rentals in Hobart
The Great Eastern Drive may not be as famous as the Great Ocean Trip, but it’s definitely way more charming, quaint, and beautiful! It’s possibly the best way to truly discover what Tasmania has to offer along its eastern coast. And we hope that this post, with all these photos, was able to convince you of that!