Tasmanian road trip: Great Eastern Drive
The newly renovated Freycinet Lodge is the perfect excuse for a road trip along Tasmania’s picturesque Great Eastern Drive.
The sweeping seaside route north of Hobart could rightly be called The Great Ocean Road, but that name’s taken. So it’s called The Great Eastern Drive, which kind of undersells the cinematic scenery of this 176-kilometre stretch of Tasmanian coast between Orford and St Helens.
Picture idyllic sunlit valleys lapped by lapis waters, golden fields extending to the edges of rugged sea cliffs, crescent beaches fringed by granite boulders streaked fiery orange with lichen, and impressive perspectives over Great Oyster Bay and its islands, Maria and Schouten.
Take your time. There’s plenty to explore. At Triabunna, a brisk hop north of Orford, follow the signs to the marina and drop by The Fish Van where seafood – scallops, squid, trevalla, lobster – is plucked straight from the bay and served hot and salty with water views.
The bonus of coming here off-season is that I’m the only customer. The woman who hands me a giant paper cone of golden-fried squid rings and chips explains that, from September to Easter, tourists can expect a two-hour wait for their seafood fix. “And people will wait that long,” she says.
Guests eat the oysters – meaty, briny, sluiced in saltwater – on a dune overlooking the lagoon they grew in.
Save room for oysters. Continue north for about an hour then turn off to Nine Mile Beach and Dolphin Sands, a spit of grassy dunes planted with the holiday homes of wealthy Hobart and Launceston residents.
Get a taste of their good life at Melshell Oysters, a 30-year-old family business with leases on Great Oyster Bay and Moulting Lagoon. Oysters are served freshly shucked from a vintage blue caravan. Guests eat them – meaty, briny, sluiced in saltwater – on a dune overlooking the lagoon they grew in.
Back on the Tasman Highway, Kate’s Berry Farm is an east coast institution selling berries in season (November to May), jams, chocolates and ice creams.
Continue north past Swansea for another 30 minutes then turn right onto Coles Bay Road and follow it to Freycinet National Park and the newly renovated Freycinet Lodge.
Sleepy bay at Freycinet National Park.
Exploring Freycinet is a mandatory pastime. Drive to Cape Tourville for epic outlooks along the peninsula. That vast strip of white to the north is the 10-kilometre-long Friendly Beaches and of course there’s Wineglass Bay, one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches. Allow 2.5 hours to hike to the translucent sea.
Dining options outside the lodge include Geographe Restaurant and Espresso Bar and pizzas from the bakery in snug Coles Bay. Or visit Brown Brothers-owned Devil’s Corner vineyard with 200 hectares of vines and cellar door, seriously good coffee at Tombolo Café; a fish and oyster kiosk run by the Freycinet Marine Farm – there’s ample reason to linger. Over the road, the pioneering Freycinet Vineyard produced its first vintage in 1980 and now makes about a dozen wines, including a floral riesling/schönburger blend.
“The Freycinet Coast seems to be really good for ripening,” says Tim. He’s talking about the grapes, of course, but the sentiment applies equally well to humans. Freycinet’s a great place to grow.
Images sourced from Getty Images.