Eight-day Great Eastern Drive road trip

Just when you’ve laid eyes on a pristine stretch of beach, the road sweeps around and another sparkling coastline stretches ahead. A road trip along Tasmania’s east coast takes in laidback hinterland towns and classic seaside villages, the perfect arc of Wineglass Bay, and national parks threaded with walking tracks and inhabited by fascinating wildlife. Embrace simple luxuries – take time to pull over and follow a beach track, order seafood at a fish shack, fall asleep to the sound of the ocean.

St Columba Falls. Photo: Tourism Tasmania & Kathryn Leahy

Day 1: Devonport to St Helens

On arrival in Devonport, disembark from Spirit of Tasmania and set off on your adventure through the eastern side of the island.

Stop at Derby for a mountain bike ride. Vertigo MTB rents bikes and operates shuttles to trailheads. There are also easy trails that leave from the heart of town.

Past Derby, swing into the forested hills and farmland of Pyengana Valley. At its head, set out on foot for the 15-minute walk to St Columba Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls on the island at 90 metres high.

Stop for a meal at Pyengana Dairy Farmgate café, serving platters and meals starring its own farmhouse cheeses. The nearby Pub in the Paddock – literally, a pub sitting in a paddock – is one of the oldest hotels in the state and a good spot for lunch.

Head for the hills for the night and find ultimate seclusion at The Keep, a glamorous fortress tower atop the Blue Tier, or glamp in a bell tent at Bay of Fires Bush Retreat.

Bay of Fires. Photo: Stu Gibson

Day 2: St Helens and the larapuna/Bay of Fires

Spend a day on St Helens Mountain Bike Trails – perhaps tackle a mountain-to-sea ride on the 42-kilometre Bay of Fires trail – or view one of the country's most magnificent stretches of coastline, larapuna/Bay of Fires, from the water with Bay of Fires Eco Tours.

Follow water with wine at Priory Ridge Vineyard – boasting a cellar door housed in a 1920s shearing shed on the outskirts of St Helens. Consider lunch at Lifebuoy Cafe & Quail Street Emporium.

Take an evening stroll along the cloud-white sands of the Bay of Fires before spending the night at St Helens or the Bay of Fires.

Crayfish at Bicheno wharf. Photo: Stu Gibson

Day 3: St Helens to Bicheno

Heading south from St Helens, take the high road, climbing off the coast to the charming town of St Marys and the unique Cranks and Tinkerers Museum, featuring one man's collection of pretty much everything.

The quirky spirit of St Marys is tangible when you stop for lunch at Purple Possum Wholefoods and Cafe, which has a gallery of local art and a bric-a-brac shed. Try the vegetarian burger and the rhubarb cake – you won’t be disappointed.

Return along Elephant Pass Road to the shores and make for Bicheno. If the tide is low, it's often possible to walk across the exposed sand spit to Diamond Island at Bicheno's northern end, or if there's a swell you'll likely find the Bicheno Blowhole doing its thing.

Tonight, indulge in the freshest seafood you’ll ever try at the Lobster Shack Tasmania.

Bicheno's nightlife is truly wild – watch little penguins waddle ashore with Bicheno Penguin Tours, or join a Devils in the Dark tour at East Coast Natureworld, to observe Tasmanian devils living nocturnally.

Stay overnight in Bicheno.

Honeymoon Bay. Photo: Lisa Kuilenberg

Day 4: Bicheno to Coles Bay

Turn off the main road and head for Coles Bay, making a stop at Moulting Lagoon, a vast wetland home to thousands of black swans at any time.

Freycinet National Park is where you’ll find the most mesmerising beach on the east-coast – Wineglass Bay – together with many other splendid bays. Sleepy Bay's red boulders and sands light up at sunrise, while Honeymoon Bay – with its backdrop of the Hazards – is as romantic as its name suggests. For a seemingly endless line of pristine sands stretching as far as the eye can see, take a walk on the Friendly Beaches.

Sweeten the afternoon at the Ice Creamery in Coles Bay, with over 24 flavours of Tasmanian-made ice-cream on offer. For dinner, sink your teeth into a wood-fired pizza at Géographe Restaurant and Espresso Bar.  If you want to soak up spectacular views over Coles Bay, head to Freycinet Lodge’s two restaurants or lounge bar.

Settle into Coles Bay for the night. Experience a once-in-a-lifetime stay at the luxe Saffire Freycinet – one of the world’s most luxurious lodges. If you are looking for more rustic accommodation, Big4 Iluka on Freycinet offers camping spots and cosy cabins.

Wineglass Bay Cruises. Photo: Kathryn Leahy

Day 5: Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park

Pack some adventure into your Freycinet stay. Opportunities are endless here: cruise around the peninsula with Wineglass Bay Cruises, set out for a paddle with Freycinet Adventures, take it to the sky for a scenic flight over Freycinet Peninsula with Freycinet Air, or discover hidden tracks on a quad-bike tour with All4Adventure.

Tasmania's oldest national park has a wealth of walking trails: set out on a half-day guided walk with Experiential Tasmania. Freycinet Aqua Taxi can transport independent walkers to Hazards Beach, Cooks Beach or Schouten Island.

Sample some of the finest seafood at Freycinet Marine Farm, before settling in for the night in Coles Bay.

Cape Tourville Lighthouse. Photo: Poon Wai Nang

Day 6: Coles Bay to Swansea

Before leaving the peninsula, stroll the boardwalk at Cape Tourville. The cape is part of the East Coast Whale Trail, so keep an eye on the ocean and get a sense of the size of these ocean giants through the markings on the wooden boardwalk.

Aim for lunch at one of the winery cellar doors clustered around Cranbrook. Milton's cellar door commands a glorious spot overlooking the vines, and its ALM Restaurant is open for lunch Friday to Sunday. Craigie Knowe is the region's oldest vineyard, with a beautiful cellar door nestled in an old barn. The sleek contemporary design of Devil's Corner delivers gorgeous views of Freycinet, as well as wood-fired pizza, oysters and seafood.

See the best of Swansea and its coast on the loontitetermairrelehoiner walk – a 2.3-kilometre circuit that starts in the centre of town and rounds Waterloo Point, the site of Swansea's first settlement in 1827.

Pay a visit to Swansea's fascinating East Coast Heritage Museum, which runs the course of history from Tasmanian Aboriginal artefacts to convict and whaling days.

Stay overnight at Swansea, where options include Swansea Beach Chalets and the former coaching inn of Schouten House.

Convict Barn and Clinker Store, Maria Island. Photo: Stu Gibson

Day 7: Maria Island National Park and Orford

The drive south from Swansea features one of Tasmania's most curious convict constructions: Spiky Bridge. Located a short drive outside Swansea, the bridge was built with field stones laid without mortar, while its parapet features upright stones which give it a spiky appearance.

Take the morning Encounter Maria Island ferry from Triabunna to Maria Island – the island national park blessed with impressive natural sights, rich history and teeming with wildlife.

Wander the grounds of Darlington, exploring the convict probation station and scattered remains of the grand industrial empire envisaged by Diego Bernacchi in the late 19th century.

From Darlington, take a short two-kilometre walk to the whimsically patterned Painted Cliffs. Check the tide times – the cliffs are accessible about two hours either side of low tide.

Return to Triabunna on the ferry and head towards nearby Orford for the night. Options include Eastcoaster Tasmania, with dinner on-site at Spring Bay Restaurant and café. You can also head back towards Buckland, where farm-stay options at Twamley Farm include a converted 1840s stable and a glamping bell tent.

Old Convict Road - Orford. Photo: Tourism Tasmania & Nick Osbourne

Day 8: Orford to Devonport

A morning in Orford brings more walking opportunities. The faint line of the Old Convict Road follows the course of the Prosser River through Paradise Gorge on the original, convict-built track between Orford and Hobart. From Shelly Beach, an easy two-kilometre walking trail winds around Quarry Point to Spring Beach. Sandstone was once hand-cut from Quarry Point and used to construct buildings in Hobart and Melbourne, including the Melbourne General Post Office.

Toast the end of the drive south with a wine tasting at Darlington Vineyard, or a whisky and gin tasting at Spring Bay Distillery. Return north to Swansea and turn inland for the drive back to Devonport – take the Midlands Highway as the shortest route.

From Devonport, you’ll drive board Spirit of Tasmania and head back home.

Want to extend your journey? Add a few days to your itinerary following the Heartlands road trip.

Original content is courtesy of Tourism Tasmania