Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach

Traversing Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bicheno has two unique attractions within easy walk of one another: Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach. There are a few blowholes on Tasmania’s East Coast. The thing that makes Bicheno Blowhole exceptional is its surrounds. The rocks on the coastline near the Blowhole are covered with the distinctive, fiery lichen that is unique to the East Coast. This orange back-drop contrasts beautifully with the water spout. The marine environment around the Blow Hole is also fascinating. Take a look at the kelp off the side of the rocks. It’s enormous!

Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There’s a lot to do at the Blowhole. You can look for sea life, hop on the rocks around the shoreline or even picnic on the table atop a nearby rock, if it’s available. It is a popular destination! Even in winter, there were plenty of people about. Perhaps the thing that you’ll spend most of your time doing though is listening for the whoomp of water rushing through rock as you try to time the perfect photograph. It sounds tedious, but it’s not! It’s an intriguing sound and a spectacular sight! Just be careful that you don’t wander into the splash zone or off the rock while you’re trying to get the perfect shot! And definitely don’t go out onto the rocks if the seas are stormy.

Rice Pebble Beach
Rice Pebble Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you’re finished at the Blowhole, there’s still plenty more to do. Around the corner is Bicheno’s secret beach: Rice Pebble Beach. As the name suggests, it is covered in tiny pebbles instead of sand. I remember visiting the beach several times when I was a child. The feeling of the stones under your feet is heavenly yet torture!! You can paddle and swim at Rice Pebble Beach but you do need to take care as there are a lot of rocks under the surface. If swimming isn’t your thing, read a book, admire the scenery or climb the lichen-covered rocks.

Getting There

Bicheno Blowhole
Bicheno Blowhole © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

To get to Bicheno, see this post. Once you’re in Bicheno, you can reach Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach by car or by foot. You could walk along the foreshore track via The Gulch. If you’re driving, you can take a similar route or, from Burgess Street, turn onto Douglas Street. There is ample car parking space at the end of Douglas Street. To reach Rice Pebble Beach, follow a dirt track south from the car park. Once the track ends, continue walking on the grass until you see a track disappearing into the trees.

Cost

Lichen
Lichen © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is no cost to visit Bicheno Blowhole and Rice Pebble Beach. Save your pennies for fish and chips from The Gulch, a cuppa from one of the cafes or a penguin tour.

Read about more of my adventures on Tasmania’s East Coast here.

Bicheno

Traversing Bicheno
Diamond Island
Diamond Island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bicheno is a beautiful little town on Tasmania’s East Coast. I spent many a summer holiday in the town as a child. Within the town boundaries, you can shop for Tasmanian goodies, eat fresh seafood, have a decent coffee, swim, surf, dive, fish, climb to several vantage points, see Little Penguins, stand on the edge of a blowhole, or walk over a sandbar to an island. And that’s not an exhaustive list by any means! Bicheno packs a punch!

Waubs Bay
Waubs Bay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My favourite thing to do in Bicheno is to swim. Although I am a true Tasmanian, it is winter and I don’t have a wetsuit, so we did my second favourite thing: walk. There are several tracks around Bicheno, including a lovely, albeit uneven, foreshore track. From the centre of Bicheno, you can walk to many different places.

Waubs Beach
Waubs Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

It is very short walk to Waubs Beach, a small but gorgeous place. In summer, this is where the surf lifesaving club operates. This weekend, we saw people on paddleboards, in kayaks and even going for a swim (in wetsuits, of course!). Bicheno is famous for its annual ocean swim. Australia’s famous Olympic swimmer, Shane Gould, heads up a swimming group and it may have been just this group that we spotted! The day before we arrived, whales were seen swimming nearby too. Whales are regularly seen offshore from July to November.

Wauba Debar's Grave
Wauba Debar’s Grave © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

On the shore, you’ll find a memorial to the Merchant Navy and the grave of the bay’s namesake. This is one of the most important graves in Tasmania as it once held the remains of Wauba Debar, a Tasmanian Aboriginal lady who won the hearts of locals at a time where racism and sexism were at their worst. Shamefully, her remains were removed for scientific study in the late 1800s but she is still remembered here with her original grave site and stone.

The Gulch
The Gulch © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Further south along the coast, you’ll find The Gulch. This is a small waterway and wharf protected from the elements by two Islands. On the other side of the islands lies the Governor Island Marine Reserve. This is one of the world’s best temperate dive locations, with over fifteen species inhabiting the small area. Seals can sometimes even be seen on nearby Alligator Rock. For a fantastic view of The Gulch, head to Whaler’s Lookout.

Bicheno
Bicheno © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The track to Whaler’s Lookout starts from Foster Street and is well signposted. We found a track winding up from the end of James Street but it is not for the faint hearted! At the top of the hill, you’ll find two lookouts. Whaler’s Lookout looks over the township and is so named because Bicheno was originally a whaling town. You can read about this awful yet fascinating history on the information board at the lookout. From Whaler’s Lookout, keep walking on the loop track and you’ll find another lookout, this time over The Gulch. It’s a lovely view!

A short walk south, either via the streets or the foreshore track, is the Blow Hole and Rice Pebble Beach, which you can read about here. A longer walk North along the foreshore track is the surf beach, Red Bill, and the town’s most famous attraction: Diamond Island. The island is famous for its penguin colony and its accessibility via a sandbar. You can read about my visit to Diamond Island here.

Getting There

Bicheno
Bicheno © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bicheno is on Tasmania’s East Coast. It is about ten minutes’ drive north of Freycinet and one hour’s drive south of St Helens. From Hobart, it will take you approximately two and a half hours via the Tasman Highway. Bicheno is just over two hours’ drive from Launceston via Campbell Town or St Mary’s. You can also take the longer route via St Helens and Bay of Fires. Wherever you’re driving from, add on an extra hour or two for stops. Its the East Coast. You see something you really want to stop for approximately every ten minutes.

Cost

Red Bill Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Understandably, the cost of accommodation is much less in the off-season (over winter). That said, there truly is something for everyone, ranging from tent sites to caravans to luxury B&Bs. As far as attractions go, you can spend the big bucks on scenic flights and cruises in nearby Freycinet or you can do what we did and just walk around Bicheno. It is such a fascinating and beautiful place!

Diamond Island
Diamond Island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is much more that I could write about Bicheno. We bought veggies from a local market, had a delicious piece of gluten and dairy free slice from The Farm Shed – East Coast Wine Centre and hope to return soon so that we can do the many things that we missed out on this time. Next time you head to the East Coast, don’t forget to visit the small but brilliant town of Bicheno.

You can read more about my adventures on Tasmania’s East Coast here.

Diamond Island

Traversing Diamond Island
Diamond Island
Diamond Island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When I was a child visiting Bicheno, one of the most special things we did was walk out to Diamond Island. This was a real treat because walking over a sandbar is fun and because, back then, even when the tide was low you tended to get wet. After a recent storm, the sandbar is now much bigger (or at least, it seems so to me!). I was a little bit worried that we wouldn’t make it to the island as low tide occurred at 5am. We arrived at Red Bill Beach at about 8:30am and found a wide, dry strip of sand to walk on. What a treat!

Swift Parrots
Swift Parrots © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Diamond Island is a very special place because you can walk out to it. Also, it is basically a giant Little Penguin rookery. You can find the rare, small Swift Parrot here (we saw a pair!). The island has the fiery lichen-covered rocks that are unique to the East Coast and it has large, beautiful rock pools. You might even see a pair of pelicans like we did. As you can see, it would be shorter to make a list of reasons NOT to visit Diamond Island.

Sand Bar
Sand Bar © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

One reason not to visit Diamond Island is if you don’t think that you can make it back across. You do NOT want to be stuck on the island for 12 hours. It will get dark and cold and the penguins would rather be left alone. Another reason not to visit Diamond Island is if you have your dog with you. They are not allowed in the reserve.

Penguin Rookery
Penguin Rookery © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As the island is a penguin rookery, there are no paths (except those made by the penguins). Do not step on the greenery! You don’t want to be responsible for a penguin home invasion. To be sure that you’re not treading somewhere that you shouldn’t, stay on the rocks. Traversing the island will take a little bit of thinking and leaping this way. It’s quite fun!

Getting There

Pelicans
Pelicans © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

For information on Bicheno and how to get there, read this post. Once you’re in Bicheno, walk or drive to Red Bill beach, the surf beach near Diamond Island. It’s about a ten-minute walk (at a reasonable pace) from the car park and along the beach to Diamond Island. When planning your visit, check the tide times and make sure that you leave plenty of time to get back off the island on the same tide.

Cost

View of Bicheno
View of Bicheno © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Unless you are fined for walking on the penguin rookery, there is no cost to visit Diamond Island. Remember to stay on the rocks and take any rubbish with you. The views of and from Diamond Island are beautiful. Take your camera and a sense of adventure and you’ll have a great time.

Read more of my adventures on Tasmania’s East Coast here.

Bay of Fires

Sunrise, Bay of Fires
Bay of Fires
Bay of Fires © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bay of Fires was named by explorer Tobias Furneaux who sailed by in 1773 and saw the fires lit by the Aboriginal people. These promoted plant growth and kept mammals, an important food-source, close to the coast. The area continues to be an important place for the Tasmanian Aboriginal community. A large midden at one end of Jeanneret Beach has yielded many Aboriginal artifacts. Another sacred site in the area is larapuna (Eddystone Point), which is also a large midden. Respect these sacred sites by adhering to signage and fencing.

Binalong Bay
Binalong Bay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Today, the Bay of Fires is renowned for granite rocks covered with fiery orange lichen. It is also famous for its pure white sand and turquoise waters.  Due to its unique flora and fauna, the Bay of Fires is a conservation area. You can access approximately half of the coast by car. It is much harder to access the northern half of Bay of Fires in Mount William National Park. You can walk through with local tourism companies or you can sail past like Furneaux. I saw the area from the water on a Bay of Fires Eco Tours cruise, which you can read about here.

Taylors Beach
Taylors Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The southern part of the Bay of Fires Conservation Area stretches from Binalong Bay through to The Gardens and contains several excellent campsites. You can camp here for up to four weeks at a time. Amenities are limited (drop toilets) and you will need to bring your own water but the location is sensational! If you have a motorhome, Swim Cart beach gives you an amazing view and excellent beach access for surf fishing (swimming is not advised). The most popular camping site is Cosy Corner. For more information about camping in the Bay of Fires, see the Parks and Wildlife website.

Shacks, Taylors Beach
Shacks, Taylors Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There are many holiday rentals in Binalong Bay or the area near The Gardens. I’ve found that renting directly from an owner (when possible) is a better experience. There are no general stores in the Bay of Fires area so pick up supplies in nearby St. Helens on your way in. You can purchase a coffee at Moresco Restaurant or the Bay of Fires Eco Tours at Titley’s Shack.

Grants Lagoon
Grants Lagoon © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The beauty of the Bay of Fires is that it is largely uncommercialised. You can cruise the bay (read about my experience here) or do a four-day walking tour departing from Launceston. There is also a viewing platform and information boards at The Gardens. You’ll be swimming, kayaking, fishing, walking the pristine beaches, encountering the wildlife and just taking in one of the most picturesque places on the planet.

Getting There

The Gardens
The Gardens © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Bay of Fires is about a three-hour drive from Launceston and a four-hour drive from Hobart. From Launceston or Hobart, take the Midlands Highway to Campbell Town then turn onto the Lake Leake road to the East Coast. Alternatively, drive northeast from Launceston to Scottsdale (via Lilydale or Myrtle Park). If driving from Hobart, you can follow the coast the entire way. Wherever you are travelling from, allow yourself additional time to explore the regions that you are passing through as there are some top-notch attractions along the way.

Cost

Binalong Bay
Binalong Bay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is no cost for visiting the southern section of the Bay of Fires Conservation Area from Binalong Bay to The Gardens. If you choose to visit Mount William National Park, you need to have a Parks Pass. You can enjoy the Bay of Fires for a relatively low cost if you are camping or having a day at the beach. Enjoy the pristine waters and beautiful wildlife of the Bay of Fires!

Read about my other journeys on Tasmania’s stunning east coast here.

Bay of Fires Eco Tours

Lichen
Bay of Fires Eco Tours
Bay of Fires Eco Tours © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

On a sunny, calm day, we took to the seas in the exquisite Bay of Fires on Infurneaux. The sole ship in the Bay of Fires Eco Tours fleet, it is luxurious! The seats are very comfy, which doesn’t sound too important, but it will be once you’ve been sitting for three hours! We were provided with warm, waterproof jackets.

Bay of Fires Eco Tours
Bay of Fires Eco Tours © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

To prepare for your journey, limit your cups of tea beforehand! I had one too many and needed to use the loo on board. While I can now tick that off my bucket list, it’s probably best if you don’t need to use it at all! Another thing that you need to be aware of is that, while it might be a hot day on the sand, it’s always much colder out on the water. Wear layers (lovely Tasmanian merino is a great idea) but don’t wear a hat as it may end up overboard. If you think that your head might get cold, wear a hooded jacket or jumper. Even though the boat has a canopy, I would also recommend wearing sunscreen due to the sun, wind and spray. If you experience sea-sickness, see my Bruny Island Cruises post for tips from the Ancient Mariner (Dad).

Aboriginal Midden, Jeanneret Beach
Aboriginal Midden, Jeanneret Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Your journey through the Bay of Fires will take you up the coast, showing you a range of beaches and sites. The Aboriginal midden (bone and shell heap) at the end of Jeanneret Beach is enormous and it’s a privilege to see it from offshore. You’ll also have a few opportunities to take stellar photographs of the lichen-covered granite rocks from the sea. Our guide paused to show us various bird life, including a gorgeous sea eagle and several black-crested cormorants. We sailed very close to Sloop Rock (named so because it looks like a ship rising up out of the water). This rock plunges 18 metres down to the ocean floor and is quite a sight to behold. The best part of the tour, in my opinion, is seeing Mount William National Park. The park is quite hard to get to so it was very special to see Anson’s Bay, the Park’s pristine beaches, Bay of Fires Lodge, Eddystone Point Lighthouse and Mount William itself from the water.

 

Eddystone Point Lighthouse
Eddystone Point Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At larapuna (the Aboriginal name for the area where Eddystone Point Lighthouse stands), you’ll have the opportunity for a complimentary biscuit and a fabulous photo of the Lighthouse and the Keeper’s Cottages. After this, you’ll take to the open waters in search of wildlife.

 

Shy Albatross
Shy Albatross © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

We saw three shy albatross (one of which wasn’t shy at all and posed for several pictures!) on the return journey. These birds are beautiful. We also encountered a lone seal who was a bit annoyed that we were interrupting his meal. Pufferfish, anyone? It was then a lovely boat-ride, with only a pot-hole or two, back to base.

Brown Fur Seal
Brown Fur Seal © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

 

Getting There

Titley's Shack, Binalong Bay
Titley’s Shack, Binalong Bay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

For instructions on how to get to the Bay of Fires, read my post about the region. Once you’ve made it to St. Helens, follow signs for Binalong Bay and then drive along the coast, past Moresco Restaurant, until you reach Titley’s Shack on the left (look for Bay of Fires Eco Tours signage).

 

Cost

Sloop Rock
Sloop Rock © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As for similar cruises in Tasmania such as Bruny Island Cruises (you can read about my experience here), adults cost $135, children (5-years-old and above) cost $85 and a family costs $380. There are two shorter afternoon cruises which cost slightly less. It would be fabulous to see the small seal colony at St. Helens Island and I am considering doing this tour in the future. I recommend doing the full Bay of Fires tour instead of The Gardens tour, if time permits. Seeing Eddystone Point Lighthouse is well worth it!

To read about my other journeys on Tasmania’s stunning east coast, click here.