This week, we stayed at Turners Beach. The beach faces onto Bass Strait and is strewn with large pebbles, sun-bleached driftwood, seaweed, sponges, cuttlefish and other fascinating offerings from the ocean-floor. At low tide, the sand is revealed, along with more gorgeous pebbles, shells and sponges. Turners beach is a treasure-hunter’s paradise.
At high tide, the only way of moving along the western end of the beach is to walk on the pebbles, which is an adventure. You never know what you’ll find among the driftwood. Unbelievably, there were surfers in the water, taking advantage of the high-tide waves. The sound of the waves dragging back across the rocks is very unusual! It was a fantastic sound to fall asleep to.
At low tide, you can walk the length of the beach on the sand. You can also see why there are so many warnings signposted on the public access points to the beach. Sandbars and previously hidden piles of pebbles create brilliant waves but, combined with strong currents, make for less than ideal swimming conditions. Have a lovely paddle and explore the debris instead.
Public access to Turners Beach is via the esplanade. The most prominent access is via a wooden walkway opposite the popular La Mar Café Providore. This entry has some carparking and two picnic shelters. There is also a viewing platform which is a great spot for taking photos and enjoying the atmosphere of the beach at high tide. When you reach the sand, walk to the right and you’ll find the River Forth. To the left, you’ll find the unusual pebbles and oceanic paraphernalia that make Turners Beach so distinctive.
Turners Beach is approximately 15 minutes’ drive from Devonport along the Bass Highway. Coming from the west, it’s a 5-minute drive from Ulverstone. Drive along the esplanade until you reach the end. Parking is available near the public entry to the beach.
There is no cost to visit public beaches in Tasmania. I encourage you to pay for your visit in kind though, by taking three for the sea. I also highly recommend visiting La Mar Café Providore. They have a great menu, lots of options for those with food allergies, a lovely atmosphere and a wonderful variety of food and home-ware items to browse. It’s winter now and sitting beside their wood fire was an absolute treat!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.