East Beach

Traversing East Beach
Low Head Lighthouse
Low Head Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I visited East Beach last week for a quick swim on a hot day. When I arrived, I realised how much I’d forgotten about the location. For one, I’d forgotten that Low Head Lighthouse is visible from the beach. I had also forgotten that there is a giant sand dune at the other end of the beach. As if all of this wasn’t enough, East Beach faces onto Bass Strait. Whichever way you look, it’s a spectacular sight.

Dunes
Dunes © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

East beach is a surf beach. This might make you think twice about going there, particularly with kids, but it is a great beach for swimming. While I was there, kids in floaties swam in the surf with their dad and a toddler played with his father in the shallows. The water was warm and clear, the waves were gentle and the sun shone brightly. I would return there in a heartbeat.

Pebbles
Lichen and Pebbles © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The beach is also good for exploring. Lichen-covered rocks (like those found at Bay of Fires) can be found at the lighthouse end of East Beach, along with many interesting pebbles and shells. The  dunes are rich with coastal flora and a good walk along the shore will take you to the impressively tall sand dunes.

What to Bring

Dunes
Dunes © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

For an enjoyable day at any beach, always check the weather and wear appropriate clothing. In winter, you’ll need to rug up as the coast can be cold. In summer, bring your bathers so that you can go for a swim (the water is beautiful!) and wear sunscreen and protective clothing. You won’t find a store nearby so bring some food and water. Low Head Pilot Station is three minutes’ drive away and has a café if you’d prefer that.

Getting There

East Beach
East Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

East Beach is about 45 minutes’ drive north of Launceston. Stay on the East Tamar Highway until it turns into Low Head Road. Turn right when you reach Gunn Parade (or East Beach Road – they create a loop). You’ll find ample parking at the beach near the picnic area.

Cost

East Beach Tourist Park
East Beach Tourist Park © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As with all public beaches in Tasmania, you can access the beach for free. East Beach has a basic toilet and change-room block available for public use. You can also use the adjacent picnic table and barbecue facilities. Nearby East Beach Tourist Park has wood carvings on display that are sure to entertain the kids. Enjoy your day!

On your way to or from East Beach, I recommend visiting Low Head Pilot Station and Lighthouse, the Bass & Flinder’s Centre and Watch House at George Town and Hillwood Berry Farm. I’ve also visited several other places in Tasmania’s north and on the east coast – happy travels!

Mersey Bluff Reserve

Traversing Mersey Bluff Reserve
Mersey Bluff Reserve
Mersey Bluff Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Last week, I visited the lovely Mersey Bluff Reserve. Dubbed “The Bluff” by locals, it has a rugged beauty, excellent facilities and is a significant location in punnilerpunner country. In summer, Mersey Bluff Reserve is crowded with swimmers, diners, children playing on the playground and people walking or running by. In winter, I arrived to find a man wheeling a car tyre past the playground and saw approximately fifteen people across the entire reserve. Everyone who stayed away because of the rain missed out though.

Walkway
Walkway © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you arrive at Mersey Bluff Reserve, you’ll see a giant playground, a beach, and a fascinating building, which houses the amenities and eateries. I recommend having a bite to eat here as the view is superb. Walk north along the beach and you’ll see a cement track. This leads you around The Bluff. It is a short but stunning walk. On a sunny day, at the right time, you’ll even see The Julie Burgess about (this is how I first learnt that she existed!) or The Spirit of Tasmania sail past.

View of Bass Strait
View of Bass Strait © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

One of my friends recently told me that she loves to go to the beach in winter. Now I understand why! I have never seen the water so wild before. Waves pushed up to the cement barrier on the beach. They pounded the cliffs and surged through the rocks. I stood at one lookout and watched the water pour in and out of a crevice for about five minutes. It was amazing!

Memorial
Memorial © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I followed a father and his two sons around the track. One of the boys asked his father to read him a plaque. His father read out a poignant statement about a man who died in 1929 trying to save a little girl. Near the lighthouse, there is another plaque about a man who died more recently, again, trying to save someone else. For the sake of others, please swim only at the beach and not near the cliffs.

Lighthouse
Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The lighthouse is testament to the perils of The Bluff and of Bass Strait. It is a rather gorgeous red and white striped lighthouse, perched on the cliffs overlooking Bass Strait. You first see it from a lookout just off the walkway. You cannot climb the lighthouse but admiring it from the outside is good enough.

As you walk back down the hill, you’ll see two things: a caravan park and Tiagarra. This is no accident, as a sign at Tiagarra, an Aboriginal Cultural Centre, points out: “Wherever there is a caravanpark or campsite on the ocean or rivers it is likely to be built on an Aboriginal living site, as they are in the best positions to stay in the seasons”. Tiagarra means “to keep” and is one of the oldest Aboriginal Keeping Places in Australia. Take time to read the poetry printed on the windows and to look for petroglyphs (carvings) on the rocks near the lighthouse. Tiagarra is open by appointment for groups of ten or more.

Tiagarra
Tiagarra © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Getting There

Lighthouse
Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Devonport is about one hour’s drive north of Launceston on the Bass Highway and about half an hour east of Burnie. When you arrive in Devonport, head to the city centre. From here, follow Victoria Parade. This then turns into Bluff Road. There is plenty of car parking at The Bluff. If you’re keen on exercise, there is a cycling and walking track that runs alongside the river from the city to The Bluff. It is rather picturesque!

Cost

Mersey Bluff Reserve
Mersey Bluff Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is no cost to visit Mersey Bluff Reserve or to walk around the base of the lighthouse. If you make an appointment to visit Tiagarra (with a group of ten or more), you can purchase craft and artworks. Alternatively, buy some food at one of The Bluff restaurants or have a picnic at one of the picnic tables. I’ve always enjoyed visiting The Bluff and, as my winter visit proved, the loop walk around the coast is worth doing at any time of year.

Staying in Devonport? Read about my visits to Home Hill, Bass Strait Maritime Centre or The Julie Burgess. Passing through? Read about my adventures in Tasmania’s nearby north west or north.

Cape Bruny Lighthouse

Traversing Cape Bruny Lighthouse
Cape Bruny
Cape Bruny © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Cape Bruny Lighthouse is a sturdy yet elegant lighthouse. Due to being made from sterner stuff than other historic lighthouses, it now boasts being the second oldest original lighthouse in Australia. It was Australia’s fourth lighthouse at its time of lighting in 1838. Constructed by convicts from local dolerite, the lighthouse took just 18 months to build. The three keepers cottages still sit below it, as does a graveyard, the ruins of a convict vegetable garden and some of the best scenery in the world.

Cape Bruny Lighthouse
Cape Bruny Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Cape Bruny Lighthouse is a monument to times gone by. Now replaced by an automated light on the tip of the cape, the old lighthouse was recently restored internally and opened to the public for tours. You can book a tour online or at the base of the lighthouse on the day. Tours go up the tower every half hour. We had a private tour, which was lovely. The guide was friendly and knowledgeable. His boss grew up in various lighthouses around the state as the child of one of Tasmania’s last lighthouse keepers.

Fresnel prism
Fresnel prism © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Inside, you’ll find a beautiful metal spiral staircase, the original Fresnel prism, kerosene vents, the weight system used for keeping the light revolving and a working phone to the keeper’s cottage. You end up circling the lighthouse on its balcony. We saw a wedge-tail eagle from above (they have a stunning pattern on their wings which you can’t see from the ground). It is breathtaking to view the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, the Southern Ocean and the southern tip of Bruny Island from above.

Cape Bruny
Cape Bruny © emily@traversingtasmania 2017
The Lighthouse Station
The Lighthouse Station © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Once you are on the ground again, enter the museum for a glimpse of the machinery that made it all happen. The museum also houses artefacts found on site (ceramics, name plates, etc.). From the left-hand side of the Number 1 Keepers Cottage, take a walk down to the beach, past a small graveyard and the ruins of a convict garden. The Tasmanian flora in South Bruny National Park is magnificent. Watch out for my least favourite of all Tasmanian fauna: the Tasmanian Tiger snake. If you do come across one, make a decision to run or stand very still and make sure that you commit to your decision 100% as half-doing either option is not worth it!

Getting There

Convict Garden
Convict Garden © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

To get to Bruny Island, follow the advice in my Bruny Island post. Drive south from Alonnah, turning right at the T-junction near Lunawanna. Follow signs for Cape Bruny Lighthouse. The road is primarily gravel and is quite rough. There are two scenic lookouts on the way; stop at both. There is parking at the lighthouse although it is only a small carpark so you may have to park alongside the road – don’t block the driveways to the keepers cottages as two of these contain residents (the third is the museum).

Cost

View from the Lighthouse
View from the Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tours up the lighthouse (highly recommended!) are $10 per adult, $7.50 per child or $35 per family (not suitable for children under 5 years old).  You can book your tickets online here. This is recommended as tours can book out because they are for only eight people at a time. If you do book online, keep your booking number to quote for the guide. For those who arrive at Cape Bruny Lighthouse without a booking, it is worth the half hour wait. The views from the lighthouse are spectacular.

To read more about my travels in Tasmania’s south, click here.

Low Head Pilot Station and Lighthouse

Traversing Low Head
Low Head Pilot Station
Low Head Pilot Station © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Low Head is one of the prettiest places in Tasmania. It’s also one of Tasmania’s oldest settlements. Named by Bass and Flinders because it is, well, a low headland, Low Head has had a pilot station in operation since 1805. It’s still in operation today. All large ships entering the Tamar River (usually commercial vessels heading to Bell Bay) are piloted into the river due to the narrow channel, which is deeper than Bass Strait in places, and the dangerous Hebe reef between Low Head and West Head. The reef was named after the first ship to be wrecked on it and it’s thanks to this reef, and the many ships wrecked on it, that such excellent artifacts can be found in the Low Head Pilot Station Museum.

Low Head Pilot Station Museum

Low Head Pilot Station Museum
Low Head Pilot Station Museum © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Housed in the 1835 Pilots’ Row, which was designed by colonial architect John Lee Archer, the museum pays homage to the maritime history of the Tamar River, with a particular focus on the Port Dalrymple region. It has 13 rooms, each with a specific focus (lighting, diving, signaling and so on). Each room has an impressive array of well-displayed local artifacts, allowing you to imagine what life aboard a ship would have been like during a variety of eras. The ingenuity of some of the inventions, such as Walker’s “Cherub” log, which measures the ship’s speed via a spinning brass log dragged behind the ship, is staggering.

Diving Suit
Diving Suit © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My favourite thing about the Low Head Pilot Station Museum is that it’s more hands-on than most museums. No, you can’t touch the diving suit or climb into the canvas trousers of the life buoy (even though you will probably want to!) but you can practise your Morse code… it turns out that I’m terrible at it! Look out for the button to set off the light display (to satisfy the child in us all).

The museum is located in the larger Low Head Pilot Station precinct, which is very beautiful. You can have lunch in the cafe, visit the church or even stay the night in one of the cottages.

Signaling
Signaling © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Low Head Lighthouse

Low Head Lighthouse
Low Head Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

A very short drive from the pilot station is Low Head Lighthouse, the pinnacle of the signaling system. Built in 1888 (to replace the original 1833 lighthouse), the tower is very photogenic. The light station is the third oldest in Australia (second oldest in Tasmania). From the lighthouse precinct, you have views of East Beach, Bass Strait and Low Head, as well as access to (very) short walks in the Low Head Coastal Reserve. At noon every Sunday you’ll even have the privilege of hearing the restored fog horn sounding loud and clear! Penguin tours take place in the Low Head Coastal Reserve.

Getting There

View from Lighthouse
View from Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

From Launceston, drive north on the East Tamar Highway to George Town. Keep driving north to Low Head. The way to the pilot station and lighthouse is clearly signposted (if in doubt, follow the river north!). The drive from Launceston to Low Head takes approximately 45 minutes and is lovely. We stopped for lunch on the way at Hillwood Berry Farm which was delicious!

Cost

Boat Shed © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll always receive a warm welcome at the Low Head Pilot Station Museum. The volunteers are friendly and give you more than your money’s worth of information. Entry costs $5 for adults, $4 for concession and $3 for children or $13 for a pass to the museum plus the Bass and Flinders Centre and the Watch House Museum in George Town. Access to the Low Head Lighthouse precinct is currently free (but you can’t, unfortunately, climb the lighthouse). The museum is open from 10am – 4pm everyday except Christmas.

Lagoon Beach
Lagoon Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

While in Low Head, walk at least some of the trail along the river, passing the leading lights, Lagoon Beach, the Pilot Station and, finally, reaching the Lighthouse. It’s a very picturesque area! We stopped to help a driver in distress and, as a passerby said while we were waiting for the tow truck, “enjoy the view!” We did.

To view other posts about Tasmania’s north, click here.