So, you have decided to pack a tent, tow a caravan or hire a car/campervan and tour Tasmania. Great decision, the only criticism I have is what took you so long? Tasmania or “Tassie” as it is known by locals is an island state in Australia separated from the mainland by approximately 300km of sea known as the Bass Strait. The island is best known for its breathtaking scenery and the vast expanse of wilderness, almost 50% of Tasmania’s mass is either a national park or world heritage area. St Helens, Tasmania is a destination demanding your attention.
The east coast of Tasmania is particularly breathtaking, and the entire coastline is one beautiful white sandy beach after another. There really is no wrong place to set up your tent on the East Coast but today we are going to focus on the laid-back little beach town called St Helens. Below is my top 5 reasons St Helens Tasmania is a must stay location.
The camping is free.
That’s right free, and it is on par with the best camping spots in all of Australia. 14km from the main town of St Helens, Tasmania is Gardens Road, the entry to the Bay of Fires Conservation Area, voted hottest travel destination in the world by Lonely Planet in 2009. Gardens Road weaves through an 8km stretch of beaches and bays and has free designated camping spots throughout. The best camping would have to be found at Cosy Corner North or South but be prepared, these camping spots are incredibly popular and managing to grab a spot is not guaranteed. If you cannot manage to find a premium campsite to call home there is always the option of camping at Grant’s Lagoon, the camping is still free, but it is the only campsite along the Gardens Road which does not have direct access to a beach, instead you would need to trek the 4.5km to the beach each day.
Binalong Bay sits adjacent to the Bay of Fires Conservation Area and like all the beaches in the area, Binalong Bay has hour-glass fine, stark white sand but has the benefit of the bay being tucked a little further in from the coastline. This provides more shelter and
Tasmania’s ecosystem is thriving, and St Helens is a great place to check out the marine life which calls our waters home. Between September and November Humpback and Southern Right Whales pass by the coastline of St Helens as they migrate from their summer playground outside of Queensland and Western Australia, back down into their sub- Antarctic feeding grounds. Dolphins, seals and other marine life are also common to see from a boat and sometimes, if you are lucky, even from the beach.
If whales and dolphins don’t pique your interest, or you would rather set your sights on some marine life of the tasty variety, St Helens has still got you covered. Beach fishing the gutters with a surf rod will yield catches of Australian Salmon, Flathead and even Gummy Shark. If you are feeling more adventurous, snorkelling and free diving for abalone and crayfish is productive around Sloop Reef and Skeleton Bay. If you intend to take crayfish or abalone be sure to drop into the Service Tasmania in St Helens to purchase a license and find out about the size and bag limits. No license is required for beach fishing.
Sloop Reef “Jacuzzi”
This is a local treasure and I even debated whether to include it in this blog as it is hands down my favourite secret in St Helens. Sloop Reef is a camping area along Gardens Road in the Bay of Fires Conservation Area, the area itself is not a secret and is home to thousands of campers during the summer period. What is not well known however is that a natural formation in the rocks away from the camping area has created a natural rock pool, reminiscent of a natural jacuzzi. Not only is this pool of water crystal clear and deep enough to jump into off the surrounding rocks
Pub in the Paddock
In the nearby town of Pyengana, there is a famous pub named Pub in the Paddock, this Pub has been continuously licensed since 1880 and not much has changed there since that day. It is one of Tasmania’s oldest pubs and is rustic inside serving generous, hearty, traditional, old fashioned pub food as well as selections of fish and calamari sourced locally where possible. Or if you really want the full Tasmanian experience you could try their famous “Roo” patties, I think you can guess what is in them.
Almost as famous as the pub itself is their other attraction, Priscilla the beer drinking pig. Talk to the friendly barkeeper if you feel like Priscilla is looking a little dry and they will provide you with a specially watered-down beer which you can bottle feed to Priscilla. This is a popular experience with kids and adult tourists alike and is a pretty good photo opportunity at the least. Your friends and family are going to be hard pressed to be able to top that for Instagram clout. Just make sure to cut her off when she has had enough!
If camping, towing a caravan or venturing around in a campervan isn’t your idea of a holiday then never fear as St Helens and Binalong Bay area have some great accommodation places for you to stay as well. You can find all the best places to stay right here.
If you are heading to Tasmania or call Tassie home and want to read more about some amazing spots on offer then feel free to check out my “Tasmanian blogs” section on my website, it has some great blogs on ideas and places to stay in Hobart, reasons to head to Cradle Mountain and one featuring a great walk not far from St Helens itself plus much more.
Enjoy your time in St Helens Tasmania and remember not to tell many people about these secrets I’ve let you in on.
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Happy Travels, Brodie