Tourism Industry Coincil Tasmania

Amongst so much global change - what's happening in Bicheno?

It started with an audible gasp! On the lands of the palawa people, a brilliant blue ocean, striking white sands and orange-kissed boulders begin to appear. We've walked up to Whaler’s lookout in the pre-dawn light, where Bicheno spreads out below. Angled around the coastline, shacks old and restored, holiday and sea change homes, face daybreak over Waub's Bay. Surprisingly, my daughter reaches for my hand.

From these ancient rocks, the tiny town is sleepy in the dawn. We can just see the contours of Douglas Apsley National Park appearing on the other side of town. The lights of the bakery beckon, where delicious smells and lively conversation tempt. The Newsagent is ready with his high beam welcome. From here you can wonder how your day might go - Swimming? Surfing? Exploring? Browsing? Fishing? Multiple choices.

The day continues to unfold. Ocean swimmers stride into the sea from the surf club for their morning swim. Coffee comes from the caravan or the coffee window - wetsuits optional!

Surfers change in the carpark at Redbill Beach before launching their boards off red lichened boulders into the swell. Surfing is as loved as fishing here - in fact if the surf’s up, many tradies opt for the waves rather than the building site, so if you need a tradie, head to the beach!

From this lookout you might also glimpse Humpbacks and Southern Right whales breaching on their annual migration. Spot the bronzed Aussie fur seals lazing on Alligator Rock just south of the Gulch, or watch a pod of playful dolphins. There's even a glass bottomed boat where you'll glimpse what lies beneath!

We notice the tide is out at Diamond Island. A scattering of walkers make their way to the tiny island while they can. Year round on Redbill Beach, parents teach their youngsters to swim and surf. I wonder what my daughter will ask me to do today with so many choices.

We are down now and notice the trailing white sand through the town from the foreshore walks. From the Blowhole and the shimmering rock pools of Rice Pebble Beach, through to the homeware shops, cafes, boutiques, and co-op with its own community garden - there are no big brands here!

We get the feeling that some locals are a bit like the crayfish that share the Marine Reserve with abalone, rays, crabs, squid, and other jewels of the deep – naturally happy to share, but a bit territorial! The place is still pretty much untouched, with a strong community feel. Kids still walk barefoot, and ride their bikes to school. A knowing smile, or a friendly nod, welcome us. My Mum had a shack here and so did her parents - it has been pretty much the same here for a very long time. Like so many others, we keep coming back.

Nostalgia is a powerful emotion for locals and regulars like us who have been visiting for generations - this is our home. While we remember our past, it doesn't mean we live in it. Far from it - Bicheno has developed a series of award winning festivals and events, and even a laser light show in the winter.

Our town has come of age, but we keep ourselves grounded. We value what we have and what we've achieved. That's why we love this place.

We’re at the Gulch for lunch. Fishing is a popular pastime in Bicheno, with no better example than watching the “Boat ramp Ballet” or bedlam, – depending on the day.

Crested Terns watch from Governor Island opposite. They have come a long way for this spectacle, from the Northern Hemisphere in fact. They laugh out loud - well so it seems. As perennial visitors, they must also love it here.

My daughter can’t help but notice our fellow diners - “he” is getting impatient waiting while “she” Instagrams the hell out of her lobster roll. They haven't yet noticed the boat ramp ballet or the fisherman trying his luck on the wharf in front, as their food is far more important. As it should be.

Down the street we stumble across a cordon bleu chef creating remarkable pastries. A new but rustic building offers gin, whiskey and wine tastings. My daughter's favourite, however, is the bakery's scallop pie. "To die for!" she says.

The Moon is up and we are off for dinner. The local Penguins have already had theirs and are returning to their burrows, but they do loiter and have a chat en-route. Be very careful! Always check underneath your car before heading off.

After dinner we are on the jetty ourselves, trying for a squid. “Do you think dreams ever come true, Dad?”

“Well,” I said. “We're here together throwing a line in the water, I reckon they do.”

Bicheno2

BICHENO ITINERARY

Day 1

Bicheno is full of surprises. Make an early start to enjoy the two and a half hour drive north from Hobart along The Great Eastern Drive - one of Australia’s greatest drives. Nestled between the Douglas Apsley National Park and Freycinet National Park, Bicheno is the only actual ocean front town, so pack your fishing rods and try your luck. Take a driver stretch break at Raspin’s Beach just past Orford to admire the stunning view to Maria Island then jump back in the car- you’re nearly half way there.

If you are travelling from the North, head across the Lake Leake Road, the B34, with its sweeping bends through the forests, then turn left onto The Great Eastern Drive.

You will see a bunch of wineries along the way so remember these for the return journey, but consider pushing on to Devil’s Corner where the cellar door opens at 10am. Take in the spectacular views of the vines as they trail down to the sea, see the reflections on Moulting Lagoon and further in the distance The Hazards within Freycinet National Park.

Enjoy a coffee or hot chocolate from Tombolo or maybe grab a bottle of wine from the cellar door and some seafood from The Fishers for a picnic later today. You’re nearly there. The day is looking incredible - appreciate the passing farmlands as you approach Bicheno township.

And there it is - the audible gasp as you spot the ocean as you come over the crest into town - sparkling!

You’ve made great time and the tide is on the way out. Let’s head to Diamond Island. If you didn’t pick up supplies on the way, maybe grab some picnic foods and a Tassie ginger beer. Tasmanian Coastal Seafoods, Blue Edge Bakery, Rainy Day Cafe and other equally wonderful cafes in the street should be able to get you sorted.

It’s a very short drive to Redbill Beach and with your picnic in your backpack, stroll along the beach to the sand-spit connecting Diamond Island - a little penguin rookery. Always double-check the tides - as amazing as they are, you don’t want to be sleeping with the penguins! Settle down to a picnic lunch on the red lichen-covered boulders or the white squeaky sand and watch the hooded plovers and oystercatchers busy feeding or the white-bellied sea eagles overhead. Feel the stresses of city life leave you like the outgoing tide.

It must nearly be time to check-in. Leaving only footprints, head back to the car. Apartments on Fraser and Cod Rock Point are two suggestions that epitomise the hospitality of all the exceptional accommodation providers in Bicheno and are within walking distance to town, the foreshore tracks and within earshot of the ocean waves. Unpack the car, pop the car keys on the table and plan to leave them there!

There is plenty of time now to check out what’s in town. Take a stroll down the street, say hi to the friendly locals and their dogs, and take a little time to reflect on the historical markers around town.

Enjoy the welcome, safe feeling of “the good old days” of a seaside town. Choose from an eclectic array of boutique shops and stores showcasing local arts and design, home wares, fashion and surf wear. The Farm Shed East Coast Wine Centre next to the quaint historic church beckons. So much to see here - beautiful Tasmanian crafted pieces and wines from the region with up to 24 available for tasting, in addition to Whisky and Gin! The adults are keen for a tasting - what’s a teenager to do? Pop across to the surf shops and wander down the street to check out the penguin tour offering for this evening of course!

The tasting has gone down very well - informative, intimate and yummy. The appetite has been well and truly stimulated. After wandering over to book The Bicheno Penguin Tour for tonight amble around to the Gulch for an early dinner at The Lobster Shack - fish and chips or a lobster roll anyone? Did you get that on Instagram?

Pop back to grab your jacket and beanies. If you are lucky enough to visit in the OFF Season in the month of July, this tiny town puts on a world-class laser light show every night at 6pm - and it’s free! Head to meet the Penguin bus for the short ride to the privately accessed foreshore rookery. Great guides give up the Little Penguin secrets as they waddle up from the beach under subdued lighting and it seems they are now very used to human visitors and are happy to walk amongst you - sometimes even over your feet!

Back in town, there is just time to throw a line from the breakwall and try for squid on the changing tide - will that dream come true?

Weary? Not surprised, it’s been a big day and tomorrow is an early start. But beware of meandering penguins as they are off to bed also and think they have the right to nest anywhere.

Day 2

Waking prior to dawn, head up to Whaler’s Lookout. From these ancient rocks, long known to the palawa people, see the tiny town sleepy in the dawn. You can just see the contours of Douglas Apsley National Park appearing on the other side of town. This is where you are heading today. The lights of the bakery beckon and the newsagent is ready with his high beam welcome. Ocean swimmers stride into the sea from the surf club like upright seals in their sleek, black wetsuits. Surfers catch the waves at Redbill where you walked yesterday.

Treading gently past the Whaler’s Lookout Tree, reflect on the history as you search for the humpbacks and southern right whales that travel The East Coast Whale Trail on their annual migration. Spot the bronzed Aussie fur seals lazing on Alligator Rock and look out for pods of playful dolphins. Carefully make your way down and follow the signs to the Blowhole. If the swell is just right, stay clear unless you’re up for a salty spray wake-up shower! Make sure that gets on Insta!

You must be hungry for breakfast and there are so many choices. Coffees from cafes, caravans and hidey-hole windows; astonishingly good pastries from the local patisserie and sit down full breakfasts where you can watch the world go by or gaze out to the ocean.

After a wonderful breakfast it’s time to check out from your “home-away-from-home” and pick up those car keys. Make sure you have your Parks Pass, grab it online if you need and head out to the north of town. You will see the sign to the Golf Club that is a little further on, and Natureworld - oh my goodness - must remember that for next time. Take a left turn three kilometres out onto the well signposted Rosedale Rd to the Douglas Apsley. The last 6 kilometres is unsealed road but is suitable for 2WDs. Check road conditions if there has been heavy rain as it is subject to flooding.

The Apsley Waterhole is a short 10-minute walk from the car park through a dry forest. Revel in the sight of this tranquil, clear pool. Maybe spot the endangered native Australian Grayling as it swims in the shallows. Skim a few stones, paddle your feet or even take a full-blown swim and take some magnificent photographs.

It’s about now you discover you have made a dreadful mistake: one that many others have made before you, that you only allowed one night! The feel of Bicheno with its many surprises, the local welcome and the beautiful surroundings right by the ocean deserve more time - one night is definitely not enough! You can contemplate that as you leisurely make your way back south maybe stopping for an ice cream at the Pondering Frog or at some of those wineries you passed yesterday.

At least you know now how to plan for your return visit and we look forward to welcoming you back and sharing more of our surprises.

Bicheno3