The Bay of Fires on the East Coast of Tasmania is a unique place in Australia. This is a magical landscape of pure white beaches, granite boulders covered in rusty, red-orange lichen and emerald-coloured pristine sea waters.
Bay of Fires in Tasmania
“White sandy beaches, turquoise sea, and huge boulders draped in bright orange lichen, » our friend says. “Like the moss-covered, bright green Pine Valley but orange. You must see it,” he concludes matter-of-factly.
We barely returned to Hobart, feeling our knees and legs after our week-long Overland Track, when we were on the road again, this time to the Bay of Fires.
Our bags are heavy and expectations high after listening to our friend’s laudatory description of the Bay of Fires. But the place turned out to be even better – the vast stretches of perfectly sugar-white sand and bright orange rocks in a stark contrast to the pristine aquamarine sea.
In 2009, the Bay of Fires was ranked by Lonely Planet as one of the world’s hottest travel destinations. Lonely Planet usually equals crowds. But we had the place to ourselves. Maybe it’s because of its location out of the way compared to Cradle Mountain, the famous Wineglass Bay or Bruny Island or maybe we were just lucky. And indeed, we were lucky to have this feeling of total isolation and immersion into Tasmanian wilderness.
With the cool boxes opened and hiking books quickly exchanged for flip flops (eskis and thongs for all Australian friends), the four of us started the day with a picnic on the beach leaving the walk for the dessert.
Next, was a lot of walking along the famous orange-hued granite stones, jumping from one rock to the next and climbing up the giant boulders. We came across a whole variety of rock formations coming in all possible sizes and ranging from rounded granite boulders, smooth like pebbles to elongated rocks, some as sharp as a knife.
The next morning, in the bright daylight, the red-orange rocks appeared even brighter and more spectacular. The Bay of Fires beaches looked like they have been put on fire.
This orange hue of the rocks comes from lichens, a combination of algae and fungus that live together in a symbiotic relationship. This lovely pair is responsible for the rock coloration but also for luring people into coming to this remote corner of Tasmania.
Our day was all about taking long, leisurely walks along endless powder-white sandy beaches punctuated by lagoons, rocky formations and coastal bush. In a true walking mode, we were wearing hiking boots. But eventually we went barefoot walking on soft yet firm sand for hours, and listening to the rhythmic beating of the waves and cries of seagulls. And leaving our foot prints on the wet, virgin sand.
Don’t trust the appearances. Tasmania, with its emerald-coloured, crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches isn’t an exception. The water was freezing. All we could do is to let the icy water hit our toes and ankles while walking along the edge of the beach.
The weather was not typical Tasmanian – full bright sunshine and blue sky for our entire stay. Still, we couldn’t leave out our Gore-Tex jackets. But this is typical Tasmanian. Threateningly-grey clouds giving this dramatic look to the images, this didn’t happen. The clouds didn’t come, but at least we stayed dry.
Convinced that the name, Bay of Fires, comes from the orange, lichen-covered boulders scattered along the bay, we found out only recently that it refers to the fires made by aboriginal people along the coast. The name was given to the bay by the British navigator and explorer Captain Tobias Furneaux, who spotted numerous fires along the bay when he was sailing past in 1773. But who knows, maybe he spotted these famous orange boulders too?
Location: The Bay of Fires is located on the north-eastern coast of Tasmania, an isolated island off Australia’s south coast. It stretches for 50 km from Binalong Bay in the south up to Eddystone Point at the bottom of Mt William National Park in the north. The major town of Bay of Fires, St Helens, is located on the Great Eastern Drive.
How to get to Bay of Fires: The best way to see Tasmania is to hire a car. It gives freedom allowing you to stop wherever you want to. Also, even if public transportation is available in Tasmania, many areas are very time-consuming to reach using local buses. There are many car rental companies offering cheap car hire.
For public transportation, you will find information on Rome to Rio website. Calows coaches service the east coast of Tasmania from Launceston. However, even if Calows will get you from Launceston to St Helens, getting from St Helens to the Bay of Fires is not possible by public transport. You will need to rent a car in St Helens anyway.
The Bay of Fires comprises three sections:
Southern section is situated along a 13 km stretch of coast between Binalong Bay and The Gardens. Binalong Bay is located 265 km (about 3.5 hours’ drive) from Hobart. This is the most popular section of the Bay of Fires.
Middle section lies in the vicinity of Ansons Bay (300 km or about 4 hours’ drive from Hobart).
Northern section extends from the northern shore of the Ansons Bay to Eddystone Point (20 min drive from Ansons Bay) located at the bottom of Mt William National Park.
Accommodation: You can easily explore the Bay of Fires if you choose the coastal towns of St Helens or Binalong Bay as your base. You can choose from a cottage, B&B or five-star resort, many coming with sea views. Wotif is a great website for finding hotel deals in Australia. AirBnB is another good option to find a nice place to stay – apartments are often less expensive than hotel rooms.
Sign up using this AirBnB link to get a discount on your first booking.
Campsites. Personally, we think that the best way to experience the Bay of Fires is by camping. There is a choice of beachfront campsites but the facilities are limited. You should check the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife website and its pdf brochure for information before planning to camp.
Binalong Bay, located 10 min drive from St Helens, is a popular beach holiday town on the edge of the Bay of Fires Conservation Area, with a beautiful stretch of white sand and turquoise water.
St Helens is the closest town to the Bay of Fires, and the last place to stock up on food and fuel before your walk. There are no shops north of St Helens.
Luxury eco-lodges. If you are looking for something unique, Bay of Fires Lodge, the award-winning eco-lodge, is an option. We didn’t stay there but their website makes us want to try it next time. You can treat yourself to their guided tour staying in luxury eco-lodges and letting someone carry your bag and cook dinner for you.
We only walked part of the Bay of Fires returning by the end of the day to our campsite. If we had to do it again, we would have hiked the whole Bay of Fires coastline. There are many stunning beaches along the way – take a picnic with some local produce and Tasmanian wine, and have a lunch with a view. The beaches of the Bay of Fires are unguarded. Strong currents may occur – you may want to check local conditions before swimming.
After hiking the Bay of Fires, why not to enjoy a glass of Tasmanian cool climate wine at Priory Ridge wines, the only vineyard and cellar in the Bay of Fires area located 20 min drive from Binalong Bay. Or you can have a at Aloha Dreaming Massage Hawaiian Lomi Lomi massage in Binalong Bay. If feeling hungry, St Helens is a seafood heaven. You can have freshly-caught seafood on St Helens waterfront or try giant Southern Rock lobsters at Salty Seas. Unfortunately, we missed these places when we were at the Bay of Fires. Otherwise, we would have definitely stopped by.