Road Trip: The Great Eastern Drive to Launceston

You can drive from the east coast of Tasmania to Launceston (Tasmania’s second-largest city) in under two hours, but it’s much more fun if you take your time and enjoy a slow, meandering half-day road trip. There are two driving options. The faster set of roads will take you south through the Fingal Valley. The longer and arguably more scenic route goes north. There’s no right way to do this — both drives offer views of forests and farmland, and you’ll get a good dose of cows and sheep on each route. But I’ll be focusing on the northern option here.

If you’re starting out anywhere near Scamander or Beaumaris, you might say farewell to the coast with a morning walk at Beaumaris Beach:

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This beach stretches out over a span of more than three kilometers, so it feels like you can walk forever without seeing a soul.

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Driving north after this, you head up past St. Helen’s (which my guidebook accurately calls a “pragmatic” little town). If you want a diversion here, you can continue even further north for a look at the Bay of Fires — but I would suggest spending a whole day there if possible.

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From St. Helen’s, it’s about a twenty-five minute drive west to the tiny village of Pyengana, which is tucked into a deep green valley …

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… filled with dairy cattle.

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Here, you can taste and buy cheese — we liked both the mild and the reserve cheddars — at the Pyengana Dairy Company (they also have a cafe that sells ice cream and great-looking scones).

Continuing away from the main road, a short drive takes you to the parking area for St. Columba Falls. From here, a it’s ten-minute walk down an easy (and unexpectedly crowded) path, past tree ferns …

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… and to the viewing platform. IMG_7690

There’s a reason that this spot is so popular — at nearly 100 meters, St. Columba is one of Tasmania’s highest waterfalls.

On your way out, you can take a dirt road spur to see tall, skinny Ralph’s Falls — but we were tired of gravel and potholes after our Evercreech adventure, so we headed back to the main road. At this point, the route winds up into the mountains. We pulled over at the Little Plains Lookout, though we found the name to be deceiving — we just had a view of the treetops:IMG_7713

But if you scramble just past the “lookout” platform, you’ll find yourself in foxglove heaven:

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This was amazing — I’ve never seen anything like it. Wild foxgloves are beautiful plants …

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… and we had a great time walking through this flower forest:

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From this point, the road twists down the other side of the mountains. We stopped at the Weldborough Hotel for a very satisfying pub lunch in their outdoor garden.

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If you’re a mountain biker, you’ll probably want to make a stop in the small town of Derby, which appears to be a bikers’ paradise. Otherwise, you can continue on from Weldborough through Scottsdale (perhaps stopping at the bakery, which is reputed to be quite good) and then to Bridestowe Lavender Farm. Is it worth it to pay $10 per adult to see a lavender farm?

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My answer would be an emphatic “yes,” especially if it’s the largest lavender farm in the southern hemisphere. This place is amazing.

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You can wander all over the fields with abandon…

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… and you can get right up close to the lavender (though the thousands of bees do provide some deterrent value).

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There are rows and rows of purple for as far as the eye can see:

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We were lucky to be there in December, because once they start harvesting the flowers for perfume in January and February, all of these fields will turn from purple to green (you can see that some of the bushes have already been shaved):

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We had such a good time here! I highly recommend a visit.

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