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Destination: Tasmania’s east coast

Details of over 20 cruising destinations along one of Australia's favourite coastlines.

Everyone has to see Tasmania at some stage and Jack and Jude Binder give full details on where to go and what to see in this state of delights.

Tasmania’s east coast is the jewel in a crown filled with glorious wonders that make the island renowned as the natural state.

Here we find some of the world’s most dramatic dolerite cliffs close to Australia’s second oldest city first settled in 1803. A quaint delightful city beneath the protection of ‘The Mountain’ (Wellington) with its fluted organ pipes standing proud and tall before some of Australia’s best waterways that spread from it like the blue folds of royalty.

Tasmania’s east coast has everything. There are lonely bays backed by green forests while around an abrupt point lay the heinous remains of a convict settlement dating back to our earliest history. The fishing is some of the best, the walks are the best and, if you can handle the changeable weather and sometimes immense seas, then an experience of a lifetime awaits you on Tasmania’s east coast.

Non-stop action starts a few days after Boxing Day when the 68th Rolex Sydney Hobart fleet rounds Tasman Island and races those last miles into Constitution Dock. A few short weeks later, one of the world’s greatest spectacles, the unique Wooden Boat Show will occupy the waterfront, followed shortly in mid-February by the start of the Van Diemens Land circumnavigation, a challenging 800 nautical mile cruise-in-company around Tasmania with experienced, friendly people.

In these cruise notes, all GPS positions are approximate.

Derwent River
Let’s begin our tour in Tasmania’s capital city where every facility will be found in one of the prettiest cities in Australia.

Well sheltered marinas are available for visitors. We prefer living right downtown in Constitution Dock where a short walk takes us to so many places of interest like the museum, art gallery and maritime display. Comprehensive shopping is close by, provisioning at the downtown Woolies or Salamanca Market, or visit numerous restaurants, bookstores and variety shops as well as several pubs within minutes from your vessel.

For more peaceful surroundings, the Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania offers visitor berths with a 20 minute walk to town.

Free anchorage can be found either off Battery Point, which is close to Salamanca, or off Sandy Point at Nutgrove Beach near the Wrest Point Casino, a longer walk to the city. Other anchorages can be found upstream of the Tasman Bridge, but we have not explored this part of the Derwent.

Upon arrival, either contact Port Control on Ch 16 or Ch 88, or telephone Tas Ports directly on 0362310693 to see if space is available.

If proceeding to Constitution Dock at Elizabeth Pier you will be instructed to enter Kings Pier and tie alongside the wharf on the right side of the lifting bridge where a Tas Ports official will have you complete the necessary paperwork.

You will need to show public liability insurance, credit card payment is preferred.

When ready, the lifting bridge will be raised for you to proceed into the basin. Be aware of your mast clearing this bridge, the masts of wide trimarans are particularly vulnerable to striking it.

We prefer mooring on the left side after the bridge, it’s the quietest as no road passes, but it is often full. Second best, directly right after the bridge, closest to the showers, quiet traffic.

But if you want the full blast of Hobart, proceed straight across to the main street. In our two visits, each for a month, we have not experienced any security issues. Great hot showers and laundry facilities.

Elizabeth Pier is quieter without street frontage and has cafes with outdoor seating adjacent to the berth.

Sandy Point at Nutgrove Beach (42°54.48’S ~ 147°21’E). Anchor just outside moored vessels in 11m sand. Good in all winds except easterlies and strong northerlies. Some slop in heavy weather.

Battery Point (42°53.3’S ~ 147°20.4’E). Anchor just outside moored vessels in 15m mud/sand. Rig a trip line at your discretion as there may be old ballast or clutter on bottom. Good in all winds except south-easterlies. Some slop in heavy weather.

Kingston Bay, Kingston (42°59’S ~ 147°19.6’E). Anchor in 11m sand. Good in westerly winds. Some swell in moderate weather. Row ashore to boat launching site, pub nearby with meals. supermarket, fuel and supplies close by. Long sandy beach, houses fill hillside.

Kettering in the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, located 32km by road from Hobart. Kettering is surrounded by hills and enclosed by Bruny Island. This scenic bay probably offers the best protection in Tasmania.

Check out Oyster Cove Marina: www.oystercovemarina.com.au. This newly refurbished marina has a new travel hoist installed to compliment their existing multi-rail and cradle slipway. A ship chandlery is onsite as well as a hotel featuring reasonably priced meals and accommodation.

Marine trades are ready to assist.

Tasman Peninsula
Nubeena (43°06.1’S ~ 147°44.3’E). Nearly landlocked bay on west side of Tasman Peninsula. Shelter from all winds, anchor in 6m to 10m mud. Shop, pub, jetty, district hospital.

White Beach (43°07.3’S ~ 147°43.5’E). Anchorage off Wades Corner protected from north through east to south in 4m to 10m sand. No facilities.

Norfolk Bay, Ironstone Bay, (42°59’S ~ 147°43.6’E) Historical coal mine formed part of the system of convict discipline and punishment on the Tasman Peninsula. During its busiest years almost 600 prisoners with their jailers and their families lived and worked at the mines.

While the underground workings are no longer accessible, you may visit the picturesque ruins of houses, barracks, offices and punishment cells. Free entry.

Anchorage near Plunkett Point, Protected from SW to N in two to three metres of sand and shell with ruins in sight. Watch for sunken rock off point.

Port Arthur, Masons Cove, (43°08.861’S ~ 147°51.313’E). Moorings are in the area. We borrowed one, or you can anchor off Commandants Point sheltered from all winds in 10 to 12m sand.

The ruins of the penal settlement and museum are well worth visiting and form a surreal backdrop to the anchorage. Access to attraction via small jetty.

Temporary anchorage off Dead Island if you care to visit the island of death!

For a quieter anchorage move further south, deeper into Carnarvon Bay, protected from all winds in 10m sand.

Canoe Bay in Fortescue Bay (43°07.626’S, 147°57.328’E). Anchorage behind wreck awash, protected from all but strong E to ESE winds in 2m to 3m mud with some weed. Minimal swell in a lovely well-timbered isolated bay. Possible place to leave vessel for overnight Cape Pillar walk.

Deeper into Fortescue Bay (43°08.43’S, 147°57.88’E). Possible slight swell after negotiating around kelp, anchoring in 5m sand with weed, protected from all but strong NE. Great spot for day walk to Cape Hauy, The Lanterns, and Mitre Rock.

Pirates Bay (43°02’S, 147°56.4’E). We have not anchored in this bay, sometimes affected by easterly swell, but have seen it both bumpy and calm. A beautiful spot near blowhole. Anchor protected from SE to NW in 6m to 10m over sand.

Lagoon Bay (42°52.911’S, 147°57.610’E). Tricky entry this one, plenty of thick kelp to skirt around. We tracked south, but visual navigation is necessary to find clear area nearer shore. Once inside, anchor with good shelter from SE to N in 6m to 8m sand. Lonely bay with a few sheep and one distant dwelling.

Denison Canal
This canal is cut through the isthmus of the Forestier Peninsula in southern Tasmania and is the only purpose-built sea canal in Australia. In 1854, agitation by east coast settlers to improve transport by avoiding the longer, often rough voyage around Tasman Peninsula led to Lt-Governor Denison commissioning a report. Tenders were called in 1901 and the canal was opened in 1905. The canal proper is 895 metres long, and 2.42 km with dredged approaches. Its width is about 34 metres at ground level reducing to seven metres wide at low tide. Water depth ranges from 2.6 to 3.9 metres according to tide. The original, hand-operated swing bridge was replaced by an electrically powered one in 1965. Formerly used by small vessels and east coast traders, the canal is now restricted to fishing and pleasure craft by shifting sand bars in Blackman Bay. Tidal scouring obviates the need for dredging of the canal itself.

The following information supplied by Marine and Safety Tasmania December 2011: the Denison Canal can be transited between the hours of 8.00am and 5.00pm and it is recommended that contact is made with the canal superintendent one day prior to canal transit. Telephone: (03) 6253 5113; VHF Ch16 call sign: Denison Canal 27MHz Radio: 27.880Mhz.

The main stream of the flood tide runs into Blackman Bay, i.e. in a north-easterly direction at the Denison Canal and a south-westerly direction at the Marion Bay Narrows. The reverse applies for an ebb tide. Tidal streams of up to three knots can be experienced.

Tide times can be calculated with reference to tide tables with the following adjustments: flood stream commences two hours 27 minutes after low water at Hobart; ebb stream commences two hours 16 minutes after high water at Hobart. Remember to adjust for daylight saving time.

The minimum depth at the Dunalley Bay approach channel to the canal was 1.7 metres measured relative to chart datum on 12 December 2011.

The minimum depth at the Blackman Bay approach channel to the canal was also 1.7 metres relative to chart datum on 12 December 2011. These measurements are based on Hobart tide tables and appropriate time adjustments.

From Hobart to Denison Canal is 31nm requiring five hours at six knots. From Chinaman’s Bay (Maria Island) to Marion Narrows is 13 miles requiring two hours.

The east coast
Triabunna (42°30.612’S, 147°54.9’E) is a relaxing fishing village surrounding the sheltered harbour of Spring Bay. The town has a range of shopping facilities.

Triabunna is the base for many crayfish, fishing boats and a boat club. The Maria Island ferry departs from Triabunna. Visitor Centre in Charles Street.


Traditionally a centre for small industries with stock-keepers first settling in the 1820s. Other industries which have blossomed and then died out were whaling stations, sandstone quarries and tramways, the military garrison and the largest apple orchard in the southern hemisphere.

Alongside their new jetty costs $25/day.

Coles Bay (42°07.76’S, 148°17.71’E) has magnificent scenery with small market and eatery, easy walk to Freycinet National Park.

Anchorage open to west, provides shelter from north through east to south in poor holding shell and mud 10m.

Promise Bay, Refuge Island (42°10.47’S, 148°16.42’E). Alternative anchorage to Coles Bay with direct access to Hazard Mountain walk. Access boardwalk on shore. Watch for three above water rocks between shore and Refuge Island plus another isolated one near point. Night entry unwise.

Wineglass Bay (42°10.441’S, 148°18.469’E). Anchor in south corner to avoid swell in 6m sand, protected from north through west to south. Beautiful anchorage with purple hue Hazard Mountains and crescent shaped white sand beach. Walking trails accessed from beach.

A friend of ours lost his vessel on this beach when a sudden easterly blew up. Unable to pull her off, she eventually broke up. In Tasmanian waters, a keen weather eye needs to be kept.

Bryans Corner (42°15.404’S, 148°16.735’E). Anchor in 2m to 4m sand and weed with protection from NW through NE. We dragged in a 30kt northerly when closer in at: 42°15.370’S, 148°16.610’E. Uninhabited beach with pleasant walk thru scrub forest to Cooks Corner campsite.

Freycinet National Park consists of knuckles of granite mountains all but surrounded by azure bays and white sand beaches. The dramatic peaks of the Hazards welcome you as you enter the park. Freycinet is effectively two eroded blocks of granite: the Hazards and the Mt. Graham/Mt. Freycinet sections of the peninsula, joined by a sand isthmus.

Schouten Island includes Crockets Bay (42°17.905’S, 148°17.125’E) and Moreys Bay (42°17.930’S, 148°16.800’E). These bays are the southern part of the ‘Schouten Shuffle’, meaning when the wind goes anywhere south, boats leave Bryans Corner and cross Schouten Pass. Moreys Bay is the larger of the two anchorages and you can access the track to Bear Hill from both.

St Helens (41°19.63’S, 148°14.99’E). A very pleasant town, scenic, with good shopping and many outdoor cafes popular with tourists. Known for its dangerous entrance across a shallow, sometimes breaking sandbar, best attempted with local knowledge.

If conditions permit, there is an anchorage in the outside bay, exposed to easterly swell, at approximately 41°16.47’S, 148°20.615’E, to await the tide or a trawler to follow.

St Helens Marine Rescue monitor VHF ch16 and ch88. The channel through the bar is located near the northern shore with breakers often showing its position. Unexpected swells can attack at anytime.

Once inside, dangerous swell ceases, but there are numerous sandbanks, so extreme care and a rising tide are recommended. Numerous channel markers guide vessels the five miles to the town of St Helens. Recent dredging (2011) at Pelican Point has deepened this area to 2.2m min.

Anchorage can be taken off the town, protected from all winds in 2m to 5m mud and shell.

St Helens is approximately two-hours drive east of Launceston (163 kilometres) and 265 kilometres from Hobart.

If you take the walking tour of St Helens, the Bayside Inn, once an attractive hotel beside the bay, is now a modern style hotel motel with no character. Similarly the Uniting Church, once an interesting wooden building, has been replaced by a rather dreary construction. Even Fair Lea, which once had gracious grounds running down to the water has had two modern houses stuck in front of it. St Helens has become an important tourist destination and like any typical holiday resort it now sprawls.

Great Musselroe Bay (40°50.00’S, 148°10.00’E) is an isolated spot on the far NE corner of the island. Good take off point for Flinders, if the wind is anywhere from the south. Dangerous in northerly.

Fair anchorage in 5m sand with a few houses some distance away.

For the complete Tasmania cruising guide, available for $5 download in formats to suit PC, iPad, iPhone or Kindle devices: jackandjude.com/books/ebooks.

Dock fees (As at 2012)

Constitution Dock
10 metre: $80.30/week
15m: $123.20/week
exceeding 15m: $165.00/week inclusive of GST.

Elizabeth Pier
10m: $118.72/week
15m: $192.50/week
exceeding 15m: $236.50/week inclusive of GST.

Royal Yacht Club
Fixed Piles: small $15.00 per day; medium $20.00 per day; large $25.00 per day; extra large $30.00 per day.
Floating: 10m $20.00 per day; 12m $25.00 per day; 15m $35.00 per day; 16m $40.00 per day; 18m $45.00 per day; 20m $55.00 per day. Moorings are available at $52.50 per week.

Constitution Dock
10 metre: $80.30/week
15m: $123.20/week
exceeding 15m: $165.00/week inclusive of GST.

Elizabeth Pier
10m: $118.72/week
15m: $192.50/week
exceeding 15m: $236.50/week inclusive of GST.

Royal Yacht Club
Fixed Piles: small $15.00 per day; medium $20.00 per day; large $25.00 per day; extra large $30.00 per day.
Floating: 10m $20.00 per day; 12m $25.00 per day; 15m $35.00 per day; 16m $40.00 per day; 18m $45.00 per day; 20m $55.00 per day. Moorings are available at $52.50 per week.

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