Best tourist activities around St Helens
There is more to St Helens than just The Bay of Fires and Flagstaff Stacked Loops. Here's our picks of the best ways to spend your time off the bike in this idyllic little beach town.
So you’ve ridden the Bay of Fires, checked out the Dreaming Pools and the rock work on Mack 10, and you could use a day or two off the bike. Fortunately, St Helens is in a pretty special part of the world, and between the beach, the hinterland, and the trails, there is no shortage of things to see and do.
Here are our picks of the best tourist activities around St Helens; these are the things we’ll go see and do when we’re not riding our bikes.
Humbug Point Nature Recreation Area and Binalong Bay
Now if you’ve ridden the Bay of Fires, you will have already been to Binalong Bay and seen the fiery orange lichens on the rocks, which up against the electric blue water is nothing short of fireworks. And while you may have had a dip at the beach before heading over to Vertigo’s Beach shack for a BBQ lunch and some cold refreshments.
However, you’d be crazy not to go back and have a look around if you’re in St Helens. The colours, especially early and late in the day, are something to behold, and depending on the tides, you may find some critters waiting out the change in rock pools.
Bring a towel and your togs and spend the day at the beach.
There are several walks that meander through the Xanthorrhoea grass trees, Casuarina forests and Eucalypts towering above coastal grasslands, and there are a number of walking trails that play peekaboo with the coast. Humbug Point is one of those reserves that makes you feel like you’re way out somewhere remote. Despite only being 10 minutes from the heart of St Helens, it is teaming with wildlife.
Better still, you can camp here for free.
If you can’t get enough blue water and orange lichen, just across the bay is St Helens Point Conservation Area, which also has some spectacular walks.
Surfing St Helens
Before mountain bikers came to St Helens, folks would make the journey here for the beach, and there are some world-class breaks not far from town. In fact the Tassie Surf Coast starts just south of St Helens at Beaumaris and runs down to Seymour.
Pretty much anywhere from Ansons Bay down you’ll be able to pull up at a beach and find an uncrowded break, however one of the best waves in the region rolls into St Helens Point.
A bit further south at Beaumaris and Scamander, there is a reliable swell year-round and squeaky white sand as far as the eye can see.
Just remember to check the water temperature and don’t forget your wetsuit.
Fishing St Helens
Whether you want to cast a line from the river bank, beach fish among the waves, toss out a fly or sport fish from a boat, St Helens is an angler’s paradise — in fact, it’s touted as the game fishing capital of Tassie.
From December to May, huge swaths of tuna, kingfish, albacore, marlin and swordfish swim through the deep water offshore — hence why St Helens also plays host to hotly contested game fishing tournaments over those months.
If you prefer casting a line from terra-firma, calm waters in Georges Bay and the Scamander River offer abundant opportunities to chase black bream, snapper, jack mackerel, Australian salmon, gummy sharks and even garfish!
There are even opportunities to chase freshwater species.
There are many well-established fishing charter companies and guides in town that can take you to a honey hole, depending on what species you’re after. Either way, be sure to get a licence from Tas Fisheries for saltwater, and Inland Fisheries for trout and other freshwater angling.
Eat at the wharf
Regardless of your prowess as an angler, you’d be crazy to leave St Helens without sampling some of the freshly caught seafood on offer.
For the fish and chip shop, cooked-to-order-and-take-home-a-bag-of-prawns-while-you’re-at-it experience, Skippers Fish Shop is where you’ll want to point your bow. Best known for the flake and chips, seafood chowder, and seafood boxes, Skippers also has local delights like fresh rock lobsters. A meal at Skippers is a real treat, just watch out for the seagulls, as they are always around and ready to steal your chippies.
If you’re more interested in a sit-down type seafood meal, The Wharf Bar and Kitchen is only about 100m away. Seafood linguine, poke bowls and full lobsters grace the menu, but for a big group of riders refuelling after a big couple of days on the trails, The Wharf Seafood Frenzy is quite a spread.
If you LOVE oysters then head to Lease 65. This oyster farm is slinging freshly harvested molluscs cheap as chips, and they are bloody delicious — if you’re into that kind of thing. These are the exact same oysters that fancy seafood restaurants around Tassie make a big deal about having on the menu.
Pro tip: bring cash as these salty old dogs don’t currently take cards.
Kayaking and paddle boarding
With hundreds of rivers and estuaries to explore and a spectacular coastline if you want to swap your pedals for paddles, there is no shortage of opportunities.
From the quiet waters off Stieglitz Beach or the Scamander River, there is excellent paddling to be had. Kayaks and Paddle Boards can be hired from Poppa’s Boat Hire on Georges Bay for those that just want to get out on the water and enjoy themselves.
But if you’re after a guided experience Secret River Tours will take you to the Scamander River to explore all of the nooks and crannies of this spot, which is absolutely bursting with wildlife.
St Helens History Room
With a colossal dragon guarding the door, The St Helens History Room is devoted to keeping the past of this coastal town and the surrounding area alive. Learn about the Trail of the Tin Dragon and the Chinese Miners who tried to strike it rich. See a 1:24 scale working model of the largest water wheel constructed in the Southern Hemisphere, demonstrating how water was used to process tin ore.
There’s exhibits showcasing stone tools used by the Palawa Traditional Owners, the maritime and natural history of the area, and even an old funeral buggy.
Sometimes, you just need to kick back with a few beverages and enjoy the fact that you have no commitments other than to ride your bike and have fun for a few days — heck, you don’t even have to ride your bike if you don’t want to!
The Social is what you would get if your favourite tap room and a food truck had a baby. Slinging the best local brewskis and some fantastic eats, The Social has an unbeatable atmosphere — we could spend all day sitting in the courtyard and enjoying the sunshine.
Or maybe you crave the spotlight, and the world needs to hear your rendition of I Wanna Dance With Somebody — because you’ve got the pipes to give Whitney Huston a run for her money. Well dear reader, The Kazzbar is waiting with a microphone and some choice beverages to get your vocal cords warmed up and ready to rock.
St Helens Markets
Who doesn’t love a good market? St Helens hosts one every Saturday from 8am till noon in front of the Portland Memorial Hall. With everything from fresh local produce to stalls stacked with craft work, clothing, jewellery, cards, baked goods, jam and sauces and more, this one is a winner. Load up for yourself and pick up some souvenirs to take home with you.
East Coast Natureworld
There aren’t many places that proudly proclaim you have a 100% chance of seeing a Tassie Devil, but it’s the first thing you see on the East Coast Natureworld website. Situated on 150 acres of native coastal bushland and lagoons, there is plenty of wildlife roaming freely through the grounds, while some are kept in enclosures for everyone’s safety.
Focusing primarily on species endemic to Tassie, there are animals like Tassie devils and quolls; the park also has kangaroos, wombats, echidnas and more — in addition to wildlife being rehabilitated, which can’t be released back into the wild.
East Coast Natureworld also offers what it calls Devils in the Dark, where you can see the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial devour its dinner. It’s akin to being a National Geographic wildlife photographer, but you won’t have to camp out for days, and you can sip on locally made wine and cheese as you watch.
Hiking and walks
When you look up walks and hikes around St Helens, most of the results are along the coast and The Bay of Fires — for good reason. However, venturing a bit further inland is where you’ll find the best this region has to offer.
Of course at the top of the list is the Blue Tier. An ecological wonder, it’s one of the few places that didn’t end up under miles of glaciated ice in the last ice age, and the flora that has taken up residence is genuinely something to behold — it feels a bit like being in Jurassic Park, but without the prehistoric reptiles trying to eat you. There are hikes ranging from under an hour to walks which will take most of the day — be prepared, as the weather up here can change on a dime. You can find more info on the Tas Parks website.
Regardless of your chosen hike, you’ll want to pull off at the Big Tree. It only takes about 15 minutes to get there from the parking area, and you’ll be met with the widest living tree in Australia, measuring 19.4m across and 60m tall!
A bit further afield you have Halls Falls and St Columba Falls — which are work checking out — however Ferntree Falls is only 12min out of town, and it’s a bit of a hidden gem. Accessible from Trafalgar Track — an unsealed road, so plan accordingly — keep an eye out for a little wooden sign that says “Falls.” The walk is very flat and only marked by pink flagging in the trees. It’s only about 500m from the road, but it is an adventure no less.
Photos: Tourism Tasmania, Flow Mountain Bike