The Apple Isle's east coast exerts a lifelong pull on one family.
For a succession of summers in my childhood, my family went bush. The station wagon packed with tents and sleeping bags and all the food and clothing we'd need for a week (or was it two? How those holidays stretch languorously on in the memory), we'd head deep into Tasmania's north-eastern corner and a beachside campsite where the loos were long-drops and every drop of fresh water had to be brought in. Electricity? Of course not. No such thing as a shower, either: the surf served that purpose - to wash was to swim at spectacular beaches that we had all to ourselves. We would fry in the sun, turning coveted shades of (salt-encrusted) brown in time for our return to civilisation.
Our mother, the leader in these adventures, introduced us to body surfing and fossicking for shellfish. The campsite doubled as a cricket pitch. A parade of family friends dropped in over the years; one of them would dive for abalone, which we cooked over the campfire, sliced up and fried in lashings of butter.
Last summer, my two siblings and I converged from around Australia and returned to this pocket with our respective partners, to do the famous Bay of Fires walk with the Tasmanian Walking Company. A bus took our small tour group from Hadspen outside Launceston, through the thriving beach town of Bridport and on to Mount William National Park and a spot called Stumpys Bay, where we unloaded.
"It was here. It was here," my brother insisted as we moved through a vacant camping ground towards the beach and the start of our four-day trek. It felt deep-down familiar. This hallowed holiday ground. My eyes grew hot and prickly.
Our mother, the leader in these adventures, introduced us to body surfing and fossicking for shellfish.
That first day, we walked south along Cod Bay to the semi-permanent Forester Beach Camp, a far cry in amenity - mattresses! Showers! A full electric kitchen! - from those childhood days when we three kids slept on blow-up Lilos in a Turka tent of classic triangular shape and in 1970s shades of brown and orange. The zipping up and down of its entry flap is a sound that lives on in my mind's ear, as much a part of the summer holiday soundtrack as the hum of insects, the pounding waves, the yells of "out" and the raised voice of a parent imploring us to apply sunscreen.
And in the mind's eye? The omnipresent granite, in rocks and boulders and great slabs across the sand, covered in the orange lichen that has come to define this particular part of the world. (The New York Times made special mention of the luminous geology when it named Tasmania one of its 52 best places to visit in 2024.)
I can't get enough of Tasmania's east coast. This month I was there again, staying at a small locality named The Gardens, a 15-minute drive north of the fishing village of St Helens and towards the southern end of the Bay of Fires (named not for the lichen, but for the fires lit by Tasmanian Aborigines who English navigator Tobias Furneaux saw burning along the coastline in 1773). On one side of the dead-end road, working farms; on the other, holiday homes perched high above gorgeous beaches and rocky inlets where aqua blue waters meet white sands and those flame-coloured beauties.
Through the floor-to-ceiling windows of our luxury rental (with all the mod cons and more, although in an echo of those long-gone holidays, we had to bring our own drinking water) was the long, crescent sweep of Taylors Beach, utterly beguiling, graced occasionally by a human or two, or a sea eagle soaring overhead.
We saw the people next door bearing freshly caught crayfish, and swam each day in whatever beach or bay took our fancy. We had a teenager in tow and I watched a new generation become enraptured with this special place. We'll all be back, fingers-crossed as soon as next summer.
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