Tasmania's Wildlife Wonders
The coastal town of Bicheno is a wildlife haven, as Andrew Bain discovers on an up-close look at its resident fauna.
There are towns that intrude upon nature and there are others that blend almost seamlessly into it. The Tasmanian east-coast fishing town of Bicheno is one of the latter. Though this town of 950 people just north of Freycinet Peninsula started life as a whaling and sealing station in the 1830s, it is today a place where you can stand on a beach and watch whales breaching and blowing as they pass peacefully offshore. Tasmanian devils provide a thrilling sight at a wildlife park just out of town, and little penguins scurry ashore each night.
Bicheno sits on a stunning stretch of coastline, with white beaches and rocky headlands connected by a three-kilometre-long foreshore walkway. At the southern end of this walkway, beside a massive boulder standing like a natural art installation, the town’s famous blowhole sprays geysers of water as if in imitation of the whales blowing just out to sea. It’s also a town that remains wedded to fishing. The fishing fleet dots the waters of Waubs Bay and the Gulch, and seafood comes as fresh as the sea air in the lobster and fish-and-chip restaurants that stand almost side by side with the fishing boats.
One of the finest attractions near Bicheno is East Coast Natureworld wildlife park, north of town past Diamond Island, a granite island that becomes connected to Bicheno’s main beach by a sandy causeway at low tide. Kangaroos, wallabies and Cape Barren geese wander the open grounds at Natureworld, while you can also see the likes of Tasmanian devils, wombats, sugar gliders, quolls and snakes, and witness feeding time of the devils, quolls and sugar gliders.
But the real stars of Bicheno are the ones that arrive in town each night at dusk – the little penguins. These beautiful birds, once known as fairy penguins, surf ashore in the safety of first darkness before marching to their burrows. Local tours give you the chance to witness this daily parade in low-key and intimate fashion – the penguins can come so close that you’re advised to wear covered shoes because the birds have been known to nibble toes. Guides fill you in on details about the penguins as they blithely wander past. It’s one of the cutest shows in Tasmania.
Need to Know
Stop at East Coast Natureworld and take an optional (own expense) Bicheno penguin tour on your 10 Day Grand Tasman tour. Here are other highlights from the Apple Isle.
Visit – Bridestowe Lavender Estate and sample lavender-inspired fare.
Explore – Freycinet National Park with a naturalist guide.
Cruise – around Port Arthur’s Isle of the Dead and hear convict stories.
Browse – the stalls of Hobart’s famous Salamanca Market.