Located 176 kilometres south east of Launceston and 182 kilometres north east of Hobart (via the Tasman Highway), Bicheno is a charming seaside resort town noted for its good motels, its excellent fishing facilities, its safe and attractive beaches and its interesting coastal walks which include some superb rocky outcrops and spectacular blowholes.
Bicheno was established as a whaling centre as early as 1803. It was at this time that the sealers and whalers arrived and began using Waubs Boat Harbour (the old name for Bicheno) as a base for their activities on the east coast. The sealers and whalers actually predated the first official settlement of Van Diemen's Land. They lived a primitive and dangerous life and were known to be particularly cruel to the local Aborigines who they enslaved and prostituted.
The town was named after James Ebenezer Bicheno, the British Colonial Secretary for Van Diemen's Land from 1843-1851. Bicheno was famous for his girth. It was said that he could fit three full bags of wheat into his trousers. Bicheno died in Hobart in 1851 and bequeathed his substantial library to Tasmania. It was incorporated into the first Tasmanian Library.
Dating from around this period is the Old Court House/Gaol House, now a National Trust building, in James Street. It is one of the few historic buildings left standing in Bicheno. Built in 1845 it is a simple stone building with unusual twelve pane windows.
The tiny harbour continued to serve fishermen and in 1854 it was expanded to provide port facilities for the coal mining at Denison River. The coal was transported to the port along a horse-drawn tramway which ran 5 km from the mines. The Gulch, located between Gulch Road and Governors Island, still has metal rings in the rocks where the coal ships would moor while the coal was being loaded.
The use of Bicheno as a coal port was short-lived. The discovery of gold in Victoria saw most of the town's residents depart in 1855 and for nearly a century Bicheno became a sleepy little fishing village.
Fishing has continued to be the lifeblood of the town and although, in recent times, it has become a popular tourist destination, there are still many fishing vessels moored in the town's harbour. The local fishing industry's catch includes substantial quantities of abalone, crayfish, scallops and trevally.
Things to see
East Coast Natureworld
The town has a number of attractions to entertain holiday makers. The East Coast Birdlife and Animal Park on the northern side of the town offers an opportunity to see the diverse fauna of the region including Forester kangaroos, Bennett's wallabies, Tasmanian devils, Cape Barren Geese and pelicans. Nearby, and easily identified by the masts of the coastal trader Enterprise which was built at Battery Point in 1902, is the Sea Life Centre. Open every day from 9.00 a.m. - 5.00 p.m. it displays (and sells) the fish from the local waters including eels, seahorses, scalefish and crayfish. Among the Centre's unusual attractions is the anchor from the barque Otago, the only vessel ever commanded by the great Polish-English novelist Joseph Conrad. For more information check out: http://www.natureworld.com.au/
Diamond Island Nature Reserve
Just off the coast to the north of Bicheno is the Diamond Island Nature Reserve. It is possible to walk across from the mainland at low tide. The island is home to large numbers of fairy penguins. It is a popular walk for visitors.
If, coming from the north, you turn left into Bicheno on Burgess Street it is possible to see the Gulch, the grave of Waubedebar, and the local blowhole.
Grave of Waubedebar
Near the tennis courts is the grave of Waubedebar (after whom Waub's Harbour was named) an Aboriginal woman who saved two white men when their boat was smashed against the rocks during a storm. It is said that snowdrops bloom on her grave every spring.
Further down the coast (follow the signs to the south of the town) it is possible to see the town's famous Rocking Rock (a huge 80 tonne piece of granite balanced so that it rocks with the movement of the tide) and the very impressive local blowhole. Be careful! In the right conditions it is very easy to get soaked by the unexpected wave. There are a number of interesting access points onto the rocks which have a distinctive red colour as a result of deposits of red lichen.
Bicheno Visitor Information Centre
Bicheno TAS 7215
Telephone: (03) 6375 1333