Binalong Bay ~ To Where we Keep Returning
The Bay of Fires from Humbug Point northwards is an exhilarating stretch of Tasmanian coastline. There’s just something about the white sand, the lichened granite boulders and the crystal clear water that combine to make it particularly awesome and peaceful at the same time. In summer, when it’s warm, the bush camping along The Gardens Road is the loveliest we’ve found in the state and in the cooler months there are plenty of beach houses available for hire.
Binalong is a small settlement on the northern slope of Humbug Hill, backed by a great reserve and with wonderful views. It has a tiny permanent population of about 200 people and is a mix of small shacks, large mansions and modest beach houses. There is no shop but there is a small cafe with a good menu and expansive views. Behind the bay and at the foot of the hill lies Grants Lagoon, wonderful for birdwatching or kayaking.
The complexity of the landscape – the casuarina forests, the photogenic rock formations and the dune trapped lagoons combine with the beaches to make this area totally compelling. Apart from cycling, swimming and kayaking, there’s a surf break at the northern end of Binalong Beach and at the southern end there are a number of beautiful coves separated from each other by massive boulders. There’s a gulch that forms a tiny harbour of sorts and these days an ecotour leaves from here and heads out by boat along the coastline as far north as Eddystone Lighthouse.
This spot hasn’t always been called Binalong Bay. It was once Boat Harbour but as there is also a Boat Harbour in the North West, it cast off name confusion and opted for something more indigenous. The Bay of Fires was known as Larapuna by the people these days known as the North East nation. There are believed to have been seven clans in all (Johnson & Mcfarlane, 2015) , roughly totalling about 500 people* who willingly granted seasonal access to the Ben Lomond nation, probably for reciprocal rights, enabling them to benefit from the area’s rich pickings. It was a meeting place and as the climate was mild, it could well have been where most Tasmanians chose to live in earlier periods of the Holocene.
The current name of the Bay of Fires was provided by Tobias Furneaux, who captained the HMS Adventure (part of Cook’s Great Antarctic Expedition of 1772-1775). He and his expeditioners noticed many campfires burning in this area at night, and aboriginal stone formations, seal traps, burial sites and middens still exist, so treading lightly and respectfully needs to go hand in hand with leisure and enjoyment when visiting this area.
After the European invasion, sheep farming, fishing, forestry and the transporting of these commodities grew in importance and on our last visit we discovered the tracks of what had once been a local railway. It follows a contour, then ends at the gulch, where today there’s a jetty and boat ramp.
We’ve been to the Bay of Fires three times this year. First we camped and then we brought some of our overseas family here. The mad keen cyclist promptly headed for the Blue Tiers track while the rest of us, being of more idle dispositions, merely rode from Binalong to the The Gardens, did a bit of Humbug Point exploring and had a pleasant amble along Binalong Bay Beach, the white sand soft underfoot.
It was only when we were at the farthest end of the beach where the big boulders begin, that we realised the cyclist had taken both sets of car keys. He was expecting us to meet him in Derby later on that particular day but his mobile had no Australian reception, so while he waited and wondered what had happened to us, we tried to relax into the knowledge that there was nowhere to go and nothing we could do except soak up the sun and admire the sublime view from the beach house.
The geo and I came back again shortly after our Hong Kong to London train trip. This time we focused on exploring with a little bit of kayaking thrown in for good measure. We met a local artist and had some long chats with a new friend who is walking the beaches from the Tamar to Freycinet.
Binalong Bay beach is a poignant beach for me. A good friend, who loved this spot too, had a heart attack on an early morning stroll along the sand and although he recovered, did not see out the year, dying on my birthday.
*Given the fact that European invasion of Tasmania caused numbers to collapse quickly and dramatically, this number is a best guess by some of those working in the field.
Johnson, M & I. McFarlane. 2015. Van Diemen’s Land: an aboriginal history, UNSW Press, Sydney.