Eaglehawk Neck is located to the south-east of Hobart in Tasmania. It is right at the start of what is termed the Tasman Peninsula, between it and the Forester Peninsula. The scenery to the south is extremely spectacular, with huge cliffs and dozens of blowholes, arches and caves.
The main tourist attractions are the former convict penal colony of Port Arthur, sightseeing around Tasman Island and scuba diving. The following is some information especially for people travelling there for diving.
Hobart is the capital city and the nearest airport. It is about If you are coming from mainland Australia and only diving Eaglehawk Neck, you would normally fly into and out of Hobart. If you were also diving Bicheno, you could use Launceston as the entry or exit point.
Qantas, Virgin Blue and JetStar fly into these locations from Melbourne and Sydney. As well, there are some flights from other Australian capital cities to Hobart and possibly Launceston. There are also flights from New Zealand into and out of Hobart. I do not recommend flying with JetStar if diving as the very strict baggage limit of 20 kg is enforced. You should only choose them if the excess baggage cost and airfare is much cheaper than the alternative airlines. Also make sure you purchase the baggage allowance on Virgin Blue. Normally there is no problem with Virgin or Qantas so long as you keep below about 25 kg.
The only way to get to Eaglehawk Neck is by driving, although you may be able to get a bus from Hobart itself (I have no idea). You can hire cars from the airport of course. It takes 45 minutes to drive the 60 kilometres to Eaglehawk Neck. The road is quite good and not that crowded.
If you are coming from Bicheno, you drive south along the Tasman Highway, turning off at Orford to take a shortcut along the dirt Weilangta Road. It takes about two and a half hours without stopping but amore realistic three to four hours, depending on sightseeing along the way (lots to see - look at my 4WD articles).
There is only one dive operator located at Eaglehawk Neck. This is Eaglehawk Neck Dive Centre. It is on Pirates Bay Road which is the first road on the left as you start the drop into Eaglehawk Neck and the second road as you actually enter (it loops back). Note that Pirates Bay Road is not on my car GPS unit (a Navman) even though it is not a new road.
The dive operation is located on a large property with lots of room for parking etc. They also have accommodation (see below) and lots of hire gear.
Diving starts from the dive shop at about 8:30 am (7:30 for the SS Nord). Dives may be double dives where you stay out but sometimes may include a return to the wharf for gear and people swap over. It all depends on who is diving. If you have your own group, then you will stay out for both dives. Good quality raincoats are provided and are recommended as it can get very cold, even in Summer.
After putting all your gear together, load it into the dive centre's trailer and then you put on your wetsuit/drysuit. You are then transported to the wharf at Pirates Bay, just over five minutes away.
The dive boat is a fibreglass catamaran about 6.5 metres long. It carries 7 divers and the driver. It is quite comfortable, although there are no spots to sit as you travel and it can get wet when the wind is up. You have to remove gear to get back on the boat as there is no ladder. Not too hard though. Hot soup and some chocolates are provided between dives.
Back at the dive centre there is a good gear washing setup and drying area, although you will need to move your gear undercover if there is a threat of rain (which is often).
There is also another dive operator located at Taranna but this is an arm of a Hobart dive shop and is not staffed seven days a week. In fact, on my most recent trip to Eaglehawk Neck which included a long weekend, it was not open even then. Not recommended for people wanting to ensure they get a dive.
Click here to see a list of some of the dives.
There is a range of accommodation in the Eaglehawk Neck area. There are many bed and breakfast places, the Lufra Hotel has rooms and units and the Eaglehawk Neck Dive Centre has accommodation.
The dive centre accommodation consists of a relatively new building located about 50 metres from the dive shop. There are two bunk rooms, each with six beds and an ensuite of a shower and toilet. There is also an upstairs double bed with a toilet. The bunks cost $25 per night or $30 per night with linen (per person) and the double room is $80 a night with linen. There is a good kitchen and a BBQ.
There is a television but it is tiny. There is also a DVD/video player with lots of videos to watch. There is no washing machine, but there is a laundromat at Port Arthur township.
The accommodation is good, we spent five nights there and were comfortable.
The only natural places to camp are at Fortescue Bay, about 30 kilometres south and Lime Bay about 45 kilometres west. Each will take about 45 minutes to cover the distance. I have stayed at both and can recommend them, although during high visitation periods they can get very crowded. The Lime Bay one is more natural and relaxed. On both times I have been there we have even seen echnidas.
There is a caravan park just before Port Arthur but I have no information about it.
As there is no supermarket or even shop at Eaglehawk Neck, you will need to bring all your food. Coming from the airport, there is a supermarket at Sorell. From Bicheno, you will need to get your supplies at the IGA supermarkets at Bicheno or Orford.
There used to be a small store right at Eaglehawk Neck but this has been demolished between our visits in February 2008 and March 2009. You can get milk and bread and some minor things at a small shop at Murdunna, about seven kilometres away. There is also a similar shop at Port Arthur township, about 24 kilometres away. There is nothing at all within walking distance (food, sights, drink).
There area also a couple of restaurants, the main ones being at the Lufra Hotel and The Mussel Boys at Taranna (about 12 kilometres). We have eaten at both and can recommend them, although neither is cheap ($70 per person including beer/wine for two dishes).
You can get fish and chips, pies and some similar things at a mobile foods outlet which is parked during the day at the Blow Hole next to the Pirates Bay wharf. This is excellent value, being both vast in quantity and great in taste. You can also get for dinner if you purchase right near their closing time.
You will also need to bring your beer and wine with you. There is a liquor store at Sorell and hotels at Dunalley and just before Port Arthur. Beer is not cheap, even by the carton and surprisingly, Tasmanian beer is normally more expensive than stuff from Sydney. It is almost impossible to get Cascade beer at anything but exorbitant prices.
You can also have a beer at the Lufra Hotel, although the Public Bar is pretty crappy (you should see the quality of the carpet!). It is a pity that the coffee lounge is not a bar as it has great views over Pirates Bay.
Non-Diving Things to Do
It is inevitable that when you visit this area you will strike some weather that will prohibit scuba diving. Therefore you will probably want some other things to occupy yourself on these days (we lost two out of four days) as well as the day after your last dive and before your flight.
As mentioned, this area has some great tourist sites. Of course the main one is Port Arthur. This is really a great attraction and a must do. It needs at least four to five hours on site to appreciate it. See my 4WD article for photos.
Closer to Eaglehawk Neck there is The Blow Hole, not as spectacular as the one at Kiama south of Sydney, Tasmans Arch and the Devils Kitchen. These are all out near Pirates Bay wharf. Also worth looking at is Doo Town. This is also on the way to the wharf and consists of houses with names like Doo Little, Much to Doo and similar bad puns.
Out to the west from Eaglehawk Neck is the Coal Mines Historic Site. This consists of the remains of a convict era coal mine together with the cells, barracks etc. Worth seeing if you can get the time.
You can also drive to Hobart and visit Mount Wellington (we have had snow there both times in early Autumn) and on the way back go to Richmond to see the historic village.
When to Visit
The best diving is said to be in Winter, but the water temperature is of course at its lowest then. The temperature gets down to about 11Â°C. In February and March when we visited, it was in the order of 16 to 15Â°C.
A great dive experience, even though it is as cold as Sydney in Winter.