Conventional approaches to environmental governance and management are limited in their responses to uncertainty and complexity of social-ecological system (SES) change. Prevailing neoliberal and efficiency-based mindsets tend to focus on avoiding risk and creating “fail-safe” systems. In the last decade, resilience thinking has emerged as a means to transition from risk-averse, and command-and-control governance approaches towards those that are more adaptive, innovative and collaborative. To examine the practical usefulness of a resilience thinking approach, we used a complex, multi-layered case study of Tasmanian coastal governance. Drawing on the diverse expertise and a variety of key governance actors, we identified crucial problems being experienced with the Tasmanian coastal governance regime and discussed potential contributions of resilience thinking to address them. Thematic analysis of the results revealed three major contributions: resilience thinking (1) provides a way to think about change and uncertainty; (2) is compatible with proactive and entrepreneurial leadership; and (3) effectively considers issues of scale in the decision-making process. We conclude by offering practical suggestions towards devolved leadership and improved cross-scale collaboration, and consider the possibility of a hybrid resilience and risk-based approach to coastal management and governance.