We spent nearly three weeks in Tasmania in October of 2021. Much of Australia was still kept at home by Covid-19 lockdowns but as we lived in Queensland, we were able to fly to Hobart free of any quarantine restrictions. We flew in on a Friday morning, picked up our hired car and immediately headed for Swansea, half-way up the east coast. This was in fact very lucky for us as a curious individual with Covid flew into Hobart that night from Melbourne, was placed in a quarantine hotel, he escaped from the quarantine hotel and spent nearly 24 hours roaming Hobart looking for who knows what. Hobart and surrounding areas were placed on a three-day lockdown but as we hadn’t entered the city of Hobart and were already ensconced in our beautiful cottage just outside Swansea (Piermont Retreat), we were luckier than most Tasmanians that weekend. A few days later they expanded the net and by then we had moved onto St Helens, just outside the lockdown area.
On our first full day in Swansea, our destination was the famous Freycinet National Park which is on a peninsula that stretches south down the coast opposite Swansea … from our cottage window, we could see our destination, Coles bay, directly across the water. Thus the geography of the coastline meant that our drive to Coles Bay was 65 Kms as we had to drive north on the main highway to a turnoff near Bicheno and complete the second half of the trip driving south back down towards Coles bay (The trip from the turn-off is indicated by the orange line on map on the left).
The park is named after Louis de Freycinet who was a French explorer and cartographer who explored the coast of Australia in 1802 with Admiral Baudin. He produced the first map of Australia in 1811 (see Appendix 1), three years earlier than Matthew Flinders who circumnavigated Australia before Freycinet and was unable to publish his map due to being held in prison for 6 years by the French in Mauritius.
Freycinet National Park is, with Mount Field National Park, the oldest park in Tasmania founded in 1916. Its major settlement is Coles Bay and is famous for its spectacular range of Granite peaks called the Hazards as well as the superb Wineglass Bay. It is also a major sanctuary for endemic flora and fauna species and its stunning landscapes attract large numbers of hikers and tourists.
Our first destination on arrival was a quick drive around Coles Bay and then a stop to visit the Park’s impressive Visitor Centre. One of the most useful things we did here was buy a ‘Park Pass’ that not only got us into the Freycinet Park but gave us entry into the numbers of National Parks that were on our itinerary for the next three weeks. This was also the place to get the map of the park and develop a plan for the day in line with time available and our general fitness. Just to start off our exercise for the day, there was a short walk from the Visitor Centre down to the beach at Coles Bay. This was great start to the day giving us view back across the water to Swansea as well as the perfect spot to admire the four peaks of the Hazards.
From the Visitor Centre we drove into the National Park and since we had been on the road for a couple of hours, it was time to check out the Freycinet Lodge for possible accommodation in the future but also to update the caffeine levels. It’s a beautiful place right on the water overlooking Great Oyster Bay and Richardsons Beach. The views were, as expected, amazing.
From the lodge, it was time to get serious and head out on our main trek for the day. The walk to Wineglass Bay itself was a step too far for us being a 6 Km walk up steep slopes and down the other side; definitely for the young, fit and flexible hikers, taking approximately 3 or more hours. We decided that we would do the Wineglass Bay Lookout Circuit which was about 3 km and suggested time was 1-1.5 hours. The image on the left below was taken early on in the walk and the attraction of the up-hill section was of course the ever changing views approaching Mt Amos but also the views looking back over the Great Oyster Bay.
The track was well constructed to deal with the steep slopes; there were plenty of stairs as well as places to sit down on the way to admire the amazing rock formations close at hand and at a distance. Not far from reaching the lookout area at the top of the saddle, some bushwalking architecture students had designed and installed a wooden ‘day-bed’ for those looking for a little lie down just before reaching the look-out facilities.
As a couple whose family raising days are over, we have started to return to visiting National Parks in Australia. Already this year we had visited the superbly managed Karijini National Park in Western Australia and had been impressed by the modern infrastructure to ensure visitors could not only get safely to key areas of the national park but are provided with excellent amenities to appreciate the gorges from all angles. On arrival at the lookout overlooking Wineglass Bay, we were amazed again at the way the lookout area was designed to ensure that the tired visitor who has climbed all the way up to this mount, doesn’t go away unhappy for the effort. The views not only of the rugged peaks around the saddle were impressive but the scenery down to Wineglass Bay was worth the plane-fare to Tasmania itself. Here are just some of views that will give you an idea of what is an offer at the lookout between Mt Amos and Mt Mayson
Like all walks back down hill after you have reached a summit, it is always a bit of an anti-climax. The views were still great but the impact on the knees told an old story.
APPENDIX 1: LOUIS DE FREYCINET’S 1811 MAP OF AUSTRALIA