“We were not pioneers ourselves, but we journeyed over old trails that were new to us, and with hearts open. Who shall distinguish?” J. Monroe Thorington
Freycinet National Park is a beautiful and rugged peninsula on Tasmania’s east coast, where spectacular granite mountains are surrounded by turquoise bays and long stretches of pristine white sand. The highlight for most people is Wineglass Bay, which can be seen from a lookout on the Hazards mountain range (a two-hour return hike) or be included as part of a longer hike. This gorgeous bay was once named in the world’s top 10 beaches by the US magazine, Outside.
My previous visit to Freycinet National Park was in 2003 and this was on the rest day of Bicycle Victoria’s nine-day, 530km Great Tasmanian Bike Ride. Somehow, in a moment of madness, I was convinced to do the five-hour Wineglass Bay/Hazards Beach Circuit with a bunch of people who were a hell of a lot fitter than me. The only thing I remember about that day is the unforgettable view of Wineglass Bay…. oh, and the nagging voice inside my head that was berating me severely for attempting such a thing on a rest day (particularly as the bike ride was enough of a challenge for me).
So it was really great to have the chance to go back to Freycinet in late October, this time to do the three-day 30 km Freycinet Peninsula Circuit. Here are a few of my photos and a brief recap of each day.
Day one: 13km
We set off from the car park following the Wineglass Bay Track for a short distance before diverting onto the Hazards Beach Track. The first couple of hours we hike across undulating terrain, through forest, until we emerge to Hazards Beach. At first we can see right down the coast, but then the clouds come in dark and ominous and we unconsciously quicken our pace.
Just as we leave Hazards Beach to re-enter forest, a light misty rain begins to fall and we are forced to don wet weather gear. At first, the rain is quite pleasant, the scent of eucalypt enhanced by the dampness of the trees, but then the heavens open and our hike becomes more of a slog.
This is the first pack carry that either of us has done in almost two years, so, even though today’s terrain has been fairly gentle, it still something of a challenge. Fortunately, by the time we reach Cook’s Beach, the rain has passed and we amble along the final stretch of beach, happy to arrive at Cook’s Corner.
Day two: 12km
We retrace our steps along Cook’s Beach, but today it’s a totally different experience, as the sky is blue, the sand is dry, and shells, that have washed ashore, are sparkling in the sunshine. We spot a Bennetts Wallaby and then, as we head inland and uphill, we hear raucous cawing from a yellow-tailed black cockatoo. He is high in a tree nibbling on a plant that I suspect is fruit from a banksia tree. There are colourful wildflowers everywhere, including wattle and a particularly striking yellow bush pea.
As we get higher, we begin to glimpse the coastline and I am so preoccupied with the wonderful views that I almost forget I’m carrying a pack. However, this changes as we begin the ascent of Mt Graham. We take our time, but this part of the trail is strenuous as it gets steeper and rockier towards the top. There are also some big steps to negotiate and, as my legs are short, this is particularly difficult for me. I begin to get frustrated as exhaustion kicks in, but there’s also a level of determination that keeps me going until I collapse in a heap at the top of Mt Graham.
It is a relief to put down the pack for about 40 minutes while we eat lunch and enjoy the view – and from here we can see right across the peninsula to Hazards Beach (where we hiked yesterday) and to Wineglass Bay (where we are heading).
Although the majority of the afternoon’s hike is downhill to Wineglass Bay it’s by no means easy. There are some steep sections with big drops that are once again challenging and, by the time we’ve negotiated those, we are both feeling pretty tired. The trail crosses a plateau and descends through beautiful sections of forest, but by now I’m barely noticing because my whole body is screaming at me to stop! It has been a much more challenging walk than I was expecting but, then again, it has been a while since I’ve carried a pack. I’m insanely happy when we finally reach the campground, even though I’m almost too tired to pitch the tent. I revive a little bit after soaking my aching feet in the cool waters of Wineglass Bay.
Day three: 5km
We take our time this morning and eat breakfast while gorgeous blue wrens flit around the campsite. Then we set off, hiking on the squeaky clean sand of Wineglass Bay. It is another steep climb to the lookout and my knees are giving me a bit of trouble, but it is easy compared to yesterday. At the top, we look back across the entire peninsula and it truly is an amazing view. It’s also incredibly satisfying to see the the terrain that we’ve hiked across. Conveniently, I’m already forgetting the pain of the second day.
But that’s the thing about getting out into the wilderness. Even though it’s often difficult, I still come home feeling refreshed and rejuvenated… and I guess that’s why I keep going back for more.
I need to briefly mention the mischievous possums at Freycinet National Park. On our first night we were warned that the possums here have learnt how to open zips on packs and, sure enough, they did get into one of our packs that night and pulled a few things out. There was no food so they didn’t get rewarded.
On the second night, we forgot about some wraps that were still in the pack and one possum almost got a feast, except that he was making such a racket getting into the plastic bag that he woke us up and we chased him off. There were a couple of Canadians camped next to us and they, being from bear country, had hung their food in the trees. But that doesn’t work either and they also got woken by the marauding possums.
So, be warned, the only solution is to keep the food in the tent with you and hope the possums don’t get brave enough to join you. It’s a strange situation that I’ve never come across before!!