In the middle of Tasmania’s East Coast lies Freycinet National Park. Freycinet is a highlight for many during a trip to the small heart-shaped island. This dazzling paradise in the east leaves no one indifferent. The park is mainly known for Wineglass Bay and its sandy beach that curves into a perfect bow. Just behind, watching over the beach, lies the grey shimmering mountain range, the Hazards, which turns beautifully pastel pink in the sunrise. The Hazards’ three mountain tops Amos, Dove and Mayson frame the surroundings and are all three hiking-friendly options. Wineglass Bay has previously been voted one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world by an American outdoor magazine. Many come here to look closer at the beach, but few realize how demanding the hike is. A sweaty walk will slowly lead up along the ridge to a vantage point over the bay. Here, many people choose to take a photo before they go back to the parking area. If you still have energy left, follow the steep path down to the famous beach. You pass large rocks and stone boulders and the path is covered by Eucalyptus leaves as you walk through a bushy forest. Once down, you will be richly rewarded. The beach strip is long, and the sand is soft. The water is icy-blue and crystal clear. The only thing you can complain about is the water temperature that can be a little cooler than you expected. It happens from time to time that whales swim past further out at sea, and one or two dolphins might be happy to greet you. Eagles have been spotted here too.
If you feel like moving those legs of yours some more, there is a range of activities to choose from. You can hike the entire 31-kilometer-long Freycinet Peninsula Circuit over a couple of days. Alternatively, explore the national park from the water’s surface. Join a guided kayak trip and paddle through the movie-like surroundings. If you prefer to relax, you can hop aboard a boat cruise where you can take in nature’s masterly shapes while you are treated to a tasty lunch. Freycinet National Park has something to offer everyone. Connoisseurs and adventurers will all be happy. Families with children as well as young backpackers. With the proximity to fresh water, Freycinet is an excellent place to try some fresh seafood. Shellfish are served in all forms, such as oysters, crayfish and mussels. Also crawfish and abalone. You don’t have to go hungry for very long. The restaurants are few, but the menus are long in the small town of Coles Bay. And local wines from the Tasmanian countryside can be served with your choice of food.
Sights and experiences
Discover and explore
Roaring 40s Kayaking arranges kayaking in Storm Bay. They have all the equipment and you will paddle through calm waters in two-seater kayaks. Glide past rocks covered by lichens, take a walk on idyllic sandy beaches and explore caves along the cliffs. The guides tell you about the area and if you are lucky you can see both eagles and playful dolphins. Lunch is included (wotif.com/things-to-do/cliffs-caves-beaches-kayaking-adventure.a346160.activity-details).
Bruny Island Cruises leaves the port of Hobart during the morning and takes you on a cruise around the rocky coastline of Bruny Island. During the trip you might be lucky to spot seals, dolphins and seabirds. And sometimes even whales that are passing by. When you return to solid ground, a meal prepared on local ingredients awaits you (wotif.com/things-to-do/bruny-island-tour-wilderness-cruise-from-hobart.a194327.activity-details).
To see Wineglass Bay is a must when in Freycinet National Park (parks.tas.gov.au/?base=1472). But do not underestimate the hike. It’s hard and steep and soon the sweat is breaking out. Getting to the vantage point and back takes about an hour and a half. But do not stop there, instead, continue down towards the beach. It extends the excursion with an hour but is worth the effort. From the vantage point, a steep track leads you down over uneven boulders. Soon you will reach the white sandy beach at Wineglass Bay. To get an unbeatable view of the beach, climb the mountain of Mount Amos (tastrails.com/mount-amos). The hiking trail is short but demanding. Wear proper shoes. It is steep and can be very slippery after rain. The trail starts at the parking area. The first stage is relatively flat, then the ground changes from a trampled forest path to large stone boulders you must climb over. Expect three hours back and forth but calculate for a longer timeframe to be able to sit down and enjoy the view. Do not rush back as soon as you reach the top.
Freycinet Peninsula Circuit (tastrails.com/freycinet-circuit) is a several-days hike of 31 km that runs through some of the most spectacular parts of the park. You can enjoy great panoramic views and a variety of excellent photo opportunities. Best is to divide the hike in stages over two to three days. If you want to challenge yourself further, you can extend the hike by climbing the 620-meter-high Mount Freycinet. You will come across lots of small sandy beaches to rest your feet on. Be prepared to carry your full equipment including water and your own tent. There are no cabins along the way.
At Freycinet Marine Farm (freycinetmarinefarm.com) along 1784 Coles Bay Road, mussels and oysters are farmed. They also have freshly caught abalones, crawfish and scallops that you can buy to take with you. The on-site restaurant serves cooked seafood and local wines. The prices are reasonable, and the food is tasteful. The restaurant called The Edge (edgeofthebay.com.au/coles-bay-restaurant) belong to The Edge Of The Bay Resort but is also open to the public in the afternoons. At 2308 Coles Bay Road, they serve food with a taste of the sea. Naturally, the seafood is in focus. It has a wonderful view of The Hazards’ uneven ridge and the inviting waters of Great Oyster Bay. The Edge is a bit more of a fancy option. They have an impressive wine list crammed with local drinks and they are renowned for their tasty dishes. At 6 Garnet Avenue lies Tombolo Freycinet (tombolofreycinet.com.au). A restaurant that also serves as a café. They offer something for all budgets. From foamy flat whites to fish and chips, mussel pizza and crispy wines. Gluten-free options are available. Everything is served to a breathtaking view of Coles Bay.
Good to know
There is a service-oriented Visitor Information Centre right at the entrance to Coles Bay. Remember that you must pay an entrance to visit the national park. A ticket can be purchased on site at the information centre or online (parks.tas.gov.au/index.aspx?base=914). Before departure, you can visit the Wineglass Bay website (wineglassbay.com) for more information. Keep in mind that it is four kilometres from the information centre in Coles Bay to the parking lot from which all hikes are starting. For more ideas on activities, discount cards and accommodation in Freycinet National Park, take a look at wotif’s website (wotif.com/discover/australia/tasmania/freycinet/freycinet-national-park.d6086821).
Warnings and preparations
Avoid a visit during high summer and Easter when it is difficult to find accommodation. Freycinet is not only well-known among foreign tourists, it is also a popular destination among the locals who gladly come here during holidays. The climate is mild, and the sun often shines in Coles Bay. But expect that it can change in a matter of minutes, so bring your rainwear. If you come here during autumn or winter, don’t forget to bring some warm clothes. If you drive here during the morning or the evening, reduce your speed since the wildlife are as most active during these hours.
Driving here from Hobart or Launceston takes about two and a half hours. Calow’s Coaches (calowscoaches.com) drive from Bicheno to Coles Bay and Freycinet. Tassielink (tassielink.com.au) runs between most cities and can be an option to combine with Calow’s Coaches. You can go on a round trip with Tours Tasmania from Hobart, taking you to several parts of the national park, including Wineglass Bay (wotif.com/things-to-do/wineglass-bay-freycinet-tour-from-hobart.a264069.activity-details). An option to see the most scenic places around Hobart is to hop on a Red Decker bus for a hop-on hop-off sightseeing tour (wotif.com/things-to-do/hobart-hop-on-hop-off-sightseeing-tour.a569290.activity-details). The ticket is valid for 24 or 48 hours from the time you first get on the bus.
There are a variety of options when it comes to accommodation within Freycinet National Park. From simpler tent sites on the beach to more luxurious resorts with stylish restaurants. When the pressure is high on accommodation during the summer, a raffle on the campsites is applied well in advance. To get a campsite here during the summer, you should therefore register your interest to the information centre by latest on the last of July. There are campsites at Richardson’s Beach, Honeymoon Bay and Ranger Creek (parks.tas.gov.au/?base=412#fre). You can put up a tent even farther away, at Friendly Beaches. The spots are, however, of the simpler sort. If you want to have access to some more comfortable accommodation close to popular fishing spots or scenic spots in Coles Bay, you can turn to BIG4 Iluka on Freycinet (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/BIG4_Iluka_on_Freycinet.htm). Freycinet Lodge (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Freycinet_Lodge.htm) is a few steps away from Richardson’s Beach and is famous for its fiery red sunsets. There are different types of rooms that are all located in the upper price range. In addition, there are two restaurants, Richardson’s Bistro and The Bay. There is also a bar. The Bistro is more relaxed and simpler, while the food at The Bay showcases the finest catches of the day from the sea. Saffire Freycinet (hotelscombined.com/Hotel/Saffire_Freycinet.htm) is one of the more expensive alternatives. This luxurious hotel with its undulating design has been carefully designed by architects and placed in the immediate vicinity of the national park’s nature. The suites are, to say the least, expensive. They have their own spa area and a restaurant serving local flavours.
A Saturday in Freycinet National Park
08:00 – Morning hike
Pack your bag and lace up a pair of comfortable shoes with a thick sole. Head to the Freycinet Bakery & Café at Cole’s Bay Esplanade to buy a take-away breakfast. Choose a pair of crisp croissants or filled bagels and some juice bottles for your picnic. Then continue to the parking area and follow the signs pointing towards Mount Amos. Hike up to the top of the mountain and eat breakfast at Freycinet’s best vantage point.
11:00 – Snow white grains of sand
Once you have caught your breath from the morning’s workout, it is time for the next round. Head to the photogenic beach of Wineglass Bay. Make sure that your swimwear, towel and water bottle are included in your backpack before you take off. Continue past the vantage point and follow the very steep trail leading downwards. Soon the ground changes from twisted twigs to sun-warmed snow-white grains of sand. Spread out your towel and throw yourself into the refreshing turquoise blue waters.
13:00 – Sea pizza
Start the demanding trek back and return to the civilization of Cole’s Bay. When your tummy starts making noise, head to the popular restaurant Tombolo (tombolofreycinet.com.au) at 6 Garnet Avenue. Order a cup of frothy coffee and maybe a baked pizza to raise your blood sugar levels after the morning’s efforts. Then spend a few hours relaxing at the nearby and quiet Richardsons Beach. And take the opportunity to use your snorkel set.
16:00 – Peaceful paddling
Continue the day with another activity. Join Freycinet Adventures’ (freycinetadventures.com.au) afternoon trip out on the waters of Cole’s Bay. Sit comfortably in one of their yellow carbon fibre kayaks and let your torso work. The mountains often protect against strong winds so you can calmly paddle your way forward in the kayak. See Freycinet from a completely different angle and learn more from the cheerful guides who happily share the area’s history.
20:00 – Shellfish
Finish off the busy day with a luxurious dinner in the sign of the sea. Book a table at the eminent restaurant The Edge (edgeofthebay.com.au/coles-bay-restaurant). Go big and order an impressive shellfish platter together with a bottle of dry white Tasmanian wine. Enjoy your meal as you gaze out over the grand surroundings and toast to the day’s last sunrays. And feel more than proud over the day’s achievements.