An arcing ribbon of white sand that splits the shimmering blue sea from towering granite peaks: no seascape magnetises travellers quite like Freycinet’s famous Wineglass Bay. This alluring panorama is a highlight of any itinerary along Tassie’s east coast, but it’s not the only reason to spend time in Freycinet National Park (NP).
All over the Freycinet Peninsula, more subtle but equally stirring scenes await discovery – from the fiery, lichen-covered boulders that tumble away into the sea and forested peaks reflected in shallow tarns, to the towering sand dunes carved by the whims of the sea.
As one of the state’s most popular camping destinations, Freycinet offers excellent national park facilities, with a choice of powered and unpowered sites close to amenities, walk-in sites for adventurous hikers, and the amazing beachfront freebies nestled among the coastal heath of the Friendly Beaches.
A COVETED VIEW
Without a doubt, the lookout above Wineglass Bay provides the most coveted view in Freycinet NP. The challenge for most is tackling the short but steep 1.5km uphill climb to get there, joining an incongruous crowd of sneaker-clad families, hardy bushwalkers hauling heavy packs to overnight on the peninsula, and international tourists keen to snap images of one of the world’s most photogenic bays.
By taking your time, this rewarding adventure is within reach of most visitors. The fun begins along the Hazards Circuit with a rigorous uphill climb to the Saddle Seat. This ingeniously-designed timber lounge, nestled between Mount Amos and Mount Mayson, provides the perfect excuse for a good lie-down. When the lookout eventually beckons you on, you’ll spend only another minute or so on your feet before that hard-earned vista finally reveals why Wineglass Bay got its name.
There’s no doubt that the lookout views are inspiring and worthy of all that hard yakka, but Wineglass Bay from sea level is no less enchanting and most walkers can’t resist the urge to continue along the gentle downhill trail to the water’s edge. If you’ve packed a picnic, there’s no better location to enjoy it than Wineglass Bay, surrounded by the peaks of the Hazards to the north-east and, to the south, Mount Graham and Mount Freycinet, the national park’s highest peak at 620m.
A narrow isthmus divides these two ranges, allowing walkers to escape the crowds and journey on through tea tree scrub, beneath wattles and past silvery tarns dotted with wombat scat and the scratchings of echidnas, to reach Hazards Beach on the quieter side of the peninsula. This magical 11km loop through Freycinet’s diverse wilderness takes around four to five hours, revealing ever-changing scenes of a diverse landscape that you won’t see if you just stop at Wineglass Bay.
Across the isthmus, the trail leads beneath high sand dunes carved by the sea to reveal ancient shell middens. Look for them as you beachcomb north past Refuge Island and Promise Rock. Beyond Hazards Beach, the walking trail completes its loop, traversing the coast around the base of Mount Mayson, reaching high lookouts and dropping down into tiny coves that make lovely rest spots.
If you decide to devote a day to this remarkable walk, remember to carry plenty of water and snacks, but resist the urge to share them with the wildlife. The local wallaby population has been affected by the potentially fatal lumpy jaw disease which can be caused by eating processed food, such as bread.
FRIENDLY BY NAME
After a busy day on the trail to Wineglass Bay, there can be no better place to unwind than at the Friendly Beaches. Added to the national park in 1992, the Friendly Beaches is a solitude seeker’s dream come true, with windswept bush campsites nestled into the coastal heath at Isaacs Point, along a seemingly endless stretch of coastline. Some are perfectly snug for tent campers, while other sites are large enough for a caravan-towing vehicle to turn around in and spacious enough for groups to share.
There are no fees to stay here (although national park admission fees still apply) but bear in mind that while upgraded facilities are apparently on the cards, at present only pit toilets are provided so you’ll need to be self-sufficient to enjoy this lovely camp. Because it lies within the national park, you can’t bring pets here or light a campfire, and you’ll need to dispose of rubbish when you head back into town to top up on drinking water and supplies. That said, campers who would rather be closer to the beach than an ablution block may well find this destination difficult to leave.
On our most recent winter-time stay, we spent long afternoons dawdling along the sand, equally mesmerised by the surfers riding the beach breaks and the dazzling cowrie shells caught among colourful rocks. As we strolled south towards the Cape Tourville Lighthouse, translucent seas revealed great gardens of thick kelp swaying in the swell that washed deep piles of shells against tessellated rock pavements.
With our campervan parked to make the most of the awesome water views, we spent the hours before dusk watching Bennett’s wallabies and pademelons feeding on the grassy foreshore and sipping champagne as we clicked off ever-improving images of the setting sun.
On this unpopulated stretch of coastline you might spot white-bellied sea eagles circling overhead, hear yellow-tailed black cockatoos or glimpse nectar-feeding spinebills and honeyeaters. Don’t miss the great flocks of black swans and other waterfowl that gather on Saltwater Lagoon, an easy 20-minute walk behind the beach.
TIME TO EXPLORE
At Cape Tourville Lighthouse, an easy, 600m interpretive trail provides excellent views of Wineglass Bay and the Friendly Beaches, and a chance to spot southern right whales during the winter months. The sealed trail is accessible to those in wheelchairs or pushing strollers, and a visit here might be combined with a trip to Sleepy Bay, a popular summer-time snorkelling and diving spot, or the Honeymoon Bay rockpools where you can picnic and enjoy a calm, safe swim.
Further afield, experienced trekkers can tackle the three-hour climb up Mount Amos, part of the Hazards range of peaks. This sometimes-slippery endeavour rewards with panoramic summit views shared with few fellow walkers. With a pack on your back, the Peninsula Circuit offers exciting multi-day escapades between the basic campgrounds at Wineglass Bay, Hazards Beach, Cooks and Bryans Beaches.
With more days to fill, you can join a host of national park ranger-led activities: free guided walks, talks and slide shows held at the Visitor Centre’s outdoor theatre. For a splurge, take a sea kayaking tour of the peninsula, try rock climbing or abseiling, launch your tinny on Great Oyster Bay or simply spend some time birdwatching at Moulting Lagoon.
Named for the vast flocks of black swans that shed their flight feathers on the lagoon’s shores, Moulting Lagoon is a wetland of international importance with a substantial black swan population. Not only does this enormous waterway attract a diverse range of birds (and, sadly, duck hunters in season), but it also permits bush camping at a basic campground off River and Rocks Road. To get there, head 8km north of Coles Bay, turn left onto River and Rocks Road and continue for 1km to a shady camp clearing with pit toilets and lots of brushtail possums.
The closest and most popular place to set up camp in Freycinet NP is right on the water at Richardsons Beach. With easy access to walking trails, the camp has 18 powered sites for campervans and caravans (up to 5.49m/18ft) and 27 unpowered tent sites stretched along the dunes. In peak seasons (Christmas and Easter), another seven sites are opened at Honeymoon Bay, a little further from the camp’s cluster of amenities. Bearing in mind that this is a wilderness camp, Freycinet offers good facilities with cold water showers, toilets, picnic tables, drinking water, rubbish and recycling bins, a public phone and free electric barbecues to compensate for the ban on campfires.
Close to the park, the Coles Bay township sells a surplus of everything a camper could need, including fuel, groceries, ice and gas refills, with some cafes and restaurants for dining out.
Anglers looking for access to get out on to Great Oyster Bay will find a boat ramp just opposite the local shops.
Freycinet National Park is located around 2.5 hours north-east of Hobart (194km) or around two hours south-east of Launceston (173km).
To get to the Friendly Beaches, turn off the Tasman Highway (A3) on to Coles Bay Road. After 9km, turn left to the Friendly Beaches and follow the groomed gravel road for 4.5km.
Alternatively, stay on Coles Bay Road for 19km through Coles Bay to the Freycinet National Park Visitor Centre.
- Park entry fees are $24 per vehicle, per day which makes a Holiday Pass a sound investment at $60 per vehicle for entry to all Tasmanian national parks for up to eight weeks.
- Bush campsites at the Friendly Beaches and Moulting Lagoon Game Reserve are free (toilets only).
- Campsites at Freycinet’s Richardsons Beach and Honeymoon Bay cost $13 (unpowered) or $16 (powered) for up to two people. Extra charges apply for additional people and family rates are available.
- For Richardsons Beach and Honeymoon Bay, you’ll need to enter a ballot by July 31 for summer-time stays (December 18 to February 10) and Easter.
- For further information and campsite bookings contact the Freycinet National Park Visitor Centre: 1300 827 727.