Freycinet was declared Tasmania’s first national park in 1916 alongside Mount Field. Located on Tasmania’s east coast, it is home to granite mountains, azure bays and magnificent white sand beaches including the world famous Wineglass Bay. We recently completed the three day, 30 kilometre circuit loop around the park, taking in beaches, woodlands and incredible coastal views during a three day escape away from the crowds that descend on this magnificent coastal paradise every summer.
We set out in a counter clockwise direction toward Hazards Bay and Cooks Beach, a five hour walk alternating between beaches and coastal woodland trails. One of Freycinet’s most recognisable features, the pink granite rocks that form the Hazards Mountains are a prominent feature along this coastline. While it’s hard to believe today, some of this rock was once quarried and is used in buildings as far away as Hobart, with mining leases on the area only expiring in the late 1970s.
The second section of the circuit crosses inland across the peninsula from Cooks Beach to Wineglass Bay, with the long ascent of Mount Graham traversing dry coastal forests, typical of Tasmania’s east coast. These woodlands are home to a number of threatened species such as the Tasmanian Devil, and are among the only protected habitats for the critically endangered Swift Parrot which breed in blue gum forests on Tasmania’s east coast in summer. According to some estimates based on recent population decline, it is possible Swift Parrots could become extinct within the next two decades so conservation of these habitats is crucial. Setting out in the early morning with an ocean breeze behind us was a wise move as the summer sun became quite intense later in the day, and by the time we reached Wineglass Bay a swim was in order.
Being situated on the east coast means Freycinet is relatively sheltered from winter cold fronts and wild weather that impacts other parts of Tasmania, experiencing around 300 days of sunshine per year. There are many locations in the park which offer spectacular views of Wineglass Bay and beyond - the main lookout is reachable via a relatively short, albeit steep and crowded walk, while others require at least a two day return walk to reach. These lookouts can be very popular so to ensure impact from visitors is minimised, the parks and wildlife service recommend sticking to the tracks and infrastructure provided.
Wineglass Bay is the most famous feature of the park and has been voted among the best beaches in the world - pure white sands and calm waters are framed by the surrounding granite peaks. I have visited Freycinet regularly since I can remember and the thrill of stepping onto this beach never grows old. These days, there are signs asking people to stay clear of the dunes to help minimise disturbances to the hidden nests of shorebirds who call the beach home - a reminder that when we visit these places, we are also in the presence of animals who have nowhere else to go if their habitat is impacted by our footsteps.
If you do visit and decide to venture further than a day trip allows, make sure to bring ample water supplies. There is limited, and sometimes non-existent fresh water in the park that can be relied upon to refill bottles so it is essential to carry at least four litres of water per person, per day on this walk. After our second night camping and low on water supplies, we finished our circuit walk with a short stop at the Wineglass Bay lookout early in the morning before the crowds arrived - a magnificent view to savour and a summer weekend well spent.