Traditionally, Freycinet National Park gets a LOT of visitors. Pre-COVID, around 300,000 people tramped up to the lookout over Wineglass Bay every year, making it one of the most visited tourist sites in Australia. The iconic panorama over the bay is believed to be the most photographed view in Tasmania.
On our recent visit, however, it was relatively quiet. Car parks were empty and there were few walkers on the tracks. COVID travel restrictions have been terrible for tourism businesses, but on this occasion, helpful to us.
Wineglass Bay – Hazards Beach circuit
This lovely 11km circuit walk begins with the well trodden path up to the lookout over Wineglass Bay. It is said to be more than 400 steps.
We did it years ago and are quite sure that in those days it wasn’t as well cut. Now it’s an easy walk, with rock steps and boardwalks making it accessible to most visitors.
The day was fine and the view was clear.
From the lookout the track continues down to Wineglass Bay itself, where a few intrepid souls were taking a dip but most were satisfied with an ankle deep splash. It regularly makes ‘world’s top 10 beaches’ lists.
The track then winds through coastal scrubland crossing a low lying isthmus from east-facing Wineglass Bay to west-facing Hazards Beach. It was deserted.
We walked along the beach as far as possible to where the sand ran out and then picked up the track again, heading past a few rocky nooks and crannies.
The track wound up to a headland and magnificent views over Great Oyster Bay. We stopped for lunch, perched on the rocks and watched seals frolicking in the water below. It might not have the fame of Wineglass Bay but it has its own special beauty, especially on a perfect weather day.
Then it’s a longish hot walk along the exposed headland in the afternoon sun, but the water views more than compensate. And conveniently, the track then descends down to the car park from whence we started.
Cape Tourville lighthouse
Cape Tourville Lighthouse was built in 1971 to replace a previous decommissioned one. It’s neither historic nor particularly interesting in itself, but it’s worth a visit for the short loop track which includes a lookout and boardwalk around the edge of the cliff just below the lighthouse. From here, there is a panoramic view to Wineglass Bay, Hazards Beach and some offshore rocks known as The Nuggets.
After visiting the lighthouse, it’s a short drive to the car park above Sleepy Bay. A track leads down to an absolutely delightful little rocky beach. It doesn’t attract many visitors, possibly because it isn’t a sandy beach, but it’s great for basking in the sun.
And if you’d rather spread out a towel, a track leads from here to an unnamed gravelly beach about 10 minutes walk further on, with some opportunities for clambering over the rocks and exploring a few caves.
North and south of the Freycinet Peninsula, there’s a bunch of good wineries between Bicheno and Swansea so we also spent a day checking those out. Freycinet Vineyard and Devils Corner are big, commercial enterprises. Nothing against their wines, but for a winery visit we prefer smaller, boutique vineyards. We can highly recommend Gala Estate for pinot gris and riesling, and Milton Vineyard for pinot noir.
And if gin is your ‘thing’, don’t miss the Farm Shed in Bicheno. This wine store and gourmet providore offers gin tasting flights of small batch Tasmanian gins, everything from one made from sheep’s whey, which was curious but tasty, to some truly excellent gins featuring local aromatics like Tasmanian pepper berries. It also does excellent wine tastings which the lovely ladies there will tailor to your particular taste.
We rented a house on the water between Swanwick and Coles Bay village, nicely equidistant between the convenience stores at Coles Bay for essentials and the Freycinet Oyster Farm for, well, other essentials.
We were visited by kangaroos every afternoon and had some splendid sunsets. Not much to complain about here!