Tasmania east coast: Freycinet National Park & Bay of Fires
Wow, having a holiday takes it out of you, doesn’t it? 😅 As I mentioned in my last weeknote, we were going away for a short trip to Tasmania for a week. We returned last week on Saturday evening, and while I did share a thread of experiences on Twitter, I always intended to write more detail about the trip on my blog. My blog has always been like my “number one” spot for writing about travel, but social media does make sharing those experiences easier. Fortunately or unfortunately – depends on how you look at it!
I am trying to avoid being so impeccable and polished in my blog posts in general, especially the travel ones. Having essentially a written version of a video blog with every minute detail seems excessive. I’ll start with this blog post to recount Hobart and the east coast of Tasmania, which is where we started our anti-clockwise road trip around the state.
Our trip was actually centred around doing the West Coast Wilderness Railway in Strahan, but due to some of their services not running, and limited spots, we had to change our plans a little bit, and do our road trip in the reverse direction to what was originally planned. Having some locations, sights, and tourist spots in mind, we settled on a rough itinerary:
- Day 1: Hobart and Port Arthur
- Day 2: Freycinet National Park
- Day 3: Bay of Fires/St Helens/Binalong Bay
- Day 4: Launceston
- Day 5: North west coast/Stanley
- Day 6–7: Strahan/west coast
- Day 8: Visit Queenstown and travel back to Hobart
We have visited Launceston and Cradle Mountain, and Hobart previously, so we didn’t dedicate a lot of time to exploring those areas – mostly just stopping by. This was our first time travelling for a whole week after a couple of years of the pandemic. We’d squeezed in a weekend trip here and there, but we stayed in the state and definitely had not been on a plane! The experience didn’t make me as nervous as it usually does. I don’t know why, but I often get anxious when I am on a plane and I don’t enjoy the experience of taking off or landing. Hobart is only about two hours from Sydney by plane. We were able to purchase business class tickets for quite a good deal, probably because travel is only just opening up, and there aren’t swathes of people travelling. In fact, our flights got moved possibly because they couldn’t fill all the flights to full capacity.
Since we had to board an earlier flight to Hobart (only by a couple of hours), we were wondering whether the hire car we booked would be ready by the time we arrived. It was going to cost about $200 extra to change the pick-up time, so we just kept our fingers crossed. The car was ready, and we had time to explore before visiting Port Arthur for the walking tour and boat ride we booked.
We headed straight for the Tessellated Pavement at Eaglehawk Neck. You don’t need a Tasmania Parks Pass to access it, but it’s close to Tasman National Park, which covers a few different areas along the south coastline of Tasmania in different places. I actually didn’t much care for anything else, until we headed towards the Tessellated Pavement and I saw some signage for other spots to check out.
The Tessellated Pavement is supposedly one of those “Instagrammable” and gorgeous views at sunrise or sunset, but fuck that. It has become apparent to me that anything Instagrammable and gorgeous is so staged and set up, that it takes away from the pure beauty of what nature can offer. Granted, yes, you will go to the Tessellated Pavement and you’re not going to see streaks of pink and the sliver of light from the horizon, and shadows cast on the pavement in intricate ways. But what you will see is the mixture of rock “tiles” and the cracks between them, and walk on the squelching moss by the water, and see the waves of the ocean, and appreciate and be fascinated by the incredible effect that nature has had on this area that creates beautiful patterns in the rock face. So yeah. Go and see the Tessellated Pavement because nature and erosion can create beautiful sights… not because some chick did a yoga pose on some cracked pavement. OK? 💕
We went to the blowhole and then to the Tasman Arch. We had quite a quick look since we had to get to Port Arthur and wanted to have extra time to park and use the toilet before the tour.
I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten about – or rather, not even thought about – the Tasman Arch. I don’t remember how old I was, but I read about it when I was in school, and I remember being fascinated by the very notion of it, even though I never thought about travelling to see it in person. As a kid, I suppose it sounded cool – and I love rock formations in general – but even so, you do have a skewed and magnified fascination with nature when you are young compared to when you are an adult. That said, the Tasman Arch was still surprising to see from the viewing platform. You just parked your car, and walked to this viewing platform where you couldn’t see anything until you walked right up to it and looked down, seeing the ocean all the way down below, and this giant rock arch formation. You could only imagine how it might look from the other side with a drone shot or if you were in a boat heading towards the arch. Incredible.
The walking tour at Port Arthur was pretty short – I don’t remember exactly how long it took, but it was probably around 30 minutes. There was not a lot of walking in the tour itself, but the entire grounds are yours to explore, and there is a lot to see. Port Arthur was a convict settlement and its history is fascinating. Although there was a horrific massacre in the 90s that led to Australia’s strict gun laws, tour guides have expressed that they will not talk about that event. It is not the be all and end all of Port Arthur, and there is so much more to its history. The entire historic site was interesting to explore, although we didn’t see absolutely everything there. You could definitely spend hours exploring it.
We stayed in Hobart for the night, so we had to drive 90 minutes to get there. We were a little plagued by roadwork throughout our trip to Tasmania, but nothing too serious. Coming from the state of New South Wales, though, our state government gives a lot of notice when it comes to roadwork. It seemed they were quite fine to disrupt the one-lane-per-side traffic to refresh the roads in Tas. 😅
We have actually been to Hobart before for a long weekend, but I never finished the blog post about that. 😂 It’s sitting in my draft blog posts somewhere. So we’d already seen MONA and Mount Wellington, and didn’t have too much planned to do in Hobart other than having a place to stay for the night.
Wineglass Bay Lookout & Hazards Beach circuit
The next morning we left early and headed towards Freycinet National Park. For this day, we planned a full day hike. Or half-day, I guess, since it was estimated to be around 5 hours. We did the Wineglass Bay Lookout and Hazards Beach circuit, which was a full 12 kilometres through varying terrain. It took about two-and-a-half hours to drive to the National Park from Hobart. We planned to stop at a supermarket on the way for a toilet break and to pick up some snacks and sustenance for the hike. It wasn’t too hard to find the trail head where the parking lot was located. We were lucky enough to get a parking spot – we knew the place would be popular and tried to arrive as early as we could, since multiple resources made that suggestion. We saw lots of cars filling up the overflow carpark. Arriving at around 12 noon, we lathered on the sunscreen, filled up our water bottles (there were no places to fill up on the hike), and were on our way.
We did the hike in a clockwise direction, which meant walking to the Wineglass Bay lookout and Wineglass Bay Beach, and then going around to Hazards Beach. The hike is almost the same distance if you do either of the individual hikes and then take the same way to return – so you may as well do the whole hike and see different things. We planned to go for a swim and eat lunch on the hike as well. Wineglass Bay Beach is popular for swimming but the waves can get a bit rough, so (ironically) Hazards Beach is the nicer spot to swim in since it has more still waters, and is more secluded. Either direction you traverse, I think it’s worth saving the swim for after you’ve done a good portion of the hike. 🌊
The Wineglass Bay Lookout track can feel tough if you are not particularly fit – mostly because of the stairs – but the views are worth it. There are many stairs that descend to the beach if you are planning to go down that way, but if you’re coming back up, it can take you some time and energy, so be prepared. There was a sign warning unprepared hikers that taking the long way around to Hazards Beach just to avoid the stairs may actually be tougher because it is a long way and quite hot. Thankfully we were fully prepared. 😁
The path that connects Wineglass Bay Beach and Hazards Beach is an isthmus that is a lot like walking through the bush. There aren’t any snakes or nasty bugs; it’s all rather dry and hot. On the day we were doing the hike, it was quite windy and about 22ºC, so the weather was honestly quite pleasant, and the wind kept us cool. There is a bush toilet available before you continue on to Hazards Beach, and there are a couple of toilets further up the beach if you are prepared to walk up the sand.
I would argue that the isthmus could get a bit monotonous, but you reach Hazards Beach and can enjoy the view and the ocean before going on the more rocky Hazards Beach track.
The Hazards Beach track is more interesting in terms of climbing around cliff faces and giant angled flat rock surfaces. You reach some high points where you can see the ocean, and also through some more forest-like paths. It was described on one of the introductory hiking signs as being “undulating”. You just gotta press on! We managed to do the hike in about 3.5 hours including about twenty minutes on Hazards Beach to eat and go for a swim. The water was just a little bit cold, but maybe because it was quite windy we felt cold getting in the water. We also moved rather quickly through the second half of the hike, keen to get through it. 😅
Devil’s Corner Cellar Door
There is no shortage of wineries, breweries and other foodie goodness as you travel around Tasmania. They even have a “Cradle to Coast” drive that goes from Cradle Mountain to the north-west coast, and stops at different spots on the way for coffee, cheese, wine, beer, and more. This particular spot called Devil’s Corner Cellar Door was not too far from Freycinet National Park and on our way towards Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires area. So we stopped there for a snack and a drink.
I thought it was an opportune moment to get oysters even though I don’t eat them regularly or even like them very much, but the ponzu flavour sounded great.
There is a small lookout on the premises as well, and nice views outside. Worth a stop, but definitely not the only spot you can get wine as you travel through the Tassie countryside.
Bay of Fires
People often associate Bay of Fires with the red/orange streaked rocks, which are actually caused by lichen on the rocks. It’s a beautiful piece of nature’s work. You can see these rocks all around the coast, some points being more accessible than others, and some more popular with tourists than others.
We ended up going to the end of The Gardens Road, where “Bay of Fires” is often pinpointed or landmarked on some maps (we looked at Apple Maps). There was not a lot of parking in that area – room for not more than ten cars. That was a good spot to walk on the rocks, get close to the sandy bay nearby, and even step in the water by the rocks if you really want. We didn’t go for a swim near any rocks, but you can certainly use the opportunity.
It was quite amazing seeing the ocean hit the rocks and seep through the gaps in the rocks. We saw some hermit crabs crawling around in the cracks.
Stay tuned for the next part of our trip! I will probably write everything pretty much in chronological order, and I think splitting the rest up between the north west coast and the west coast will probably work. There were obviously areas we covered in between. 🙂 I’ll just roll with whatever works. (Also yes a life-update-weeknote-thing coming soon. 😆)