Travel

Mesmerizing trail of Freycinet, Tasmania’s hidden paradise

Written by The Frontier Post

COLES BAY, Australia (DPA): Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park offers campers to enjoy the breathtaking scenery for free with its blindingly bright-sanded beaches and an ancient Aboriginal coastal trail.

Nick Delany skilfully hops over the granite rocks. Waves are rolling in beneath him, spray is rising up. Three sea eagles are circling above him. A wonderful spectacle.

You might think that Delany, who’s worked as a hiking guide in the area for 11 years, isn’t impressed anymore by the breathtaking scenery that surrounds him. But suddenly he hoots gleefully, as two wedge-tailed eagles soar over the jungle. “The biggest raptors in Australia,” Delany exclaims ecstatically over the rumble of the surf.

With a mighty flap of their wings, the two birds attack their smaller cousins, a group of white-tailed eagles. Brief hooking of claws, a white-tailed eagle trundles, and then the smaller birds hurriedly flutter away.

The fight scene is a worthy finale of this tour, a four-day hike around the Freycinet peninsula in eastern Tasmania. One of the Great Walks of Australia, the Freycinet Experience Walk takes visitors across white beaches, up pink granite hills and down an old Aboriginal trail along the cliff.

Sunglasses are advisable when walking on Friendly Beach - the sand is painfully blinding, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 19, 2019. (DPA Photo)
Sunglasses are advisable when walking on Friendly Beach – the sand is painfully blinding, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 19, 2019. (DPA Photo)

Breathtaking Tasmanian nature

Among all of the gems Tasmania has to offer – and the southern Australian island has many – Freycinet may well be the most enchanting one. In 1916, the peninsula was declared a protected national park. It’s particularly known for Wineglass Bay, which has been voted one of the world’s 10 most beautiful beaches several times.

Once you have climbed the observation platform that looks out onto the bay, it’s obvious why. When Nick Delany first came up here as a child, the path was still rocky. Now, a comfortable gravel path winds up between granite boulders, eucalyptus, casuarinas and tea trees.

Nevertheless, Delany wears gaiters with his shorts. “There are three kinds of snakes in Tasmania,” he explains. “And all of them are venomous.” Technically, you can encounter them anywhere, he says. ”But they have a good temper. They’ll do anything to get out of your way.”

The colours of the cliffs at Friendly Beach alternate between brown and rusty red, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 19, 2019. (DPA Photo)
The colours of the cliffs at Friendly Beach alternate between brown and rusty red, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 19, 2019. (DPA Photo)

Fortunately, there are no snakes in sight today. There are also few other hikers around, meaning the panoramic view from the platform isn’t obstructed by people trying to take a selfie in front of the turquoise bay encompassed by a white crescent of sand. On the surrounding hills, round-washed, cleft rocks rise out of the dense bush.

Until the mid-1840s, a whaling station stood at this site. Its ships hunted southern right whales, a species of a right whale, almost to extinction within only a few decades. The blood of the whales coloured the bay red – hence the name Wineglass Bay.

The Freycinet Experience Walk is a four-day tour that lets you discover Tasmania's wild coastline up close, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 9, 2014. (DPA Photo)
The Freycinet Experience Walk is a four-day tour that lets you discover Tasmania’s wild coastline up close, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 9, 2014. (DPA Photo)

This island is different

Tasmania is a rough place. Australians on the mainland long turned up their noses at its inhabitants, which they considered to be less civilized. But at the latest, since the professional gambler David Walsh built the sensational Museum of Old and New Art, full of provocative objects, for millions of dollars here, the island has been all the rage.

Travellers from all over the world come to see the spectacular nature, eat oysters and drink wine. All over Tasmania, hiking trails have been expanded and cabins have been built to accommodate nature enthusiasts.

Deep Pacific blue: The view from the ridge trail is so stunning you have to keep pausing to take it in, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 19, 2019. (DPA Photo)
Deep Pacific blue: The view from the ridge trail is so stunning you have to keep pausing to take it in, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 19, 2019. (DPA Photo)

The Friendly Beaches Lodge, however, the base camp for the Freycinet Experience Walk, has been tucked away in the forest behind a kilometer-long beach for almost 30 years. From the outside, the wooden bungalows look plain. There is no concrete foundation and no insulation, no mobile phone reception and no wi-fi. Electricity is supplied by solar panels, and the kitchen and refrigerator run on gas. Wood fires provide heat.

Guests are attracted by the accommodation’s “sophisticated simplicity,” drinking sparkling wine and slurping oysters at an open fireplace at night after a day of hiking on the trail. The beach is only 100 meters (328 feet) away.

Exploring the ridge trail

The hidden ridge trail, which the Freycinet Experience operators maintain themselves, begins in neighbouring Bluestone Bay. “We let guests fan out here so they don’t trample a recognizable path into the grass,” Delany explains.

Moderately steep, the trail climbs up a forest path padded with casuarina needles. At the top, Delany hikes through the sparse forest along a ridge. “This is probably an ancient route of the Oyster Bay Nation,” he says. The Aborigines moved along this trail in the fall to the coast, where the climate is milder.

Hikers in Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 10, 2014. (DPA Photo)
Hikers in Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 10, 2014. (DPA Photo)

The path leads you along the coast some 200 meters above the Pacific. Again and again, the forest opens up for spectacular views of the glittering sea and the cliffs. White flowering coral rhizomes emanate a spicy smell, as crested hellebores flutter up.

For hours, you stroll along the enchanting coastal path at lofty heights until an earthen road descends to the lowlands again. The final walk is anything but boring, leading alongside a lagoon on which an armada of black swans bobs. At the very end, you step out onto a beach that is blindingly white.

This coastal wilderness awaits anyone taking the Freycinet Experience Walk, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 9, 2014. (DPA Photo)
This coastal wilderness awaits anyone taking the Freycinet Experience Walk, Tasmania, Australia, Nov. 9, 2014. (DPA Photo)

In the 1990s, a company wanted to dredge the Friendly Beaches’ almost pure quartz, sparking angry protest from Tasmanians. Eventually, the government expanded the national park to include 7 kilometers of beach saving the splendors of the white promenade.

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