Our 3-day weekend in Freycinet National Park started in Hobart.  Arriving in Hobart on Friday night, late, we stayed in a hostel to keep with the low-cost theme of the weekend.  Let’s just leave it at that.  Saturday morning, I insisted on a brief trip through the famous Salamanca Market to buy some fresh produce for the coming days.  Turns out that the market is more goods and knick knack oriented than farmers’ market, but we did score some killer raspberries and cast our eyes on some beautiful local wares.

Too bad our low-cost theme to the weekend also included flying as cheap as possible on budget airlines, which in Australia means really constrained luggage requirements.  So, with no room to bring anything home, we were window shopping only.  Definitely looking forward to a return trip to the market.  One of the unique charms of the market were various street performers, mostly musicians, touting anything from guitar to banjo to bagpipes to a 4-person drum, harmonica, keyboard, trumpet and sax musical act.

Eager to hit the road and spend as much time as possible in our destination for the weekend, we set out for the 3 hour drive through the winding and sheep-lined countryside to Coles Bay, TAS.  Along the way, we found it impossible not to stop at the occasional beautiful beachside (not knowing that what we had in store was to be more beautiful than imaginable) and winery.

Coles Bay is the village town on the edge of Freycinet National Park that was to serve as our base of operations (read: food is here and we didn’t bring a camp stove).  We scored a perfect campsite – of the 52 sites available through the park services, lots 1-50 were occupied by families and congregated around the visitor center and Coles Bay.  Insert separator, aka, private beach, Honeymoon Bay, and perched atop of the Bay, sites 51 and 52.  We occupied 51, and a nice family from Launcenston, TAS in town for some fishing (i.e., up before dawn and gone all day out on the boat) occupied the space next to us.  The location, couldn’t have been more perfect.

After setting up camp and enjoying an afternoon basking in the sun and acquainting ourselves with the Tassie landscape, we watched the sun drop over the ocean and behind mainland Tasmania and hit the sack (literally!) for some rest before the big hike.

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The brainchild of this birthday trip was my Walking in Australia book, which outlined a 3-day hike around the peninsula.  Since we’re not fully backpacker ready, and with travel time to and from Hobart a 3 day hike ona 3 day weekend wasn’t feasible, we settled for a shorter 12-km circuit around the top of the peninsula and spend the rest of our time relaxing and enjoying the sights and sounds of nature in and around the park. 

After a steep start, we arrived at the Wineglass Bay lookout for a preview of what was to come that day.

Nearly a dozen people were congregated up at the lookout, but as we made the descent down to the beach of Wineglass Bay we had the forest to ourselves.  We wandered along, admiring the twisted trees and watching our step so as to avoid the lizards sunning themselves on every rock. 

As we neared the beach, we heard gaggles of chirrping birds and I paused to pull out the binoculars for a closer look.  As luck would have it, this was a great point for a pause in the walk, since a wallaby hopped right out in front of us on the trail and hung out for 20 minutes in the brush ust beside the trail, foraging for food and letting us adore it.

Moving on, we finally approached the beach, heard the sounds of breaking waves, and caught a peak of the beautiful blue waters awaiting just beyond the forest edge.

Ever the ones to find our own path, we climbed up a rockcrop on the edge of the beach and made ourselves and private picnic space for lunch.  We rested here, listening to the crashing waves and watching the glistening sun.  It is, indeed, a gloriously beautiful place.

Only a few kilometers in, we knew we had much more before us and set off to continue our journey.  The next leg of the hike was a short distance across the isthmus of the peninsula (1 or 2 kms, depending on which sign you believed).  After our lunch break in the full-on noonday sun, this part of the hike was a nice, shady reprieve and relatively uneventful.  Which was lucky, given that AFTER we completed the hike we found out that it was snake breeding season and that this part of the trek was particularly dangerous at this time of year!

We knew another beach was upon us when the trail turned upward and sandy, and we slogged through the hills of sand onto a lookout over the final leg of the hike — Hazards Beach.

It’s hard to imagine that, after having seen in person the beautiful, crystal clear turquoise waters depicted above, that another such beach could still be so amazing.  You just have to believe us, it was. 

We wandered along the beach for 2 kms, letting out toes out of the tight leather hiking boots to dig into the sand and be refreshed by the gentle surf.  We also picked up some beautiful seashells, which I hope to make into a necklace memento!

After our beach walk, it was back into the interior of the peninsula and towards the carpark.  Only another 5 kms to go and we were back at the carpark, at the base of the Hazard peaks and fully satisfied at the journey we’d just completed.  Back at the campsite, we treated ourselves with a proper afternoon lunch and celebratory local beverage.   Then, it was back to camp and back to sleep. 

Our next and final day, we got up early and drove out to Cape Tourville, on the east open-ocean side of the peninsula to watch the sunrise.  All in all this weekend we had perfect weather–days before the hike when a low of 7ºC was predicted my perpetually cold bones had packed long-sleeves, sweatshirts, and hats and gloves for nighttime.  When we arrived in Coles Bay, it was a pleasant sunny 25 and would remain so…  So much for hats and gloves! But, in Australia the sun makes all the difference, so we were happy for our warm clothing on this particular morning!

Sunrises always amaze me.  The rising and setting of the sun is a constant older than humans, life on this Earth, or even the Earth itself, but somehow the experience of watching a sunrise is always unique.  Our sunrise over the S. Pacific Ocean was no exception.  Clouds that had rolled in the night before made for a growing anticipation for a glimpse of the ball of fire that we knew must be rising behind the clouds’ edge.  Slowly, a orange ember in the center of the cloudmass appeared, spreading its color along the horizon like gentle flames. 

After waiting what seemed an endless amount of time for the first hints of color to appear, once the sun’s round shape broke the plain of the ocean’s edge it was like a gun had gone off, signaling the start of a high-speed race.  The sun erupted forward and rewarded us with its full beauty in mere seconds.

After our early morning excursion, we packed up camp and headed back up the peninsula towards Hobart for our afternoon flight.  Along the way,we stopped to checkout Friendly Beach – yet another pristine beach with crystalline waters. 

From the lookout, and with a full day ahead of us before our evening flight, we decided to follow a rough path down to the beachfront.  Here’s a tip when hiking in Tasmania – always make sure your “trail” is actually a marked and traveled path and not, as it turned out, a faint line through the brush carved out by water runoff. Never the ones to admit defeat, and always enticed by the adventure of finding our own way, we persisted through and under some seriously thick beach shrubs before finally emerging on the white sand.

What is remarkable about the beaches in Tasmania is not only the clear and beautiful waters.  Admittedly, we’ve been spoiled as of late and the beaches in Northern Queensland offered just as beautiful landscapes and waters as smooth and translucent as glass for our excursion to the Great Barrier Reef.  What was particularly remarkable about these beaches was the utter isolation. 

Friendly Beach extends for 5 kilometers and in our time walking from our path less traveled to the parking lot and walking path at the other end, we saw a grand total of one other person.  One.  At each of the beaches we visited in Freycinet National Park, you could almost forget that there was anyone else on the beach, much less in the state.  It was like our own private paradise, and the sheer naturalness of the space was overwhelming.  No people, no degradation, no trash, no evidence of human life… just nature as it was meant to be.

The spirit of Tasmania permanted our surroundings, including the dust that aggregated in the perfect shape of the State of Tasmania on the back of our sandy car!

All good things must come to an end, but this one was particularly saddening, because it was a very good thing.  More pictures on the photos page.

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