GUEST ARTICLE:On our annual ‘sister’ weekend away, Jo and I had four days in Tasmania, driving from Hobart, along the East Coast route to Freycinet National Park to do some kayaking and bushwalking.
I walked onto the tarmac from my Jetstar flight to Hobart and thought ‘It’s not that cold!’ Within minutes that thought turned to ‘I might put on my polar fleece and wind resistant jacket!’
We rented a car, and a light bulb moment the night before the flight meant that I could plug my portable Navman GPS into the hire car and be directed by the clever Navman control tower in the sky to our destinations in Tasmania.
After checking into our hotel, the first activity on our list was a visit to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens established in 1818, making it the second oldest botanic garden in Australia.
These are beautiful gardens: a greenhouse filled with lovely flowering plants, a Japanese garden, an Australian native section and of course, Pete’s Patch. My sister didn’t realise that the real reason for the visit was to go to the infamous Pete’s Patch, renowned in green thumb circles, as the organic vegetable patch developed by Peter Cundall, ex-presenter of ABC TV’s Gardening Australia.
Our next stop was Mt Wellington. Typing ‘Mt Wellington’ into Navman got us moving in the right direction. In my mind it was a hill behind Hobart. In fact, it was a half hour uphill drive, 1270 metres above sea level, to reach The Pinnacle.
The winding road was a little hair-raising and halfway up we saw a group of cyclists coming down. We commented on how amazing it was they made it up – how did they do it? Then we saw the support vehicle and realised they were driven up and were just riding down! They were on the Mt Wellington Descent tour.
Nearing the summit we yelled, ‘Is that snow?’ Being a beach babe, I haven’t seen snow for a decade, so we had to get out and make a few snowballs and chuck them at each other!
View from Mount Wellington, Tasmania credit: Thribble
The Mt Wellington viewing platform is a great vantage point for panoramic views of Hobart, the Derwent River and Storm Bay, and the southern section of the vast World Heritage Tasmanian Wilderness areas. A well placed boardwalk takes you to other vantage points, but the 8°C chill drove us back to the car and made us think about Devonshire Tea.
Typing ‘teahouse’ into the trusty Navman led us to Battery Point, Salamanca which has lots of great wine bars, pubs and restaurants. Sadly, no Devonshire Tea. I had to settle for chocolate cheesecake and tea., Shame really!
Nourished and refreshed, we looked through the many galleries and craft shops in this historic area which caters for tourists as well as locals. There’s a great fresh food market, the famous Salamanca Markets open on Saturdays, which we checked out. We managed to lose five hours wandering around. I ate a scrumptious organic lentil pie and we stocked up on organic vegies, cheese and bread for our time at Coles Bay at Freycinet. We had been warned there are very few food choices at Coles Bay.
I typed in ‘Coles Bay’ in Navman and we were on our way. Surprisingly it is quite ugly countryside following the east coast route. The land either side of the road looks depleted, perhaps overgrazed, filled with sad looking sheep and cleared of trees.
We stopped at Kate’s Berry Farm near Swansea and had a much awaited Devonshire Tea while looking over the azure ocean. This is a must if you are in the area, with unbelievably yummy scones, jam and berry ice cream.
Further up the coast around Cranbrook we stopped at a few wineries. Freycinet Wines wouldn’t let me taste the sparkling wine so I didn’t buy it. Isn’t that why it’s called a cellar door – to sample the wine before deciding to buy it?
At Craig Knowles Vineyard we drove behind what looked like a convict built homestead and read the sign – ‘honk the horn for service’. After honking, the winemaker wandered down with Buttons, his dog, and Jo bought a few wines while I played ball with Buttons. This was a very relaxed feel compared to the upmarket vineyards of wine regions such as the Hunter.
We reached Coles Bay and Beachcomber, the house we rented, faces Great Oyster Bay and is surrounded by bush. It is a lovely house, but the nasty notes everywhere almost make you feel like the owner doesn’t actually want people to stay in the place. There are notes about not being allowed to use the spa, closing windows if you are smoking outside, not leaving food on the benches, not moving any furniture – the list goes on.
After a long day of driving (and eating) we sat on the couch, opened the champagne from Milton Vineyard, ate cheese from Bruny Island Cheese Company and watched the light fade over the ocean.
Sadly we awoke to cloudy skies on our kayaking day. Luckily, the gale force winds from the previous night had dropped to a pleasant warm breeze.
We had chosen the half day paddle with Freycinet Adventures, and we met at Muir Beach in Coles Bay at 8:30 am and arrived to find our sea kayaks ready to go.
After a safety lesson, we headed off for a 2 hour paddle. The water was calm which made for easy paddling around Coles Bay in the Freycinet National Park.
The view over the water leads you to pink granite mountains and beaches ringed with rocks covered in orange lichen. The water is so clear you can see the sandy bottom and serenity is the word that floated through my mind.
After an hour of paddling we stopped for morning tea. We paddled past the famous Freycinet Lodge and across Richard’s Beach.
Deb mentioned the group from yesterday who saw a pod of dolphins so close they could have touched them. No dolphins so far for us, so I tried to speak ‘dolphin’ and asked them to come and say hi to some city folk. However Jo reckoned my ‘dolphin speak’ sounded like a ‘goldfish speak’. I guess they didn’t hear me! No dolphins, but we did see a shag on a rock!
This was a lovely paddle. However, at $90 each, I don’t think it was value for money. It was very over-priced.
Jo and I swapped paddles for backpacks, changed to sneakers and headed into the Freycinet National Park for a walk to Wineglass Bay.
The Freycinet Peninsula is rugged and beautiful with spectacular panoramas, abundant wildlife and a wealth of outdoor activities. The pink granite is amazing and The Hazards forms a magnificent backdrop to the pristine stretch of Wineglass Bay.
The day fee is $22, which you need to pay on the way into the park. We had packed a delicious sandwich and a few litres of water as we planned to have lunch on Wineglass Beach.
Most people just walk up to Wineglass Lookout but if you continue on the track down to the bay, the white sandy beach is beautiful.
Sitting on the beach I felt eyes on me. I turned around to see a wallaby with a joey watching me from a few metres away. She hopped forward, and settled about a metre away.
Looking out over Wineglass Bay I said a silent pray to the whales. Our kayak instructor, Deb, had informed us that the bay wasn’t called Wineglass Bay because it looks like a wine glass. It was named as a result of a whaling station located there in the 1800’s when so many whales were killed that the water was stained red.
It was the colour of red wine for only 20 years. The mothers and babies came into the bay for a rest, and were killed. There weren’t enough whales left after 20 years.
We decided to continue walking and took the Hazard Beach track. This circuit walk is a 5 hr/11 km circuit and the track hugs the coast back to the car park. On Hazards Beach you can see large shell middens which are relics of its occupation by Aborigines long before white people set foot there.
Note – Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service states that this is a difficult walk with a rigorous uphill climb to reach Wineglass Bay Lookout. They recommended you return to the car park by retracing your steps via Wineglass Bay and not take the coastal track. The alternative coastal track, which we took, has some rough rocky sections and can be slippery when wet. We found it only moderate, but you must judge your own fitness level. You absolutely need to take water and food if you plan on doing it.
The walk only took us 4 hours as we hurried the last hour to make it to Freycinet Marine Farm so Jo could buy fresh oysters before it closed at 5 pm.
After a day of exercise we sat on the deck overlooking the bay and sipped the local Milton Pinot Gris, snacked on tasty cheeses and Jo enjoyed her fresh oysters. It was a well deserved glass of wine!
On our last day in Freycinet we treated ourselves to a Freycinet Sea Cruise – a 4 hour cruise on Coles Bay, anchoring at Wineglass Beach for champagne, cheese and oysters.
It is a beautiful way to see the coastline, bays and beaches and it takes about an hour to get around the Freycinet Peninsula to the open Tasman Sea.
It suddenly became much colder and the captain of this small boat – around 20 people are on board – warned us that we may get sprayed from the waves. Jo and I were standing on the front, Titanic style, taking in the amazing rock formations that drop straight to the sea.
The boat started to hit barrel waves that were getting higher and deeper. We moved to the rhythm of the boat, and started really hitting the bottom of the waves with a thud. Jo started talking about heading towards a small beach if we fell overboard– pointing to a tiny beach that looked to be kilometres away. Yeah right!
I started to wonder how long I could hold on and then with a massive thud on the bottom of a 2 metre wave, we were totally drenched. Time to go in and sit down – and look for life jackets!
Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania credit: Shantavira
The captain decided that it is too rough to continue so we turned around and headed back to calmer waters – thankfully. I’m not sure how much more I could have taken before I needed some Bach Rescue Remedy.
We ended up anchored on Crockets Beach on Schouten Island which is rarely visited. Oysters, cheese and champagne were served. The water was azure and so inviting. So much so, a crazy European stripped down to boxers and dived in. Within a second he was out – the water looked gorgeous but was freezing!
We headed back to Coles Bay going close to the beaches and cliffs. This was well worth the $120 each, and I would highly recommend it.
Dealing with sea legs, Jo and I headed up to Cape Tourville Lookout in the park and ate our sandwiches taking in the amazing view of the ocean and coastline. There is a lovely 20 minute walk around the lighthouse.
We headed back down to Hobart for our 7.25 pm flight, wishing we could stop at Kate’s Berry Farm for another Devonshire Tea. Unfortunately there was no time.
Little did we know Jetstar had moved our flight to 8.25 pm without telling us. We were three hours early for our flight! While filling in time at the Airport it was the first time in four days I wished I had my laptop.
We returned to Sydney knowing we had breathed in pristine air, felt sun on our faces and re-bonded.
This travel diary has been written by my friend Catriona Pollard who likes to go on holidays away from email, computers and out of range of mobile phones so she can truly relax.
Catriona is the owner of CP Communications a Marketing & Public Relations Agency based in Sydney. She also blogs about marketing and public relations ideas and stories at the Public Relations Sydney blog
If you’ve travelled somewhere off the beaten track, can write well and have good quality photos I encourage you to contact me and I’ll consider publishing your travel diary here including generous attribution and links back to your website as thanks for your contribution