Meridian Writers’ Group
FREYCINET NATIONAL PARK, Australia–I don’t look my best in the morning. Perhaps that is why a saucy kookaburra was laughing as I poked my head out of my tent. Sweet-faced wallabies scattered as I stretched and greeted the day with an appreciative gaze towards the Tasman Sea.
On a four-day guided hike on the Freycinet (pronounced "FRAY-sin-ay") Peninsula on the east coast of Tasmania, the landscape startled us with its diversity and pleased us with its beauty. The peninsula was named by a French navigator, Nicolas Baudin, during a 1802 scientific exploration. What a treasure trove this land must have seemed back then! Two hundred years later, we still felt we were in an unspoilt garden.
"I wanted to give people a back-to-nature holiday," said Joan Masterman, who started the Freycinet Experience 10 years ago. Her company supplied the two guides who led us over white, sugary sand, across flower-rich ridges and through lush, damp gorges. It was hard to imagine being any closer to nature, at least as enjoyably as this.
The first day, we savoured the warm sand of Bryan’s Beach between our toes before donning boots to reach Cook’s Corner Camp. "Camp" seemed a misnomer as the roomy tents were on platforms and featured real beds.
The second day offered either a 16-kilometre hike up Mount Graham (579 metres) or a beach one of about 12 kilometres. I chose the latter and was rewarded with some ravishing scenes: seascapes of deep azure blue beside a blinding, white shoreline; boulders daubed rusty red and bright orange by lichen.
The "wow" moment on my beach hike was arriving at Wineglass Bay, an astonishing arc of sand wrapped around tranquil, turquoise water. It’s easy to see why Outside magazine rated it as one of the world’s 10 best beaches. After appreciating it up close, we climbed a trail, between boulders, to take in the rapturous sight from on high.
The next day the terrain was astonishingly different. We first hiked a deep gully thick with dripping vegetation. Then we made a steady ascent to drier terrain and followed a ridge trail bordered by bright wildflowers. Below us, a dramatic coastline was pounded by foamy waves. To me, at this point, Tasmania appeared the best of all worlds: the brilliant colours of the Caribbean, the verdancy of a tropical rain forest and the warmth of, well, Australia.
Later we clambered over sand dunes to Friendly Beaches, yet another gawk-worthy silvery shoreline, this one nine kilometres in length. A few of us swam; some explored the sand dunes. Eventually, we all straggled up the beach to where one of our guides pointed out a well-hidden trail that deposited us, a few minutes later, at the end of our journey, the happily named Friendly Beaches Lodge. The lodge was modest – eight cabins – but served delicious meals and was built with great sensitivity to the environment. It did this with such success that it won an award from the Royal Australian Institute of Architecture. To which we’d add our own recommendation.
For more information on the Freycinet Experience Walk visit the company’s website at www.freycinet.com.au .
For information on travel in Australia visit Tourism Australia’s website at www.australia.com .