Freycinet Peninsula Circuit: Hiking in Freycinet National Park
Freycinet Peninsula Circuit on the East Coast of Tasmania is of the great Australia’s bushwalks. Freycinet National Park is renowned for its rugged and spectacular landscape of soaring pink granite mountains, sapphire blue waters and long stretches of pure white sandy beaches.
Hiking in Freycinet National Park in Tasmania
The Freycinet Circuit is well marked and easy to follow. It’s not a difficult or technical hike but some sections are fairly steep.
Distance: about 38 km, Walking Time: 3 days
Located on the Freycinet National Park peninsula, named after French navigator Louis de Freycinet, the Wineglass Bay is widely regarded as one of the most stunning peninsulas in Australia. Shimmering white sandy beaches and sheltered turquoise waters flanked by pink granite mountains have earned the Wineglass Bay a national and international reputation, put the site among the top ten world’s best beaches, and brought thousands of tourists. There is no one left, who didn’t see at least one image of the Wineglass Bay famous crescent.
Recently, the word “touristy” has taken on a negative connotation, often associated with a “tourist-trap”. But many touristy places are busy for a reason, and Wineglass Bay is one of these hot spots.
Our journey in Tasmania has taken us to many stunning sites such as Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, the Bay of Fires, and Maria Island. We made many gastronomic discoveries bordering decadence at Bruny Island and Hobart. But yet, we still have to explore the “must see” place in Tasmania, the iconic Wineglass Bay. Most tourists visit the lookout over Wineglass Bay and some follow the track all the way to the beach. But we had a plan for a multi-day hike on Freycinet Peninsula Circuit walk.
Making our way to the Freycinet National Park and stopping, too often, for fresh oysters, we were unsuspicious. Getting closer to the park and watching people leaving, we were ignorantly happy about this massive exodus and were looking forward to having the place for ourselves. Only leaving the car, we saw the sign announcing the closure of the park due to the extreme fire danger… It seems we missed the news about massive bushfires. The East Coast of Tasmania is much drier than the West Coast, and the threat of bushfires is frequent in summer months.
Our second visit to Tasmania was luckier.
Day 1: Walking Tracks Car Park to Cooks Beach
Distance: 13 km, Walking Time: 5-6 hours
It’s a warm and sunny morning. After having parked the car inside the Freycinet National Park and completed the logbook, we realise that we have been awaited. Very tame wallabies are carelessly hopping around our backpacks, obviously used to selfish tourists, who are hand-feeding them in return for a selfie, despite numerous signs advising otherwise. Having said goodbye to these cheeky marsupials, we set out to explore the isolated beaches and mountains of the Freycinet Peninsula.
For a short distance, we follow the Wineglass Bay Track before diverting into the Hazards Beach Track. It’s a gentle trail going through forest before the descent leads down to the coastline and Hazards Beach.
To get to Hazards Beach, just before the Wineglass Bay Beach, take a right turn towards Hazards Beach and follow Hazards Beach Track instead of taking Isthmus Track. Alternatively, you can reach Hazards Beach from the Wineglass Bay by taking Wineglass Bay Track and Isthmus Track and walking on a largely flat path linking the two beaches and then crossing sand dunes and walking on boardwalks through a marshy area near Hazards Lagoon.
Hazards Beach is peaceful, pristine, and desolate, with plenty of native birds. Compared to the crowded Wineglass Bay Lookout, less tourists make an effort to hike down to Wineglass Bay beach, and even less so go to Hazards Beach. The shore is very photogenic with its turquoise waters and boulders covered in startling red-orange lichen, a sight we have seen in the Bay of Fires.
For a while, we have the beach to ourselves. Walking in the heat, we cannot resist the temptation to swim. It’s not hazardous as its name may suggest. Hazards Beach received its name after the nearby Hazards mountain range named after a local whaler, Captain Richard Hazard. However, although not dangerous, its crystal-clear turquoise waters, giving the impression of tropics, are cold.
We could have easily lingered here for a few hours except we camp tonight at Cooks Beach to be closer to Mt Graham that we are going to climb. But if you want to stay on Hazards Beach overnight, a small campsite with a toilet is available at the southern end of Hazards Beach.
Sidetrack to Lemana Lookout and Fleurieu Point:
You can take a short walk along Hazards Beach to Lemana Lookout and Fleurieu Point overlooking the Great Oyster Bay. If you are lucky, you may spot seals, bottlenose dolphins and whales. We didn’t.
We continue walking south along the lengthy shore of Hazards Beach to its end, where a sign points to the Hazards campsite and Cooks Beach. You can also get to Cooks Beach via Wineglass Bay but going via Hazards Beach is easier as the uphill sections are shorter.
After a slightly strenuous walk along the sandy beach. A short walk along Cooks Beach brings us to the other end of the beach, the place of our campsite. Located right near the beach, it has plenty of shade and friendly wallabies. A great advantage of the Cook Beach campsite is that water can be found in the tank a short distance away, near Cooks Hut (it cannot be used for staying overnight – day use only).
The view across Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham remind us about our climb tomorrow, and we start settling in. We have just enough time to set up our tent and cook dinner when sun started going down. Before climbing into our tent, we finished every bit of Thai green chicken curry. With countless freeze-dried meals consumed for over the week during our Overland Track, I didn’t expect to eat “meal in a bag” anytime soon. But memories fade, hunger remains.
Day 2: Cooks Beach to Mt Graham
Cooks Beach to Bryans Beach
Distance: 1.6 km, Walking Time: 20-30 min
Mt Graham is located near Cook Beach, so we have time to visit Bryans Beach by following Bryans Beach Track, which starts behind the water tank. After an easy walk, we reach the northern end of Bryans Beach overlooking Schouten Island.
Peaceful, beautiful and deserted, Bryans Beach is one of the places I wish I could have stayed overnight. We didn’t stay here this time but there is small campsite available, however, with no toilet or water.
We return to Cooks Beach, pack our staff and walk north along the beach to the beginning of the trail to Mt Graham (579 m), the second highest peak in the Freycinet Peninsula after Mt Freycinet (620m).
We begin our ascent and shortly, the trail starts to rise gradually before becoming a steep climb through low heath and slippery rock. The trail is strenuous, and it gets even steeper and rockier near the top. Although we take our time, exhaustion starts to kick in. But while catching my breath, I was also catching a glimpse of wonderful coastal views motivating me to keep going.
I am feeling very tired by now but once on top, I forget about my heavy backpack and aching knees. The encompassing views over the entire Freycinet peninsula, with Mt Freycinet to the south and Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach to the north are stunning.
Oblivious to the time, we are admiring the views when we suddenly realise we need to find a place to pitch our tent. All suddenly, the wind abated and it was becoming stronger and stronger showing once again how temperamental Tasmanian weather can be. At least, we are not blown off our feet. We have just enough time to find a place for our tent, right behind a giant boulder protecting us against strong wind, although rather poorly, and have a quick dinner when the sun went down and it became pitch black.
Sidetrack from Cooks Beach to Mt Freycinet:
The climb to Mt Freycinet (620m), the highest point in Freycinet National Park, is short but steep, rough and rocky climb, with some boulder-scrambling at the top.
Day 3: Mt Graham to Walking Tracks Car Park via Wineglass Bay
The night was cold, very windy and very short. This morning we have a very early start to see sunrise. Shortly after we reached the viewing point we spotted the day before, sun started to rise slowly.
This magnificent sunrise is the highlight of the whole track, and we are in no hurry to leave. We take our time to eat breakfast while admiring fabulous views. Reluctantly, we set off towards the Wineglass Bay.
Our third day is tiring but it comes with a reward – the iconic Wineglass Bay, first experienced by walking and then from a vantage point, the famous Wineglass Bay Lookout.
The walk is not difficult and it’s mainly downhill but it takes more time that I have expected. The trail goes through some forested areas before emerging at the southern end of Wineglass Bay whose images are seen all around the world. With its quartz-white sand beaches the Wineglass Bay is renowned for its transparent turquoise water framed by granite points of the Hazards, it’s a stunning beach. It’s also a good place to stay overnight in a campsite, if you want to. But the water supply from the nearby creek is unreliable.
We strip off our sweaty hiking gear and plunge into the crystal-clear aquamarine water. It’s relatively warm as the beach here is sheltered. We could have lingered longer and longer but we want to get some mussels in the nearby farm and we head off to the Wineglass Bay Lookout and the car park.
Wineglass Bay Lookout
We are getting to the north end of Wineglass Bay beach, and although the sand is soft, I can feel my muscles. We soon leave the coast and start our ascent through stone steps to the Wineglass Bay Lookout located in a saddle between Mt Amos and Mt Mayson. Being a popular day walk, we encounter many people for the first time in three days. It’s a steep climb to the lookout but it’s easier compared to yesterday climb to Mt Graham. The reward? A postcard-perfect stretch of white sand, blue waters and rocky peaks of pink granite forested mountains, Mt Freycinet and the Hazards.
The Wineglass Bay’s signature curve is easily recognizable from the top. If you have ever seen the photos of Tasmania on Internet or magazines, you have undoubtedly seen countless images of Wineglass Bay. This is exactly what we saw. Plus the crowds of people. Regularly voted as one of the 10 best beaches in the world, the Wineglass Bay is the most photographed site in Tasmania. Unsurprisingly, people from all around the world are clamouring to see the view and take selfies.
I realise that taking the iconic photos of the Wineglass Bay is only possible by doing an aerial tour. But simply looking back across the entire peninsula and recognising the terrain that we have just hiked is a reward in itself.
Glancing one last time over the Wineglass Bay, I recall a gruesome story behind its name that I recently read. In the past, the bay was used to harpoon and butcher passing whales to extract oil, which was shipped to Britain for lighting. Shaped like a wineglass, the bay’s water was often red with whales’ blood. It was like a glass of red wine. It’s a sad story and I am also sad to leave this beautiful place.
Now it’s all downhill on a wide, well-marked track across the trees that provide shade much of the way. I start feeling my knees again. But as a reward, we have mussels, fresh oysters, abalone, and wine at the nearby Freycinet Marine Farm before returning back to Hobart.
Location: Freycinet Peninsula Circuit is part of Freycinet National Park located on the east coast of Tasmania, an island off Australia’s south coast. Freycinet National Park is part of the Great Eastern Drive.
How to get to Freycinet National Park: Freycinet National Park is located about 2h30 drive (170 km) from Hobart. Hiring a car is the easiest way to get there as well as around Tasmania. You will find many local companies offering cheap car hire. You can find information on public transportation on www.rome2rio.com and Wineglass Bay travel information, and also find out that many areas are very time-consuming to reach using public transportation. Tassielink will take you to Coles Bay while Calows coaches ensure the connection to Freycinet National Park.
Best time to hike Freycinet Peninsula Circuit: The hike can be done anytime of the year, however, summer months of December – April have long daylight hours and warmer temperatures. While East Coast climate is mild in winter, snow can fall on the higher peaks. This is Tasmania and its unpredictable weather.
Freycinet Peninsula Circuit: The walk starts from the Walking Tracks Car Park, 4 km further into the park from the Visitor Information Centre near Coles Bay. Walking the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit should be undertaken in an anti-clockwise direction to help stop the spread of Phytophthora cinnamomi, a fungus killing many native plants. Walkers are also advised to clean gear before leaving each campsite.
Information on the hikes in Freycinet National Park can be found on the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service and the Freycinet National Park
Fees and permits: You will need a park permit to enter Freycinet National Park and pay an entrance fee. The price depends if you come by car, visit the park on foot and the duration of your visit. Bookings are not required to do the Freycinet Circuit.
Near the start of the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit:
A variety of accommodation options can be found in Coles Bay. This quite little town, set in spectacular location, is the gateway to Freycinet National Park. If you are looking for a luxury place to stay, Saffire Freycinet, which has won numerous awards, is the place. We haven’t stayed in the lodge, but they are famous in Australia, and indeed, they look fabulous. The nearby coastal towns of Swanick, Swansea and Bicheno are also the places to stay. In Australia, we loved using Wotif to find the most cost-effective accommodation options. It’s a popular website to find the best hotel deals across various booking sites. AirBnB is another good option to find a nice place to stay – apartments are often less expensive than hotel rooms.
Sign up using this AirBnB link to get a discount on your first booking.
Inside Freycinet National Park:
Camping. While there are no huts along the Freycinet Circuit, there is a variety of small campsites at Wineglass Bay, Hazards Beach, Cooks Beach, and Bryans Beach. You need to carry your tent together with water, food and fuel stove for cooking (campfire are not allowed). Potable water is only available at the Car Park and Cooks Beach Hut. Depending on rainfall, water can sometimes be found in Laguna Creek on the southern end of Hazards Beach, Graham Creek below Mt Graham and at the southern end of Wineglass Bay from the Indigo and Cherry Creeks’ catchments.
The information on camping can be found on Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service and on Camping Tasmania.
Important: Camping inside the Freycinet National Park is very popular in summer and Easter break. To secure camping places from 18th December until 10th February and during Easter, you have to enter a lottery. Ballot is drawn on 1st August each year. Outside ballot period, campsites can be pre-booked against full payment. More information can be found on the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service
Lodges. If you are looking for something special and luxury, Freycinet Lodge is the only accommodation located inside Freycinet National Park. We haven’t stayed there, but it looks amazing.