There are eight renowned Great Walks of Australia – four of which are in Tasmania and one each in South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and Northern Territory.
Each is impressive in its own right but for pure spectacular wilderness that includes dramatic coastlines, deserted beaches, mountains, aqua-coloured oceans and classic Australian bush the Freycinet Experience Walk on Tasmania’s east coast is hard to beat.
The first morning we meet our guides at The Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel opposite Constitution Dock in Hobart for an introduction. We are given backpacks, lunch packs, water bottles and wet weather gear.
After a three-hour road trip to Coles Bay we take a boat across to Schouten Island where we land at our first pristine, uninhabited beach.
First important assignment once we get to Schouten Island is to eat (something we don't stop doing for four days) and then it’s up the steep trek of Bear Hill for magnificent views across the Freycinet Peninsula. If you don't want to exert yourself there is a fishing option available. At the end of the day we return to Coles Bay for a short walk to our accommodation at Friendly beach.
Situated on a 130-hectare private sanctuary, Friendly Beaches Lodge is surrounded by national park and exclusive to the Freycinet Experience Walk.
Our first night dining experience is exquisite; freshly caught flat head fried in Japanese style panko breadcrumbs, served with home made garlic potato wedges, dill and caper mayonnaise and tomato and mango salsa.
Next morning we start with a boat drop to Bryans beach, which thousand of years ago Aboriginal tribes called home. After a three-hour hike through the bush – during which the only other life we see is the occasional native bird and wallaby – we stop for lunch at a beach with water as aqua blue and as clear as I’ve ever seen. After lunch we walk for miles along picturesque, deserted beaches ending up on the pure white sand of Wineglass Bay, renowned as one of the best beaches in the world.
Dinner is another gastronomical delight of local produced rib eye beef served with mashed potato, pan fried asparagus and roasted carrots. For desert a vanilla bean panacotta with fresh summer berries combined with a superb selection of Australian wines tops off another outstanding meal.
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On the third morning we are driven to Bluestone Bay where we trek to the Bluestone Bay cliff tops. The views during the first 30 minutes are stunning and offer the perfect natural vista for whale watching (when they are migrating). Lunch is a picnic treat in the wilderness, after which the trek continues through lush Australian bush where we encounter black swans and pelicans before walking back to the lodge.
After another classic meal we finish off with a sticky date pudding drenched in caramel sauce served with Meander Valley double cream.
On the final morning we hike up to and along the fossil rich peak of Mt. Mary (located just behind the lodge) and continue down to Saltwater Lagoon. From here it is an easy stroll along the beach to Isaac’s Point and then back to the lodge where we are greeted by a sensational end of trek banquet and, afterwards, the begrudging (in my case) trip back to Hobart.
The maximum amount of walkers on any given trek are ten plus two professional guides. This is the perfect combination for an adventure you will remember that and love so much you will be planning your next ‘Great Walk’ long before you complete your first trek.
A decent level of fitness and a sense of adventure are definitely required to enjoy the trip. Each day you travel by boat or 4WD into the remote areas of the Freycinet National Park and at the end of each day you are dropped off at the lodge where you are greeted with hors d’ oeuvres that ensure any weight left on the trails, hills, beaches and mountains is quickly replaced.
There were nine walkers in the group and we all agreed that overall it was one of the most exciting, fun, adventurous and educational experiences you could possibly have, while walking in the wilderness.
Another highlight of the walk amongst many is the exquisite food served by the lodge staff. I’d go back just for the freshly baked white chocolate and ginger cookies.