We spent one week in Tasmania where we explored Cradle Mountain, Devonport, Launceston, Freycinet on the east coast, and ended in Hobart. Do you like nature, the ocean, and fresh seafood and produce? We love Tasmania for its wild coastlines, foodie culture with fresh fish and oysters, wineries, locally made cheeses, and organic produce. Best of all, its national parks and natural environments are like the South Island of New Zealand, a favorite for us. In this 2-part article, I will share two of our spectacular experiences in Australia on Tasmania’s east coast.
Before going Hobart, we spent 2 days in Swansea and Freycinet National Park. Our intent was to explore the coastal beauty, eat oysters, hike and relax. Swansea is a sleepy little town on the coast and the largest closest town to the National Park.
Freycinet National Park
This park is the oldest Tasmanian Park, and on the east coast peninsula with the small community of Coles Bay on the border. It is part of the rugged and beautiful pristine coastal environment. It is famous for its jagged red and pink granite mountain range known as the Hazards. The famous Wineglass Bay and beach, voted one of the world’s top 10 beaches, is located in the Park below the Hazards.
The park offers diverse unparalleled natural beauty. The park boasts unspoiled white sandy beaches, sleepy azure bays and hidden coves. Volcanic rock, Dolerite, is a part of the coastal landscape, along with black mica and white quartz, and beaches made of silica and granite. As dolerite wears away, it provides the ocean with nutrients to support diverse sea life. The ocean here is well-known for its oyster production. This area became a national park in 1965 and was Tasmania’s first.
Rare animal sightings draw those who are nature lovers. The oceans here present world class birding opportunities to see white bellied sea-eagles, albatross, black faced cormorants, plus gannets ocean diving for food . At the right time of year, whale sightings are a special treat – southern right whale and humpback, plus bottlenose dolphins.
There are short walks to nearby overlooks and hikes up to 3 days. Walking along the greenery above the beaches we spotted wallabies and pademelons among the wild vegetation. The thick forests include Eucalyptus woodlands, and black peppermint growing over the understory.
Protected Aboriginal sites of cultural significance are here in the park. This National Park seems to include it all, from wildlife and beaches to cultural experiences.
To see the park, we combined a half day cruise to get the view from the ocean, with some short walks in the park. There is only one operator who offers coastal tours to Wineglass Bay, so we spent 4 hours with Wineglass Bay Cruises, and were thrilled with the experience.
Wineglass Bay Cruises
Leaving from Coles Bay aboard the Schouten Passage II, we took a 4 hour cruise to Wineglass Bay and back, passing several bays and beaches – Promise Bay, Oyster Bay which leads out to the Tasman Sea, Brian’s Beach, Passage Beach, and Friendly Beach. It is a rare opportunity to see Wineglass Bay from the water as Wineglass Bay Cruises is the only company running tours.
Our day on the water was spectacular. We viewed the park, the wildlife, and experienced the stunning scenery, abundant wildlife, like seals, dolphins, albatross, the nest of white belly eagles. We were treated to watching a sea lion feasting on a Lion’s mane jellyfish. Others have seen penguins and whales on this boat trip. It is awe inspiring to be on a boat looking up at the sheer granite cliffs one minute, and sea caves and hidden coves the next minute. Our captain, Paul, offered continuous commentary, sharing his vast knowledge of the rich natural history, geology, ecosystems, and wildlife. Paul suggested hikes to take, scenic overlooks to check out, and shared the heritage of this Peninsula.
Lunch is part of the tour. Once arriving at Wineglass Bay, we anchored to enjoy our catered lunch. Lunch included some of Tasmania’s finest fresh produce, selected by the head chef at Freycinet Lodge. We feasted on a bento box of local smoked salmon, vegetables, salads, brie and goat cheese, dried apple and apricots with homemade bread and crackers. Tom had the Ploughman’s lunch which included a selection of meats. This was one of our best ‘Foodie’ experiences in Tasmania.
The Catamaran holds 150 passengers in two classes of seating. The main cabin has comfortable theater seating with windows all around. The premium seating for 28 people is upstairs in the skylounge. It’s a more comfortable space with sofa type seating, making it easy to move around. Passengers in the skylounge have wine and oysters with lunch, plus the locally procured bento box of delicious Tasmanian delights.
Wineglass Bay Cruises was started 17 years ago with 2 staff and one 33’ fishing boat. Today they run a 75’ Catamaran with 3 outdoor areas supported by 12 staff. Indoor areas are available for comfort and to stay out of windy, wet or cool weather conditions. The boat has air conditioning, heating, and huge windows so as not to miss the fantastic views.
It was a great cruise, and a great day! The crew is very safety conscious and customer focused. Wineglass Bay Cruises have won many Tasmania tourism awards (I counted 9). Thank you Wineglass Bay Cruises for a terrific day!
While we were invited guests by Wineglass Bay Cruises, this is a totally independent and honest review based on our experience.
Where to stay
There are high-end, expensive options like Freycinet Retreat, Freycinet Lodge, house rentals, and villas in Coles Bay and Freycinet. For lower cost options, there are B&B’s, holiday parks, cottages and motels, backpacker lodges in Freycinet, Bicheno, and Swansea.
We rented a lovely apartment from Freycinet Waters, a small owner-run B&B. It had a comfy king bed, great kitchen, washer/dryer, balcony and windows viewing the sea in Swansea. This was one of our nicest accommodations over the 4 months between New Zealand, Australia, Vanuatu, and Fiji.
Don’t miss Freycinet National Park. Visit Wineglass Bay, and for a unique view of the Park, don’t miss the Wineglass Bay Cruises. This area is worth a week of time. I wish we spent 14 days to see all the highlights of Tasmania.
For on our recent adventures, see:
- Mountain High to Deep Waterways – Lake Taupo New Zealand
- Milford Sound – Scenery Photographers Dream About
- Franz Josef Glacier Activities on the Glacier