Few destinations invite exploration quite like Freycinet National Park, a stunning parcel of wilderness on Tasmania’s east coast. Formed over 400 million years and named after French navigator Louis de Freycinet, the 170-square-kilometre area boasts deserted beaches, pristine bushland, plenty of wildlife and striking pink granite mountains, known as The Hazards. But it’s not all about the rugged landscape: you’ll also find the freshest oysters, a thriving viticulture scene and one of Australia’s finest luxury lodges.
Where to stay
The ultimate in secluded, super-luxe lodges, Saffire Freycinet has been voted Australia’s Best Luxury Hotel many times. Each of its 20 suites captures views of the bush and Great Oyster Bay, has a private courtyard, elegant Tasmanian timber furnishings and even yoga mats should you wish to book an in-room class; Private Pavilions also come with a plunge pool and personal chef.
Food and drinks are all included – the degustation is updated daily to make the most of local seasonal produce and might include Freycinet black mussels one night and Robbins Island Wagyu the next. Don’t skip the day spa or complimentary Saffire Experiences for guests, such as beekeeping and touring the on-site Tasmanian devil enclosure.
Further inland is Freycinet Resort, an eco-retreat perched on Mount Paul. With 360-degree panoramas of The Hazards, Great Oyster Bay and the Tasman Sea, the 485-hectare property is home to eight cosy, sustainably designed studios and two spacious lodges. For larger groups, Picnic Island is available for exclusive rental. Rates for the copper-clad getaway, which accommodates 10 people in five bedrooms, include return water-taxi transfers.
Keen to sleep under the stars in Freycinet National Park? Given the high demand for campsites over the summer and autumn high seasons, spots are allocated by ballot in August each year.
What to do
Freycinet has coastal and mountain walking tracks to suit most capabilities, including some of Tasmania’s Great Short Walks. Only accessible by foot or boat, crescent-shaped Wineglass Bay is a constant on the world’s most beautiful beaches lists. Tackle the 90-minute return hike to the spectacular lookout or continue on to complete the five-hour circuit past Hazards Beach. Intrepid travellers can sign up for a four-day guided walk that covers the entire length of the peninsula, returning each night to the Friendly Beaches Lodge for gourmet meals prepared off the grid, a hot bath and some well-deserved rest.
There’s plenty to explore by water, too. Hop on a four-and-a-half-hour cruise to visit the secluded Cooks and Bryans beaches that can otherwise only be reached by a full-day hike. Or join The Freycinet Paddle, a three-hour guided tour that takes in the isolated coastline from a two-person kayak. The twilight session rewards you with gorgeous sunset views of Honeymoon Bay (keep your eyes peeled for seals, sea eagles and, if you’re lucky, dolphins).
Another introduction to Freycinet’s ranges, rock formations, bays and beaches is via a scenic flight with Freycinet Air. Options range from a 30-minute to a three-and-a-half-hour trip that includes a picnic on Maria Island, where you can visit Darlington Probation Station – the UNESCO World Heritage-listed convict site.
A half-hour drive north of Coles Bay, the Bicheno blowhole makes for a dramatic photo opportunity with powerful jets of sea spray that can reach up to 20 metres high. Stop by The Farm Shed to shop for wines from small-scale vineyards, locally distilled gin, artwork and ceramics. Come dusk, head on an expedition with Bicheno Penguin Tours to safely spot the waddling creatures as they return from a day of feeding.
What to eat and drink
Seafood doesn’t get much fresher than at Freycinet Marine Farm, where oysters are shucked to order. Open for lunch every day, this relaxed spot is a must for mussels cooked in tomato and chilli broth, grilled Tasmanian garlic scallops or rock lobster. Grab a seat at one of the picnic tables, a bottle of local riesling and you’re set. If you’re feeling more adventurous, you can even don a pair of waders and explore the farm first-hand with Oyster Bay Tours.
Drink in the panoramic views – and the award-winning wines – at Devil’s Corner cellar door. Named after a rugged patch in nearby waters, the winery is currently undergoing renovations due for completion in late 2021. But fear not: you can still sample paddles of pinot noir, chardonnay and more at The Little Devil pop-up or book a guided tasting. To make an afternoon of it, BYO picnic rug and pick up a woodfired pizza.
Open to visitors and guests, the dining options at Freycinet Lodge won’t disappoint. The Bay Restaurant focuses on local seafood, serving up elegant dishes such as sous vide Atlantic salmon and Bicheno tiger abalone risotto. A more casual affair, Richardson’s Bistro is a go-to for crowd-pleasing beer-battered fish and chips, pizza and burgers. Also on offer: cocktails by the open fire at Hazards Bar & Lounge.
Freycinet National Park is two-and-a-half hours from Hobart via the Great Eastern Drive or a two-hour drive from Launceston. All roads to Freycinet are sealed so you won’t need a 4WD but given the area’s wildlife, caution is needed when driving between dusk and dawn. The largest nearby town is Swansea and the small holiday village of Coles Bay is your last stop to stock up on food and water supplies before entering the park. You can purchase your National Parks pass online ahead of time or in-person at the Freycinet National Park Centre, along with postcards, natural history books and souvenirs.