Anywhere you go, there’s always that one place you can’t get away with not visiting. Each country has their own postcard-worthy-award-winning spot that if you decide to skip it during you’re travels, you’ll never hear the end of it. For Tasmania this place is the Freycinet Peninsula, home to the famed Wineglass Bay.
We knew choosing to visit this spot in the height of summer during school holidays was a bad idea. But alas, like for most normal folk this was the time of year we had ample weeks of free time and the weather was finally starting to look better, so we decided to just go for it. Just go, launch the kayaks and paddle away from the tourist madness at Coles Bay and into national park bliss.
Our trip however was about to face a bit of a rough start. When we reached our destination and we were on the hunt for a good spot to launch and leave the car, we ran into a bit of an unwelcome sign: PARK CLOSED!
Park closed? PARK CLOSED?!?! What do you mean park closed?!
A ranger at the information center informed us of the extreme fire danger that was haunting the Peninsula and considering the amount of people that were eager to get to the sights they closed all trails and campgrounds in the park. Considering camping spots in town for the night were booked out about 6 months ago, we had to go home or go north…
With no desire to call it quits, we decided on the latter and starting making our way north. We ended up about an hours drive north just outside of St Helen’s at a camping spot called Diana’s Basin. The campground appeared to be mostly empty, on a pretty lagoon, alongside a nice beach and free of charge. Feeling our luck starting to change, we hit the sack early and get back to Coles Bay and in the water before the morning rush.
Overnight, the weather changed drastically. The day time temperature dropped about 10ºC, the wind eased about 20 knots and the fire danger was turned back a notch to very high. We were good to go and eager to paddle out to our first campsite for the trip. Paddling along the rocks, cliffs and beaches of Freycinet introduces you to some amazing views. Orange stained rocks, giant sea eagles, big kelp forests, soft corals and penguins are all parts of the itinerary. Not to mention the beautifully clear water of some of the bays…
Since the Freycinet Peninsula is a popular multi-day hiking trail, the campground at our first stop, Cook’s Beach, was bound to get busy so we were on a mission to try and find a private spot to pitch our tent, with little chance of getting unwanted neighbours later on in the day. If you enjoy a bit of paradise to yourself instead of mixing into the crowd, keep heading further up the beach on your visit, just past the main campground. Right before you hit the rock, you’ll find another path up the dunes which takes you to a small flat section separated from the main grounds by trees. There’s some driftwood benches and a little cooking plateau fashioned out of rocks by previous campers.
In the morning, we rose with the sun bright and early at around 5 o’clock to find the water almost glassed out flat. According to the weather report, the winds were going to pick up in the afternoon and getting stronger over the next few days with storm-like wind speeds heading our way in only two days time…
Since Tassie weather is hugely unpredictable and the forecast is usually wrong, we decided to paddle out to Schouten Island and stay on the island for the next few days if needed since our map indicated a hut with water supplies on one of it’s beaches.
After yet another epically beautiful paddle, we reached the pristine light blue waters of Moreys Bay. The hut was peeping out through the trees which could be reached by a flight of stairs decorated with crabbing floats. I felt like we hit an Island Paradise and fishing mecca until my dream world came crashing down by the destruction of reality. The caretaker of this months came to greet us at the beach. Well… more like scare us away…
The grumpy old man did his duty (kind of) as the campsite host and showed us the historic hut which once upon a time functioned as the home a the farmer who raised a flock of sheep on the island. After showing the Pygmy Possum who had settled in an oven mitten above the fire place, things started to get real unfriendly real fast.
After lecturing about how crazy we were for not having an EPIRB and complaining for the longest time about the fact that there were boats in the bay opposite the island for 4 days already (the nerves…) he held a big lecture on how disgusting women were and how they leave toilet paper everywhere, how dirty the campground in the adjoining bay was (we felt it was probably best to not point out the fact that it was his job to clean that up) and how we were, under no circumstances allowed to stay anywhere near the hut (even though it was one of the two official campgrounds) and definitely not allowed to stay for more than 2 days (even though this is nowhere near the maximum stay Parks and Wildlife permits).
Feeling about as unwelcomed by our “host” as possible, we REALLY weren’t prepared to sit out the stormy winds with the likes of him for the next few days, so while the water was still flat, we went off to find a campsite someplace else, closer to our return point and finish our trip the following day.
We set up camp on a small beach just south of Hazards Beach were we once again managed to find a single tent campground with a small outdoor lounge put together by previous visitors out of rocks. While watching the sunset with a beach and bay to ourselves, we tried to imagine what the next few days would have been like had we stayed on Schouten. After some ill-wishing upon the tyrant we met earlier that day and going for a short sunset paddle around our private bay, we slept soundly to rise at the crack of dawn and paddle back before the storm hit.