Wineglass Bay Loop
Start - The Fisheries, Freycinet NP
Length - 12km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track
Vertical Climb - 295m
Time - 3-5 hours
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Signed - Wooden Signs and Orange Markers
Date Hiked - 25th April 2019
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Being a popular destination, the signage for Freycinet is easily spotted. To reach the car park simply follow Freycinet Drive through Coles Bay to the very end. There is a large car park but on busy days be prepared to park in the overfill bays along the road.
The Hike - After a sensational Bay of Fires Lodge Walk experience we had a couple of days before we were due to depart Tasmania so Hal suggested we find a place outside of the major cities to enjoy before heading down to Hobart. One area I had in mind was Freycinet National Park so twisted everyone's arms into staying in the area. I found a cool AirBnB in Dolphin Sands and after finishing the Bay of Fires we picked up the hire car and drove there in the dark. Seeing the photos online I knew we were right on the beach and the views across to Freycinet were amazing. What I should have checked in much greater detail was the route to Freycinet as I thought you could drive all the way to the end of Dolphin Sands but that was very wrong and we ended up being an hours drive from the park as we had to backtrack and loop around.
Once I realised this it put a snaffoo in my plans to hike Wineglass Bay with everyone and then return around sunset for Mt Amos (we only had the one car). Being Anzac Day it would be dicey whether there would be anything open to provide something else to do for the group other than hiking but in the end Candy and Hal were keen to be back at the AirBnB to watch their beloved Collingwood play Essendon for the traditional Anzac Day game. With that in mind we set off after breakfast to the popular Freycinet National Park ready to tackle the 12km loop that takes in the Instagram famous Wineglass Bay.
Unfortunately Caris had started feeling unwell on Day Three of the Bay of Fires and by now was not feeling the greatest. She would troop on, wanting to try and keep up but knowing that she would be quite happy to return to the car and read her book. On the drive out we passed Devil's Corner winery and noted that it was open so vowed to return after the hike to sample a few vinos. Finally reaching the car park for Freycinet we found the main area to be full so had to park in the overflow bays. I guess being a public holiday and close to Easter that there were a lot of tourists and locals looking to get in a hike. I've heard that Freycinet has been hit hard with wildly increased numbers thanks to social media and it was by far the most people I'd seen on a hike in Tasmania.
The trail head contains many information boards detailing the various hiking options in the area ranging from a short walk up to the Coles Bay Lookout to the 12km Wineglass Bay Loop to the three day Freycinet Peninsula Circuit. With many people bustling around the boards we decided to get cracking straight away and began the climb up to the highest point on the track, the Wineglass Bay Lookout. The climb up isn't particularly steep if you're an experienced hiker but given the popularity, there were plenty of non-hikers that were going at their own pace up the paved surface. Caris was trying hard but I could tell that she wouldn't be lasting very long. I stayed with her as we passed lots of boulders and staircases up towards the Coles Bay Lookout.
This first viewing platform overlooks Coles Bay to the north but the limited elevation means that the views aren't super impressive (at least not compared to what it further on). Caris decided at this point that she was done and didn't want to hold us up so with her blessing I handed over the car keys and went on to find Candy and Hal. I found them a little way up the hill leading towards the Wineglass Bay Lookout and we continued up together. All up from the car park it's a 150m vertical ascent and the stairs make it very easy to break this into sections (there are numerous interesting points to stop at if you get tired). Reach the spur trail for the lookout I was excited to clap eyes on this famous bay as the photos of the area always look amazing.
There are better views from the top of Mt Amos but that was planned for the afternoon and I was perfectly happy with this view as it lived up to the hype. There was a bit of a crowd gathered at the lookout with most people content to sit back against the cliff face and soak in the views while others positioned themselves for selfies and taking photos of the bay below. With hazy conditions around for the day the turquoise bay wasn't "popping" as I'd like but the photos still capture the essence of the place and I was happy to see a few sailing boats anchored to provide that postcard element. With our fill of the great views we started heading downhill towards the bay. With most people only doing the Wineglass Bay Lookout return trip, the path leading down to Wineglass Bay Beach was a lot less cluttered.
We did see quite a few people with big multi-day packs returning from their three day adventure and it is on my bucket list for the future. The path down is fairly steep in places but the stairs help out a lot so you just have to watch your step and not get distracted by the occasional nice view. Being a bit tighter than the climb up, be aware of others behind you that may be moving a little faster. As we reached the bottom of the hill it started to flatten out and the trees surrounding the trail became bigger and more mature. I got excited as I saw glimpses of the turquoise waters and white sand through the undergrowth. The great thing about Tasmanian beaches are that the forest usually goes right up to the sand so you get this almost tropical looking scene that looks really cool when you are there.
Arriving at Wineglass Bay Beach, what appeared to be a pretty empty patch of sand from the lookout actually contained a few people. This was no worry as the beach is fairly large and most people were off in the distance or hanging around the rocks. In terms of beaches this one is pretty special with Mount Graham and Mount Freycinet in the distance, plenty of lovely white sand, a splash of turquoise water and the views looking back to Mt Amos, Mount Mayson and Mount Dove. It's no wonder people rave about Freycinet and visitors flock here in great numbers each year. The sailing boats parked up in the bay looked even better up close and while Candy explored the lichen covered rocks (reminding me very much of Bay of Fires) I explored the beach closer to the water.
A few people were braving the cold water to go in for a swim but the closest I got was when I wasn't paying attention and a wave crashed over my boots and pants. With a bit of a time deadline because we didn't want to leave Caris in the car all day, we headed off onto the loop back to the car park via Hazards Beach. This was the road less travelled based off the number of people we saw here compared to the first few kilometres leading to Wineglass Bay Beach. I was happy having a bit of peace and quiet and the forest here was very lovely, containing a good mix of mature trees, lush ferns and due to the dry summer and autumn, some not so happy ferns.
About halfway between Wineglass Bay Beach and Hazards Beach there was a short side trail down to the wide open space of Hazards Lagoon. Very dry on our visit, it was remarkable being able to wander down to the edge of where the water would be on the edge of the forest for the spectacular views. In the distance are the silhouettes of Mount Graham and Mount Freycinet, places you visit on the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit but for us it was enough to admire them was here. After a few photos here we moved on to the section heading towards the next highlight at Hazards Beach. Being in a low lying area there are boardwalks to protect both the environment and your boots from getting muddy. As you approach the beach there is a small dune to get over before you get to experience the great views and the soft sand certainly makes you earn it.
When you reach the top and clap eyes on Hazards Beach and the amazing views, it's certainly a wow moment. Stopping to take it all in, to the south you get the postcard views to the mountains, the blue waters of the bay and the walk down the beach the leads to the finish. The staircase down to the beach is more a series of wooden planks to be used as grips than a proper staircase and if you don't have good balance or confidence then it can be a little tricky. The group of ladies in front of us struggled and looked a bit goofy as they slipped and scrambled their way down. I'd had enough of the screams and stopping so passed them about halfway down and not wanting to be stuck behind them even longer (they passed us at Hazards Lagoon) we kept moving along the beach.
With our beach walking legs well underneath us after the Bay of Fires, this was merely a simple stroll. With the grey clouds dispersing the water and beach were popping as we continued on along the hard sand. There was plenty to see on this small section of beach walking with some juvenile Pacific Gulls flapping around, Refuge Island and Promise Rock along with the awesome sights at either end of the beach. Something that became more frequent as we moved along was a large collection of crayfish and crab shells all over the beach. At first I thought it was due to someone catching and cooking up on the beach but as we got further along there were dozens of them spread out everywhere. I mentioned this to Candy and she hinted that it was due to boats in the bay just dumping their waste overboard, which is a bit disappointing.
Eventually we reached the end of Hazards Beach and the exit appeared after a couple of rocky platforms (it's also well signed). The set of stairs that exits the beach takes you into a gloomy looking She-Oak forest that was very photogenic. After such a colourful start to the hike this was a monotone world of tree trunks and needle strewn path. As we rounded a corner the colour returned as you could see the turquoise waters of the bay appearing through the trees and it made for a very cool photo. At a few spots you could wander down to the waters edge and several people we saw were taking the opportunity to take one last photo before the long stretch back towards the finish.
With no more beaches to visit, the trail loops around the coastline and keeps things fairly flat all the way to the finish. Changing between tunnels of the coastal heath, open views of the bay and pink granite. With an eye on the time we were scooting through this section pretty fast, stopping every now and then for a drinks break or to enjoy the expansive views. Winding along the contours of the landscape, you were never settled into one particular type of view with the constant changes serving to liven up this section. The peak of Mount Mayson is a constant companion through this part of the hike with breaks in the tunnels providing a glimpse at the granite form.
As you venture further along the coast there are some very cool sections of pink granite with some amazing colour palettes. Something that is very easy to take for granted are the steps cut directly into the granite and I took the time to stop and appreciate the form and lines of something that is essentially there for convenience. Several groups passed us along the way including a few trail runners although nowhere near as the crowd numbers on the first section to Wineglass Bay Beach. As you round the bay you get views of Mt Amos in the distance, a peak I really wanted to climb but at this stage I had already resigned myself to the fact I probably would run out of time. As much as I was enjoying the hike, I found myself checking the map and getting a reference to how long we had left.
The finish to the hike was very lovely though with the trail dipping down into a small valley and into some thick heath. There is a very prominent grass tree on the trail and unfortunately an information board near it explaining that this species no longer exists in great numbers thanks to phytophthora that has wiped most of them out. We rejoined the main track leading up to the two lookouts and made our way back to the start point, passing a large number of tourists, including a bus load of Chinese day trippers that had questionable clothing choices for a warm day if they were headed up to the Wineglass Bay Lookout. Arriving back at the car, Caris was happy to see us and judging by the cars lining the road in to the car park (parked illegally), the trail was a whole lot busier than when we started.