Saturday, October 16, 2021

Hike your way through Tasmania’s south coast

Dust off those hiking boots and explore southern Tasmania.

Reading Time: 5 minutes 

My adventure began as soon as I boarded Coral Expedition’s Coral Discoverer from Hobart’s Sullivan’s Cove. For the next 11 days, we cruised along the coastline, taking in the sights and sounds of southern Tasmania, and learning about the wealth of its natural history. There are many hikes here that will take you to pristine wilderness areas – these are just some that you can do.

Bruny Island

Renowned as a holiday destination, Bruny Island caters to multiple hiking abilities, with many walking track options, from undulating to strenuous.

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From Adventure Bay, we hiked to Green Point along a track that hugs the coastline, lined with sedgy grass, yellow banksias, and she-oaks. After reaching Cairn Cove, the track becomes steep and slippery, the landscape more dramatic, with waves swirling and pounding against the sheer dolerite cliffs below. Hiking back to Adventure Bay, along the Fluted Cape walk, the track passes through a dense blue gum forest filled with birdsong, and if you are lucky to sight one, rare white wallabies.

Cape Hauy

Cape Hauy forms part of the spectacular Three Capes Track that takes in tall eucalypts, coastal heath, and Australia’s highest sea cliffs. The hike is challenging with lots of steps – I counted 1750 of them.

Australia’s highest sea cliffs Cape Hauy
Australia’s highest sea cliffs Cape Hauy. Source: Supplied

Commencing at Fortescue Bay, the track is well constructed, made of cut stone and compacted gravel that dips like a rollercoaster before snaking between imposing cliffs, towards the famous dolerite stacks knows as the Candlestick and Totem Pole, which soar 300 metres above the ocean below, and are renowned as one of Australia’s most spectacular sights.

Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour

Tasmania’s southwest is wild, rugged and so remote it’s accessible only by sea, private air charter, or by hiking overland for several days to get there.

As we entered Bathurst Harbour at sunrise, white-bellied sea eagles circled overhead, and the mountains were blueish black, with a faint red outline as the sun was breaking through the night sky. The shallow water – stained by tannins from button grass – was dark brown, resembling strongly brewed tea. After cruising along narrow waterways by tender boat, we arrived at Melaleuca Inlet. Here we followed the Needwonnee interpretive walk alongside a forest and lagoon, the stories unfolding through installations of the way of life of the indigenous tribe that once lived here.

That afternoon and the next day we muddied our boots hiking through boggy button grass heathland to Mount Beattie and Mount Milner with panoramic views of a spectacular, pristine wilderness and my favourite hikes of the trip.

Views from Mount Beattie
Views from Mount Beattie. Source: Supplied

Freycinet National Park

This panoramic coastline is dotted with white sandy beaches, turquoise waters and sits against a backdrop of dramatic granite peaks that make up the Hazards range.
From Hazards Bay, we followed the marshy Isthmus track past a lagoon, with loud croaking frogs to picturesque Wineglass Bay, which curves long around the clear and calm water, pink granite boulders, and a white sandy beach.

A well-made but challenging track with over 500 steps leads from Wineglass Bay through a forest of eucalypts, tea trees, she-oaks and banksias to Wineglass Bay lookout. With the Hazards on either side of the saddle, the view as you look across to Wineglass Bay is stunning. On the way back down I stopped to take in the sounds and sights of the forest. Small nectar-feeding birds including honeyeaters, wattlebirds and scrub wrens darted about, and raucous yellow-tailed black cockatoos flew overhead. Looking down at my feet, I also spotted a black tiger snake sunning itself on the track.

The next day we arrived on tiny Schouten Island, located off the southern tip of the Freycinet Peninsula. As we walked onto the beach at Crockett’s Bay, it wasn’t sand we were walking on but fragments of oyster shells, given the area is abundant with shellfish. We visited the remains of an old coal mine, kayaked to explore the bay and had a refreshing swim. Later that day, we circumnavigated Ile Des Phoques, a small rocky outcrop, and home to black cormorants and a fur seal colony.

Maria Island

Maria Island was named in 1642 by Abel Tasman after the wife of the then Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, Anthony van Diemen. Maria island is also known for being Tasmania’s Noah’s Ark, home to an abundance of wildlife such as Bennett’s wallabies, wombats, Tasmanian devils and is also rich in geological and convict history.

As we made our way from the jetty, we passed the Commissariat store built in 1825, to the former penal colony of Darlington dating back to the convict era. We then walked over to the nearby Fossil Cliffs the site of a former limestone quarry that exposes 300 million-year-old fossils embedded into the rocks. An easy walk then led us to the Painted Cliffs, which display colorful layers of weathered sandstone.

Weathered sandstone on the Painted Cliffs
Weathered sandstone on the Painted Cliffs. Source: Supplied

Our most challenging hike was the 620m climb to the top of twin peaks known as Bishop and Clerk. The track leads across flat open grassland and then a forest before opening up to large loose stones to scramble over, a steep switchback and then a final large granite boulder to climb that I couldn’t reach without wriggling up and over. The views from the summit across the Freycinet Peninsula are breathtaking.

Southern Tasmania truly has so much pristine wilderness to explore.

Travel Notebook

Coral Expeditions’ Coastal Treks of Tasmania cruises next depart 17 January and 16 February 2022.

Life’s an Adventure offers hiking trips to Bruny Island, Freycinet, the Three Capes and Maria Island with superior lodge accommodation, gourmet cuisine, guide and transport provided.

Intrepid Travel offers affordable tours across Tasmania that include hikes to National Parks.

You can also arrange your own trip with a hire car staying at the former penitentiary on Maria Island, stunning Freycinet Lodge, and charming seaside rental cottages on Bruny Island. Walks are generally easy to access from a car park at the entry point.

To reach Port Davey and Bathurst Harbour, Par Avion offer flights by seaplane with lodge accommodation provided.

Parks Tasmania has a wealth of information on hiking in National Parks.

READ ALSO: Discovering Hobart

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Petra ONeill
After growing up in Australia's outback she enjoys visiting remote destinations in Australia for the wildlife, vast open spaces and brilliant night sky and travelling overseas to exotic destinations to experience different cultures. Her bag is always packed and ready for the next trip

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