Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania
Pristine white beaches, pink granite mountains, and the iconic vista of Wineglass Bay: the Freycinet Peninsula is one of the jewels of Tasmania‘s east coast.
The peninsula extends south into the Tasman Sea from the east coast of the Tasmanian mainland. Around 23 km long and 6.5 kilometres wide, it is connected by the mainland via the sand isthmus of Wineglass Bay.
Prior to European settlement, the region was culturally part of the Oyster Bay nation, which consisted of around 600-700 people, and spread from the Derwent Estuary to Fingal Bay and inland to the Midlands. Significant Aboriginal sites remain in the area today, including rock quarries, rock shelters, stone artefacts, and shell middens, including a particularly significant collection of shell middens near the camping ground at Richardson’s Beach.
Thanks to the narrow isthmus, early European explorers, including Abel Tasman and Captain Weatherhead (the first European to land on the peninsula), mistook the peninsula for an island. The peninsula was properly charted by the French explorer Nicholas Baudin (who also charted the Fleurieu Peninsula), who named it after the French explorer Louis de Freycinet. In the 19th century, the region was used for whaling, tin and coal mining, and farming. Today, abandoned farmer’s houses, mine shafts and the remains of whaler’s camps are a testament to this colonial heritage.
The Freycinet Peninsula was declared a National Park in 1916, making it (with Mount Field National Park), the oldest national park in Tasmania.
Today, the park is entered via the resort town of Coles Bay. It is particularly known for the scenic vista of Wineglass Bay, visible on a 90-minute to the Wineglass Bay lookout. Other patches of natural beauty include the towering, pink-hued granite mountains known as the Hazards, and the pristine beaches of Friendly Bay, Honeymoon Bay, and Sleepy Bay.
The Freycinet Peninsula provides a home for much of Tasmania’s unique flora and fauna. More than 500 plants have been recorded in the park, including 80 species of orchid; while wildflowers are common at most times of year. Mammals such as wallabies, pademelons, and echidnas are commonly seen in the bush, while seals are sometimes found resting on rocks.
The peninsula is also a great spot for watching the whales that head up and down Australia’s east coast. Southern right whales and humpback whales can be seen from Oyster Bay as they migrate north in May-June and south in August-September. Take a cruise from the mainland, and get up close to the whales.
Freycinet National Park is also a treasure trove for bird lovers. Spot white-bellied sea-eagles from the Wineglass Bay lookout, or head to the Moulting Lagoon, a RAMSAR sanctuary for black swans, white fowl, and other migratory birds.