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We set out to walk the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit and learned several valuable lessons along the way.
Freycinet National Park and its crowning jewel, Wine Glass Bay, is one of Tasmania’s most well-known landmarks.
It’s not hard to see why this beautiful bay of pure white sand and clear aqua waters enclosed by epic rocky headlands has become the poster for so many tourism campaigns. It’s something straight from an adventure movie. And, if you’re not content just gazing at the bay from above or walking its white sandy beach, you may choose to join the adventure yourself.
The Freycinet Peninsula Circuit is an almost thirty kilometers long, self-sufficient, multi-day hike that ranks amongst Tasmania’s best. The Freycinet Circuit takes walkers along stunning and desolate beaches, high into the sclerophyll forest of Mount Freycinet, up and over the windswept scrub of Mount Graham, and back down into the bay, where a campsite amongst the white dunes, adorned with whale bones and shells welcomes weary walkers with unparalleled beauty.
But the walk is no small undertaking and shouldn’t be underestimated. Whether you are a complete novice, a bushwalking expert, or somewhere in the middle like us, there are a few things you should know before you walk the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit.
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1. Is the Freycinet Peninsula Walk Difficult?
It’s pretty tough!
Before the avid bushwalkers jump in to crucify me on this one, I say this for the bushwalkers we met along the way, a dad and his very young daughter (with a pack as big as she was), a daughter and her older mother, and a young international couple out for an easy day walk in their sandals.
We met all three groups as we were descending Mount Graham and they were coming up, tackling the hike in the other direction. All three groups were worried they had bitten off more than they could chew, and they still had a fair way to go.
Not that any of these three groups couldn’t do it and we urged them on, but people should know what they are getting into. The Freycinet hike is a challenging hike with a total distance of 27 kilometers and a total climb of 1,500 meters. The second day of hiking is twelve and a half kilometers including steep ascents and challenging terrains.
For those worried that it might be too difficult, there are other options that will challenge and reward those looking for their first multi-day hike in one of the world’s most beautiful places. For an enjoyable one-night hike, walk the Hazards Beach Trail along the Cole’s Bay coastline to the picturesque Hazard Beach camp. The next morning cross the isthmus that connects Hazard Beach with Wine Glass Bay where you can choose to camp an additional night in the resplendent Wine Glass Bay before hiking up to the Wine Glass Bay Lookout on your way to the car park.
Alternatively walk down into Wine Glass Bay and to the Wine Glass Bay camping area. Leave your packs behind on day two and hike up Mount Graham without a pack to get great views of the bay and beyond. If you are not out of energy you can hike down into the saddle between Mount Graham and Mount Freycinet and summit Mount Freycinet for more views of the many bays and islands of Tasmania’s east coast.
2. Is There Drinking Water on the Freycinet Peninsula Trail?
Cooks Beach campsite is the only place with a permanent water source with untreated rainwater tanks. This means, at least one of the days on this trail you are not guaranteed to find drinking water.
We found the creeks on Mount Freycinet and Mount Graham were just bubbling along and were able to fill up our bottles with some suspect-looking water for cooking and coffee. But apparently, they are not always running. We took four liters between us and had enough water for drinking and cooking after refilling twice on day two at Cooks Beach and again from the creeks on Mount Graham. Bushwalking wisdom dictates you should carry four liters per person per day for cooking and drinking, but that’s a lot of weight!
3. Which Way Should I Hike the Freycinet Circuit?
The National Park website advises walkers to walk the trail in an anti-clockwise direction to minimize the spread of the plant disease, PhytophThora – root rot. However, when we spoke to the ranger they didn’t mention this issue and said we were free to hike in either direction. We also saw plenty of other hikers walking in a clockwise direction.
The ranger we spoke to did say that walking anti-clockwise was perhaps the easier approach. While I don’t know if that’s true, I think anti-clockwise is best for two other reasons. One, the views walking into Wine Glass Bay are better than walking out of it. Two, you can set off from Cooks Beach with full water bottles on the morning of the (difficult) second day.
4. When Should I Walk the Freycinet Peninsula Track?
The mild temperatures and long days of Tasmanian summer make this an ideal time to experience Wine Glass Bay and the Freycinet National Park.
That being said, this coastal walk remains walkable all year round, with milder temperatures than other parts of Tasmania.
Given the highlight of this walk is the beautiful beaches and it involves scrambling over a mountain, I would wait to do this hike in clear, dry weather. Opt for some of the smaller day walks if the weather is not cooperating such as the Cooks Beach walk or the Wineglass Bay walk.
5. What’s the Best Itinerary for Hiking the Freycinet Peninsula Track?
This would be totally dependent on your experience level, the amount of time you have, and the level of challenge you are looking for.
Our itinerary was as follows and was surprisingly challenging on the second day. We aren’t the fastest walkers but these are realistic times for fit, moderately quick walkers.
Day 1: Car Park to Cooks Beach Campsite (via Wine Glass and the Isthmus track) – 2.5 hours
Day 2: Cooks Beach Campsite to Wine Glass Bay with a side hike to Mount Freycinet Peninsula – 6 hours
Day 3: Wine Glass Bay to Car Park – 1.25 hour
6. What Should I Pack for the Freycinet HIke (in Summer)?
One thing we noticed about some of the groups that were battling on the Freycinet Circuit was the sheer size of their packs. It’s only a two-day hike. If in doubt leave it out. Every gram counts on the trail!
We weren’t exactly being weight-conscious ourselves and brought a box of wine, camera, tripod, and drone equipment (which we didn’t realize were banned in Tasmanian national parks), fuel stove, tent, sleeping bags, sleeping mats, warm clothes, and more than enough food for three days and our packs were a fraction of the size of other walkers we saw.
That being said, planning for walking in Tasmania, or even for a trip to the shops, means planning for four seasons in one day. We had periods of hot sun, whipping winds, cool evenings, and showery mornings.
A multi-day hike means that packing lightly and with the specific challenges of the trail in mind is essential. Here is what we packed for two people for two nights and three days in the Freycinet National Park in summer.
Camping Gear for the Freycinet Circuit in Summer
Cooking Gear for the Freycinet Circuit Trail
- Trangia Stove with gas burner attachment and 275g butane canister
- Camping mugs
- Serrated knife
- Travel size spice container
Other Gear for Hiking the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit Trail
- Power bank
- Biodegradable toilet paper
- EPIRB / PLB
- Pain killer
- Insect repellant with deet
- Spare Batteries
- Water Purification Tablets or Water Filter
- Matches / Lighter
NB: We also took a drone not realizing that drones are banned in Tasmanian National Parks! Save yourself the weight and leave it behind.
Clothes to Pack for Hiking the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit
- Light-weight uv long-sleeve hiking shirt
- Hiking pants or hiking shorts (depending on preference)
- 2 x Hiking Socks
- Long Thermal Underwear
- Rain Coat
- Hiking shoes
- Microfibre towel
What Else Do I Need to Know Before Hiking the Freycinet Circuit?
Pets are not permitted in Australian National Parks.
Freycinet is a fuel stove-only park, which means no campfires are permitted.
Tasmanian National Parks have a no-drone policy.
Don’t forget to pre-purchase a parks pass and, if driving, display it on the dashboard of your car.
Drop into the visitor information center at the park entrance for up-to-date information on the trail, advice, and a map.
Register your party at the self-sign-in station in the Wine Glass Bay car park and let a friend or relative know where you are going and when you plan to come back!
Bring insect repellant as the mosquitos in Freycinet National Park carry the Ross River virus.
Our Track Notes for the Freycinet Circuit
Day 1: An Easy 2.5-hour Hike to Cooks Beach Campsite (Cooks Beach Hike)
We left around 6:00 pm on Saturday evening and with only three hours of light left, we decided to skip the Hazards Beach Track and instead walked down into Wine Glass Bay (40 minutes). The track has steps and wide gravel paths. There is a lookout point where you can get photos of Wine Glass Bay. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t exactly turning it on for us, but we would have another opportunity for photos tomorrow.
From Wine Glass Bay, we took the Isthmus Track to Hazards Beach (20 minutes). The 1.5-kilometer track is flat, well-marked, and a bit dull.
Once you are at Hazards Beach, it’s an easy twenty-minute beach walk to the campsite at the end of Hazards Beach. Although it was quite late in the evening, we decided not to stop here and kept walking, six kilometers on to Cooks Beach which took us another hour. We saw plenty of wombat scat along the trail and a couple of wallabies. We arrived at Cooks Beach Campsite in time to watch the sunset over Coles Bay.
Day 2: A Challenging Hike Up and Over Mount Graham to Wine Glass Bay
After drinking as much water as we could and filling our water bottles, potentially for the last time, we set off around 9:00 am.
From Cooks Beach, we marched up into the sclerophyll forest that covers Mount Freycinet. The track is quite steep at the start for around one hour before flattening out a little bit for a more enjoyable walk. We spotted a pair of yellow-tailed black cockatoos that seemed to be leading us onward. There was a little bit of water in the creeks on Mount Freycinet, but it seemed a bit suspect.
After another hour trekking along a gentle incline, we made it to the saddle feeling pretty exhausted. We decided to have an early lunch and a sip of the water we were carefully conserving.
After a short break, some food, and water we felt ready to tackle the summit of Mount Freycinet. Without our packs, we felt energized to conquer the mountain. It was a steep scramble, especially near the top but we made it up in under 30 minutes. We spent about 30 minutes soaking up the view. The descent also took us about 30 minutes as we picked our way down the steep track.
Back in the saddle, we slapped on some sunscreen and hauled on our packs. For some reason, I had it in my head that we weren’t required to climb over Mount Graham to reach Wine Glass Bay so the next half hour or so ascending the mountain via a narrow track felt extra difficult.
From the summit, the track took us steadily down toward Wine Glass Bay. There was plenty of water in the creeks flowing off Mount Graham, and although it wasn’t so easy to access it, we were able to fill up a couple of liters of running water. It was brown, but we treated it and later used it for cooking. As we continued down, we started to realize how tired and sore we were. We hurried on eager to get into camp.
After an hour and forty-five minutes, we finally arrived at the beach camp behind the white dunes of Wine Glass Bay. A dip in the refreshingly cold water was a perfect cure for aching feet.
We set up our tent and settled in for an early night of pre-download Netflix on the phone.
By 7 pm we were asleep.
Day 3: Monday Morning Beach Walk and Stairmaster
We woke up to a gloomy sky and had a quick breakfast before packing up the tent. It began to drizzle as we set off around 7:45 am. The first part of the last day was an easy 20 minutes along the beach which was still beautiful in the gloomy morning.
When we reached the northern end of the beach it was 1,000 steps up and out of Wine Glass Bay and back down to the car park. It was a vigorous but not overly strenuous way to start the week!
We were back at the car by 9:00 am and set off north, bound for Bicheno.
Have you got questions for us about the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit? Maybe some advice of your own? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for more great coastal walks in Australia? Why not check out the Thorseborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island?
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