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Adventure

Hiking Tasmania's East Coast

Adventures

The secret about Tasmania’s beauty may be out, but those who trek beyond the tourist trail are sure to be rewarded with secluded patches of paradise.

Hiking above WIneglass Bay

We hiked up the final trail to the Neck, and braced ourselves for the gale force winds we’d been warned about, but there was nothing. Not even the faintest breeze. The ocean hundreds of metres below was motionless, its surface like smooth glass. Surrounding us, the rugged cliffs glowed in the warm afternoon light. We had made it to the peak, and it was even better than we had hoped.

Hiking Tasmania’s pristine east coast is as varied as it is beautiful. Its south is full of isolated trails winding along desolate, windswept cliffs, whilst in the north, it can almost feel as though you’ve stepped into a tropical oasis, with pure white sands and crystal clear waters. My girlfriend Cleo and I began our exploration of this unique area set on exploring as many locations by foot as possible. What we discovered was that the untouched beauty Tasmania has on offer is mind blowing.

Mount Amos

Our travels began a few years ago as a two week road trip to escape the winter chill and experience Australia on our own terms, but that trip quickly gave us a yearning for more adventure. Before we knew it, we were on the road for more than four months, skipping the dull Sydney winter. The following year, our travels were extended to seven months, and we quickly saw a pattern develop.

We’d been on the road for more than five months by the time we landed in Tasmania, weary yet relieved after the ferry crossing. The previous months had been spent exploring every corner of Australia from the tropical north to the arid south, and we’d hiked our way through all sorts of terrains and conditions. Tassie and its quiet perfection had slowly drawn us south for weeks. There was something about it that just seemed to gel with our style. Perhaps it was the isolation, or the laid-back feeling that seemed to radiate from each town. Whatever it was, by the time we arrived on the east coast we instantly felt at home.

THE FALSE START

Dark skies threatening the hike

As we lazily made our way down the east coast, we began to discover the variety of hikes on offer. Our first favourite was breathtaking Wineglass Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula. This is an extremely popular area, one of the most visited in the state. However, few really have a chance to take in all of its beauty, with most tourists stopping for a quick look over the picturesque bay before making their way inland. We decided to pack our bags for a slightly more physically demanding version.

Our plan was to hike to the peak of Mount Amos for sunrise, for the best view of the bay. The hike itself is not particularly far – 2.5km return – however scaling the slippery and steep slopes makes it more difficult than it looks on paper. After waking up at 3am, with our bags packed and head torches on full, we began the trek up to the peak. I noticed right away the lack of stars, which is rare in Tasmania’s extremely clear skies.

Retreating back to the van

Soon after we began the ascent, a fine mist of rain formed. As we climbed the increasingly slippery slopes, the mist turned into a steady drizzle, and the granite slope soon became near impossible to climb. After a series of slips and near misses, we made the tough decision to abandon the climb and return to the comfort of our van.

SUCCESS AND A FLEETING SUNRISE

Sunrise over the summit

A bit disheartened but not discouraged, we planned the same trip for the next morning, hoping the rain would have passed. We woke in the predawn hours to that same fine mist that had threatened us the day before. We pushed on, and the rain lessened, which allowed us to painstakingly climb the smooth slopes, weighed down with camera gear and hiking supplies.

As we approached the summit, we were finally able to put our head torches away, and use the dim light to find the perfect location to watch the sunrise. Although the rain had stopped, the clouds were still thick on the horizon, and my hopes of witnessing a cracker sunrise were diminishing by the minute. Just as Cleo scaled a perfectly balanced boulder, a purple glow started to appear in the clouds. With the icy wind whipping at my jacket, I fired off a few quick shots before the flat grey light returned. We quickly sought out some shelter from the increasing wind in a small cave, and managed to warm up with some hot tea.

Warming up with some hot tea

As we reached the bottom of Mount Amos, we grabbed our overnight packs which we had stashed near the trailhead, and continued to the next stage of our adventure.  Our destination was a little known camping spot right on the beach at Wineglass Bay, which to our surprise was completely free. As the sun climbed higher in the sky and the temperature rose, we made our way past the lines of tourists slowly ascending to the lookout. Once we passed the main lookout, the track immediately became less developed, with no defined steps or handrails in sight. When we finally reached the famed Wineglass Bay, the cool ocean breeze and the perfect white sand transported us to another world.

With our boots packed away, the rest of the hike was completely barefoot on the smooth sand. What seemed like bliss at first soon became arduous, with the soft sand and heavy packs creating a strenuous hike to the far end of the beach, which seemed as though it wasn’t getting any closer. As the sun reached its peak and we had passed all but the most determined of explorers, we finally arrived at the end of the beach. We immediately dropped our packs and looked around in wonder.

Heading down

If we thought the start of the beach was perfect, then this was out of this world. The small bay had created an area with water so still and clear, it looked as though it was part of one giant swimming pool. The only sounds were the gentle lapping of water on the powdery white shore, and the calls of birds in the green forest right behind us.

PICKING THE PERFECT MOMENT

Soaking up the sun at Wineglass Bay

As the afternoon slowly drifted away, and the sun made its way towards the horizon, it really felt like paradise. What little wind there was dropped off completely, and due to the curve of the bay, the sun set directly over the water in front of us. We had the whole beach to ourselves as we lay and watched the stars slowly appear. Even on one of the most famous beaches in the world, this proved that with a little perseverance, you can have a slice of it all to yourself.

The next day we headed further south, along roads that wound along the coast, with  bright blue water on one side, and rolling green farmland on the other. Everywhere I looked, there were trails and mountains just waiting to be explored, and perhaps if we had years rather than weeks we could have. We took a few days to relax, and then we were ready for the hike we had been planning for months.

Relaxing on the beach at Wineglass Bay

The Three Capes is a relatively new walk, but it has already been called one of the best in Australia. It takes hikers to three of the most wild and scenic capes in Tasmania, and the views are unmatched. What we weren’t so excited for, was the price tag that also came as part of the amazing hike, with luxury cabins and endless boardwalks not holding as much appeal for us as camping in the rough. We researched alternatives, and soon it became clear that it was possible to do this hike without the costs of cabins, although it required a bit more planning and a lot more gear.

Fortunately, we had all the time in the world, and more than enough gear. We watched the weather for days, waiting for the perfect window. This region of Tassie is known to have some of the wildest weather, and is often said to be the windiest part of the island. We even heard reports of hikers behind unable to stand up with winds so strong. Since we had no cabins to fall back on, the weather was going to be a crucial factor. When what looked like the perfect few days finally appeared on the weather report, we knew it was time.

LUXURY CABIN NOT REQUIRED

Bush camp

Our plan was to walk the entire first section on the first day, and make a beeline straight to the Cape. As we meandered through the dry scrub, I was amazed at the lack of other hikers – we appeared to have the whole track to ourselves. After a few hours of solitude, our narrow dirt track met up with the Three Capes Track.

Immediately the difference was clear. The dirt and rocks made way for endless boardwalks, with handrails and seats dotted along the near perfect path. We began to feel more like we were hiking through a museum rather than making our way through the Tasmanian wilderness. Along with the fancy new trail came a marked increase in other hikers, all with day bags and runners. We spent the next portion of the day following the seemingly endless boardwalk, past the luxury cabins complete with deck chairs and hammocks outside. When we finally stepped off the last section of boardwalk, it felt like we were back in the wild, and we continued the final section with a renewed sense of wonder.

The changing colours over The Neck

This part of the trail wound its way along the sea cliffs that the trail is known for. Sheer cliffs were the only barrier between the path and the sea, hundreds of metres below. This section of the path is also known to experience wild weather, with icy winds often howling unrestricted from the southern ocean, directly into hikers on the trail. However, it seemed that our planning had paid off. The lack of wind, and the cloudless blue sky above seemed to good to be true.

As we finally approached the main destination of the hike, the point we had been dreaming about for so long, I could see what all the fuss was about. The Neck is a narrow section of rock, which sits well above the surrounding cliffs. The narrow, winding track that makes it way to the top has sheer cliffs on both sides. The final ascent was hot and slow in the afternoon sun, the lack of shade and heavy packs making the climb harder than it looked.

A coffee break along the Three Capes Track

Upon reaching the final tip, the very point of the Neck, it was clear the long hike and the days of planning were worth it. We picked out the rocks with the best view, and as the other hikers headed back to their cabins for the night, we had the whole place to ourselves. The sun was slowly making its way down over the distant mountains, the wide expanse of silky smooth ocean began glowing a dazzling orange. The lack of wind or movement made the whole scenario seem more like a still image than real life. We prepared dinner overlooking the view, waiting for the clouds to change and the sunset to really put on a show. Putting the camera on my trusty tripod that I had lugged all this way, I sat in awe as the cliffs exploded with colour and the endless layers of rock disappeared into the distance.

The next morning, I returned to the Neck for sunrise, armed with a beanie, gloves and my snug Gortex jacket to ward away the icy Tasmanian chill. Again however, that cold and icy wind was non-existent. As I snapped away at one of the most amazing sunrises I’d ever witnessed, with no sound except the distant seal colony, and no human around for miles – it hit me just how incredible Tasmania is.

Overlooking The Neck

From pristine beaches of pure white sand to untouched rainforests with abundant waterfalls, and to what I was staring at, a scene almost too perfect to be real, it was clear Tasmania was an incredibly special place.

More Outdoor Adventures

- Looking for more incredible Tassie hikes? Check out this guide to the great walks of Tasmania.

- For a small island, Tasmania sure has a lot to offer - these 6 Tassie adventures are not to be missed.

- An iconic and well-trekked walk, no trip to Tassie is complete without hiking the Overland Track.

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