Travel news and advice

Hike and sail Tasmania’s stunning east coast in style: no boots required

Refuelling on champagne and oysters, passengers aboard a 23-metre ketch head for the hills on the Australian island state’s east coast for a three-day adventure exploring trails and cooling off in pristine waters

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 28 April, 2018, 11:46am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 May, 2018, 6:42pm

The 23-metre ketch Lady Eugenie is moored just off the east coast of Australia’s island state of Tasmania, where guides Adrien Butler, Maddy Davies and passengers hop aboard for a three-day Wineglass Bay sail-hike trip with Tasmanian Walking.

The first hike is to Haunted Bay – about a four-hour circuit. We drop anchor at Shoal Bay, and head ashore to follow a sandy track into a forest of blue gums, eating native cherries as we go. Ninety minutes later we scramble down a trail to the rocky surrounds of Haunted Bay, its granite slabs speckled with pale green, ochre and yellow lichens.

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Back on board, skipper Colin Brookes and mate Mitch Antilla have laid out platters of Tasmanian cheeses, cold beer and a selection of Tasmanian wines, considered among Australia’s best (notably pinot noir and pinot gris).

Tasmania has a touch of the wild about it, so comfort feels more appropriate here than opulence: Lady Eugenie has four narrow cabins, accommodating eight passengers, with bunk beds and shower/toilets and a spacious downstairs saloon. The upstairs cockpit is a cheery space shared by passengers and crew.

The next day we have three exhilarating hours under sail with common dolphins, north to Schouten Island via Ile des Phoques (Island of Seals). There are hundreds of them – adults, adolescents, pups – sunbathing or clambering about, occasionally splashing into the ocean to dive for squid. Antilla drops sail and we make a slow 40-minute circumnavigation, anchoring in Crockett’s Bay, off the north shore.

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Passengers Leigh and Lily Robinson, the guides and I putter ashore in the tender and set off up Bear Hill, a steep scramble atop granite boulders. We emerge from the bush after 90 minutes onto Crockett’s Beach for a late swim.

The water here is bathtub clear, and only waist-deep almost to where the boat is anchored. Meanwhile, Antilla has set a table and chairs in the sand, and we’re treated to plump creamy Bruny Island (Tasmania) oysters, champagne, dips, wine, beer, cider and soft drinks – all before we’ve dried off.

Robinson, from Perth in Western Australia, is tickled to find himself here with his daughter Lily. “While we were swimming I was looking up at Lady Eugenie, thinking, imagine living on a boat like that? And for three days, we actually are.”

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Early next morning we motor east through Schouten Passage out to the high seas and turn north, skirting the east coast bushland of Freycinet Peninsula and reaching the shelter of Wineglass Bay 70 minutes later.

Robinson, Davies and I embark on the four-hour return hike to the 579-metre peak of Mt Graham – a gentle ascent through a forest of giant gums and bottlebrushes dotted with orange fungi and rosy hyacinth orchids.

Towards the summit the trail turns to boggy button grass, then we’re among Freycinet National Park’s distinctive lichen-spotted pink granite boulders. Our reward is the view north over Wineglass Bay, widely acknowledged as one of Australia’s most beautiful beaches.

Named for its shape, and protected from most wind directions, its water is a strangely opaque yet brilliant blue, and its northern rim is hemmed in by four pink granite mountain peaks.

On our last day we’re ferried across to Hazards Beach to take the two-kilometre isthmus track back to Wineglass Bay for one last swim. From here we tackle the steep stairs of the 1.5-kilometre Freycinet Trail, to be collected by van near Coles Bay for the run back south to Hobart, the state’s capital.

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Stopping at Darlington Vineyard – perched just above the east coast holiday hamlet of Orford – we meet owner Paul Stranan and sample his pinot gris, riesling, and a tart, excellent pinot noir.

Packing up my gear before we’re dropped back at our hotels, it occurs to me that a winning feature of a hiking and sailing trip is the footwear: no heavy boots, just light hiking shoes, and bare feet for the boat. Three days of sandy hiking socks is a price we’ve all been happy to pay.

Getting there:

Qantas flies from Hong Kong to Hobart (14 to 15 hours) via Melbourne for about A$800 (US$600) return. The writer was a guest of Tasmanian Walking Company (taswalkingco.com.au). A$3,200/A$4,300 per person for a twin share (four-day/six-day itinerary).