I had booked a 5 or so hour trip on one of Pennicott’s Wilderness Journeys, the Wineglass Bay Cruise. The upstairs Sky Lounge option was chosen with the expectation of the best of service from staff, and their expert knowledge about the flora, fauna and social and geological history of the Peninsula and Schouten Island. That we would imbibe some of the best of Tasmania’s wines and fresh produce would be a bonus. And so it was. Faultless. Fascinating. First class. Fundamentally fantastic. It is trip for those who prefer a comparatively sedate, sanitised and less adventurous travel process – contrast this with the raw thrilling trips by the Pennicott team to Tasman Island and on the east coast of Bruny Island. However there is room in my world for both types of excursions, and this cruise to Wineglass Bay and more, remains a different but specially remembered adventure.
We set off from Coles Bay and motored over to the Freycinet Lodge jetty to collect more passengers.
Once everyone was on board, the Cruiser headed off southwards with rich silver clouds throwing a strong light across the sea.
A rocky outcrop offered a safe resting place for dozens of Pied Cormorants. In the surrounding waters we watched these birds straighten their necks before diving deep for fish.
To our right, Schouten Island loomed larger every moment, so that I realised what a huge land mass this island was. We motored through the gap between the island and the bulk of the Freycinet Peninsula.
On our left, small beaches could be seen from time to time.
Then the captain drove close to shore in order to point out an enormous white sea eagle’s nest high up in a tree half way up the hill (refer the dark shape within the red circle that I have drawn is the nest in the next photo). Elsewhere, a similar nest has been created for tourists to gain some understanding of the large size of these nests.
The coastline, with its dramatic granite boulders and edifices, was stunning. My photos show rocks, but what I saw was tempered with salty smells, the cries of gulls, the swish of the water, and the light which changed from moment to moment. This was theatre in its most majestic form.
Imagine you can feel the warmth of the sun and how, despite your polarised glasses, you have to flinch and squint against the power of the light on the sparkling sea. Feel yourself swaying a little as the boat lurches forward; as you grab a rail or unexpectedly catch the arm of a fellow passenger while he tries to save his glass of bubbly from washing over the lip of the glass. Feel your head swivelling as you want to look up and down and from side to side but the changes are all too fast; there is too much to see and you know you can’t process it all. You alternate between desperately trying to cram in each split second of the experience so you can revisit later, and languidly letting the experience wash over you. At times you glaze over under the effects of fresh air and the intoxication of a few too many glasses of sparkling wine. Then someone alerts you to a low flying albatross so your peer across the ocean and see it dip and rise with the air currents. And you feel glad to be alive.
Seals ahead! We motored towards a low lying rocky islet to see big fat sleeping giants humped up onto the warm rocks. Others re-positioned themselves or slipped into the ocean to swim amidst the long strands of tough kelp.
After passing beneath the Cape Tourville lighthouse, we turned southwards again and anchored in the clear waters of Wineglass Bay. Lunch was passed around. The next two photos show myy vegan plus seafood dish first then the regular dish with meat and real cheese etc. All fresh and way too much to eat. But appreciated.
While eating the sumptuous lunch, I watched tourists and walkers discovering the clean white sand along the sweeping arc of the beach. In the distance I could see Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham on the southern end of the Peninsula.
Understandably this beach and landscape is a drawcard to locals and travellers alike. A number of yachts were at anchor in the Bay.
The drop between Mt Mawson and Mt Amos is the ridge where the famed Wineglass Bay Lookout waits for walkers: 650 steps up from the far side and 1000 steps down to the beach.
Initially the cruiser moved us southwards from the township of Coles Bay and through the gap from Schouten Island before heading out into the open sea. We turned northwards late in the morning, continued past Wineglass Bay until we reached Cape Tourville. We turned around, travelled southward to Wineglass then, after lunch, motored back to Coles Bay to arrive mid-afternoon.
As the light and angles changed I had fresh new views of the cliffs and inlets and seals and other birds seen earlier in the day. On at least three occasions pods of common dolphins playfully entertained us either side of the boat, leaving us when presumably they felt bored by our ‘slow’ craft. We were no fun to race. Despite our cruiser shooting along at a fast pace, the dolphins are always faster. It doesn’t matter how many times I see dolphins I remain in awe of their intelligence, understanding and skills.
Although a gusty westerly wind blew white tops from the waves (next photo courtesy of Jeanette) as we returned to Coles Bay at the end of the day, and the boat rocked and rolled, no one was ill. For me it was the perfect end to a terrific trip – just a wee bit of drama in the seascape.