Tasmanians know of Freycinet Peninsula, on the state’s east coast, even if they haven’t travelled or stayed there. In my case decades have passed between visits. Each time I have marvelled at the land and sea and sky and promised myself to return again soon. Promotion for the area from Freycinet Lodge, an accommodation option located within the Freycinet National Park, claims “The Freycinet Peninsula enjoys worldwide recognition for breathtaking scenery and walks; with stunning flora and fauna in proximity, it is a hiker and photographers paradise!” With the prospect of a big birthday number looming, and after two years of not celebrating because of Covid restrictions, I decided it was time to take the plunge, to leave home, and travel somewhere for pleasure, for learning, for entertainment and, overall, for a grand thrill in one of Tasmania’s iconic landscapes albeit a tourism hot spot.
The road from Hobart to the Freycinet Peninsula extends just under 200 kms.
Louis-Claude Desaulses De Freycinet (1779-1841), who sailed from France in Le Naturaliste, arrived off Van Diemen’s Land (later renamed Tasmania by the British) on 13 January 1802. With others, he surveyed around the D’Entrecasteaux Channel in the south east of Tasmania for more than a month before sailing north towards Bass Strait. He shared in this expedition with Nicolas Thomas Baudin (1754-1803) and their party aboard the three ships Géographe, Casuarina, and Naturaliste. For a while they anchored in the Derwent River near what eventually evolved into the city of Hobart that was established by the British in 1804. Together, the French men worked as cartographic surveyors and naturalists. The Freycinet Peninsula’s high point of , (2,011 feet [613 metres]), surveyed later in 1802 as they sailed north along the east coast of the island, was named by Nicolas Baudin the French captain, after his lieutenant, Freycinet.
There was a nervous moment in British history during the Napoleonic Wars when England feared France might claim Tasmania and run up their flag. Their method of prevention was quickly to establish an English base in 1803 soon supported by convicts, near what became Hobart. Notwithstanding the occupation of indigenous controlled lands by British forces, a number of sites around Tasmania still retain French names indicating their presence in the late 1700s and early 1800s.
The current lure of the Freycinet Peninsula revolves around long clean sandy beaches, walking trails over hills and mountains within the Freycinet National Park, oyster farms, cruises which may see passing whales, dolphins and all manner of sea birds, sea kayaking, air trips and vineyards with cellar door wineries. Accommodation varies across a wide area from tent based camping through all levels to extreme luxury resorts, and the eateries include every style from gourmet restaurants serving the best of Tasmanian fresh produce and wines, to easy grab and go take away.
I stayed at the Freycinet Lodge for two nights and enjoyed food from one of their casual restaurants and delighted in the food from the illustrious Bay Restaurant. That’s saying a lot – I only eat vegan plus seafood with foods low in saturated fat, and all the Lodge’s food outlets served me with many choices and no bother. In fact the menus assumed many guests could be vegan or, on any particular occasion, prefer vegan food. Such a relief.