Freycinet National Park - By Land and Air

Trip Start Feb 26, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2013

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What I did
Cape Tourville Lighthouse
The Hazzards, Coles Bay
Sleepy Beach
Friendly Beach
Coles Bay
Freycinet National Park
Freycinet Air Scenic Flights
Wineglass Bay

Flag of Australia  , Tasmania,
Monday, March 4, 2013

I slept very fact, so well that Doreen woke me up at 7 am to tell me that there was a kookaburra bird singing outside if I wanted to listen to it.  I did and popped up as fast as I could.  It has a wicked kind of laugh and makes a lot of noises.  It took awhile before I actually saw one of the several birds nearby in one of the trees.  I went to get my telephoto lens and they disappeared but came back again and I might have gotten a decent shot when one sat on a post close to the veranda.  That was certainly exciting.

A little cheese and crackers, apple and grapes for breakfast with two cups of coffee, much diddling around as I tried to organize my stuff.  I brought out my camera bag separately today....or was it yesterday?  I had to remember to get out my spare Nikon battery for our flight so I wouldn't miss any shots.  Since I haven't driven since we started, I offered to drive today and backed out of the driveway, drove up the road and parked while Doreen dropped off the key.  We then headed to the Freycinet National Park Headquarters to get our park pass and do some short walks before the flight.

First we went to Cape Tourville.  It was quite a short walk up to the lighthouse and several lookout points.  The vegetation is kind of scrubby here on the East coast with lots of heath-like plants with very small leaves.  Doreen would point out some but I have forgotten most of the names.  I do remember a variety of casuarina with very narrow needles.  There was some pigface - looks a lot like ice plant - a succulent with little purple flowers with lots of narrow petals.  I think there were different types of eucalypts as well.  I will have to ask Doreen to ID the photos I took.  At Cape Tourville, we saw the unmanned lighthouse built in 1971 ? as well as a bit of Wineglass Bay and some cliffs and islands along the coast.  We could also see the Hazards, the range of mountains across from Coles Bay that we could see from the veranda of the place where we stayed.

Next we went to Sleepy Beach which was along the way.  One of the signs made getting down to the beach sound fantastic - all kinds of sealife and the amazing kelp and seaweed.  The path was through some low scrubby shrubs and some larger trees.  There were some stairs to aid in descending to the beach.  We could have stopped at a lookout but exerted the extra effort to get to the beach.  It wasn't too bad coming back up.  Doreen took pity on me and climbed the stairs relatively slowly.  Disappointingly, I found no spotted pink starfish, or sea stars.  There weren't even as many snails, barnacles and sea shells as at Coles Bay.  The seaweed was rather special though.  There were huge bunches of giant kelp with ribbed ribbon-like leaves and smaller seaweed with knotted balls for leaves.  I loved watching them wave back and forth as the waves came in and out.  After walking out a bit on the rocks, I did find some barnacles and some black shiny blobby things that Doreen didn't recognize.  In the rocks around the beach, there was a cave-like opening hollowed out in one rock - it looked as if people had carved it out - squarish it was.

Now it was almost time to head off to the airfield.  First we stopped at the park gift shop where I found some little books and then we stopped in Coles Bay for some drinks at the convenience store.  I bought a cookie because I was hungry but it wasn't worth $2.69.  We drove for 20 minutes or so almost to the point where the peninsula joins the mainland to get to the airport.  We were there a bit early and chatted with two men sitting outside.  I have to check with Doreen but one may have been the owner of the land and the other refueled one of the planes, so he must be a manager or something.  They were telling us about the fire that came right up to the airfield.  It was one of the recent ones that have devastated Tasmania.  One of the men said they were almost at the point of being evacuated when the wind shifted, the temperature dropped about 10 degrees, and the fire was able to be contained.  The park people threw water on the fire right on the airfield which makes a good firebreak.  Since the isthmus is so narrow, it is the best spot to try to stop the fire from spreading to the park.  They asked if we had heard about the fires because apparently tourism has suffered as a result.  They are trying to convince the tourists to come back.

We had to wait a little past 12:30 - I think because they were doing some photo shoot.  We signed some papers, paid up, and off we went following our young pilot who Doreen said looked as if he were 9 years old.  Or maybe she said 12.  Anyway, he was very competent and informative.  Doreen got in back, so that left me in the front passenger seat next to the pilot.  We got to hear the spiel about no smoking and the rules and had to put on earphones.  The pilot talked to us through them...I guess it was all because of the noise of the engine.  The propeller circled in front of the window and off we went.  We made a loop from the runway to the end of the peninsula where it was separated from an island.  It was quite thrilling to see the coast line with its white sandy beaches, the turquoise of the water nearest the beach and deep blue of the water farther out.  The pink quartz rocks on the shore made some spectacular cliffs between the different beaches.  The peninsula was otherwise covered in dark green scrub with some lakes or ponds here and there.  We saw the beautiful Wineglass Bay from both sides, the Hazards, and a bunch of other lovely beaches.  We also saw the Tourville lighthouse that we had driven and walked to and the town of Coles Bay where we had stayed.  As we looped around the bottom of the peninsula, the pilot pointed out a filled in lagoon with a building that had been one of the two farms on the peninsula.  It could only be reached by water in the old days.  He said the cost of delivering the farm products eventually caused the farms to fail.  The pilot also pointed out the new big resorts - Edge something and Saffire.  One was Tasmania's only 6 star resort.  I didn't know there were any 6-star resorts.  I managed to get through the flight with no camera failures....I don't think.... and no motion sickness either....after I got out my wrist bands.

It was around 2 pm when our flight ended.  We drove out to the coast from the airstrip to Friendly Beach - I think that was it.  There was a campground there but we walked to the beach to try to find a picnic spot.  This wasn't easy since the wind was blowing quite hard and there didn't seem to be any sheltered spots.  Doreen headed for one promising site but there was a big dead bird there - she thought it was an albatross.  We found a little gully and ate our cheese, crackers and grapes there.  The beach was gorgeous with a very fine white sand.  Doreen saw one woman go out skinny dipping.  There were a few people around but not as many as you might expect on so gorgeous a beach.  To me it seemed as if it were spring and I wouldn't have wanted to go swimming at that time of the year.  I don't think the water was very warm...and it really was fall...although the season isn't so important as the temperature.

Now it was time to head north.  We had decided to try to reach St Helens.  At the park gift shop, I saw a brochure advertising an animal park with Tasmanian devils.  Doreen was very understanding and agreed to go.  The park was a bit disappointing in that it was fairly pricey and the animal enclosures weren't all that natural in some cases.  But there were kangaroos or wallabies hopping around and coming up to people to get at the food you could buy for $1.  And we got there just in time for the feedings of the nocturnal mammals, including the Tasmanian devils. 

I got to see two varieties of quolls - they are spotted and quite cute.  I never knew such an animal existed before.  The quolls had just been fed some chicken parts so they came out of hiding to get the stuff.  The Tasmanian devils were quite cute in a weird sort of way.  It is mating season for them and that makes the females irritable and sometimes makes the males lose their appetites.  Luckily today, they did not as they scarfed up their chicken parts.  You could hear then cracking the bones.  The animal caretaker said that the Tasmanian devils' gestation period is less than a month and the female only bears 3 litters in her lifetime.  By the time she is done bearing young, she is usually dead, but they do live longer in captivity.  The Tassie population is being devastated by a face cancer.  This animal park has a breeding program to help ensure that they don't become extinct.

After the Tasmanian devil feeding, Doreen and I walked around and saw some ducks, geese, wallabies in their enclosure and went through the aviary where we saw quite a few parrots and parrot-related birds.  They were quite colorful and noisy.  I shouldn't say noisy because their calls can be quite pleasant.   I was happy that I had seen the Tasmanian devils and felt that they are much maligned animals, because even though they can be unpleasant creatures, they are fascinatingly different and fun to watch.

Now, finally, it was time to move on and head for St Helens.  We drove on through lots of farmland with fields of sheep and some grain, some vineyards, some areas of low scrubby bushes and trees and a few areas of tall eucalyptus trees with their bare-looking  trunks and branches - a typically Tasmanian look to me now.  Occasionally we passed areas where the scrubby brush was replaced by bracken fern and the forest had an airier, prettier look.  This might be where there had been previous fires - like the part of the park where the park people had a controlled back-burn which the men at the airfield felt prevented worse damage from this most recent fire.  Some of this section of A3 - The Tasman Highway - was along the ocean.  There was a short section of dunes before we hit St Helens or some other town along the way.  We finally reached St Helens, drove into the town center where Doreen looked at her accommodation guide.  She found a place that sounded pretty good, called, and here we are at Queechy Cottages.

Rosemary, the owner, has a spiel that cannot be broken and a way of doing things that cannot be brooked so we fell in with the plan.  She wanted us to see the cottage before we took it.  So Doreen started walking up this rather big hill and I followed with the car.  Once we checked it out and decided it was fine, I went down to pay, but Rosemary doesn't have you pay until check-out.  We moved in, sat a bit, walked around the yard a little and I found some giant conifer cones of the Australian pine.  There appears to be a windbreak, about three rows of pines planted along the hilltop.  It is an interesting place.  The cottage is quite adequate and tonight I have the bedroom with the big bed.  It has a very good light over the bed so that is where I am now working.

We had a hard time finding a place for dinner.  We probably should have gotten some food when we were originally in town, but getting a place to stay seemed like a higher priority then.  We drove back south along the bay but oddly there were no restaurants or fish and chips shacks.  We drove back the other way into town and saw the waterfront, drove past it and then came back.  Here there was a boat with a restaurant.  It was too late for eat-in so we ordered a seafood combo to go and I got a half dozen oysters as well.  We got to eat them while waiting for the combo and they were so good, I ended up getting a second batch.  I did notice though that I had a flyer for the seafood farm near the airstrip.  I had thought that they did not serve any of their products in a restaurant, but I was wrong.  They even had oysters on their list.  Oh, well.  And what happened to spawning season - the reason the other restaurant didn't have any oysters??  I am grateful that it didn't affect St Helens oysters.  We could even see oysters on the rocks next to the restaurant boat.

The dinner we had was quite good, with lots of french fries with it - too many to finish - and their selection of garnish greens, or was it intended to be a salad, even included some tasty arugula.  I will finish here since I seem lately to be fixated on food.

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