Fabulous Freycinet Peninsula, Tasmania

By Andrew Bain 18 June 2012
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Sitting askew from the east coast, Freycinet Peninsula boasts Tasmania’s most popular national park.

ON THE EAST COAST of Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula, the Tasman Sea is surging, showering the granite cliffs of White Water Wall. Bob McMahon dips a hand in his chalk bag, and a puff of powder disappears into the spray. He begins to climb, moving easily, his hands and feet drawn to holds by years of familiarity.

“This is my regenerative place,” Bob says. “On sunny days here, I think that when climbers die, this’ll be the heaven they go to. If you were going to choose a climbing area to spend paradise in, this would do fine.”

Thirty-three years ago Bob made the first climb on ‘Beowulf’, a fairly difficult route that traverses above a sea cave, on rock scratched and notched by time and tide. It was an era when the former art teacher had a virtual monopoly on new climbing routes at Freycinet, including, as an 18-year-old, the peninsula’s first recorded climb in 1969 on Sow Spur.

“It was always about new routes, first ascents, discovering places,” he says. “It was the creative side of it that really got me. It was an extension of my creative impulse. One weekend…I think we did 32 new routes in a bit over a day.”

Look around Freycinet National Park, which covers the peninsula’s southern tip and most of its east coast, and you could be forgiven for thinking he needn’t have hurried. Although Freycinet is one of Tasmania’s most popular national parks – visited by more than 200,000 people a year – few visitors see beyond the perfect curve of Wineglass Bay, a beach that’s overshadowed everything else here ever since colonial times.

“The view was like enchantment,” author and artist Louisa Meredith wrote after visiting in 1853. “Far below my giddy perch…lay, calmly slumbering in the bright sunshine, the blue and beautiful nook of the Pacific named Wineglass Bay.”

…Read the rest of the article in the July/August 2012 issue of Australian Geographic.