Since Carmen and I started travelling full time I’ve taken to taking cold showers to give myself a healthy jolt each morning.
In the beginning it was tough – I flinched away and had to force myself under and take the rush of hyperventilation and shivering.
Now I just whack the tap to the blue side and get on with it. Afterwards you feel amazing as your blood pumps and your energy levels shoot up to wide-awake even before a cup of coffee.
So I thought I could handle a dip in the Southern Ocean that fills up Tasmania’s famous Wineglass Bay. I was a cold-water commando, an Arctic ace, a fighter of the frigid liquid.
I dipped my toe in and shivered. Maybe this was a bad idea.
Then my mother-in-law Vanessa marched past me and said, “Come on Dave, it’s so refreshing,” and dove beneath a wave crashing in the shallows.
I had no choice. I sprinted into the oncoming waves, my hips tackling the ever rising water, sensitive regions shrivelling in the creeping cold – the waves took my breath away as they splashed my chest. When I took the plunge my world went electric blue.
Wineglass Bay is a sickle cut beach of pure white sand and pristine aquamarine water. From high above it resembles the rim of a wine glass – hence the name – and after my swim in the water I needed something a bit more fortified.
Carmen and I travelled to Tasmania in the southern summer and even with brilliant sunshine above the water was briskly cold. I came out of the surf as red as the devil from all the blood furiously pumping to my skin to keep me from getting hypothermia.
But it was so refreshing, so thrilling and pure that I went back in a second time and frolicked in the waves, enjoying the sudden heat my body was generating and the pristine view of the bay far from the madding crowds dotting the beach.
It was a brilliant way to end our hike to Wineglass Bay, in which we worked up a considerable sweat despite the relatively short distance you have to cover from the car park.
The spectacular sights of Wineglass Bay
Wineglass Bay is the main attraction of the Freycinet National Park, which is part of the Freycinet Peninsula named after the French explorer and navigator Louis de Freycinet who was the first man to publish a full outline of the Australian coastline back in the early 1800s.
The coastline in this part of the world is truly spectacular and makes for some of the most compelling car window gazing I’ve ever experienced. Pristine bays, bright blue water, slick rock formations, towering heights and thick bushland surround your car as you drive deeper into the peninsula and jostle for a decent car parking spot.
By the time we found a place in the rammed car park my feet were itching to get going and at the trailhead we quickly stepped on the gas to get past a big group of Chinese tourists walking at a snail’s pace.
The trail to Wineglass Bay is a rough, if well maintained, path that crosses boulder fields and a series of steeply rising hills, up and up to a resting area with a lookout over the water – the best view you’ll have of Wineglass Bay.
On the beach
From there it’s down to the beach, following a steeply sloping boulder strew path that can be tough on the knees and demands constant attention. But there are some very pleasant flat sections toward the end, and the closer you get to the bay, the closer the sounds of the surf can be heard through the spiky bush, encouraging you to keep going.
By the time we’d hiked back up the hill and got to our car we were pleasantly tired and very, very hungry. Luckily there are plenty of restaurants in the town nearby and we managed to grab a bottle of chilled Pinot Noir, a dozen freshly shucked oysters and two wood fired pizzas to satisfy our palates.
The Freycinet Peninsula has even longer hikes available and we saw lots of super serious hikers lugging their gear along the paths to go and explore more distant bays. We’d like to go back and push the limits a bit more, but as a day hike, the walk to Wineglass Bay is one of the best in the world.
What you need to know
When to go – We travelled to Tasmania in the Australian summer, which runs from December to February – the sun is hot but not too hot and the weather is mostly very clear. It’s best to hike in the early morning before it gets too crowded.
Costs – To enter the national park there’s a basic 24 hour fee of AUS$24 per vehicle (up to 8 people inside). Longer time period passes are available for AUS$60 for 8 weeks, scaling up in price as you stay longer.
How to get there – Wineglass Bay is on the eastern coast of Tasmania, so stay locally. The town of Bicheno is a close drive away and has lots of accommodation and restaurants, and the town of Swansea is the closest to the bay.