For Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park (pronounced “fray-zin-ay”), you turn off the Tasman Highway 33km north of Swansea onto the Coles Bay Road. After about 8km, a left-hand turning (3km unsealed) leads to the spectacular unspoilt Friendly Beaches, part of the national park yet relatively quiet.
The national park office, just 1km from Coles Bay, sells maps and booklets on day-walks and has interpretive displays on the park. From here, the gravelled, disabled-access Great Oyster Bay path leads down to the beach (10min return). Opposite the centre, the national-park campsite, with water, toilets and showers, is in a sheltered location among bush and dunes behind Richardsons Beach; it’s so popular in holiday season that pitches from mid-December to mid-February and over Easter are allocated by ballot the previous August – entries can be made by July by email via www.parks.tas.gov.au.
All walking tracks into the park begin at the Walking Track Car Park, a further 4km from the office. Water is scarce, so carry all you’ll need or ask the rangers about safe streams. The shorter walks are well marked: the easy ascent to the lookout over exquisite Wineglass Bay, with its perfect curve of white beach, is where most walkers head. Many continue on down to the beach itself (2.6km return to the lookout, 1–2hr; 5km return to the beach, 2hr 30min–3hr 30min). The 27km peninsula circuit is a wonderful walk (10hr), best done over two days; it makes a good practice run for the big southwest hikes, albeit considerably drier. There’s a campsite at Cooks Beach, with a pit toilet, water tank, and a rough hut where you can stay.
Schouten Island, off the tip of the peninsula, is part of the national park, with basic bush campsites at Moreys Bay and Crocketts Bay. Although there are no proper tracks on the island, walking is easy and uncrowded if only because of the difficulty of access to the island. Cruise companies in Coles Bay sail out to the island.