Referred to as ‘one of the top 10 favourite beaches in the world’ and ‘one of Tasmania’s most celebrated locations’, the lesser-known fact about this place is that it is also home to some near extinct plantlife.
Up to the Wineglass Bay lookout
I prefer my hikes a little rugged so the first kilometre of this hike was disappointing, an easy walk along a perfectly pummeled pathway, constant width, winding gently up the mountain.
And there were quite a few people. Well, lots. So I followed others, all sorts and every sort of others, and felt a little as though I was climbing up to the top of a family flume ride at Disneyland.
Once at the lookout it all made sense. There we all stood, shoulder to shoulder, admiring the view and the crescent curve of Wineglass Bay. Graced with a clear sky day where the sun illuminated the turquoise of a sea that kissed the edge of a fine, sandy beach, high above the shoreline people posed and cameras clicked away.
It was (and is) the stuff of postcards.
Down from the lookout to Wineglass Bay beach
The crowds thinned on the next stretch, many people deciding not to trek the next section and feel the fine sand in between their toes. Maybe it was wise: the difficulty of the walk tripled with a descent of rocky steps that put plenty of pressure on the knees.
After steep rocky steps and a short stint of a woodland pathway we pushed through an opening in the trees to arrive at a white sand beach, sun bringing out the strongest blues and turquoises of a clean, clear ocean. Knee high waves crashed onto a beach dotted with groups of people, tiny in the distance, who had made the trek down to the shore.
There was a moment of travel spoilt realisation: although this is an undoubtedly a beautiful beach, so are so many of Australia’s beaches.
I wasn’t as blown away by it as I maybe could or should have been.
Cutting across to Hazards Beach
D-man and I continued on through woodland and ferny passages, alongside white flower scrub and tarns holding puddles of aqua blue. We walked on stretches of newly built boardwalk designed to protect the natural environment. Tasmanians, I realised, get hiking. Maybe even sanitised it, in parts, but I wasn’t complaining.
A bird of prey hovered, silhouetted against a bright sky interrupted only by a few puffs of leftover cloud. We restocked the suncream and cut across the peninsula to picnic at Hazards Beach, but with a buffeting westerly breeze I realised that lunch would have to wait.
As we walked along Hazards beach I ran some of the sand through my hands. It was grittier, thicker than that of Wineglass Bay. But the beach itself? Equally as – if not even more – beautiful than Wineglass Bay.
We finally settled on a snack spot in a protected little cove at the far north end of the beach where the waters were still. Sitting on rocks smoothed from years of waters rolling over them, we ate warm, squashed sandwiches and chatted to the pademelon who hung around.
Other than the pademelon, we had this place to ourselves. This spot was the perfect spot, the best spot of the trek. I could have frozen this moment and lived in it forever.
Granite and grass trees
And then the last section of the hike, which was a mixture of cutting across rocky hillsides and through grassy patches and sparse woodland until we all but bumped into the nearly-last-standing grass tree.
This tree sprouted a head full of green and brown spikes and trimmed facial hair around a smiling mouth. The things that a tired mind can conjure up.
I read the info plaque, stared at this grass tree and was suddenly overwhelmed by the fragility of our environment, human responsibility and everything inbetween. How long before phytophthora root rot would take to claim this victim, a tree who grew only 1mm a year? How long before this landscape became unrecognisably changed, forever?
It was impossible to be optimistic.
The sky greyed and appropriately, it started to rain. Time to wrap this up. We made the descent down through the forest and back to the car park, now nearly empty at the end of the day. No signs of pademelons either.
Despite visiting, observing and walking one of the world’s best beaches, it wasn’t the sparkling sea or the postcard view that stuck in my mind.
No, it was that fuzzy looking tree creature waiting to die, the reminder that beyond all the gloss of travel and tourism is the harsh reality that the pursuit of new sights, experiences and places has it’s impact, in this case the accentuated spread of disease.
Time to clean my shoes.