Tasmania's pristine national parks are a national treasure. Freycinet, with its picture-perfect sandy bays, and the dramatic mountain peaks of Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park are two of the island's highlights.
Freycinet National Park, with its pristine beaches, eucalypt forests, and jagged granite peaks known as the Hazards is a must for fans of the great outdoors. Set on 169 square km (65 square mi) on the Freycinet Peninsula on the east coast, the park makes for a rewarding visit for a few hours or for a few days. If you visit one beach in Tasmania, make it the iconic Wineglass Bay.
More remote but equally beguiling is Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park in the west of the island. Stretching from the source of the Franklin River to the sea, it has spectacular mountain scenery. Although the park is known to most visitors as the location of the popular Gordon River cruises, hardy walkers can explore the alpine scenery of the Upper Franklin region or attempt the four-day trek up Frenchmans Cap, while daredevil rafters can test their limits on the wild and ferocious river.
When to Go
Freycinet is popular with travelers, but remember, this is Tasmania. It's never overcrowded. In summer, the park's peak season, accommodation can be more difficult to come by, so book ahead. Even so, the trails are never congested. Spring is also a good time to visit to see all the wildflowers in bloom.
The best time to visit Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is between October and April, but even then visitors should be aware that the weather is temperamental: it rains frequently, and it can snow even in summer. But because of the size of the park, it never feels crowded no matter when you go.
Freycinet National Park
Magnificent Freycinet National Park draws visitors because of its birdlife, wildflowers, bushwalking, and spectacular coastal scenery. It's probably Tassie's most user-friendly park, with near-endless options for hiking and bushwalking, ranging from 30 minutes in length to multiday treks. Two of the more popular shorter walks are to the lookouts above Wineglass Bay and the Friendly Beaches, which are usually deserted. The pink granite peaks known as the Hazards are also a major attraction. Most people base themselves in accommodation in Coles Bay, the gateway to the park and the start of many walks. While it is possible to get to Coles Bay by public transport—Tassielink buses run from Hobart or Launceston to Bicheno, where passengers can use the Bicheno Bus Service to Coles Bay—it's much easier to get around if you have your own vehicle.
Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park
Untamed and perfect for the adventurous, the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park has a rich and remarkable heritage. Best known to most visitors as the location of the popular Gordon River cruises, the park also contains many Aboriginal sites bearing witness to a heritage that extends back more than 36,000 years. Resilient walkers who aren't put off by the initial steep climb to Frenchmans Cap are rewarded by stunning eucalyptus forests before scrambling up the Cap's snow-topped dome at 1,446 meters to enjoy views over the peaks of Cradle Mountain, Barn Bluff, and Ossa. There are basic free campsites at the Collingwood River. If this sounds too adventurous, do as most day visitors do and stay in Strahan and drive along the meandering Lyell Highway, which winds for 56 km (35 mi) through the park.
Timing for Freycinet
Freycinet is equally rewarding for quick visits as well as multiday stays. If time is short, head to Coles Bay and do the short walk to Wineglass Bay, or spot wallabies on Friendly Beaches. However, if you decide you have all the time in the world, you can trek the entire length of the Freycinet Peninsula on a three-day walk.
Timing for Franklin-Gordon
Much of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is remote and rugged, and serious walkers would get the most out of a few days' stay (the Frenchmans Cap walk can be extended to five days). If time is short, the Franklin River Nature Trail is a quick and easy 20-minute trek, while the Donaghys Lookout walk takes 40 minutes.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe