As I sit in the office on a bleak British morning, the wind and rain howling at the windows, it’s hard not to let your mind wander back to times of sunshine and summer past.
All it took was a ‘Tassie tweet’ on my twitter this morning and instantly I was transported back to memories of sunshine and sea, turquoise blues and lush greens and the sweet smells of the forest mixed with the more human smells of sweat and ‘sauce sandwiches’, all of the senses engaged in a daydream.
Located on the Freycinet peninsula in Tasmania – the green, heart-shaped isle off of the southern coast of Australia – Wineglass Bay is the crowning jewel in an island of unspoiled habitats and unique and visually stunning ecosystems. Unlike the mainland of Australia with its colour schema of burnt reds and yellows, Tasmania’s location means that it’s landscape seems foreign in comparison, it’s landscape a colour palette of rich greens and dark blues.
Unlike most of mainland Australia, Tasmania is often neglected by those looking for the ultimate ‘Australian experience’ and in that sense I have to agree. After working in the capital of Hobart for a year, I became familiar with this wild little island and grew to knew it for the unique little twists on Australia that it offers. Its climate far resembles something closer to England’s and the mannerisms and reserve of its friendly population seem far closer to that of the Europeans rather than the loud thrum of the larger Australian population. Now that isn’t to say that either is better, Australians – wherever their home – have been some of the most welcoming, fun and vibrant people I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. From strangers opening their homes to me, to partying the night away with new friends, Australians from both East and West coasts have left a lasting impression on my memories and I am fortunate enough now that I can now call some ‘West coasties’ family. Tasmania and its residents however, felt familiar – like a home away from home.
So, as I climbed the steep incline to the top of the mount overlooking Wineglass Bay, I couldn’t help but feel excited, nervous. A real taste of the foreign in my little, familiar Australian home. A reminder of the distance between myself and Britain. The bay itself is shrouded from view by a hill range and removed from close proximity by a car-free, sprawling national park. Access is only by foot to the public and for those lucky enough to be able to tackle the steep climb it requires.
As you climb the path to the summit, head down with the heat and exhaustion, the view your feet and the floor, you cannot help but feel the anticipation building. Wondering what will be at the top and indeed – how much further until you arrive. Finally, as you crest the top of the mount – the bay sprawled out beneath you – you can’t help but observe in silence and awe.
Each person arriving performs the same manoeuvre – they stop, hands on hip and survey the view in stunned silence before inevitably reaching for their phone or camera. I believe the real test of the beauty of something is when, in the split second before the person reaches for a camera, they stop and take in the view for themselves. A selfish moment. Preferring to drink it in with their own eyes rather than spoil the memory by breaking contact and viewing the object from behind screen or lens.
Such was the view of Wineglass Bay. A curving line of white breaking up a mass of dark green and an ocean of deep blue. The anticipation began to rear it’s head again, the urge to get down to the beach and get involved in the view started to stir inside us, tugging at our feet and pulling at our eyes.
After arriving on the sand, tired, hot and the view from the mount reversed, there was an unusual feeling among us of ‘what now?!’. The task of the climb and getting down to the beach – all of the immediate movements had been performed and now we were stood in the sand, wondering what to do now we had nothing to do. Even a beautiful beach is still a beach, yet the normal ‘beach activities’ of sunbathing or throwing a ball seem out of sort for such a place. Like you should be spending every little second admiring it as you would a gallery. Abandoning the ball and towel and exploring every nook.
So, dumping our bags, we headed off up the beach. Our eye’s flicking from the green dunes on the right to the sea on the left, a constant conflict in your mind about where your appreciation should be paying attention.
As we paddled through the water and cast our eyes out to see, we couldn’t help but notice something unusual – a movement out of rhythm with the rise and fall of the waves. Through aqua blue sea cut light stones and greys, the fins of a school of dolphins slicing through the waves as the people on the beach all started gesticulating towards them in unison. For me this was my first time seeing dolphins in the wild. As a firm opposer of captive cetaceans, I found it strange that I immediately wanted to get in the water; Unknowingly consumed Sea World propaganda hijacking my impulses telling me I must be swimming among them to enjoy them properly.
Oddly enough, as I looked down the beach, instead of people running in to the surf as I’d imagined, those already in there were starting to get out at the arrival of the bay’s new guests. Only one other group seemed interested in swimming out so, tagging along in their wake, walking gear still on, we ignorantly ran in to the big blue crush.
The next few moments surprised me. Rather than feelings of joy and awe at these mammals swimming around us – I felt scared. Huge, powerful, charcoal and mauve shadows hammered through the water around us, the power felt something more mechanical than natural as the force pulled at our clothes leaving our limbs swirling around in the whirlpools of their wake.
What had I expected? Some sort of Flipper scene? A dolphin to pop his head up smiling and waving – a trick for a fish?! These dolphins were feeding, and we had swum in to the middle of the hunt.
Later that day, after enjoying a day lounging and exploring the shore, the familiar beach activities creeping back in, we returned to the mount and made our way home. Taking one last look back at the bay before we made our descent out of view, I vowed in my mind to one day return to this small paradise. So many memories were forged in one small place and I will never forget the feeling of awe as we crested the summit, and will never forget the surprising feelings the dolphins left me with. As soon as we’d parted company in the sea – the base human feelings of fear and flight had been replaced with those of respect and awe. I’m glad that I never got my Flipper/Sea World experience and that I got to witness and be so close to such a natural display – so natural as to reach down inside me and trigger ingrained human reactions. Left over fight or flight mechanisms from far distant ancestors.
If you’re ever travelling to Australia, as well as the opera house at Sydney and the reef in Cairns, be sure to consider a trip to Tasmania. Hire a car, befriend the locals and explore the National Parks. Break free of Hobart and soak up the sun in a sprawling, rugged landscape. Climb, trek, swim and sun – eat live and laugh.
Looking for somewhere else off the beaten track in Australia? Why not check out our visit to Rottnest Island, Western Australia?
Due to a very upsetting theft of a camera and SIM card – the photos here are respectfully used yet not our own. Thanks to the following for helping me to recreate such beautful memories: Scott Cresswell, Adam Selwood, Luke Webber, Peter Boer, NeilsPhotography, Stefan Krasowski, Anna, Andrea Schaffer