Bay of Fires Lodge Walk in Tasmania: Beauty and horrors

Think you've reached peak Tasmanian flawlessness? Think again.

There are horrors to be found on the Bay of Fires Lodge Walk. Not too far from the lodge proper there is what looks like one of those middens where Indigenous people have been casually lobbing their empty oyster/clam/mussel/cockle shells for many thousands of years.

We all guess that's what it is only to be put straight by our guide, Jai Ellis, a happy-go-lucky chap from Ketchican, Alaska, who, when he's not traipsing around the glories of Tasmania, is traipsing around the wilder areas of the United States pointing out bears.

Here, though, he points out that this pale pile of shells, wedged between two granite outcrops on the edge of the beach like a frozen wave, is essentially a marine killing ground created by monsters of the deep.

First, he asks us to notice that each of the shells has a tiny round hole in it, as if someone has been preparing them for threading on a necklace. And then he drops the bombshell; whatever lived in them before they washed up here was attacked in slow motion by carnivorous snails which drilled into the hard carapace with an acid-emitting proboscis and then proceeded to eat them alive.

How cool is that?

Obviously, Captain Tobias Furneaux didn't know this when he sailed past here in the good ship Adventure in 1773 or the place would be called Bay of Acid-Nosed Snail Monsters. Instead, he saw the fires of the local Aboriginal people on the beaches and, voila, the slightly more prosaic Bay of Fires was born.

We have dropped in halfway through day two of what is normally a four-day walking tour from Boulder Point in Mount William National Park to the north. We are starting at the 35-metre high Eddystone Point lighthouse (established 1889) but anyone taking the full tour would already have completed a nine-kilometre beach walk and spent the night in semi-permanent luxury tents at Forester Beach Camp.

Somewhere to the south is the award-winning Bay of Fires eco-lodge and we have the arduous task of walking for a few hours along the majestic sweep of beige beaches framed by dunes on one side and startlingly clear aquamarine seas on the other.

It's hushed and big and beautiful here; the sky a blue cupola, the sea an unceasing susurration, and the lighthouse an ever-diminishing granite finger in the distance. Here and there loose cliques of sand pipers hover in the warm breeze or totter prissily about in the final shallow ripples of the waves as they exhaust themselves on the wide expanse of sand.

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For some reason such vaulted perfection reminds me of a snowdome, as if this stretch of Tasmania had been scooped up by some celestial being and placed in an intergalactic souvenir shop: Bay of Fires, Earth, Milky Way AD 2018.

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Despite being pretty much the only structure for miles around, the Bay of Fires Lodge isn't easy to see. It's made of Tasmanian hardwood, plantation pine and lots of plate glass and has been sensitively tucked into the wilderness of the National Park as if it grew there. At first glance it's like spotting a shy marsupial peeking warily out of the undergrowth.

From the beach it's a 40-metre hike up a steep path to the lodge's rear balcony where blue-and-white striped deckchairs await weary bottoms and the view is of the boundless sweep of the coastline as it ventures north and south. There is sea, pristine beach, sand dunes and, right on cue, a pod of dolphins.

And just when you think you've reached peak Tasmanian flawlessness you discover that, at the front of the lodge, there is a set of foot baths for tootsies that have been bush- and beach-bashing all day. There is warm water, Epsom salts, a peppermint scent and, right on cue, like a pod of dolphins, beer.

The lodge is everything you expect from something with the prefix ''eco''; self-sustaining, solar power and with those waterless and disconcertingly quiet drop toilets. Call me an old-fashioned Pavlovian but the lack of a flush at the end feels curiously like unfinished business.

The rooms are large and simply furnished with luxurious hotel beds that are a joy to sink into after a day walking and an evening in the communal lodge dining room stuffing your face with fresh local produce and excellent Tasmanian wine.

Heath Garrett, general manager of the Tasmanian Walking Company, says the walk attracts people who are "environmentally conscious, want adventure but not too much, want good food and the comfy bed at the end of the day".

They're also not averse to a bit of pampering, either, and to that end a new addition in recent years has been the lodge spa, which is housed in a small mini-me lodge just below the main building. There's all the usual spa gubbins – massages, facials, the opportunity to buy Li'Tya Australian botanicals such as Tasmanian Peat Bath Mud and Herbal Kelp Hydrating Polish ("spa care from the Australian Dreamtime") – but the coup de grace is the separate outdoor bathing pavilion.

Perched on a rock in splendid isolation, this deep free-standing bath is enclosed on two sides to spare one's blushes but otherwise open to the panoramic view along the coast. It's got to be up there with the best bath locations in the world. And it's the only bath in the place so get in early.

Day three is lighter on the legs but heavier on the arms as we head off to a weir deep in the Mt William National Park, where collection of kayaks awaits on the banks of the Ansons River. 

Here we pair up, slip into double kayaks and head off into the bosky wilderness after the guides. It's a delightful few hours and the going is easy enough even for the most inexperienced kayakers. We stop for a break and a cooling swim and eventually end up at the open expanse of Ansons Bay where, thanks to an unfortunate strong headwind, the going gets tougher.

Eventually, though, we battle our way to the other side of the bay, where a hard-won and welcome picnic lunch awaits. Afterwards, we traverse a paperbark forest and leap down Lawrence of Arabia-style sand dunes to the beach and, eventually, the lodge.

Dinner that night is a somewhat subdued affair where Italian meatballs, mash and a rocket salad are determinedly demolished by weary but very happy travellers – and that bed isn't far behind.

The final day (during which we will trek out of the bush, meet up with a minibus and stop off at Apogee vineyard just north of Launceston to taste test Alan Pirie's cold climate champagne-style wines) dawns bright and early and I find myself alone in the little glassed-in library just off the back deck, examining the books and the nature shelf of desiccated seahorse corpses, shells and the sun-bleached skulls and jawbones of small animals found locally.

It's a stark reminder that we're here for a good time, not a long time – and as I sip coffee and watch the waves roll in against the orange lichen spattered rocks below it seems to me that this isn't such a bad way to pass that time.

TRIP NOTES

MORE

traveller.com.au/tasmania

discovertasmania.com.au

FLY

Qantas has direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Hobart with connections from other capital cities; see qantas.com

STAY

The Tasmanian Walking Company provides daypacks, rain jackets, basic toiletries (sunscreen, after-sun care, insect repellent) and all meals. Good hiking boots are essential. Prices start at $2380 a person (twin share); see taswalkingco.com.au

Keith Austin travelled as a guest of Qantas and the Tasmanian Walking Company.

See also: 10 of Australia's greatest natural wonders are all in our smallest state

See also: This is where Australia meets the edge of the world

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