On a headland on Tasmania’s Freycinet Peninsula, high above the crashing waves, a group of hikers is about to become victims of a fiendish deception. We’re picking our way through a maze of grass trees and granite when our guide Billie signals us to stop. It was near this point, she earnestly explains, that an unknown orchid was recently sighted, then promptly lost again, and that naming rights have been offered to the eagle-eyed sleuth who rediscovers it. With the carrot of fame dangling, we stoop slowly along the track, heads down, scouring the undergrowth for our ticket to botanical immortality.

But our mission is soon revealed to be an elaborate act of misdirection, as we round a corner to find not a rare orchid but an even more unlikely treat: a lavish lunch spread laid out in a clearing. Hungry eyes fall upon pita bread and homemade humus, sliced chicken, falafel, pickles, boiled eggs and salad. Billie’s betrayal is forgiven on first bite, and by the end of the third day only one of the group is still looking for the orchid.

Surprises like this are regular on the Freycinet Experience Walk, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. Over four days we explore the stunning Freycinet Peninsula on foot and by boat, swimming in secluded beaches, scaling granite mountains, enjoying local food and wine and staying each night in an off-grid eco-lodge hidden behind the scalloped sand dunes of Friendly Beaches.

The milestone is particularly significant when you consider how strange a venture like this must have sounded 30 years ago, before ecotourism and luxury walking tours became mainstream. Tasmania was still largely captive to the ghost tales of its past, known more as the place where escaping convicts cannibalised each other in the impenetrable bush. The Freycinet Experience Walk helped forge the island a new identity…

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