Gourmet strolling in Tasmania satisfies the body and soul
Tasmanian Aborigines knew it as Larapuna, a long easy walk, with plentiful food - mutton birds, seals, shellfish - a seasonal and communal homeland of plenty.
British explorer Tobias Furneaux, sailing past in 1773, dubbed it the Bay of Fires, seeing a coastline dotted with small blazes, unaware of the indigenous tool used to reduce bushfires and encourage grass growth and animal populations.
To lucky tourists it is a secluded and magnificent pristine stretch of white sand and blue water, its endless shores strewn with shells and kelp and giant granite boulders spattered with bright orange lichen, its coastal heath and sheltered lagoons supporting a rich diversity of native plant, bird and animal species.
But my adventure starts in the foyer of the Hotel Grand Chancellor in Launceston in Tasmania's north.
It's grand final weekend and our group is small, five women plus our guide Glenn and support person Jenaya.
A small bus takes us east from Australia's third oldest city (after Sydney and Hobart), through rich farmland dotted by wineries to the northern end of Mt William National Park or Wukalina.
It's two-and-a-half hours to our walk's start, Stumpys Bay, for lunch. We're greeted by Princess and her baby, a Bennetts wallaby, so used to humans that she tries to snaffle our fare.
On the way in we've already spotted plenty of forester kangaroos. Once endangered, Tasmania's largest marsupial is bouncing back, along with the coastal heath, under the protection of the national park.
Ditching our main bags to be carried on to our night lodgings, we fill our day packs with fruit and snacks and water and head to the beach to start a 12km amble to the day's destination at Deep Creek. The deserted beach rolls out under clear blue skies and crystal bays line up, edged by stunning burnt orange outcrops.
We come across a huge midden, or living space, where generations of Aborigines have gathered to cook and eat and be.
The layers of shells and charcoal, stone artefacts, ochre and animal bones are an insight into the culture of the people who inhabited the bays. It's sacred ground and we go around, paying silent tribute.
Past the midden and our day is a fun exploration of the area's plants and animals with a bit of beachcombing, a little history and geography and plenty of time to relax and drink in the scenery.
From sharks' eggs tangled in washed-up kelp to the secret life of shells, we take in the landscape and the stories and the peace.
We've spotted seals sunning on the rocks and playing in the sea, seen cormorants and gulls and oystercatchers.
We've lingered and chatted and wet our feet and we walk into Deep Creek for pick-up to our weekend lodgings.
It's a short trip to the beach house at Ansons Bay where a fire is roaring, a platter of local cheese, wallaby salami, dips and delicacies is laid out and an array of Tasmanian wine, beer and cider is chilled.
Our group has connected and we natter like old friends while our hosts, guide Glenn and our weekend 'mum' Jenaya, prepare the evening meal from fresh local produce. The beach house is warm and comfortable and sleep comes easily.
Day two is our proper entry to the Bay of Fires, a 14km walk.
Dropped back at Deep Creek we wander the beach to Eddystone Point where a dramatic granite lighthouse juts out of the landscape. It's a jaw-dropping sight.
Built from the granite in the nearby bay, 70 men worked for two years forming the stone under master mason, Scotsman James Galloway. Using a drill and hammer they made holes in the granite, then plugged the holes with wooden pegs.
The stones were carried to the water where the incoming tide caused the pegs to swell, splitting the rock.
Finished in 1889, the 37m lighthouse went from candles and kerosene to electricity and LED lighting (to stop the mutton birds mistaking the light for the moon and crashing to their deaths).
It is a magnificent tribute to the stonemason's craft.
From the lighthouse we spot our first dolphins and make out the shadows of the Furneaux Islands or Tayaritja.
Up through the bush we taste sea spinach or Cook's spinach, used by Captain Cook to prevent scurvy in his crew.
There's heath and wattle, saltbush, flax lily and sword sedge.
The coastal ecosystem nurtures bird and animal life and provides a buffer to encroaching farmland.
Back on the beach we find Pirates Cove, a sheltered spot perfect for afternoon tea.
A newfound friend and I brave the tide to wade across to more rocks for a better view of the burnt orange boulders. We are rewarded by a sea churning with hundreds of dolphins on the feed. We stand with our mouths open.
Down the beach are more treasures. At Shell Cove the sand is covered by layers and layers of shells washed up by the tide, 'sieved' by rocks to form a crackly footpath. At Baileys Rock we brave a swim before turning inland to our Ansons Bay digs.
The warm comfort of our beach house awaits, with platters of local delicacies and liquid refreshments beside an outdoor fire. Both Glenn and Jenaya are sterling cooks and our meals include chilli chicken and fresh mango, flathead in buckwheat, baked vegetable salad with blue cheese and maple pecans and lavender pannacotta as well as warm homemade brownie. Each night's fare tops the last.
After a huge breakfast on our final day we head to Binalong Bay, the end point of the Bay of Fires and the start of our eco cruise.
Heading north we get a sailor's view of the small bays and coves that make up the southern end of the Bay of Fires.
Round Hill Point is another giant Aboriginal midden, the remains of generations of cook-ups; Taylor's Beach is the longest beach accessible by car.
The southern section of the Bay of Fires is a conservation area not national park so, while we have walked in seclusion, these beaches are frequented by campers and day trippers.
A white-bellied sea eagle sits atop Sloop Rock and seal pups curl up in the sun with older family keeping watch. Further out we spot an albatross, its huge body skimming the sea as it tries to take flight.
From the water we see the whole Bay of Fires stretching from Binalong Bay to the lighthouse at Eddystone Point, about 28km of unsullied paradise.
Back on shore we wander north to the Gardens, named by Lady Jane Franklin in 1835 for the abundance of wildflowers. Though a few orchids remain and the area is picturesque, most of the flowers are gone.
Walking back to the Gardens our adventure comes to an end. We hop back on the bus for a short detour to the fishing village of St Helens before returning to Launceston and our separate departures.
Sea air, long walks, sunshine days, great food and wine, friendly, easy company; we are rejuvenated.
The Bay of Fires walk without packs is a great weekend escape and the fresh, wild tastes of Tasmania satisfy both body and soul.
The writer was a guest of Life's an Adventure.