Three decades ago Joan Masterman set a benchmark for bushwalking in Australia. Today her family continues to raise the bar.

Story + Photos Andrew Bain

Behind the white sands of Tasmania’s Friendly Beaches, the roar of the surf is dulled to a murmur by the insulating bush. The door to the Friendly Beaches Lodge is wide open, and a long table is set for lunch on the wooden deck. 

The tall figure of Isaac Masterman leans over the table, pouring glasses of a local pinot rosé for guests. It’s a celebration of another Freycinet Experience Walk guided hike nearing its conclusion.

Thirty years ago, Isaac’s grandmother Joan Masterman created this lodge and the Freycinet Experience Walk with business partner Ken Latona. Together they began this enduring 4-day walk and the Cradle Mountains Huts Walk, the first guided hikes in Australia to bring creature comforts and fine food and wine to the experience of bushwalking. Unexpectedly, they would transform traditional bushwalking, making it more accessible and comfortable for many, with their model spreading widely across the country. There are now close to a dozen lodge-based luxury hikes operating in Australia. 

“There was nothing like this before in Australia and they did it coming from a completely different background,” Isaac says. “Joan wasn’t a bushwalker, she wasn’t a tourism operator. She was a town planner from Sydney.”

Today, 3 generations of the Masterman family are involved in the operation of Freycinet Experience Walk. Though officially retired at the age of 84, Joan keeps a keen eye on the walk, the business side of which is run by son Michael and daughter-in-law Holly. Isaac began working as a guide 6 years ago, at the age of 16, and is now involved in its marketing and sales. This summer he’s been joined by sister Saffron, spending her first summer as a lodge host after completing year 12.

“I’m really excited about that,” Isaac says. “She’s a bit nervous and hesitant, and I’ve been teasing her far too much.”

Each day on the walk reveals a new piece of Freycinet Peninsula, from the much-lauded Wineglass Bay to little-visited Schouten Island. Over the 4 days, walkers cover almost the entire length of the peninsula on foot.

This story excerpt is from Issue #147

Outback Magazine: February/March 2023