©Copyright Kelley Mether, 2016
The Three Capes Track in Tasmania is a four day/three night walk that takes you to the very southern tip of Australia. It encompasses breathtaking views of Capes Raoul, Hauy, and Pillar, from some of the highest sea cliffs in the world.
Beginning and ending at the historic convict settlement of Port Arthur, the track is especially appealing for those who are time poor, but who want to fit in some of Tasmania’s dark history as well as do a good bush walk. Port Arthur is a one hour drive from Hobart, the nearest major city with an international airport, and there is plenty of accommodation within walking distance of the historic site.
Only twelve months old, the track is a mainly coastal walk, covering 46 kilometres and with a few decent mountains, one of which reaches 10,000 feet. It is graded as easy to moderate, although personally I would have graded it as easy. The Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service manages the track, and a maximum of 48 walkers are allowed on each leg of the trail at one time. Much of the track is constructed of stone or gravel steps in the hilly areas and wide gravel and dirt paths, or wooden walkways through the lower lying heath and wetlands. Local artists have dotted the trail with sculptures and artwork (some with very interesting names!), and there is a companion guidebook which tells the story behind the art. Aside from the art, the coastal views are magnificent, and nature lovers are richly rewarded with sightings of echidnas, birds, snakes, seals, potteroos, wallabies and an abundance of wildflowers throughout the entirety of the trail.
Day One starts with a 75 minute boat cruise, taking the ‘scenic route’ for what would otherwise be a direct 10 minute hop over to the other side of the bay, to Denman’s Cove. The extra time is well worth it, with the possibility of numerous sea and land animal sightings. A pod of dolphins kept pace with our boat for some time, darting under and around us, and we saw a sea eagle and it’s baby very close to the shore. It is not uncommon to see whales up close, also, but that was a treat that saved itself for Day two of our walk, instead. The boat ride is followed by a very easy 4 km walk to the first accommodation: Surveyors. More about the accommodation below.
Day Two is only 11 km, with a couple of small mountains traversed via well constructed paths and wooden walkways ending at the second night’s accommodation, Munro. It is from the deck of Munro, overlooking the Munro Bight, that we watched an orca and its calf frolic in the sea for several hours. From Munro, there is a further 6.5 km walk (11 km return) out to The Blade, near Cape Pillar. This is usually done on Day Three, but we decided to push on, leaving our packs at Munro and walking with just water and snacks. This made Day Two a total of 22 km, but it was worth it the next day, when the other 46 hikers took off to do the walk out to The Blade, leaving us in peace to read for nearly four hours.
Day Three starts with the 11 km hike out to The Blade, if you haven’t already done it the day before, followed by a further one hour walk to the final accommodation at Retakunna.
The Blade is an outcropping of rock, a heartstopping 262 metres above sea level, and thrill seekers can scramble to the very top, despite signs alleging that the track stops just before the peak. Once you’ve climbed back down and your heart has slowed to a regular rhythm, it’s only a further three minute walk to Seal Spa, where you can hear the seals barking across on the rocks of Tasman Island. This is also the best view you will get of that island, with its two old houses defying the odds of being built, let alone remaining standing against the winds. After getting your fill of adrenalin, you head back to Munro to collect the backpacks you left behind,and then it is only a further 45 minutes for the final night’s resting spot.
Day Four is the hardest day, covering 17km, climbing up and over Mount Fortescue, before following the path down to the junction that leads out to Cape Hauy. Most hikers leave their backpacks at the junction, just taking snacks and water out to the Cape and back. The path is strenuous, with stone steps and steep hill climbs, but the views of The Candlestick (mind-bogglingly, apparently a rock climbing mecca) and the Totem Pole, both pillars jutting straight out of the sea, are worth it. Once you collect your backpacks, it is only a further one hour walk to a white sand beach, where you can brave the chill waters while you wait for the bus to pick you up.
The Accommodation: By hiking standards, the accommodation is great. The huts are all virtually brand new, so the foam, vinyl covered mattresses are still thick and comfortable. You have your choice of four or eight bed (bunk) cabins, which are constructed of timber and corrugated iron and blend perfectly with the bush environment.
The eating “hubs” are large and well appointed, with plenty of saucepans, frying pans and general kitchen necessities, including several gas burning stoves and running cold water from the many rainwater tanks. There are also board games, playing cards and books, which some smart planner decreed should be the same at each night’s accommodation, so no-one would feel the need to nick a book they’d just started on and was loving. Like me.
The toilets are communal and are situated a good distance from the sleeping and kitchen huts, and are as clean as drop toilets can be. They are not composting loos, so the “Sputniks” (according to the on-site rangers, the “pooh tubs” look just like the Sputnik satellite) are helicoptered out when full. They smell, especially when it is really hot, and there’s no point pretending they don’t. On Day Two, there is an outdoor, manual, cold water shower at Munro, which most people seemed willing to give a go.
What You Need To Carry: clothing, food, water (there is rain tank water available at each hut, for re-filling), a sleeping bag, knife, fork, spoon and crockery.
When To Go: the trail is open all year round, but it gets COLD in Tasmania! We went late November, and the average day time temperature was 12 – 13 degrees celsius on beautiful, clear cloudless days.
Official website: http://www.threecapestrack.com.au