Three Capes Track

There are at least three good reasons why you should do the Three Capes Track.

  1. It’s stunning.
  2. It’s not a hard walk.
  3. It’s well serviced.

Tasmania’s natural environment is arguably our most precious asset. The Three Capes Track was launched about a year ago and it’s a new experience in bush walking.

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Over four days, the 46 kilometre track takes you along the coastal cliffs and surrounds of the stunning Tasman Peninsular on Tasmania’s South-East Coast.

The walk starts with a boat cruise from the Port Arthur Historic Site around Safety Cove, Crescent Bay, Surveyors Cove and Denmans Cove. There were high winds the day we left so Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, who provide the boats, recommended a direct path to Denmans Cove and space permitting, the boat trip on our return. Some time on the beach at Denmans is a good option. We walked up Arthurs Peak and found one of the many interpretative seats where we snacked on dip, biscuits and cake.

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The 4-kilometre walk takes around two hours including a break to eat and time to take in the views. The sea is visible most of the time and you pass the cobblestone Surveyors Cove. You emerge through the coastal bush onto buttongrass to find Surveyors Cabin, the first night’s accommodation with views over to Cape Raul.

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Each night you’re briefed by a Parks and Wildlife Ranger with walking tips and facts, the weather forecast and an opportunity to ask questions and debrief the day’s walk. The forecast for day 3 was heavy rain so we decided to do a bigger day 2 and avoid most of the promised rain.

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The 11-kilometre walk on day two through coastal heath and Eucalypt forest to Munro Bight includes a 300-metre elevation to Arthurs Peak and Crescent Mountain. The ascent is done by stone stairs with lovely details in places and more interpretative seating where you’re encouraged to stop and explore the guide book. The design of each seat provokes contemplation about some aspect of the surrounding environment: how the dolerite cliffs were created in ‘Jurassic Crack’ or the role of fire in bush management in ‘Fire is food’. It’s an estimated four and a half hours which we found generous. We left around nine am and arrived around noon-ish, we weren’t power walking and we took a morning tea break. The Munro site is stunning with its lookout over the giant Bight out across the Tasman Sea. You know there are others on the track but there is space enough for everyone to enjoy, we found a few of our fellow travellers enjoying the seating along the way.

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We left our gear and took day packs with water and lunch; walked out to Cape Pillar and climbed The Blade with incredible views that take in Tasman Island. This doubled the duration for day 2 by adding another three and a half hours to the walk. It was absolutely worth the effort notwithstanding it is an exposed coastal track which really does require each walker take more than a litre each. The Blade is not for the faint of heart. At one point heading down the narrow steps you can see water on both sides of you. Gulp!

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As promised it rained on day 3. We took a leisurely approach to leaving camp around 10 am for an hour walk to Retakunna where we spent a restful day eating, playing games, doing some yoga and sleeping. It was the only place we saw wildlife which was one extremely socialised wallaby, just off the track, chomping on some grass shoots and not bothered in the slightest about the site’s comings and goings.

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The final day has more of the anticipated coastal cliffs but it also takes you 400 metres up Mount Fortescue and through rainforest with giant tree ferns to the turnoff to Cape Hauy. You’re encouraged to leave your large pack and take something lighter to walk out to the Cape. Three of us took the turn to Cape Hauy and the others went on to wait for us at Fortescue Bay. There is some serious undulation on this track and it’s a wee bit tiring heading back up hill to the junction. Again, snacks and plenty of water are recommended. The Cape is also absolutely worth doing for incredible views across the Tasman.

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From the junction it’s a downhill walk to Fortescue Bay where you can take a well-deserved swim.

The Ranger’s advice is the day’s walk is 3 hours to the turnoff, 2 hours return to the Cape and 1 hour to Fortescue. This is a good rule for time management purposes if you’re meeting the bus for your return to Port Arthur. Again, it’s a very generous estimation and one that should allow walkers with a reasonable fitness time to have lunch on the way and a swim and some down time at Fortescue before the return trip.

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While there are uphill sections that call on some physical exertion, they are not the end of the world. The best way to take them on is slow and consistently. Take plenty of breaks and drink lots of water. The paths are generally duckboard or crushed stone.

The Three Cape Track provides more amenity than most Tassie bush walks making it a more comfortable walk. On this walk, accommodation, mattresses and cooking utensils are guaranteed. If you haven’t done a lot of overnight bushwalking, it’s a good introduction to the experience. You’re packs are lighter. There’s a bed. You don’t sleep in a tent. There’s shelter from the rain. There’s a bush shower that almost everyone availed themselves of on our second night and they have recently installed gas hot water. The accommodation and facilities are architecturally designed. There are yoga mats and physiotherapy rollers for stretching out tight muscles and the notorious ITB. Each hut has the same range of games and books so you can pick up where you left off the night before.

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Other points of interest:

They’ve worked with the Aboriginal community on the Track and welcome to country is part of each night’s briefing by Parks and Wildlife rangers. This cultural sensitivity wasn’t paralleled in the initial boat trip which was colonial-centric however.

There are two starting (11 am and 2 pm) and finishing (2 pm and 4 pm) times to choose from. We wanted to maximise time prior to the start with an airport pick up and lunch before we left and once the walk was completed, we didn’t want to push any luck by outstaying the welcome, so we hightailed it home on the early shift.

There’s parking at Port Arthur in the Three Capes Track car park and a Pennicott bus will return you from the finish at Fortescue Bay back to your car or back to Hobart.

Take care because much of the walk is only a metre or two from sheer sea cliffs.

You can get a coffee or ice cream at the Fortescue Bay kiosk which takes cards not cash.

Whilst branded Three Capes, Cape Raoul is not part of the track. You can do it as a five-six hour day walk which allows you to walk across the table cape.

The walk’s fee includes entrance to Port Arthur Historic Site for two years, your National Park entrance fee and a facilitated track through some of Tasmania’s beautiful coastal environment. It’s well worth the adventure.

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Find out more about the Three Capes Track.

Here’s some day walks we’ve blogged about –

The Western Arthurs, Boronia Beach, Snug Falls, Lenah Valley Walks, the Skyline Track and the Myrtle Forest.

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