Three Capes Track

Three Capes Track
Tasman Island
Tasman Island © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Walking the Three Capes Track is a remarkable experience. All at once, you have stunning views, aching muscles, artfully crafted accommodation to look forward to and, in the middle of nowhere, a beautifully designed resting place that tells part of the story of the area. You journey from Port Arthur to Denman’s Cove. From here, you walk 46km over four days from Denman’s Cove to Fortescue Bay, via Cape Pillar, Mount Fortescue and Cape Hauy. It’s incredible. The third cape, Cape Raoul, isn’t yet part of the walk – I am told that, in the future, it will be part of the walk too.

View of Cape Hauy from Cape Pillar
View of Cape Hauy from Cape Pillar © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you book your Three Capes Track experience, you have choices. You can choose to take the 11:30am boat or the 2pm (1:30pm from May – August) boat. Your ticket to the Three Capes Track includes a two-year pass to Port Arthur Historic Site. You could spend an entire day wandering through the site if you want to. Being locals, we’ve seen it before and were happy with a few hours then the earlier start to our journey. Rather than doing a very, very long post about the entire walk, I’ve written a full post about each day. Here are the links to the full posts, with highlights:

Day 1

Surveyors
Surveyors © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Enjoy complimentary access to Port Arthur Historic Site. Cruise around the bay to the start of the walk. Have a snack on the beach before walking for 1.5 – 2 hours to Surveyors. Incredible views of Cape Raoul and beautiful accommodation await you. Enjoy!

Day 2

View of Mount Brown and Cape Raoul
View of Mount Brown and Cape Raoul © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Up we go… up Arthurs Peak and Crescent Mountain. You’ll be rewarded with views of Cape Pillar and Cape Raoul. It won’t be long until you’ve made it to your destination: Munro – accommodation on the cliffs! What a fantastic view of Cape Hauy and Hippolyte Rocks! Have a hot shower and read about the wreck of the Nord.

Day 3

Cape Pillar
Cape Pillar © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Cape Pillar and The Blade. What a highlight! Stunning views of Cape Raoul and Cape Hauy. Directly in front of you stands Tasman Island. The lighthouse, the old tramway, the houses… a bygone era on display in such wild surroundings. Walk back to Munro, pick up your pack and head to Retakunna.

Day 4

Cape Hauy
Cape Hauy © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The finish line is near. All that remains between you and it is a mountain, Cape Hauy and an aching body. The views, both up close in the rainforest and further afield of the capes, are worth it. Should you walk out to Cape Hauy and back? Yes, you should! Beautiful 360’ views plus the Totem Pole and Candlestick (famous to rock climbers) beneath you make standing at the end of this this cape particularly spectacular. A short walk later, you’re standing by the clear waters of Fortescue Bay, waiting for a bus back to Port Arthur. What an incredible journey!

What to Bring

Cape Raoul from Surveyors
Cape Raoul from Surveyors © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Pack (one of) each item on the packing list provided by Parks and Wildlife. Remember that, although it is very luxurious, this is a hike and you need to self-cater. Make sure that your rainwear is good quality and covers you from head to ankle and that your boots are worn in. Blisters, bruises and getting wet are annoyances that you just don’t need on a journey like this. For the first night (or two), pack fresh food to enjoy. After this, dehydrated will do. You’ll need some trail mix to keep you going during the day. As a Tasmanian, I’m always devastated when tourists who go bushwalking end up hurt (or worse). Always, always, always carry water, sun protection, a jacket/jumper, rainwear, sturdy footwear, food, a first aid kit and a phone with you, even on short day walks.

What Not to Bring

Pillars
Pillars © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My aching back reminds me that this section is of particular importance! I would NOT bring any luxury items with me. My mistake was packing a spare change of clothes (you need one outfit plus one contingency for wet/cold weather), a spare towel and small containers of shampoo, conditioner and moisturiser. Despite having a lovely hot shower on Day 2, I didn’t use these items at all. Things I didn’t bring and would strongly advise others not to bring are luxuries like make-up, extra food (you can only eat so much!) and gadgets. Enjoy going bush, in every sense of the word!

Getting There

Pennicott Wilderness Journeys
Pennicott Wilderness Journeys © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Your cruise leaves from Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula. This is 1 hour and 45 minutes’ drive east of Hobart. There are many fantastic spots to explore (or detour to) on the way, including Eaglehawk Neck, Dunalley and Richmond so take your time. Alternatively, arrive early and explore Port Arthur and the Tasman Peninsula like I did. It’s a fantastic area.

Cost

Crescent Bay
Crescent Bay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At $495 per adult ($396 per concession/child), the Three Capes Track experience may seem expensive, but you’ll soon see where your money goes. Firstly, you’ll have a (short) Pennicott Wilderness Journeys Cruise and two-year access to Port Arthur Historic Site. The limit on walkers (48 per hut) means that you can have “alone in the wilderness” experiences. You are treated very gently, from the track underfoot to the thick mattress awaiting you of an evening. Once you’ve seen the rangers (and even the helicopters!) in action, as well as the story starters and some of the trickier sections of the track, you’ll appreciate that it’s a bargain!

For more information about my Three Capes Track experience, read my summaries of Day 1Day 2Day 3 or Day 4. Alternatively, read about places to visit on the Tasman Peninsula or in Tasmania’s south.

Three Capes Track: Day 1

Traversing Three Capes Track 1
View of Cape Pillar
View of Cape Pillar © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

We set off from Port Arthur: my husband, myself, and, of course, the Ancient Marnier. The first part of your Three Capes Track experience is a boat ride from Port Arthur to Denmans Cove. You’ll motor past Crescent Bay (with it’s amazing sand dunes) and Mount Brown, with views of two of the capes. This is a shortened version of the Pennicott Wilderness Journeys’ Tasman Island Cruise. Up close, we saw a seal, sea caves, and an eagle’s nest. Seeing Cape Raoul, Cape Pillar and Tasman Island from the water gave us a sense of their grandeur and a taste of what was to come.

Denmans Cove

Denmans Cove
Denmans Cove © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Landing at Denmans Cove is tricky! The boat pulls up to an isolated cove, backs up to the beach, lowers a ramp and then it’s up to you. Time your descent with the receding wave and commit fully to stepping off the ramp and you won’t get your feet wet! Make sure that your bag is strapped to you before you disembark.

Three Capes Track
Three Capes Track © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Rest on the beach for a while. This is the only beach you’ll stand on until the end of your journey so make the most of it! After a short stop for lunch, my husband was raring to go so off we went! The track start is just up the river a short way and is obvious. Tasmanian artist Alex Miles has designed stunning pieces that introduce you to the start and finish of the track and to each hut. After a snap with the art, move on to the boot-washing station (it’s straightforward and a vital step in stopping the spread of plant diseases). From here, it’s a climb upwards. Not sure why “15 minutes” is engraved on a bench? Read the book that you were given by staff at Port Arthur.

The Huts

Surveyors
Surveyors © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you reach Surveyors, you won’t believe it. It is superb accommodation. Finely-crafted cabins. A large deck with picture-perfect views of Cape Raoul. Deck chairs (Alex Miles’ designs appear on the fabric). Luxuriously thick mattresses. Drop loos that don’t smell (at least not in Spring-time!). A pellet fire. Bliss! Settle in and enjoy your time in paradise.

For more information about my Three Capes Track experience, read the overview or my summaries of Day 2Day 3 or Day 4. Alternatively, read about places to visit on the Tasman Peninsula or in Tasmania’s south.

Three Capes Track: Day 2

Traversing Three Capes 2
Stairs
Stairs © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Each evening, your lovely host ranger (thanks Will, Ken and Joel!) will give you a weather update. This will help you to plan your day on the Three Capes Track. We decided to walk Days 2 and 3 in one go due to poor weather predicted for Day 3. This was a massive day and resulted in a minor injury for me but the views were amazing!

Story Starters

Story Starter
Story Starter © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I really enjoyed the story starters on Day 2. You’ll come across wooden wombat poos, a love-nest in the woods and a beautifully sculpted resting place in Ellarwey Valley. Cloud Forest has an intriguing story and reading it on the spot would be a great idea. Your surroundings are very unique! It’s Spring and I really enjoyed the variety of native flowers on the walk between Surveyors and Munro.

Arthurs Peak and Crescent Mountain

View of Cape Raoul and Mount Brown
View of Cape Raoul and Mount Brown © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I found Day 2 to be the hardest day of the Three Capes Track experience. Your pack is still laden with food and you have to walk up two steep sections: Arthurs Peak and Crescent Mountain. Going up generally means glorious views though and we were not disappointed! Cape Raoul, Mount Brown and the dunes at Crescent Bay were a lovely sight. The Ancient Mariner also spied our previous night’s accommodation, Surveyors, as well as an additional hut that has been built as part of an upcoming gourmet walking experience.

View towards Cape Pillar
View towards Cape Pillar © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Words of warning for Day 2 and onwards are that you will pass across helicopter routes and near cliffs. These hazards are clearly signposted, with instructions on what to do if you hear a helicopter and the minimum distance between the track and the cliff’s edge. The good news is that the views (downwards, upwards and across!) are stunning and, when you are standing on the track, you feel quite safe.

View of Cape Hauy from Munroe
View of Cape Hauy from Munroe © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you reach “Four Ways”, as the rangers call it, turn right to Munro, Cape Pillar and The Blade. Have a rest at “High Life” but don’t forget to look up! You may spy an eagle’s nest. Within the hour, you should arrive at Munro, with excellent views from the deck (and helipad) and a welcome hot shower.

For more information about my Three Capes Track experience, read the overview or my summaries of Day 1, Day 3 or Day 4. Alternatively, read about places to visit on the Tasman Peninsula or in Tasmania’s south.

Three Capes Track: Day 3

Traversing Three Capes Track 3
View of Cape Raoul
View of Cape Raoul © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As I said in my previous post, we did most of Day 3 of the Three Capes Track (the walk out to Cape Pillar and The Blade) as part of Day 2. We knew that the weather was going to be rotten on our third day. This meant about 7.5 hours of walking in one day and a minor injury for me but the views were worth it! The absolute highlight of this walk is standing atop The Blade, with 360’ views of Cape Raoul, Cape Hauy and Tasman Island, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

Cape Pillar

View of Cape Hauy
View of Cape Hauy © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Leave your pack at Munro in the “garden variety Garden shed,” as ranger Ken instructed us. This is down the track, just beyond the sleeping quarters. Not having to carry the extra bulk is a huge relief! From here, keep walking “until you can’t walk any further” (again, instructions from Ken!). Take note of your surroundings as you go: Forest, button-grass, cliff’s edge, windswept scrub. Each has its own beauty.

Cape Pillar
Cape Pillar © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The track on Day 3 is particularly brilliant. See just how big a blue whale is from the markers on the track. Walk along the back of a 2.4km duck-board snake. Spy tiny flowers, hinted at in mosaics. Descend white, wooden steps, curving their way towards The Blade. Step out onto a tarn (small, shallow lake). It’s a very snap-happy day!

Tasman Island from "Seal Spa"
Tasman Island from “Seal Spa” © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Take the time to go out to the “Seal Spa”. The seats are particularly well-formed and the views of Tasman Island are magnificent. You can see parts of the old tramway, the lighthouse and the three houses. The Ancient Mariner spent eight hours becalmed beneath Tasman Island a few years ago. Despite previously saying, “I’ll be happy if I never see that lighthouse again!”, even he lapped up the views!

The Blade

View of Tasman Island from The Blade
View of Tasman Island from The Blade © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you reach the end of the track, keep going at your own risk. Mind you, the steps continue to be well-formed and the views from The Blade are awe-inspiring! There is also a certain kudos to be gained from saying, “I’ve stood there!”. The Ancient Mariner was not inclined to reach the top due to vertigo but eventually made it. His main disappointment is that the photo someone took of him there shows his face… and none of the backdrop! Oh dear! I can assure that he made it to the top!

The Huts

Munro
Munro © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

From The Blade, you’ll back-track back to Munro for a bite to eat, a toilet-stop and a last chance to read the (astonishing!) story of the makers-model of the Nord that is housed within the hut. From here, it’s an hour and a bit to Retakunna, the wildlife paradise (wombats and wallabies!) where you’ll spend your final evening. We arrived to see the helicopter in action – workers being flown in and out.

Retakunna
Retakunna © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The entire set-up of the accommodation is first-class. Everything has been thoughtfully crafted, from the helicopter-ready poop pods and gas frames to the sliding doors on the communal huts to the poo facts on the toilet signs. The library in all three huts remains the same (one of our fellow walkers found a minor discrepancy!) so that you can pick up the same book and keep reading when you reach the next hut. It is a bushwalking experience unlike any other!

For more information about my Three Capes Track experience, read the overview or my summaries of Day 1, Day 2 or Day 4. Alternatively, read about places to visit on the Tasman Peninsula or in Tasmania’s south.

Three Capes Track: Day 4

Traversing Three Capes 4
Arch and Cape Pillar
Arch and Cape Pillar © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Your final day on the Three Capes Track sounds daunting. 6 – 7 hours to reach the bus. A very early start. A mountain to climb. Lots and lots of stairs out to Cape Hauy. The easy way out (a two-hour track direct from Retakunna to the carpark at Fortescue Bay) seems like a great option. Unless you are injured, don’t miss out on the last section! It is brilliant!

Mount Fortescue

Climbing Mount Fortescue
Climbing Mount Fortescue © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The track up Mount Fortescue is well-formed and very gentle, considering the height difference between Retakunna and the top of Mount Fortescue. There are three seats to stop at as you journey upwards, rain forest to walk through and, of course, beautiful views from the top. It was quite cloudy when we arrived at the top, exhausted but elated that we had completed the climb in less time than anticipated. The clouds cleared enough for us to see the giant cliffs near Munroe. Spectacular!

Cape Hauy and Hippolyte Rocks
Cape Hauy and Hippolyte Rocks © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Downwards! Your next view is of Cape Hauy and Hippolyte Rocks. After a snap of the Ancient Mariner and Hippolyte Rocks (“I’ve sailed around them!” he says), we head down further. I’d been so relieved to be going down that I went a little too far a little too fast and now have a mega bruise and a sore wrist to remind me that one should always take care on slippery steps! Take your time; the hardest part of your journey is behind you.

Cape Hauy

Cape Hauy
Cape Hauy © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Eventually, after more stunning coastal views, including of a small arch at the base of the cliffs, you’ll reach “Only Here”. This story spot is where you’ll leave your pack, thankfully, and head out to Cape Hauy with your daypack. Make sure you bring all the essentials: food, water, rainwear, something warm and the first aid kit. If you’re pressed for time, you may need to skip this bit to make it to the bus. This would be very sad indeed!

Cape Hauy
Cape Hauy © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There are a lot of steps to traverse on your way to the tip of Cape Hauy but, without your pack, this isn’t too much trouble. Besides, you’ll want to have a rest at each peak and trough to again admire the views! We had a relatively clear journey out and magnificent, 360’ views from the platform at the end, including downwards to the Totem Pole and Candlestick (famous to rock climbers). The Ancient Mariner rates these views (from Cape Pillar up to the Forestier Peninsula) as the best on the entire walk! On our return journey, squalls of rain came through and we were grateful for the protective gear.

Fortescue Bay

Fortescue Bay
Fortescue Bay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

It’s only a short walk back to Fortescue Bay. We were bemused, as always, by tourists in jeans and t-shirts in the cold and rain!!! If you’re going to visit Tasmania, invest in waterproof pants and jacket. You’ll enjoy our wilderness much more! Fortescue Bay is a wonderful sight, both because it signals the end of your walk and because it is beautiful. White sands and clear waters surrounded by forest… a swim was very tempting, even in Spring!

"Catches and Quotas"
“Catches and Quotas” © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When booking your Three Capes Track experience, you can choose which bus you get back at the end of the trip: 2pm or 4pm. If you walk at a reasonable pace and get up early enough, you’ll be back in time for the 2pm bus. Mind you, in summer, it would be brilliant to have a swim in the pristine waters of Fortescue Bay and take the later bus. If in doubt, book the later bus then ring Pennicott Wilderness Journeys from the pack drop-off spot at Cape Hauy to change your bus time if needed. When you reach Fortescue Bay, keep walking along the dirt road until you reach the bus shelter (there is a kiosk nearby; it’s open until 4pm most days).

View from Cape Hauy
View from Cape Hauy © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When I told my grandfather that we’d completed the Three Capes Track, he said, “You must be pleased with yourselves!” We are! Though quite sore, we have been to an incredible part of the world. We have walked 46km, stood atop The Blade, climbed Mount Fortescue and seen the views from Cape Hauy. What a grand adventure!

For more information about my Three Capes Track experience, read the overview or my summaries of Day 1Day 2 or Day 3. Alternatively, read about places to visit on the Tasman Peninsula or in Tasmania’s south.