Encounters on the Edge
Each day, 48 hikers set off from Port Arthur on this popular four day walk on the Tasman peninsula. The Three Capes Track should be walked slow with friends or family: resting at the whimsical story seats, admiring the craft of the track makers, immersing your senses in the diversity of flora and dramatic cliff top views across the southern ocean.
Starting the walk with our group of five Sydney Sole Sisters were some thirty women followers of an online nutritionist. And three young blokes, who were no doubt wondering how they had lucked out on their worst nightmare: hiking with all these middle aged women.
The blokes responded to being out-numbered by spreading their smelly boots and socks over the deck of the architecturally designed hut. They perched themselves on bar stools with views across the ocean to Cape Raoul, lit up a smoke and opened a bottle. Meanwhile, the women bristled on their yoga mats.
Later, a passing rain shower lit the button grass plain with a rainbow. While we were wondering what to do with the long evening, having already eaten our meagre rations of dehydrated cardboard in a few quick swallows, the blokes sauntered over to the BBQ to taunt us with their sizzling onions and steaks.
The next night, the boys stirred up a delicious smelling rissotto. By day three, when a large bottle of olive oil, garlic and mushrooms came out, and the online guru was extolling the virtues of her slimming tongue drops to her devotees gathered at her feet, I found the courage to introduce myself to the blokes.
Really, I just wanted some of their linguine to offset my dried possum-droppings, and I’d spotted a glistening portion of left over pasta goodness in their pot. Did their mothers raise them well to consider the needs of unexpected guests, or had they carried way too much food? Either way, they were happy to chat and share.
Day 1 Denmans Cove to Surveyors Hut
The Three Capes begins at Port Arthur, with a wander around the historic site and then a boat ride, all dressed in red rain-coats like something out of Handmaids Tale. After spotting sea birds and seals beneath the dolerite cliffs, we slipped into Denman’s Cove where we ate our lunch. From here, its an easy 4km walk on formed track to Surveyors Hut.
The spacious huts are each staffed by a ranger. Our bunk rooms was divided into two groups of four affording some privacy, with benches and hooks to manage packs, boots, poles and the general mess of hiking life. The mattresses are comfortable and large enough for tall people who like to spread out.
The kitchens easily cope with the large number of hikers, and have heating, cooking facilities, dining tables, phone charging stations, reading material, and great views!
Day 2 to Munro Hut
We took our time covering the 11km from Surveyors to Munro Hut, with a high point near Arthurs Peak.
Spring comes late to Tasmania: the diversity, density and colours of the flowers was an overwhelming highlight today. We walked through tall forest, dense coastal heath, cloud forest and more, with delightful names from early hikes such as Ellarwey (“where the hell are we”) Valley.
Munro Hut is perched on the edge, high over Munro Bight where whale spotting proved elusive. We were quick to join the short queue for the warm bucket showers. Refreshed we headed out to find some Tasmanian waratah and to take a sneak peak at the newly opened Lodge where 12 guided walkers pay for a more exclusive, comfortable experience.
Day 3 to the Blade, Cape Pillar and Retakunna Hut
Today is a long day at 19km to Cape Pillar and back, then on to Retakunna Hut. Most of it is walked without a pack, and the boardwalks and formed track make for easy walking with frequent stops to enjoy the stories and views along the way. Did you spot the snake head on the My Blood Runs Cold boardwalk?
Highlights of the day included climbing the Blade and the views of Tasman Island where we marvelled at the resilience of the lighthouse keepers and their families. Imagine being 38 week pregnant and hiking with your five year old down a steep zig zag cliff path to hop into a boat in a tiny cove? Or getting from boat into a basket to ride a flying fox and haulage system? Much tougher people then!
We ate our lunch at the sheltered lookout beneath the sheoaks, looking down on the rocks of Seal Spa. Appropriately, I had sardines, which I devoured with gusto. Best hiking food ever.
Day 4 to Cape Hauy and Fortescue Bay
The last day covers 16km up and over Mt Fortescue and down through the rainforests on the Dark Side, then down and up the rocky path out to Cape Huay and back, and on to Fortescue Bay.
The walk ended with a chilly dip in the clear 13 degree waters of Fortescue Bay, before we caught the bus back to Port Arthur and on to Hobart.
Jess, the ranger at Retakunna, tells us that Tasmania spent $25 million and five years building the Three Capes Track – the attention to detail in creating a sustainable experience shows. The experience, encounters on the edge, is worth every cent of the $495 fee – book now!
Logistics and Tips
Like the blokes, you too can have fun on the Three Capes Track. No need to carry a tent, sleeping mat, cooker or pots means so much more room in your pack for living it up!
We flew to Hobart, staying overnight at the YHA (small, noisy rooms although the staff went out of their way to be helpful). If your budget allows, book somewhere nice like the Henry Jones Art Hotel. We caught the Pennicotts bus from Hobart to the Port Arthur, and back again.
We are all experienced hikers and fit, but we noticed some other hikers struggling and missing out on Cape Pillar or Cape Hauy. This is such a pity – so make sure you are fit!
November turned on great walking weather for us, although it can be fickle. Photographs cannot convey the profusion of spring flowers.
We ordered some food from Three Capes Gear and Gourmet, and highly recommend their “First Night Fabulous” offerings. As a good section of this walk is without pack, hut facilities are excellent and the track is easy, be like the boys and pack some steaks, fresh Tassie produce and wine.
We combined the Three Capes Track with Maria Island, with a free day in Hobart to restock between each adventure. We hoped to visit MONA – but didn’t check their opening hours – they close on Tuesday.