In early March 2019 we had the chance to visit Tasmania for a long weekend to do the Three Capes Track. The track itself took five years to build and runs just under 50kms from across the bay from Port Arthur, out to Cape Pillar and back to Fortsecue Bay. Ironically, the track itself only goes past two capes, with Cape Raoul being the third over the other side of the bay that you get a view of on day one.
Before it was built only a couple of hundred people per year made it out to Cape Pillar, but with the new track and three purpose built cabins there’s now a maximum of 48 people per day doing it. This totals around 12,000 people per year, generating around $5m in revenue for Tasmania Parks & Wildlife, so it’s run like an eco-tourism business.
You need to book online well in advance for a cost of $495 per person. This includes the boat trip at the beginning of the walk, three nights shared bunk room accommodation and the bus back from Fortescue Bay to Port Arthur at the end. There’s also a $3,000 per person luxury option run by the Tasmanian Walking Company that have their own private lodges.
If you’re doing the “budget” version, you need to carry all your own food, clothing and a sleeping bag, but there’s excellent cooking facilities and very comfortable bunks at each of the architect-designed cabins. The walking itself is very easy for experienced walkers with only a couple of steeper ascents each day. We found we were amongst the youngest people doing it – the average age being at least fifty five to sixty.
The scenery is spectacular and generally follows the coastal cliff lines with a couple of detours through denser forest. The group you start with on day one needs to keep moving to the next cabin each night, covering 10 – 15kms per day. The track is incredibly well maintained, and if anything you get a bit sick of trudging along the elevated wooden walkways, although these are essential given the number of people doing the walk.
While it’s not a remote, self-reliant wilderness experience, it’s a fantastic walk that’s very well designed and does mean a much broader range of people can get to experience an area that would otherwise be very inaccessible.
Some tips if you are doing it yourself:
- Check the weather report before you leave and pack clothing accordingly. We stupidly took way too much thermal gear that wasn’t necessary due to the warm weather and lugged an extra kilogram or two as a result. Having said that, the temperature on the cape is often ten degrees cooler than Hobart due to the coastal breezes.
- If you have a minimum group size of four people you can request your own room. Just note that there’s not a huge amount of privacy between rooms due to their ventilation design. Ear plugs are essential!
- Book the later boat on day one, as the walk to the first cabin is only an hour and there’s nothing to really do there other than relax.
- Take a nice meal for the first night. There’s a gas BBQ in the cabin for cooking a big side of meat and you can afford to lug a bit more food given the short walk in.
- Walking poles are handy given the large number of steps you’ll climb up and down in a couple of key sections. Just make sure you have thick rubber stoppers on the poles, as pointy ends get constantly and annoyingly stuck in the boardwalk gaps.
- If you’re a strong walker it’s quite easy to get to the second cabin on day two, have lunch and do the walk to Cape Pillar before dinner. This ends up being around a 25km day of walking, but it’s all pretty easy. We did this to take advantage of a good weather window, while the rest of our group walked out there in the rain the following morning.
- There’s nowhere to swim between the drop-off point on day one and Fortescue Bay due to the high cliffs and dense undergrowth. We tried to get down to the water below the public Wughalee Falls camping area but it’s impossible unless you like bush bashing through sword grass.
- Most people take their time to get moving each morning, so if you leave early you don’t see anyone on the track and get a bit of peace and quiet at the next cabin before the bulk of the group arrives.
- If you’re on a real budget you can walk out to Cape Pillar without staying in the cabins. This route starts at Fortescue Bay and crosses overland to the main tent camping area at Wughalee Falls. You’re then allowed to walk out and back to Cape Pillar and return via Cape Hauy.