2021 Three Capes Track

Day 6 Cape Hauy – a bit of a surprise
Cape Hauy image from the Tasmanian based Three Capes Track
Cape Hauy

Finally the last day of the trip is here! For once it was Gill who was up early and after packing and eating breakfast we left the Retakunna Hut just after 6:00am. We had originally planned on leaving at 6:30am because we needed to be in Fortescue Bay for a 2:30pm bus and wanted to get there without having to rush. But when you’re up, you’re up! Another bonus of starting early is a cool start to the morning which is a good thing as you climb Mount Fortescue, the highest peak on this trail by a long way. Having said that the design of the trail including the stepping, is done in a way that feels easier than some of the shorter peaks we’ve encountered.

The vegetation on the ascent and part of the descent of the mountain is very different than other parts of this track, it’s more reminiscent of other parts of Tasmania being lush and almost tropical with all the ferns. This section of the trail from the summit downward is just spectacular. Then the vegetation changes again to be more coastal but different to what we saw earlier in the trip. The views as you walk very close to cliff edge are spectacular with many opportunities to view the ocean as well as back towards Cape Pillar. The artwork along the trail continues for much of the morning draw you in.

We expected to take 3.5 hours to reach the turn off to Cape Hauy but instead took just over 2.5 hours, much quicker than we expected. Just after the turnoff point is a secluded seating area to drop off the packs and just like the Overland Track, there are issues with birds wanting access packs left behind. As soon as we arrived a Kurrarong turned up eyeing off our packs. These birds are highly intelligent and are capable of taking advantage of any easy access into your pack. They can even open zips if they have enough incentive so we tend to put on the rain covers and hide the strapping and pockets underneath the packs.

The trip out and back to Cape Hauy is the real challenge not just of the day but the entire trip. When done as a day walk from Fortescue Bay there are around 4,500 steps. While you save a number of those starting from the Three Capes Track, the walk to the lookout platform took us only 1 hour 40 minutes and was a heart pumper. The views on the way out and particularly at the lookout were again spectacular and well worth it.

Once we picked up our packs we then had a 1 hour walk down to Fortescue Bay and that’s what it took us. Today we came across two echidnas – one on the steps on the way back up to the turnoff who was very happily digging after something tasty on the path. The other was just off the side of the boardwalk lower down. Both seemed very used to walkers as they just ignored everyone taking photos while they burrowed away.

As we approached Fortsescue Bay we passed the formal trailhead so we took time for a photo opportunity and then proceeded to the bay which was full of people taking advantage of the good weather and holidays season. We headed to the rangers office to confirm the bus pickup point before spending some time having lunch and just resting prior to the pickup. Some of the keener hikers went for a swim and while the water looked clear and inviting, this is Tasmania and it was cold! Overall this day was one of surprises as we just didn’t think it would be so spectacular.

Our bus back to Port Arthur is part of the trip and once we arrived we picked up our stored bag and had some afternoon tea before heading back to Hobart to end a great day and a great trip.

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Today was all about what is supposed to be the highlight of this trip and that’s the walk down to Cape Pillar and the Blade. As has been the case at the previous hut we had an evening briefing from the host ranger who outlined amongst other things what’s happening the next day. The main thing we wanted to know was about the trip to Cape Pillar. Because of the crossover with our group and the incoming group we needed to fully pack up and carry our main packs down to the small shed located not far from the cabin and head out to Cape Pillar with a small day pack.

The entire trip in total out to Cape Pillar and then onto Retakunna Hut was expected to take 6-7 hours. We were geared to get up to take photos of the sunrise from the helipad adjacent to the toilet block and when I was there at 4:00am there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. By 4:45am the rain had set in but by that stage we were up and getting ready so we ended up starting our walk out to Cape Pillar just after 6:30am. The bonus of this was that we had the whole cape to ourselves for most of the morning and only really started to come across other hikers on our return trip. The drawback of today’s weather were the forecast 40km wind gusts – not what you want when you’re walking along cliff edges and rock outcrops. We had one point where we were well back from the cliff edge walking along the track and were almost blown off our feet. The rest of the walk out wasn’t too bad on the whole but it it still made us keep our distance from the cliff edges.

The views along the coastline to the tallest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere just kept on getting better and better as we went. The views to Tasman Island off the cape were excellent. We got to the Blade not long after the 2 hour mark which also included a breakfast stop along the way. From here was a 5 minute hike up to the offical stop point on the Blade to pick up the views. We thought about heading up to the Blade top but with the winds the way they were, we didn’t want to risk it as the way up was super exposed. Apparently the group immediately after us hit the weather change and did ascend to the top of the Blade, that’s just the luck of the draw. From here was the last segment on this walk out to Cape Pillar with stops at the Seal Spa which isn’t to be missed, the Chasm, and the lookout from Cape Pillar itself, all well worth the extra 45 minute return trip from the Blade.

We started our trip back to Munro Hut coming across our fellow hikers as we went. The return journey was much quicker (it’s usually the way) and in total this leg took us around 5 hours. A quick lunch at Munro Hut and it was on to Retakunna Hut with our full packs for a total journey for the day of 14km which we covered in just under 6 hours.

Retakunna Hut like the others is built on the same overall design with each being unique to fit into the surrounding landscape. The temperature had dropped this day so we ended up spending much of the afternoon in the kitchen areas with the pellet heaters on. This day was definitely spectacular but also tiring and after a very early dinner we were in bed before 7:00pm. Another reason for the early bedtime was that we have to catch the bus the next day at 2:30pm so have another early start planned.

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We’ve been offline with these updates for the last few days because while there is phone access, at least with Telstra, to make calls and do texting but once you get past Surveyors Hut there is pretty much no internet access although it will randomly crop up very now and then.

Christmas Day! This is the second day of hiking on the Three Capes Track and very different from yesterday leaving Surveyors Hut around 7:30am. Firstly, today’s walk was 11km with our full packs and a real workout on the legs mainly due to the steep climb up Arthurs Peak and then the very long set of stairs going back down. This section of the trail was unique, something that would be the case in the following days, with the hero of this section being the views and the vegetation as you crossed from coastal forest to heath and back into forest again before Munro Hut. The views from Arthurs Peak were amazing providing views along the coastline to what are the tallest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere. From Arthurs Peak we then had a climb up Crescent Mountain, which while taller was an easier ascent and descent. You can tell that this trail has been designed to be done in one direction and I would hate to do the reverse climb! We were surprised when we dropped into the viewing area at Jurassic Crack and looked back to where we had come from and realised the sheer height of Arthurs Peak.

This section of the trail is where all the ontrail artwork starts and it’s good to see that in most cases it’s also functional seating. As mentioned the vegetation changed along the way and between the wildflowers and the views, it was enough to keep this happy snapper actively taking photos along the way.

We were first to arrive from our group at Munro Hut around (11:45am) and had the opportunity to talk with some hikers a day ahead of us to find out about their visit to Cape Pillar that morning. Munro Hut is a real crossover point because the previous day’s hikers are returning from Cape Pillar before heading on to Retakunna Hut and the new hikers, like us, arriving.

Munro Hut is certainly the most scenic being adjacent to the cliffs and having marvellous views down to Cape Hauy and over the ocean. The one drawback about this hut is that the toilets are about 200 metres from the bunk rooms which means you are very much awake by the time you return to your sleeping bag! Apparently this was the first hut constructed along the trail and they were concerned that the smell from the toilets would be an issue. One big upside is that there are two outdoor showers which were much appreciated by all!

The rest of the afternoon was spent lazing around, sun baking, and just relaxing after a hard day walking and so it was another earlyish night for us. Apparently the sunrise at this hut is the best on the trail and we intend to get up just before 5:00am to take advantage of that before getting an early start on the walk to Cape Pillar.


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Merry Christmas everyone from the Three Capes Track!

In episode 205 of the Australian Hiker Podcast one of the things I talked about was the expectations we all place on an upcoming trips or hikes. While I expected to enjoy this trip, I didn’t expect how much I would enjoy the ‘whole package’ experience that we’ve had yesterday on just the first day of the walk. The trip to historic Port Arthur was a learning experience particularly given I have a cultural heritage background. Then on top of that, we had the guided boat trip to the walk trailhead which brought back memories of a previous life where both Gill and I spent a whole lot of time in and around the ocean and on boats. This was even before we started the walk!

We started the 4km walk and before I talk about the experience, for the first time ever my GPS actually gave the same reading; that must class as a hiking miracle! Today’s walk while only 4km would have kept me happy even if the walk ended there. We saw two juvenile echidnas and a young wallaby just off the trail and lots of wildflowers. In talking to other hikers, the echidnas seemed to perform on cue as the hikers came into sight.

The thing that really surprised me was that this could have been a coastal walk in NSW with the exception of the day temperature. We’ve only done 4km on this trail and already we’re impressed. The facilities at Surveyors Hut are amazing and apparently typical for this trip. Great rooms, great toilet facilities and great seating areas both inside and out.

Day one is going to be hard to beat but we’re told there’s much more to come!

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Today we start our walk on the Three Capes Track and what better way to start the day than with an early breakfast of corn and avocado fritters. The weather is much cooler than Canberra at the moment which we really appreciate and one of the reasons I love hiking during the cooler months. This part of Tasmania has very pleasant temperatures and the Three Capes Track being a coastal walk is cool a summer walks go.

On to the final packing before catching our bus to Port Arthur. Ideally I would have liked to catch the earlier ferry but that was already booked up as far back as may when we booked this trip. Having said that there was never anyway I was-going to have a swim preceding much warmer water. Once we leave the boat we have a 4km walk to the first hut on the trail.

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Finally our trip on the Tasmanian Three Capes track has arrived and while Gill is still working this morning I’ve been doing the last minute sorting out and working out which pack I was going to take. The website for this track recommends a 50Litre pack but after assembling all my gear I have managed to squeeze everything in to my 33litre Osprey Talon Pack although given the option a couple of extra litres space would have been appreciated. As usual the biggest bulk- and weight impact on any trip is the food and once I loose that my pack will be half empty as I’m carrying two out of the 4 days worth of food (for two people). This is half of what I would usually carry and not having to carry a tent or sleeping mat has been a big reduction in my gear requirements. All up my pack weights in around 12.5kg including water which will be the lightest that I have ever started a trip with. The rest of my day will be spent setting up podcast and social media templates for the coming days to make my life a bit easier on the trail. As this trip is 4 day on trail my next podcast episode, 206, will be done in the hotel room back in Hobart.

Usually I start these posts 100 days out but given the COVID situation I wasn’t game to and really for us getting out negative COVID PCR tests (Travel requirement) yesterday was the first time we have felt confident that this trip was going to happen. We will arrive is Hobart later tonight before picking up an early morning bus trip to Port Arthur to check in, do the touristy stuff and then get an afternoon boat trip over to the trailhead. The track has reasonable phone signal so when and where we can we will be posting on social media as we go so follow along on our trip with us.

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Finally our trip on the Tasmanian Three Capes track has arrived and while Gill is still working this morning I’ve been doing the last minute sorting out and working out which pack I was going to take. The website for this track recommends a 50Litre pack but after assembling all my gear I have managed […]