It’s not a difficult hike, a mostly gentle grade along timber boardwalks and stone steps. But at its most daring, Tasmania’s Three Capes Track will give you a rush that’s similar to reaching a thrilling summit. This 48-kilometre four-day walk takes in the state’s south-eastern pocket near Port Arthur, a patch of Australia that melds wildflower-rich eucalyptus landscapes with edge-of-the-world sea cliffs. All of which, if you take the Tasmanian Walking Company’s Three Capes Lodge Walk, is capped off each night with local wines, canapés and a plush mattress.
The highlights of the guided hike, which showcases capes Pillar, Hauy and Raoul, are the dramatic cliffs – the kind of teasingly perfect seascape views tailor-made for laptop backgrounds. And those views are never more powerful than at The Blade, a 30-degree incline that juts out from the end of Cape Pillar like a set piece from a Mission: Impossible movie. Its narrow path has sheer drops on either side to the churning wash below, making it heart-in-mouth all the way. Your reward? A climactic sighting of Tasman Island, Cape Raoul and the blue beyond.
Image: Looking out over the Tasman Sea/Chris Crerar.
Hikers, at a maximum of 14 per group, wind down the next day in the cool temperate rainforest of Mount Fortescue that undulates towards Cape Hauy, from where there are stunning vistas of dolerite sea stacks, distant peninsulas and the enormous expanse of ocean stretching towards Antarctica. And then there’s the wildlife along the way – echidnas, wallabies, seals and birds, from southern emu-wrens to yellow-tailed black cockatoos and soaring white-bellied sea-eagles.
Those are your days. Your nights, under a wondrous starry sky, are every bit as grand. Hikers stay at one of the two eco-friendly luxury lodges situated along the track. There are hot showers, massages and communal living areas where the weary are welcomed with three-course meals made using fresh local produce and a selection of terrific Tasmanian wines.
Image: Crescent Lodge, your home for the first night .
Pack light but include wet-weather gear and thermals and invest in decent hiking boots. The experience begins and ends in Hobart, with a boat first delivering you to Denmans Cove and a bus collecting you at the end from the gorgeous Fortescue Bay – where any humpback sightings are complimentary.
What the Three Capes Lodge Walk is really like
The challenging Three Capes Lodge Walk is full of magical moments, showing Jacqueline Lunn the end of the earth as she knows it.
Rolling my suitcase to the front door, I turn and yell back to my family, “You never know, I might have an epiphany out there.” I wave my hands toward the front door for effect. “And come back and want to change all this.” I wave my hands inside for any kind of reaction.
Out there is the most south-eastern point of Australia, my end of the earth (I’m never going to get to Antarctica). It may be a bit dramatic anticipating an epiphany from a four-day, 48-kilometre (52 kilometres by my smartwatch) hike. But as a competitive yet novice outdoorsy person I’m not venturing to the wilds of Tasman National Park, donning hiking boots, a backpack and bucket hat, for a pleasant stroll across some grass. I want a physical challenge – and a mental one.
The Three Capes Track (TCT) hugs the southern sea cliffs of Tasmania, taking in Cape Raoul, Cape Pillar and Cape Hauy. There are two ways to do it: the Tasmania Parks & Wildlife Service has a self-guided walk with overnight pit stops in shared cabins or for those who like a bit of yin comfort with their yang ruggedness, there’s one private offering, the Three Capes Lodge Walk.
I’m taking the route with Tasmanian wine and nibblies and the journey begins before I put boot to soil. On day one, our group of seven walkers (14 is the maximum) meet at HQ in Hobart city, where two experienced guides ensure we have the right equipment and that our backpacks – which they can supply – aren’t too heavy. This is vital; I’m quite fit and discover that my biggest challenge over the four days is not the distance but carrying my 11-kilogram pack. One of the guides tells me later that TCT is often a person’s first or last walk. The novice hiker testing the waters, like me, or the older pro about to hang up their boots.
It’s one of those crisp blue-sky Tasmanian days and after the briefing, a bus jaunt and a quick boat ride from Denman’s Cove to Fortescue Bay, we ease into things with the hike’s shortest leg, about 7 kilometres.
The guides stop now and then to tell stories and point out amazing natural feats in the landscape. They’re actors crossed with history teachers wearing backpacks the size of small humans. At the end of each day we arrive at our eco-accommodation, welcomed by a lodge host who offers treats like tea and warm plum and elderflower cake. I relax, take a hot shower (it’s eco-mist but does the job), decide whether to indulge in a massage, sip on Tasmanian wine and enjoy canapés followed by dinner, such as ethically caught local salmon with roast potatoes and peach crumble for dessert.
And that’s how the days go: walking, wondering, nature, stories, billy tea and shortbread on the trail. While I gaze at endless blue-ocean vistas, the tallest sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere and gracious eucalypts for much of the walk, there’s a surprising diversity of terrain – unexpected green rainforests and squat scrublands that have survived the buffeting of unimaginable winds. I see whales, dolphins and seals playing in the water below and bees busy doing their nine-to-five in a hive above. We push on no matter the weather – day three (around 16 kilometres, with standing on Cape Pillar as a reward) sees us walking in rain, wind and cold. At the end of it I feel as though I’ve passed a test. Then I eat some cake.
On the final day, I climb to Cape Hauy and stare across at the dolerite rock tower dubbed The Candlestick. I ask (yet again) where Antarctica lies. Which way to the end of the earth? “It’s that way,” my guide points out patiently.
I’ve walked and daydreamed, pushed myself comfortably, conquered my backpack, marvelled that nature still bothers to be this beautiful, raw and strong – but no epiphany.
It seems I didn’t need more noise and instruction, I needed less. With each step that’s exactly what this hike gave me – less noise in my head and a challenge for my body. That’s a break worth walking for.