Port Arthur is an old penal settlement to the east of Hobart. It is very popular with visitors to Tasmania. What is not well known is that the coastline that surrounds the penal settlement is some of the most spectacular in Australia. It consists of tall cliffs ranging up to 400m in height (over 1000 feet) and was a fearsome sight for the convicts who were sent there and arrived by ship. No wonder they thought it was the end of the world where escape seemed impossible.
While the tourists never see the coast, bushwalkers can by means of a series of constructed walking tracks. These tracks runs along the top of many of the cliff lines providing some spectacular walking. While all of the area can be seen on one day walks, the circuit of the cliffs makes an excellent 4 day walking trip.
The track to Cape Hauy was the first in the area and has been a popular one day walk for many years. The first long track was built by the Hobart Walking Club in the 1970's. It ran from Waterfall Bay to Fortescue Bay and gave an idea of the potential of the area for overnight walking. I first walked the track in the summer of 1976 and it has since improved to now be now an easy to follow, well marked track. The track to Cape Pillar was originally cut by rockclimbers to access the spectacular cliffs at the end of the cape. This track was initially very rough and was a tough walk. It has gradually been improved to the good track that now exists. In 1990, a track that linked the Cape Hauy track to the Cape Pillar Track was cut by the Hobart Walking Club. This was a major improvement to the track system as it created a circuit walk. In 1999, the cape and some other nearby coastal reserves where merged into the Tasman National Park.A controversial proposal to create an exclusive hut only walk based on Cape Hauy, Cape Pillar and Cape Raoul is being considered. This proposal suggests banning all camping and effectively excluding the people who cut most of the tracks (the clubs cut them - not parks). Personally I cant see why camping is to be banned - a sensible compromise would be to provide a number of designated campsites, all located off the track and ban camping at all other sites. This would allow those on low budgets to also experience the capes and also would keep the two groups (bushwalkers and hut tourists) seperated. This is what New Zealand does on all of their Great Walks and it works very well. Instead of trying to re-invent the wheel, looking at how such issues are handled in other countries can save a lot of time and keep all groups reasonably happy.
The Tasman Peninsula is located east of Hobart. By road, it is 97km from Hobart to Port Arthur which is the closest town to the walk.
Public transport by bus is available on most days from Hobart to Port Arthur. This gives access to the start of the walk at the northern end. The southern end of the track is on a minor road, which is 9.5 km off the highway from where the bus can be met.
Detailed track notes are available in Bushwalking In Australia by John and Monica Chapman. Detailed track notes to all tracks on the entire peninsula are available in 'Tasman Tracks' by Shirley and Peter Storey (see Tasmania guide books page).
The TASMAP 1:25,000 Taranna, Hippolyte and Tasman sheets cover
all of the tracks in excellent detail. The TASMAP 1:75,000 Tasman
National Park is less detailed but does show all walking tracks.
|1||Devils Kitchen via Waterfall Bay to Bivouac Bay, 12km|
|2||Past Cape Hauy to Breakfast Creek, 18km|
|3||Full day sidetrip to Cape Pillar, 12km|
|4||Along track north to Fortescue Bay, 8km|
A general entry permit to a Tasmanian National Park
is required. The best value for bushwalkers is the 2 month Backpacker
Pass for $28 which provides entry to all national parks. There
are no bookings or quotas on numbers of bushwalkers visiting the
park. Of course if th eproposed hut walk happens this will all change!