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 was gradually improved to be a good track. In 1990, after a long exploration, 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.
In 2007, a feasibility study was undertaken with the aim of
developing some of the existing tracks into a tourist standard
hut-based walk. In 2010 funding was allocated for creation of the
'Three Capes Track. The first section, which only visits two capes was
opened in December 2015. The government report and much of the
advertising proclaimed this as a new walk. This is false advertising as
most of the tracks already existed and have been used by bushwalkers
for more than 30 years, its a new name but not rtruely a new 'walk'.
The only 'new' section of the track has been from Denam Cove to Mt
Brown. The exisiting tracks have been moved a little or upgraded to
'tourist' standard and some feel that the new track work was excessive.
The track (highway) to Cape Huay in particular no longer feels like a
Initially the Three Capes Track banned all camping on Cape
effectively excluded the
people who cut most of the original tracks - the clubs cut them (not
parks). After a concerted campaign, the government changed its mind and
have allowed camping at one site with timber tent platforms being
provided. While the campsite is not ideal, it is located next to the
only permanent water and is a reasonable compromise. From the campsite,
the end of Cape pIllar can be visited easily in one day. Its possible
to also visit the cape as a day walk from Fortescue Bay, we did it as a
10 hour return daywalk in March 2016.
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. If walking the Three Capes Track, trasnport to and from Port
Arthur is provided as part of the track fee.
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||Bivouac Bay to Fortescue Bay then direct to Wahgalee Falls, 12km|
|3||Full day sidetrip to Cape Pillar, 17km|
|4||Over Mt Fortescue, Cape Huay sidetrip then to Fortescue Bay, 15km|
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 but some sections are closed on some days during the
constrcution.. Of course when the Three Capes Track is completed this
will all change!