The Three Capes Track is an extraordinary walking trail of Tasmania, nothing you would expect. It took over five years to bring it to life, and the result is pretty astonishing. Last Feb I had the pleasure to walk one the best trails in Tasmania and I’m here to share my experience.
How to Walk the Three Capes Track in Tasmania
There are mainly three ways to do the Three Capes Walk. Here is an overview:
- Self-Guided with The National Parks Tasmania
This is how most hikers do it. And how I did it too. You can use the three lodges and all the facilities. It’s easy to book yourself in through the National Parks Tasmania Website. There are only 48 spaces per day, and they fill up quickly. I booked my space 3.5 months ahead and a couple of days after it was booked out! The cost is 495 Australian Dollars, and 395 Australian Dollars if you are a senior or have a concession. Since they opened in 2015, it has seen over 48 thousand guests, mostly Australians.
- Self-Guided on Free Campsites
You can walk most of the trails by yourself and stay at one of the two free campsites with toilets, but you will have to take in your tent and all the food, plus the equipment. Bare Knoll Campground is the most popular. If you are not scared of crawlies, are well equipped for any weather, and familiar with the Australian bush, then it’s a viable option.
- With an Organised Walking Tour
There are local companies that offer organised tours of the Three Capes Track, they are however pricey and don’t do all Three Capes either.
The when what and how to book this Walking Track
The trip starts in Porth Arthur, where you can leave your backpack and grab a coffee while waiting to go on the boat cruise. The desk assistance hands out your pass and the famous booklet about the track “Encounters on the Edge”.
The $495 price includes a two-year pass to Port Arthur historic site, along with 1-hour boat cruise sightseeing, dolphins watching in the bay and the transfer to Denmans Cave where the track starts.
There are two departures, and I recommend booking yourself into the 11.30 am boat tour. The bus from Hobart leaves early and arrives at 9.30 am, so you have plenty of time to take part in the 45 minutes guided tour of Porth Arthur, a prison colony for male repeat offenders from other prison colonies in Australia. About 12,000 convicts between 1830 and 1877 were imprisoned here.
Things to know about the Three Capes Cabins and Kitchens
- The lodges, along with the kitchen and the toilet facilities are brand-new and very well kept by the rangers who work on-site and welcome you, at each place, with a 40 minutes briefing. If you need any assistance, you can reach out to them, as they stay overnight in their ranger’s residence.
- Eight cabins host between 4 and 8 people each. I was booked into a large one with a family of 7 and found it quite well. You get a cabin number assigned at the beginning of your trip, and this is good; there is no rush to get the best cabin or bed, and you always share with the same people. Each cabin has up to 4 bunk beds with comfy memory foam mattresses, but unlike the kitchen, cabins are not heated. So be prepared to pack warm clothes for the night along with a proper sleeping bag for winter. I was underprepared with that.
- The kitchens have got all the essential new cookware to warm up and cook your food. There are also various games, a wide range of books, to browse through and the beloved USB plugs to recharge your phone and last but not least the much-needed pellet stove to warm up the place.
Walking the Three Capes Track Solo
I walked this amazing trail of Tasmania in February 2020 which – on purpose – I booked it in summer, thinking that I’d be able to enjoy the milder temps. Fact is that weather in Tasmania is very unpredictable, and in summer it can get very wet and windy. Therefore an abrupt drop of temps is not unusual. This is what I experienced: stormy weather on the first day with gusty winds, rainstorm, wet and cold nights. It was good that the kitchens were heated and we could get together, have dinner and a chat in a warm place.
Day 1. From Porth Arthurs to Denmans Cove
Due to rough weather and sea conditions, our trip was short. Despite the weather, we could admire the spectacular coastline. After 20 minutes, we safely landed at Denmans Cove to start our walk. The 4 km meanders through a gentle coastal track covered by the beautiful she-oak trees. I had not packed a backpack cover, so I walked my way fast and was lucky to get to the first lodge, Surveyors, just in time before the rainstorm. 🙂
Day 2. From Surveyors To Munro Lodge
The second day of the track is an 11 km walk through eucalypt forests, with patches of moorlands. You climbed to Arthurs Peak, and from there the view over Crescent Bay and Mount Brown is stunning. Lucky to have much better weather with sunshine on that day.
On the second day, you will start diving into the booklet and learn about fun facts of the landscapes, the unique plants, and all the fun resting points along your way. They are non-ordinary seats crafted by artists in different materials and forms. You can take your time to seat and relax there, and read the story that matches each resting area. I loved the daily walk maps, in the booklet, that showed me the location of each seat.
Arriving at Munro Lodge is a bit of a highlight. Firstly because of the luxury: The three capes track shower! And secondly, this is the most scenic place you stay at, the various lookouts are just fantastic, and the whole place is so darn relaxing.
As the sunshine warmed up the afternoon, I was keen to give it a go and bravely took a shower. It was so fun; we got a bucket full of warm water which we had to transfer into the hanging bucket (with the help of the sliding rope) then you open the metal valve underneath the bucket to let the water out. Twelve litres of warm water was the best reward I could get on the second day of our Three Capes Track walk.
The boarded terrace with a view of Cape Hauy is spectacular. The toilets and helicopter landing pad are separated on the hill, 100 meters away, and offer a dramatic view of the coastline.
Munro is the connecting point where two groups of 48 people meet. The one going out and the one is coming in every day. In fact, from Munro, you will be walking the following day out to Cape Pillar.
Day 3 – From Munro Lodge To Cape Pillar and Back
Day 3 is the longest hike, 19 km in total, but the most pleasant. The good thing about it is that you can leave behind your main backpack, at Munro, and take only the essentials with you. On the way back you pick it up and continue for 4 km walk to our next destination and last of the three capes track lodges: Retakunna.
On the third day, I was the last one to start the walk because my phone couldn’t charge. I had to wait in the morning for a few hours. Anyhow, it was okay when I left after the misty weather dissolved, I could have an almost unobstructed view of the coastline — met fellow walkers on my way, and also people camping at Bare Knoll.
The Cape Pillar walk offers many places to sit and relax and have lunch along your way. Also at the cape, you have various vantage points of the lighthouse and the Tasman Island, that aren’t exposed. Thus you have an excellent view. So all in all, this walk is my favourite of all four days.
Day 4 from Retakunna to Cape Hauy
Once you are back from the Cape Pillar walk, you walk from Munro back to the track junction and follow to Retakunna. It’s an hour walk, from Munro to get to the last lodge. This place has no scenic view, but it’s a pleasant place, and the logistic is similar to the first lodge.
On that evening, we met Glen, our ranger who entertained us with some great stories and information about the walk to Cape Hauy. We are all getting excited about our last day walk, which we plan to start early in the morning. This is not the longest but the hardest part of the track. And 6 hours is the minimum time you will need. In total over 2000 steps and the highest elevation of 250 meters right at the start, we climbed up to Mount Fortescue to 482 meters.
On this walk, the landscape changes dramatically from deep rain forest to she-oaks trees and unique trees that you only see on this stretch. I found the trail beautiful but a bit strenuous. Especially the last part up to the Cape Hauy was tiring. The good thing the wind was not blowing and this saved us lots of effort.
Get the right rhythm and timing
The good thing is that from the Junction Only Here, you can drop off your backpack and walk light. This is the only condition I would have done the last part, there are many steps, and this part is the hardest of the whole track. Nonetheless, the view is beautiful and very rewarding. When you go back to the junction, there is four more km to walk down to Fortescue Bay.
It took me an hour, and I walked fast, so don’t miscalculate your time here, as the bus is waiting for you to pick you up at 2.30 pm or 4.00 pm. The bus takes you back to Porth Arthur, and from there you can transfer onto the main bus to Hobart or pick up your car to drive back to Hobart.
What to Pack for the Three Capes Track
Make sure you are well prepared for this track. Both physically and mentally. After walking the Three Capes Track, I gain a more in-depth insight into the essentials things to know before packing for your walk. Here are my best tips when preparing for this hiking trip in Tasmania.
Although the official site suggests a 50L pack, I can tell you that you can fit everything in a 35-40L backpack. This time I carried two bags, one of 25L and one of 10L and managed perfectly. Of course, if you were packing your BBQ dinner, wine, beer, etc., it will not be sufficient. So it very much depends on the items that you will be packing for this hike.
My Tip: stick to trip essentials, travel light with a small pack like this Deuter Futura Pro 40 Hiking Backpack
The right Hiking Clothes
Pack warm and lightweight clothes; body layers and thermals are a must. I only used one pair of long hiking pants that suits all kind of weather. I was happy that I chose only long-sleeve tops. One fleece jumper and a good wind and rain jacket. I had two: a small wind jacket and an XL light raincoat to wear on top of everything. I used this only by strong wind and rainfall. One pair of good and lightweight hiking shoes. Choose something breathable, durable like Goretex.
My Tip: Invest in functional, lightweight hiking boots. I love my Salewa Hiking Boots.
What Sleeping Bag to choose
Make sure your sleeping bag is a good one and protects you for winter temps too. One rated at zero degrees would be good. It will be colder than expected. Mine wasn’t a good fit.
My Tip: Make sure your sleeping bag will keep you warm. Check out the Teton Sleeping Bag
What kind of food to pack for the 4-day Trail
You need to pack dehydrated food for this 4-day-trail. Altogether you need to pack breakfasts, lunches, and dinners for four days. I purchased my dehydrated food in Anaconda; it’s super lightweight but not cheap. For this track, I would pack easy to prepare dehydrated food and possibly not heavy to carry. This is what I packed for my hiking trip: single porridge sachets for breakfast, tea sachets, smart bars and nuts for lunch, rice and noodles for dinner. You can either get food in outdoor shops, but packages from Coles and Woolworths will also do.
My Tip: Make sure that you have nough water, each day. 2-3 litres is the minimum. The best way is to use a 2-water bladder
Verdict about this Tasmania Trail
Despite the bad weather and unexpected cold nights, I must say that the Three Capes Track in Tasmania impressed me. Not only the excellent organisation and the massive work behind this project but also the information provided about the place, the landscape, the network that goes beyond the mere activity of walking.
I can certainly recommend it as part of any Solo Travel Adventure in Tasmania.
The overall experience is educational. You will love learning about the place in a fun way, without becoming specific and tedious. If I had to rate this walking track from 0 to 10, I would give an 8.5.
Some minor things could be improved at the lodges and also from the organisational point of view.
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