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Walking on the edge

Walking on the edge

If you’re looking for a big adventure on a small break, then consider the spectacular, cliff hugging, Three Capes Track in Tasmania.

Opened in Dec 2015, the 46 km track is one of Australia’s largest nature tourism projects, costing the state’s Parks and Wildlife Service over $30 million dollars to complete.

It's proved incredibly popular, with almost 10,000 people doing it in its first year, and becoming one of the most talked about treks in Australia.

So is it worth the hype and the $500 dollars per person for the three-night, four-day trek, including accomm?

I dug out my hiking boots and went to find out.

How to get there

The track experience starts at the World Heritage listed Port Arthur – a historic penal colony and one of the most visited tourist sites in Australia.

You pick up your track passes at the ticket office, then go through to catch a boat that leaves twice a day from a jetty on the shoreline.

After a short eco-tour of the bay, you get dropped at the start point – Denmans Cove. 

You can only walk one way round the track, and only 48 walkers a day are allowed, so you must book your trip online in advance.

Some people stay the night before the trek near Port Arthur, but if like me, you're short of time and don’t have a car you can also get a bus from Hobart, which takes about 90 minutes and costs $35 each way.

I went with Pennicott Buses, but you can also choose from Gray Line and Tassielink.

Tip: If you have time, the price of the track includes entrance to the historic jail and grounds. You can leave your rucksack in lockers and do a tour.

Hint: You can only buy basic supplies at the Port Arthur site shop due to the current renovations, so do most of your shopping beforehand. On the upside, they do sell wine in plastic bottles, which are lighter to carry than glass.

Deckchairs at 3 Capes Track Hut

Picture courtesy of Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service

The accom

The three accommodation huts - Munro, Surveyors and Retakunna - are basic but beautifully designed, to both blend into the landscape and to be as completely sustainable as possible.

It's like glamping but taken to a whole new architectural level.

Toilets are composting (all human waste is helicoptered out in vast containers!), and there’s no showers – tho’ you can have a swim in the ocean at the start and end.

Four bedded shared dorms are a step up from being in a tent, but there’s no electricity, so you need a torch after dark to read in bed or to find the toilets which are up to 30 metres away along a boardwalk.

I got a dorm to myself, but you may have to share with strangers. Sound proofing is basic so take the ear plugs if you need them.

All the huts have big communal kitchens (but no refrigeration, microwaves or ovens) and areas to sit and read and play games, both inside and out.

If you’re a hard core camper – this is going to be luxury. If you prefer a hot bath and a massage at the end of a big day walking, this is maybe not for you.

I loved the style of the huts and the amazing amount of environmental features that have been built in.

The views from the hut on the second night, were simply jaw dropping.

Tip: I went in June and while the days were sunny and cool, the nights were cold. My mid-range sleeping bag and thermals weren’t enough and there’s no heating in the dorms. Thankfully the rangers came to my rescue with a spare sleeping bag on the last two nights.

Hint: My hard plastic drink bottle (not wine bottle) made a fantastic hot water bottle.

Three Capes Track

Picture courtesy of Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service

How hard is it?

The website describes the track as easy to moderate.

I’m fairly fit and I found a couple of the summits a bit challenging, while carrying a 15kg backpack.

The last day has over a 1000 steps up and down - so expect to feel a bit sore in the evening.

Most of the walkers were pretty tired at the end of the day, but we all made it in the time allowed for each section and you can go at your own pace.

The track itself is beautifully crafted to make the walk as easy as possible in terms of the gradient, size of steps, width and even-ness.

There's a super friendly ranger at each hut. They give a short talk every night on the history of the areas, the flora and fauna of the next part of the track and directions about what to look out for.

Camp kitchen

You have to carry all your food, drink, plates and cutlery in, which takes some planning.

There are food companies that do pre-made food for camping trips that you can order.

The Palak Paneer by 3 Capes Gear and Gourmet was awesome.

I basically sat down and made a menu for the entire trip and then did a lot of research in the supermarket about how to do it with the least amount of weight.

Hint: Take things to share – chocolate and nibbles will win you friends – especially by the last night when everyone is short on supplies!

Tip: Remove as much excess packaging as you can before you start the treck because you have to carry it out as well.

3 Capes Track

Picture courtesy of Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service

Highlights

The scenery on the Three Capes Track is possibly some of most dramatic in Australia, skirting as it does along some of the countries highest cliffs. It’s visually stunning and the pristine wilderness is world beating.

It's also incredibly diverse, and you pass through lots of different landscapes and micro-climates, even in one day - everything from rainforest to open heath.

There's also art and stories along the track, which talk to the landscape, the people and the history of the area and bring the walk alive.

Hint: Take time to stop at the story chairs along the track and soak up the mind-blowing views.

Tip: If like me, you're not that comfortable with heights, the track is a little nerve wracking at points, but there's plenty of space away from the edge.

What kit do you need?

There’s a lot of detail about what you will need to take on the 3 Capes Track website.

I got a fair bit of equipment and some food from Gail and Ian at 3 Capes Gear and Gourmet. They hand delivered it and picked it up from the hotel I was staying at in Hobart before and after the trek.

Hint: It’s cheaper to hire or borrow than buy everything, but you will need a good rucksack

Tip: With my Telco, I had zero mobile phone reception for the entire time - so you need to plan for that. There are places to charge your phones and ipads in the huts but there can be a queue.

3 Capes Track

Picture courtesy of Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service

Value for money

At $1000 for two people, plus the cost to get to Tasmania and back, accom either side of the walk, and equipment hire, this is not a cheap break - but it is amazing.

This is a stunning wilderness experience and the perfect way to have a total nature immersion.

Hint: Going midweek isn't any cheaper, but there may be less people in your group if you prefer smaller numbers. 

Tip: This is a trip you can do as a group, a family and it's a great way of making friends if you're travelling solo.

Story by Julie Hamilton.

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