A compilation of information that might be useful for anyone planning to do the Three Capes Track in Tasmania, Australia.
Three Capes Track
* Disclaimer: Most of the factual information is available on the Three Capes Track website, and should be considered more accurate and up to date than information here. I’ve compiled the details that I have found useful for my planning as well as add my thoughts and experience on the choices available. Hope this comes in handy for anyone planning to do the Three Capes Track but please use the information/ opinions with caution!
What is the Three Capes Track?
The Three Capes Track is a 4 day, 48km, self-guided, fixed-itinerary, hut-to-hut coastal hike in Tasmania, Australia. Trails range from lush rainforest paths to walks along the cliff edge. There’s no shortage of excitement, from watching huge waves crash against 300 meter high dolomite cliffs, to observing the abundance of wildlife along the way.
Who is the Three Capes Track for?
The Three Capes Track is perfect for anyone looking for a little bit of adventure, lots of outdoors, yet with a comfortable (not luxurious) place to end each day with. It is also suitable for a first time experience on a multi-day hike (with preparation and training). The track and cabins are well maintained and generally not too strenuous (compared to other popular multi-day hikes.
Is the Three Capes Track difficult?
The Three Capes Track is probably not considered a difficult hike. However, a good level of fitness is still required to be able to carry 4 days worth of food and supplies for 48km and to climb the few short ascents along the way.
Are bookings required for the Three Capes Track?
Yes. To avoid straining the environment, and provide a better experience, only 24 hikers are allowed at each start timing.
How do I book the Three Capes Track?
You can make a booking on the Three Capes Track website at https://www.threecapestrack.com.au/booking.html. To complete your booking, be prepared with a start date, desired boat cruise slot (for the start) and return bus slot to Port Arthur (for the end). There are 2 start and end times available. You’d also need the names of everyone in your group (that you’re booking for), dates of birth, and a debit or credit card for payment.
What is included in my booking of the Three Capes Track?
As mentioned here, the booking includes:
- Entry to Port Arthur, valid for a whopping 2 years. Tickets bought otherwise are valid for only 2 days and cost $47 for adults, $22 for children or $38 for concession. Other than validity period, the included entry is similar to regular ticket purchases and include items such as a free 20 min harbour cruise (different from the eco-cruise), guided tours, and access to most of the historic site (read more here).
- Eco-cruise to Denmans Cove for the start of the walk. Not quite the full experience of the other Pennicott Wilderness Journey cruises, but a nice teaser of what you might expect on their other cruises. The cruise around the bay provided a different view of the landscape we were to be on for the next few days, as well as an opportunity to see some of the wildlife up close such as eagles and dolphins.
- Accommodation for the 3 nights on the walk. For the remoteness of the cabins they are very well equipped and maintained, more on that later.
- Shuttle (bus) from Fortescue Bay at the end of the walk back to Port Arthur. The simple joy of a well padded seat in an air-conditioned bus after 4 days of with a full pack. Even if just for awhile.
- Finally, a guidebook for the Three Capes Track, Encounters on the Edge. Nothing heavy or comprehensive, just the right level of information for everything to make more sense along the way. If you need more information, the cabins do have additional maps and more comprehensive books for browsing. The same set of reading materials are available at every cabin so there’s no need to memorise them.
How much does it cost in total to do the Three Capes Track?
A rough cost estimate of completing the Three Capes Track (AUD):
- Three Capes Track booking: $495 (adult)/ $396 (child or concession – Australian Government issued Seniors Card, Pensioner Concession Card & Health Care Card)
- Transport to and from Hobart via Pennicott Wilderness Journeys: $35 x 2 ways = $70
- Food: At the higher end, approximately $12-$20 per main for freeze dried meals from Paddy Pallin. Recommended packing 3 breakfasts, 4 lunches and 3 dinners, approximately $200 total. Possible to do it for significantly less by assembling your meals from the supermarket.
- Total: Approximately $765 for adults, $666 for children or concession card holders.
How early should I book the Three Capes Track?
We booked about 4 months ahead of our hike and slots were running out fast. While the situation isn’t as crazy as the Fjallraven Classics or the New Zealand Great Walks I’d recommend booking as soon feasible.
What do I need to bring for the Three Capes Track?
The Three Capes Track Packlist covers all that you will and might need for the adventure. Among the optionals, we found the binoculars to be really handy, especially for observing the seals from above the cliffs.
Where can I buy food/ supplies before the Three Capes Track?
Woolworths at Hobart and Launceston are reliable in getting almost anything you’d expect from a supermarket. There are also stores at Hobart and Launceston which sell a comprehensive range of outdoor gear and dehydrated meal packs. In Hobart, there’s Paddy Pallin, Find Your Feet and Macpac all on Elizabeth Street between Bathurst Street and Liverpool Street. Kathmandu is on the same street down the next block from Bathurst Street. In Launceston, Kathmandu, Macpac and Find Your Feet are on Kingsway. Paddy Pallin is a couple of blocks down York Street, on George Street. The Three Capes Track site also provides a couple more options for gear rental and food purchase.
Is there drinking water available on the Three Capes Track?
Yes, rainwater is collected at the cabins and available from the kitchen pumps. It is recommended to boil the water for 3 minutes before drinking. In practice I think few do so, but follow at your own risk!
How do I get to the start of the Three Capes Track?
The Three Capes Track website mentions the multiple ways this is possible. Driving seems to be a good option given the availability of parking and the other attractions on the Tasman Peninsula you could explore before or after the walk. Without driving it will be difficult to explore beyond Port Arthur. However, the coach services from Hobart are quite sufficient too.
- We went with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys ($35 each way) as the timing and cost made the most sense.
- The Gray Line service cost a little more ($45), departed later in the morning (meaning less time in Port Arthur), and did not have Saturday departures nor any returns.
- The Tassielink option was the cheapest ($24.20) but the afternoon arrival meant having to spend an additional day before the start and after the end of the walk on Tasman Peninsula, which would likely make it the most expensive option.
Where can I leave my other luggage while on the Three Capes Track?
There is a luggage storeroom next to the Three Capes Track office at Port Arthur Historic Site. It is only accessed in the presence of staff so it should be relatively safe.
Which boat and shuttle timing should I select for the start/ end of the Three Capes Track?
There are 2 timings for the eco-cruise from Port Arthur to Denmans Cove, at 11:30am and 1:30pm/2:00pm. We went with the later one to have some time in the morning to explore Port Arthur Historic Site.
The walk ends at Fortescue Bay, where there are 2 daily shuttles to bring you back to Port Arthur. We went with the later shuttle as we weren’t sure of our fitness and wanted to leave sufficient time to take it easy on the last day. If you’re fast or want more time to explore Port Arthur on the last day, the earlier shuttle may make more sense. It’s also possible the change your shuttle slot along the way, if you get cell reception and there are vacancies. The number to call can be found in the cabins.
Can I visit Port Arthur Historic Site when I do the Three Capes Track?
Yes! You can head to Port Arthur from Hobart with the Pennicott Wilderness Journeys transfer, spend a few hours at Port Arthur Historic Site, then start the Three Capes Track experience on the afternoon eco-cruise. There’s also about an hour on the last day to spend at Port Arthur Historic Site if you take the earlier return shuttle from Fortescue Bay and need to make it for the bus back to Hobart. While exploring Port Arthur Historic Site, it is possible to leave bags at the locker rooms.
We arrived in the morning bus and before our afternoon boat departure we managed to catch a guided tour, the harbour cruise and had some time left to explore Port Arthur Historic site. Not sufficient to explore Port Arthur comprehensively but I think we covered the highlights. And we were told we could still visit any time in the next 2 years. How amazing.
How are bunks like in the cabins?
Outside each room there are coat hooks and benches. It appears fine to leave shoes outside the room. Each room has 8 beds in 2 sections, one closer to the window and the other closer to the door. There are 2 sets of bunk beds (double deck) in each section, as well as more benches and coat hooks. Each bed has a foam bed in a PVC cover, which is really awesome for a multi-day hike. There is no electricity in the room, and the only light source is the window. The room is ventilated via slots under the window (protected by insect nets). Space is a little tight in the rooms but not usually a concern as people spend most of the time outside the rooms or in the communal areas.
How are toilets like?
There are drop toilets available at the cabins, with taps outside the toilets. The toilets are sometimes a short walk away from the kitchen or rooms. In my experience the toilets and taps were clean. There were sufficient cubicles such that there was usually no need to wait to use the toilet.
How are kitchens like?
The kitchens were ridiculously well equipped on the Three Capes Track. There were plenty of pots, pans and kettles available for use. There were gas stoves as well as electric grills for use. Perhaps something that was slightly short of (not a big issue) were indoor tables and chairs, especially when the weather outside was bad. As the pack list mentioned, you’d just need your personal plates/ bowls/ cups/ utensils/ knives and they have everything else.
What else can I expect to find at cabins?
There are generous outdoor decks to relax on as well as lots of books, maps, resources and board games in the indoor communal areas. There are also usb charging points. From experience though, these are usually either in use by someone else or broken. Unless you arrive early at the cabin or leave late there may not be any available for use.
What are the daily distances on the Three Capes Track?
Distances vary for each day of the walk. The first day is nice and easy, 4km over a very gentle ascent. Day 2 is slightly longer at 11km with a 100+ metres climb up Arthurs Peak.
Day 3 is the longest day at 19km, but feels easier than the day before as most of the day’s distance is with just a day pack. The hike starts at Munro cabin, heads out to the end of Cape Pillar and back. There is a shed at Munro to keep your main pack while you’re out on Cape Pillar so only a small day pack is needed. Back at Munro cabin it’s less than 2 hours to Day 3’s cabin, Retakunna.
Day 4 (14km) has an designated open air bag drop off before Cape Hauy. The day starts immediately with a climb to Mount Fortescue, the highest point along the Three Capes Track at 482m. From the top it’s a long way down to the track junction for the bag drop off, which we were thankful for. The walk to Cape Hauy and back was not long, but consisted of many short and steep ascents and descents. After Cape Hauy the trail slopes gently downwards towards Fortescue Bay.
Ranking the days by how tiring they were, from least tiring, I would say, Day 1, 3, 4 and finally 2.
Can I do the Three Capes Track without the booking/ package/ for “free”?
As there is no other transport options to the start of the track at Denmans Cove, and a significant portion of the track is marked for exclusive use of the Three Capes Track, it is not possible to do the exact same route without the booking. However, it is possible to see most of the highlights of the Three Capes Track by starting at Fortescue Bay, hiking to Cape Pillar and back (29km), then from Fortescue Bay to Cape Hauy and back (9.4km). Technically this itinerary is not free too as you’ll need to purchase a parks pass, arrange transport to Fortescue Bay, and pay for camping fees at Fortescue Bay.
One possible way to further extend this is to add the Tasman Coastal Trail from Fortescue Bay. More information for the route from Fortescue Bay to Cape Pillar here and from Fortescue Bay to Cape Hauy here. Come prepared with sufficient food and drinking water as neither are available at Fortescue Bay.
How does the Three Capes Track compare to the Overland Track?
While not exactly a walk in the park, the Three Capes Track is significantly more manageable than the Overland Track due to the load required for the journey. Probably where these 2 amazing tracks differ the most is in terms of scenery. At times it’s a little hard to imagine that both trails are actually on the same island.
- If you’ve a stronger preference for coastal walks vs alpine walks the choice should be clear.
- If fitness or physical toil is the main concern the Three Capes Track should rank higher.
- Comfort is probably not the main concern for anyone deciding between these tracks, but with the foam mattresses, fully equipped kitchen and running water the Three Capes Track is well ahead of the Overland Track in terms of comfort.
- If the motivation is to get far into the wild away from others I think both are fairly even – you won’t be more than an hour of 2 from other folks and huts are more likely than not to be full due to the popularity of the trails, but excellent planning ensures you’ll have plenty space along the way.
- Scenery is pretty subjective, and in my opinion the Overland Track edges the Three Capes Track just by a little – both are spectacular in any weather.