Rocky Cape National Park

Where we went: Tangdimmaa (Rocky Cape National Park)

When we went: summer 2020

Estimated time for walk: 8-9hrs

Time spent on walk: 8.5 hrs

Rocky Cape National Park in the far North-West is a lot like a theme park, and that theme is nature walks. There is a maze of intersecting tracks spread out along one GIANT circular track that takes hikers through a full range of Tasmanian biospheres. There is also a higher than average Aboriginal presence and cultural exchange in this park, which was something I really appreciated. Sommelier and I chose Rocky Cape primarily because we wanted to do a longer walk, but also because we knew very little about it, and struggled to find much information from other hikers or from general internet searching, so we assumed (correctly) that there would be very few other humans with whom to interact (other humans interfere with my nature amenity). We also wanted to revisit the nearby town of Stanley, having driven through once and loved it.

Packing enough water for 9hrs of hiking in summer was our greatest struggle. We both have 2ltr water pouches, and we each carried an additional 1ltr water bottle with us, but we were very careful to thoroughly hydrate thanks to our 10ltr water bottle that we keep in the car with us on road trips. It was cold and windy when we first stepped out of the car at the carpark in Rocky Cape national park (parks passes are essential and can be purchased at the local general store, online or from the tourist information centre in Hobart). There is an adequate toilet facility at the carpark, but no other amenities, we actually couldn’t even find a hikers’ logbook, so we texted a friend our plans and estimated return time and set off via the Sisters Beach track, with the first stop being Wet Cave (my favourite kind of cave).  

As the name suggests, Wet Cave is a cave with water in it. I do not recommend entering the cave without first ensuring your footwear is reasonably water resistant, especially just after heavy rain. We were exploring the caves in the aftermath of rain, so could not venture very far in, but we did have the whole cave to ourselves and we enjoyed the little rainforest that had developed in the wake of the permanent damp. It is a very small cave and easily enjoyed in full in under 10 minutes so will not impact heavily on your hike time if you stop to appreciate it.  

From Wet Cave the next sight to see is the Lee Archer cave, which is accessed via a narrow, rocky path that hugs the coast and offers  broad, sweeping views out across the sea and down past the white sands of Anniversary Bay. The Lee Archer cave is a much shallower cave than Wet Cave, and is formed in the mountain face. If claustrophobia is a concern and you struggle with the notion of actually entering a cave then I do not recommend Wet Cave; however Lee Archer cave is not claustrophobic at all. In fact it is actually not possible to fully entre the Lee Archer cave as it is an area of great cultural significance to the Aboriginal community and we do ask that you respect that. There is a viewing platform so one can more easily see the geometric rock formation in all its glory while still preserving the midden and artefacts down-below. If you are pressed for time it is worth noting that the Lee Archer cave will take you a good 20 minutes out of your way, the views from the track alone are worth the detour though.  

Once we had appreciated the caves cultural significance to our content we headed back on the same pathway along the coast. Boats (and one moving buoy thingy that we strongly suspect was attached to a submerged scuba-diver) were the only signs of other humans. Lizards darted around our feet (one especially beautifully marked blue-tongue lizard caused a minor snake scare (as blue-tongue lizards are wont to do), and birds chirped overhead as we retraced out steps to the fork in the road that marked our next destination: Banksia Grove.

The path gives way, suddenly, to a broad, sandy plateau that is joyously inhabited by the savoury-scented native Australian beauty. Tasmania is home to 2 types of Banksia, the Silver Banksia and the Saw Banksia. Rocky Cape’s Banksia population is of the much less commonly seen Saw variety (in fact, the Saw Banksias habitat distribution in Tasmania is limited, exclusively, to the Rocky Cape/ Sisters Beach area). They flower in late summer/ early autumn and a few of the flowers were out for us. It is the spent seedpods of the Banksia that I love the most though; they look like hundreds of eyes watching from the tree-branches. Birds and bees both rely heavily on Banksias for food and it is a wonderful place to bird watch. I wish there was a rest stop or bench of some description so that we could have better appreciated the grove and its role in the ecosystem.

The Banksia Grove track forks off to the Anniversary Bay track which leads, as you have likely guessed, to Anniversary Bay. With its long stretches of white beaches interrupted at regular intervals by rock formations that look as though the sea has grown hundreds of rows of jagged black teeth. On an overcast day this beach would be incredible and mildly terrifying in photographs. We were out on a particularly pleasant day though, so the sea’s very toothy grin was significantly less intimidating (at this point in our walk. It gets to be a much more sinister smile as the story progresses). We walked along Anniversary Bay to the end of Anniversary point, admiring the seashells and rock pools and normal beach attractions which still feature prominently in the cracks of the Rocky Cape’s distinct toothy formations. There was no one else on the whole beach, and, as we had only been walking for about an hour, we were really struck by how easy it can be to find yourself utterly secluded in nature. We stopped for lunch amongst the rocks of Anniversary point and debated our next move.

Anniversary Point hosts 2 potential paths; the Coastal Route, which follows the coast; or the equally unimaginatively named Inland Route, which runs through the inland via Doone Falls. It is worth noting that this is the decision-making juncture that saw our delightful little nature outing turn into a gruelling nature challenge, and I cannot fathom a way in which is could be anything but from this point. If you are just looking for a nice 2-3ish hour walk in nature then take the inland track as far as Doone falls then retrace your steps back to Anniversary Bay and all the way back to Sisters Beach and call it a day.

Our aim for this hike was to push ourselves to see where our limits lie, so we decided to take the Coastal Route all the way across until it joined the Inland Route and re-join Sisters Beach from there (stopping at Doone Falls on the way). By our calculations this was an approximately 7.5hr way to get back to the car, but we both still had plenty of water and no other plans for the day. Plus we wanted to see more of the coastline and its very sharp rock formations. I must inform you, friends, that if you take the Coastal Route then you are sure to understand where Rocky Cape gleaned its name. We were almost never entirely certain that we were on anything that could be legally referred to as a ‘walking track’. The occasional (very faded) plastic markers demonstrated alleged walkways through heavily overgrown bush, while very withered (on more than one occasion they were mistaken for driftwood) upwards facing logs marked allegedly safe passage through rocks. With no boats anywhere in sight anymore we were now completely removed from humanity with only the birds and the sea’s grinning maw for comfort. We had a wonderful time rock scrambling, although it should be noted that our legs were completely jellied by the time we finally found a stretch of beach sandy enough to sit on and we were both acutely aware that we still had a solid 5 hours of walking to go. We were revelling in the wild and barely-touchedness of the park though, we were still keen to keep going (once we had a little sit-down and rest). The main attraction (other than the coastline in general) along this section of the park is Cathedral Rocks.

Cathedral Rocks are a pile of bright orange rocks that look, in my personal opinion, like a huge crown. There is a rumour (told to us by the map itself) that there is a small walk to better view these rocks, but we failed to find it. I strongly suspect that this is more due to the extreme pain in our feet from stepping on all the sharp little spurs of rock rendering us unwilling to see or walk upon any more rocks than strictly necessary. We gratefully accepted the Blandfordia Hill track when it was presented to us, boasting a short 30mins of walking, the Blandfordia Hill track is a liar (it takes way longer than that) but it does offer stunning glances down on Cathedral Rocks (with the one major downside of having to travel steeply uphill). There was a short-lived but utterly unexpected heavily forested section that was overgrown to the point where we were forced to bend-over double to fit through. This was made difficult by the fact that we were also travelling uphill. It was with relief that we were finally able to stand straight again, pull the twigs from our hair, and see the rolling hills around us. The path was laden with small white flowering shrubs and occasional Blandfordia plants (from which the track derives its name) but they were too far off the track for us to photograph.

Upwards and ever upwards we climbed along the Blandfordia Spur. We were an hour in to the uphill walk when it occurred to us that the “30 mins” sign referred to the length of time it would take to get to the track itself (through the overgrowth), and not the length of time spent on the path. It is possible that the Coastal Route had just worn us out completely and we were just taking twice as long to achieve anything at all, but we are fairly fit. My primary concern was the lack of rest places. As a national park it is a requirement that people in it keep to the track, which is a narrow single-file-only sized path with no rocks or anything to stop at. The one pile of rocks that we did come across that looked sit-on-able housed a mildly-disgruntled-by-our-intrusion whip snake who reared up at us before retreating into the no-longer-deemed-sit-on-able-on-account-of-the-snake rocks. The hills of wildflowers turned (eventually) into Tinkers Lookout which offers views across the sprawling patchwork of farmland and ocean below, we were painfully (in the feet mostly) aware that we had, at the point, walked from one side of the national park to the other. Tinkers Lookout carries on across Postmans Pass and further views of the track already taken, but, given that the Inland Track takes an estimated 4hrs we were not in possession of the necessary strength of sprit to extend that.

The Inland Track treks across a huge swath of land which is covered mostly in button grass. We were very lucky to be there at a time of year when the button grass was flowering and I loved the tall, tiny, yellow flowers covering the ground in tufts as far as we could see. We had managed to sit down for a little at the top of Tinkers Lookout so we were feeling mildly rested, but that wore off quickly in the face of a 4(ish) hour walk back. We were far too worn out to fully appreciate the silence and magnitude of the environment around us, but took the 40-50ish minute (return) detour via Doone falls once we got to it. The steep incline had us extremely nervous for the walk back up again, but we assured ourselves that our butts would thank us later (even if our legs and feet were cursing our names to the wind at present). The falls themselves are situated in the middle of a soft rainforest and an explosion of greenery – which was a noticeable change from the shallow (ankle-height) heath of the Blandfordia and Inland tracks and it made for a very restful stopping place while we tried to recharge for the final leg back.

The final stretch of the Inland Track passed without incident beyond our rude realisation that we had only just correctly rationed our water and we were both completely out and rather thirsty by the time we made it back to the car and its 10ltr container. We were utterly exhausted but thrilled to know that we can traverse most of a national park, over terrain of varying difficulties for several hours, and still have enough energy to enjoy ourselves. We are looking forward to expanding our horizons to multi-day hikes. For now we are happy with our creature-comforts and heaved a sigh of relief when we checked in to our hotel-room in Stanley and sank our aching muscles into the beautiful, soothing warmth of the spa.       

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