Where we went: Cape Hauy (Tasman Peninsula)
When we went: Summer 2020 (Before Covid-19 restrictions)
Estimated time to complete walk: 4 hrs
Time spent on walk: 3.5 hrs
Cape Hauy (I have no idea how to pronounce it, even just trying to read it makes my brain uncomfortable, but I have settled on saying “ha-yoy” with enough conviction that people think I know what I’m talking about), on the Tasman Peninsula is one of the features on the famous, multi-day ‘Three Capes’ Track. A single day trip to Cape Hauy alone is also possible for those (like ourselves) who do not have a spare 4 days, but still want to see some stunning coastal cliffs. Cape Hauy is very strictly the last cape on the Three Capes Track; it used to be possible to start the hike from Hauy and work backwards, but, in a bid to limit the spread of root-rot this option has been closed off. Which brings me to my next point – wash your boots. Quarantine rules within Tasmania are important, although not always strictly policed. We scrub the mud and dirt particles out of the treads of our boots after every walk and we rub our tent pegs down with methylated spirts when we get home from camping. If you use walking sticks or require a toilet trowel, then both of these must be clean and free from any dirt particles before embarkation. We failed to find a boot scrubbing station at the Cape Hauy walking track, which was disappointing.
The track begins at the Fortescue Bay campsite, finding parking was pandemonium with all the campers, boaters, surfers, and walkers milling about. This was our first clue that we were on an extremely popular walking track. We eventually managed to park, log our walk and do a last wee in the toilets at the campsite before starting, but all up we lost about 45mins just on getting started.
The beginning of the track is a friendly little forest walk with coastal heath and tall gums gently overhanging the narrow footpath. Glances behind us offered views of the sea through the trees and we were in very good spirits as we climbed the gently sloped hill, made easily traversable by the addition of a rocky stairway. I once asked a hiking friend what her general impression was of Cape Hauy and she answered in a single word, “stairs” followed up with, “so many dearing stairs” (only she didn’t say “dear”). I’ll be honest reader, I thought she was exaggerating when the quaint little rock stairway first appeared.
Up up up we climbed, and then, suddenly, we were going down the other side. We stopped for a little break at the top of the hill, the whole rest of the walk stretching out along the promontory in front of us. The undulating path cutting a narrow scar through the shallow heath. Seagulls swooped and hollered overhead, but no birds of more exotic varieties were spotted. Rested and ready to go again we set out once more, starting with a very brief downhill stint on nature’s stairmaster.
The stairs weave through scraggly coastal plants covered in little white wildflowers, thanks to the low height of the plants we had uninterrupted views of the cliffs, islands and waves below. We had brought binoculars with us, but we did not feel the need to get them out. It was a clear day and we struggled to find a good place to stand off the path and try out a bit of whale watching. There were a few benches scattered about, but they were occupied, on account of we were walking on a very popular track at around lunchtime. We were content with the views of the sea hewn square pillar formations that the Tasman Peninsula is best known for. There were also plenty of opportunity to walk up to the edge and watch the waves churning into a pale, milky blue below. Sommelier does not enjoy this activity, and there are several signs advising that such activities should only be dabbled in at one’s own peril, but I am driven by a ridiculous primal urge to see what the bottom of cliffs look like from the top (rocky, and generally featuring a few very smug birds who are laughing at gravity’s demands is what it looks like, sometimes there is kelp), and so I am one of those people to whom the strategically placed warning signs apply. I do not condone this behaviour in strong winds.
For all the stairs we were actually pleasantly surprised by our energy levels when we reached the end of the track, marked by a viewing platform that overlooks a large rock formation where sea birds nest. We were informed by the previous occupants of the platform that we had just missed a bird feeding frenzy in the water, spurred on by a seal. No further seals revealed themselves, but we are well aware of their presence in the region, having seen them at the nearby Cape Raoul before. We took a long lunch break nestled in the rocks around the viewing platform, keeping a hopeful eye on the waves in case of whales or seals.
On the way back I learned that our energy levels at the end of the track could easily be explained by the fact that I just hadn’t noticed how much of the journey had been downhill. I learned this by having to traverse the downhill sections in reverse, only to find that they had (rudely) become uphill sections. I am still fairly certain that some kind of mischievous stairs fairy added extra stairs to the steep uphill climbs. Sommelier admits that there is no evidence to disprove this theory (although he was at pains to explain that 4500 really is quite a lot of stairs [it’s more than the number of potato varieties in the world] and our butts would thank us when we were older).
Cape Hauy is steep and crowded, with hikers on the last leg of the Three Capes Track and general day walkers alike traversing the area. It is child friendly, if you have a child who likes big stairs, and it offers a broader and more open view of the ocean than Cape Raoul, which lends itself well to whale watching. Be warned though, you might have to have a very frank conversation with your legs and derriere about their attitude towards stairs and just how long a recovery time they might need after 4500 of them. for me it took about 3 days to recover from the stiffness and is, by far, the most muscle ache I have ever worked up after a grade 3 day walk in Tasmania.
From Somm: If you’re interested in doing the Three Capes Walk, HERE is a link to their website, and if you’d like to learn more about walks on the Tasman Peninsula you can read about our adventures at Shipstern Bluff and Cape Raoul or check out the Discover Tasmania Page.