Three Capes Track #1: Port Arthur to Surveyors Cove

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February 4th 2017
Published: January 20th 2019
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When researching our Tasmania trip, my friend came across the Three Capes Track and after looking into it, it sounded perfect for us. It is a fairly easy hike with accommodation provided, so all you have to bring is your sleeping bag and food. I love being outdoors, but am definitely not a camper, so this sounded like a good compromise to me. No having to lug and tent and pitch it or carry cooking pots and a stove, perfect! There are also only a limited amount of hikers allowed on the trail each day, so we wouldn't be overrun with other people. The hike wasn't cheap to book, but it does cover quite a bit and seeing the pictures of the area, it just looked amazingly beautiful, so sod the cost. The Three Capes Track is relatively new hike as it opened in 2015. Some of the sections of the hike were accessible before that, but this route was designed more recently. I like that the number of people starting the trail each day is limited to 48, as this will help to protect and preserve the environment. The track takes four days to walk and there are three sets of huts to stay at, a different one each day. The trail is only 46 kilometres. Some people may feel that the hike is too restrictive with the Tasmanian National Park Service dictating how far you can walk each day and where you must stay, but the purpose of the hike is to take it slow and enjoy your surroundings.

We left from the ferry dock at Port Arthur in the afternoon, around 2 pm. There are two departures a day and we had picked the later one. This allowed us more time to see Port Arthur and because we knew that the hike on the first day wasn't a long one, we would still have plenty of time and not feel rushed. I love how this track is designed as the boat trip at the start of the trail does not simply take you from A to B, but also provides you with a tour of the area. The boat tour lasted for about an hour and a quarter and we left Port Arthur sailing between the Isle of the Dead and Point Puer. We headed down the coast passing Safety Cove and Crescent Bay. The sand dunes looked so beautiful. I would have loved it if the boat had gotten closer had we could have gotten off and explored that area a bit. The cliffs here are quite dramatic looking, too. I enjoyed looking at them and the guides were able to point out the birds that nested there to us. I also liked the caves we passed. If only we had been able to go in them. We headed across the sea to another fork on the peninsula and sailed up the coastline. We soon reached Denmans Cove, which is where we were to disembark. I think we had to take our shoes and socks off as we got out straight into the water. Denmans Cove was beautiful. It felt like we had been dropped off in paradise. Just a beautiful sandy beach, bush, and clear water surrounded us. It already felt like we were a million miles away from civilisation. I think if we had taken the earlier ferry, we would have stayed on this beach for a lot longer and probably would have had lunch there.

Just past Denmans Cove was the official start point. There was a Three Capes Sign so, of course, we had to get some selfies. We looked so bright eyed and excited to be starting the trail. I wondered how we would look at the end. Today's hike was a short one, only 4 kilometres and the booklet estimated that it would take one and a half to two hours. We set off along the path. There wasn't too much to see at first as we were surrounded by trees, but as we climbed the gently sloping trail, we were able to look back on Denmans Cove and out over the headland and the ocean. It was just so beautiful. We had waited to until last to leave Denmans Cove and it meant that we basically had the trail to ourselves. The information booklet that we had been given showed that there were stopping points along the route called 'Encounters' and in the book there were corresponding stories to read. After a while, we came to the first 'Encounter' point 'Dear Eliza'. We were a bit gutted as there was already a couple sitting on the bench meaning we couldn't get a photo of it. We opened up our book and read the corresponding story inside. It centred around a letter to 'Eliza' from 'Henry' a convict describing what life was like in Port Arthur. The letter was made up of snippets from convict correspondence and journal entries. There was also some information stating that over 12,000 convicts had been imprisoned at Port Arthur and that convict labour had constructed the entire settlement. It was quite sad to read that most convicts were illiterate, so once they left England they were unable to communicate with their loved ones. Literacy is definitely one thing I take for granted and that we can communicate so well vis technology with family and friends around the globe. The information did contain something a little happier and told of how often before the convicts were sent to Australia they would often have a coin engraved with a message of affection from a loved one. These were aptly named love tokens. Even if a convict was literate enough to write a letter home, due to the vast distance, it might take a year for the letter to reach England. This contrasted nicely with the 'labour of love' carried out by the contractors and park staff who over five years, constructed 35 kilometres of track and three overnight accommodation areas. They lived in makeshift camps along the route and would either walk to their worksite each at the start of each week or be helicoptered in from Fortescue Bay. In contrast to the penal convicts, they could easily keep in touch with their families due to mobile phones.

We continued along the trail and soon came to our second and final encounter for the day, '15 Minutes'. The story was about the semaphore station that had been masterminded by Charles O'Hara Booth, who was the Commandant of Port Arthur from 1833 to 1834. He established these signal stations at penal colonies around the peninsula in order for them to communicate with each other and Hobart Town. They were based on a system used in the British Channel Islands. It cut the time from sending a message to Hobart Town from Port Arthur from 24 hours to 15 minutes. That is quite a feat. 15 minutes might seem quite insignificant due to the instantaneous methods of communication we have nowadays, but to cut the time so severely was a serious accomplishment. O'Hara Booth roamed the Tasman and Forestier peninsulas seeking out the best locations for creating the most efficient lines of sight and within a decade 21 semaphore stations had been established. The only problem with the system was that it didn't work in fogs or high winds.

Not to much further along the trail, we saw the turn off for Surveyors Cove, since it was still pretty early we decided to head down there. The beach was made of cobblestones so it was a little hard to pick our way across it, but we persevered and found some bigger, smoother rocks to perch ourselves on. There were a few other people from the trek there. We chilled on the beach for a while, taking in the views and then went for a dip in the sea. The water was quite cold, so I didn't want to go too far in. Still, it was just nice to relax and take things slow. Eventually, we were able to drag ourselves away from the beach as the guide said it would take about an hour to reach Surveyors Cabin and it was mostly uphill.

When we finally reached the Surveyors Cabin, the range came out to greet us. Apparently there had been a welcome meeting half an hour or so earlier and we were the only ones not in attendance. Oops, already in trouble on the first day of the hike. Not really, but we felt a bit guilty for missing the meeting, not that we knew that there would be daily briefings by the ranges at each set of cabins. Well, we knew now and would try to get to the cabins earlier. The range was pretty chill and just went over some of the basics with us. I think some of the others had seen us at the beach so they knew we were just chilling and the 4 km route hadn't killed us or we hadn't got lost. We were told which room still had free beds and we headed there. I have to say I was pretty impressed with my initial look around Surveyors Cabin. It was beautiful, very tastefully in keeping with the landscape and everything was pristine. Once we were sorted in our room, we headed to the kitchen to make dinner. Since we were so late to arrive, most people had already eaten, so there was plenty of space to do our cooking. We made one of our pretty basic dinners and headed outside to one of the picnic benches to eat it. I felt like I was in heaven. The surroundings were so beautiful and peaceful. Only us, the bush, and local animals. We also got to watch a pretty nice sunset. The perfect end to a great day.

Additional photos below
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22nd January 2019

Beautiful Three Capes
We did the Three Capes track in May 2017, and I have to say your descriptions of the walk took me right back there like it was yesterday! I absolutely loved the three cabins and I think they really contributed to the overall enjoyment and love I have for this walk :)
23rd January 2019

Three Capes
The cabins were beautiful and were perfect places to start and finish each day. They had a lovely, homely vibe about them. I loved the whole ethos of the walk; just take your time and soak up the surroundings, it's not a race to the finish. :)

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