Cape Raoul. Wow. The best way I can describe it is as one of those ‘take your breath away’ kind of places and definitely one of Tasmania’s most glorious day hikes and possibly one of its best-kept secrets – although maybe not to the locals.
I had certainly never heard of it. But every year when I would watch the final snippets of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race as they rounded the final cape and they set their sails for Hobart, I always watched in awe – not the race – but the incredible rugged backdrop in the distance. This, I found out, was Cape Raoul, and the decision was made; we are walking the cape.
I wasn’t really too sure how accessible it was, and we were a bit limited for time, but on our final day in Port Arthur, we made plans in the afternoon to see how far we could get.
Cape Raoul is located at the southernmost point of the Tasman Peninsula, accessed via Port Arthur at the end of Stormlea Road. It is in the Tasman National Park, so you will need to purchase a park entry permit, which you can do online or at visitors or information centres. Visit website
The track is approximately a 14km return trek and will generally take around 5 hours to complete. We were starting our walk about 2pm, which while the sun wasn’t due to set until about 8pm that evening, it was still quite late to start the walk. It is a not a walk you want to be doing unequipped in the dark, so we agreed that we would see how far that we could get in two hours, and then turn around, whether we reached the cape or not, just to make sure we didn’t get caught walking in the dark.
The start of the track is just a gentle climb up the hill. It was steep in parts, but nothing out of the ordinary. I might just mention, that if you are taking children, especially small ones, to keep and eye on them, especially when it nears the top and starts to flatten out.
After about 30 minutes on the track, what greets you is as spectacular as it is unexpected! One minute you are walking along the track, and the next minute you are standing on the edge (and I mean the edge!) of a sheer cliff face looking out to infinity and beyond. It is awe-inspiringly beautiful!
This is also where you need to hold onto your kids! One of the things I like about Tasmania the most, is the lack of retaining chains and fences, warning signs and all of the other paraphernalia that comes with regulatory safety gone mad. I love that you can wander up to the edge, and see it as it is without all of the blights on the landscape. Having said that – I really do mean hold on to your kids! This is also the reason why you don’t want to be walking around here in the dark!
We spent quite a bit of time here looking out over Raoul Bay and the vast southern ocean before us, just soaking in the scenery.
The ocean is an incredible azure blue, the cliffs insanely jagged, the shrubbery varying and unique, and the drop totally nauseating!
We winged it with the weather. It had actually been raining back at Port Arthur when we left, but by the time we got to this first point the skies were just starting to open up, so there were patches of mist lining most of the cape, which made it even more beautiful and somewhat mystical and the further we walked, the more our blues skies prevailed.
We continued on along towards the cape. The trail varies from a dryer more rugged bushland, to a moss and lichen covered patch as we wander down the hill to a quite low lying dense heath-like shrubbery – signs that this part of the coastline is quite exposed to the elements. I had read that winds can be quite insane in these parts, so do be careful and watch the weather. It changes quite quickly! One minute the skies were rich and blue and then I look back up the hill from where we came and it was a total white out and the hill and everything behind us had disappeared completely!
However, we were making really good time. A few other hikers coming back from the cape had said were we well past the half way point an hour into our walk, so we felt confident that we were going to make the cape well within our timeframe, and at this point it looked like it wasn’t going to be the darkness that were going to have to worry about – it was going to be the white-ness! It was a seriously thick fog cover. Fortunately, as quickly as the fog descends, it can also lift.
Reaching the actual cape is just such a wonderful moment. The landscape is quite unique in masses of dolerite columns of varying height and shape stagger the coastline appearing much like an exaggerated set of organ pipes. Stunningly beautiful. It is almost hard to comprehend nature when you look at structures like this.
Perfect place to eat an apple, as well as take the obligatory selfie… and the one hundred or so photographs I felt compelled to take covering every conceivable angle of every single exposed rock surface (at least it felt that way when I was editing them when I got home).
One of the hikers we passed on the way, who was obviously a local, told us to branch off to the right on one of the trails when we walked back, saying that the best view was actually from there – he was spot on. You actually get the cape from an entirely different perspective, but one where you can appreciate the graduation of the columns. Wow. Such natural beauty!
We were ahead of time, having reached the cape in under 2 hours, so we just took our time – mental note to leave more time next time and bring a picnic. Being later in the afternoon, most hikers had already headed back so there weren’t really any other people around, so our tardy departure worked to our advantage – no noisy tourists!
The walk back was a little more rigorous in that the moss and lichen covered path that I found so easy to come down, was a little more challenging going back. Probably more so because my husband’s long legs outpace mine two to one, and I often nearly need to run just to keep up, resulting in me spluttering and panting and having to stop numerous times while he barely breaks a sweat. But the fog had lifted so that was a plus – we weren’t about to get lost in the bushland, on this occasion at least.
We did the walk in under 4 hours and that was stopping to take lots (and I do mean lots) of photos. However, I would leave at least 5 hours, and just suggest to leave before lunch to leave yourself lots of time to ooh and ahh. Watch the weather, and watch your step!
Cape Raoul is SPECTACULAR and definitely one of the ‘must do’ day walks of Tasmania. If there was only one walk to do while you are in Tasmania – this is it. Enjoy!
This story was written by Petra Hughes – Pebbles + Pomegranate Seeds