The 3 Capes Walk in Tasmania is one of Australia’s most scenic multi-day hikes and is fast becoming the most popular. This epic 4-day hike through the Tasmanian wilderness is open all year round but when is the best time of year to go? What is the weather like? And who is the trail for?
This article answers these questions and will hopefully encourage you to put on your hiking boots and explore this stunning corner of Australia.
The Three Capes Walk is on the east coast of Tasmania and the weather tends to be milder than in other parts of the island. I walked the Three Capes Track in December and although summer is the peak tourist season in Tasmania, it’s possible to hike the trail in other seasons and have a great experience.
The Three CapesTrack is walkable in winter unlike the famous Overland Track on Cradle Mountain where snow blankets the mountain in the colder months.
Generally, the months from November to April are the best time of year for hiking in Tasmania but Tasmania’s weather is changeable and it can be cold at any time of year. You can strike cold, wet weather even in the warmest and driest months. And the National Park huts on the 3 Capes Track are often fully booked at the most popular times so is it worth going in the cooler months?
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What can you expect from the Three Capes track?
The Three Capes hiking experience begins at the Port Arthur Historic Site and follows the wild and rugged coastline of the Tasman National Park. The trail passes through a variety of landscapes from lush forests, scrublands, swamps & windswept coastal scenery with majestic sea cliffs and awe-inspiring wilderness that can only be found in Tasmania.
The 3 Capes Walk leads to majestic Cape Pillar and windswept Cape Huay. Cape Raoul, the third cape can be seen in the distance along the way but is not accessible from this trail. Cape Raoul can be reached from Port Arthur on a separate day walk.
Highlights of the 3 Capes Walk in Tasmania
- Incredible scenery with the majestic dolerite columns, crashing surf and the wild, windswept coastline of Cape Pillar and Cape Huay.
- Australia’s tallest vertical seas cliffs with 180-million-year-old dolerite peaks
- Forests with gorgeous moss-covered branches and rocks
- Spring flowers of the heathlands, bush and moors along the trail.
- Native Wildlife – The Tasman National Park is home to many native animals, and it was a delight to see wallabies, sea birds and dolphins along the way.
- Exploring Port Arthur Historic Site, the first stop on the way to the 3 Capes Track. The ruins are UNESCO World Heritage-listed and one of Australia’s most important convict settlements.
- A well-planned route on a well-built path. It’s a pleasure to hike the 3 Capes track in Tasmania.
- The eco-cabin accommodation in the National Parks huts is warm and comfortable. It beats tent camping, especially if it’s raining.
- The Three Capes hike starts and ends with a swim at stunning Denman’s Cove and Fortescue Bay beach.
Three Capes Track in Spring
In spring the Australian bush is in bloom and at its most beautiful. Spring is a lovely time to do the 3 Capes Walk in Tasmania. The weather is warming up towards the end of spring and November is a great time to catch the wildflowers in bloom with warmer weather and lengthening days.
Three Capes Track in September
In September the weather is still cool with an average temperature range from 7°C to 14°C (45°F to 57°F)
Three Capes Track in October
The October weather is slightly warmer with average temperatures ranging from 8°C to 15°C (46°F to 59°F)
Three Capes Track in November
Heading into summer, November days are both warmer and longer with average temperatures from 9°C to 17°C (48°F to 63°F)
Three Capes Track in Summer
Summer is the most popular time of year to visit Tasmania. The days are at their longest, and the weather is warmer and more stable. February is typically the driest month of the year with January and February the warmest months. It’s the best time of year for swimming at Denman’s Cove and Fortescue Bay on the three capes track. But in summer it can be hot in the sun when you’re hiking and cold if the weather turns. Much of the 3 capes trail is exposed to the elements so carry plenty of water in summer.
Three Capes Track in December
In December the daytime hours are at their longest and average temperatures range from 11°C to 18°C (52°F to 64°F)
Three Capes Track in January
One of the warmest months of the year January can be windy with average temperatures ranging from 12°C to 20°C (54°F to 68°F).
Three Capes Track in February
February typically has warm stable weather with coastal winds and less rainfall, February brings average temperatures ranging from 12°C to 20°C (54°F to 68°F).
Three Capes Track in Autumn
In March and early April, the weather is still warm with sunny summery days on Tasmania’s east coast although the weather can be changeable, cold, and wet at times. May is typically cooler and you can expect more rain in late autumn.
Three Capes Track in March
In March the weather is still warm with average temperatures ranging from 12°C to 19°C (54°F to 66°F)
Three Capes Track in April
April days are shorter with daytime temperatures cooling down. Average temperatures range from 10°C to 17°C (50°F to 63°F).
Three Capes Track in May
There’s more rain in May, days are quite short now and average temperatures are cool, ranging from 9°C to 15°C (48°F to 59°F)
Three Capes Track in Winter
June to August is the coldest time of the year in Tasmania and it’s also the quietest time with the fewest tourists. July and August are the wettest months of the year, and it can be cold and windy but also sunny and humid on the Three Capes track.
In winter you’re most likely to feel the proximity to Antarctica and the rugged, southerly conditions. If you can handle freezing coastal winds and cold, wet weather you may have the track to yourself, and you’ll be able to warm up at the end of the day in the cosy heated kitchens of the National Park huts.
Three Capes Track in June
One of the coldest and wettest months, June is also the most humid month of the year. There’s more rain, short days and average temperatures ranging from 7°C to 12°C (45°F to 54°F).
Three Capes Track in July
Expect some rainy weather in July and cold, short days with average temperatures from 7°C to 12°C (45°F to 54°F).
Three Capes Track in August
The weather in August is similar to July, with some rain and cold temperatures ranging from 7°C to 13°C (45°F to 55°F).
The Best Time of Year to Do the 3 Capes Walk
The months from November to April are the best time of year for hiking in Tasmania and summer is the most popular time to do the 3 capes walk in Tasmania. February has the best weather with the least rain and the warmest temperatures. It’s also the best time for swimming with the warmest water temperatures of the year at 17°C (63°F).
But spring is the most beautiful time of year and November is arguably the best month to do the 3 capes walk in Tasmania when the bush is in flower and temperatures are warming up.
The 3 capes walk has a more moderate climate than other parts of Tasmania because of its coastal location and hiking in winter is still worthwhile if you don’t mind some cold, wet weather.
But the weather in Tasmania is notoriously changeable and it can be wet on the 3 capes track even in the driest months. In Summer and in Winter it’s best to be prepared for both warm sunny days and freezing cold wet weather. Pack layers of clothing with warm thermals and waterproof gear.
I walked the Three Capes Track in December and it was gloriously warm and sunny at times and freezing cold with numbing winds and rain at other times. The cooler-than-average temperatures for December meant that the spring flowers were still in bloom. It was a great time to go!
The Three Capes Track for solo hikers?
The 3 Capes Track in Tasmania is ideal for a solo hiking adventure for women travelling alone who want to experience the Tasmanian wilderness safely. Park rangers are stationed at the huts along the way and walkers must sign in on arrival each afternoon.
Solo hikers will also find themselves meeting up with the other walkers on the trail and making new friends in the huts in the evenings. When I was walking on the Three Capes Track there were several solo female walkers on the trail. With such a well-planned route to follow this self-guided walk is suitable for almost everyone.
Who can do the 3 Capes Walk in Tasmania?
Anyone with reasonable fitness who can walk for 4 hours a day carrying a backpack can do the 3 capes walk in Tasmania. The track is an easy to moderate grade with gradual inclines & boardwalks for much of the way. Some bushwalking experience is recommended.
This 4-day trek follows a well-maintained path and is accessible for walkers of all ages although it’s not recommended for young children. When I was walking on the 3 Capes trail, I met beginner hikers, solo female walkers as well families with children, older people in their seventies and some fit, experienced hikers as well.
Where is the Three Capes Track?
The Three Capes Track is located on the Southeast coast of Tasmania on Australia’s southernmost tip.
About the Three Capes Walk in Tasmania
Distance: 48 kilometres / 29 miles
Duration: 4 days / 3 nights
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Accommodation & Facilities
The Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service huts on the 3 Capes walk in Tasmania are well-designed eco-cabins with separate toilet blocks. Tank water is available, and the kitchens are equipped with gas cookers, utensils, heating, lighting and phone charging stations.
The 4-bed cabins are well-ventilated but draft-free, and the beds have comfortable memory foam mattresses. You’ll be able to warm up and dry out after a cold, wet day of hiking the Three Capes Track. National Park Rangers give a talk each evening to prepare the walkers for the next day of hiking.
Day 1 on the Three Capes track
4 kilometres / 2 hours
The Three Capes hike begins at Port Arthur, one of Australia’s most visited historic sites and you can spend a couple of hours exploring the ruins of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed convict settlement that housed the worst of Australia’s convicts.
Walkers are ferried by boat from the wharf at Port Arthur to the trailhead at Denman’s Cove. If the weather is good a wildlife cruise to Crescent Bay is included and you’ll see some unusual rock formations in the sea cliffs of the Bay. We saw a huge pod of dolphins and lots of seabirds as we made our way to Denman’s Cove.
On a rough day, hikers are taken directly to the trailhead at Denman’s Cove. Depending on the tide you can expect to get your feet wet when you jump off the boat onto the sand. It’s a 90-minute walk from Denman’s Cove to the accommodation at Surveyors Hut with stunning coastal views along the track. The trail climbs steadily all the way, and the views of Cape Raoul are amazing.
Overnight accommodation is in eco-cabins run by the Tasmanian National Parks Service. Park Rangers are stationed at the huts, and they check that the walkers have arrived safely and provide help and assistance when necessary.
Each cabin has 4 comfortable bunk beds. There are rainwater tanks and no shower facilities at the Surveyor’s hut. In the evening the walkers gather in the warmth of the kitchen and there is a friendly social atmosphere amongst the hikers.
Day 2 on the Three Capes track
11 kilometres / 4.5 hours
My second day began with wild wallabies feeding around the cabins at Surveyor’s hut and near the walking track. Early morning rain showers cleared to reveal stunning coastal views along the trail. The 11-kilometre stretch of track passed through a silver gum forest, coastal heathlands and moors. But unseasonal wet, cool weather meant that spring bush flowers were still in bloom, and this was an unexpected delight in December, the first month of summer in Australia.
The trail climbed 170 metres to Arthur’s Peak where there were amazing views of Cape Pillar and Cape Raoul in the distance. At the Jurassic Crack lookout, there was more fabulous scenery with tall stone pillars, on the windswept coastline and open ocean views.
It was a 4.5-hour walk to Munro, the next hut where there was a hot, outdoor camp shower and incredible views of Cape Hauy from the lookout near the cabins.
Day 3 on the Three Capes track
19 kilometres / 6 hours
Day 3 began with a 17-kilometre return hike to Cape Pillar, a highlight of the 3 Capes Walk in Tasmania. Today we left the big backpacks in storage at the Munro huts and enjoyed walking with a small day pack. The eucalypt forests at the start of the walk open out into sweeping coastal scenery and exposed dolomite sea cliffs with crashing surf and crumbling stone pillars.
On Cape Pillar, there’s a climb to a spectacular lookout point called The Blade. From the top of this tall jutting outcrop, there are incredible views of the soaring sea cliffs and wild crashing surf.
Unfortunately, it was very windy on the cliffs that day and there were some rain showers that made the exposed lookout point at the top of The Blade a difficult place to be. There are no barriers, and you are very close to nature so it’s important to take care. I even experienced horizontal rain on the cliffs at Cape Pillar but the scenery here is incredibly wild and majestic.
After returning to Munro and collecting the backpacks from storage it’s 4 kilometres and another hour of hiking to the Retakunna huts for the last night on the Three Capes Track.
Day 4 on the Three Capes track
14 kilometres / 7 hours
The fourth day on the 3 Capes Walk is the hardest with a climb up Mount Fortescue through a gorgeous mossy forest and a steep descent to windswept Cape Hauy. The trail passes through a beautiful wonderland of damp forest with moss-covered branches and rocks in a myriad of different shades of green. This landscape is like nowhere else on earth and is home to plant species that are only found in this part of Tasmania.
At the top of Mount Fortescue, the path winds its way towards spectacular Cape Huay with dramatic coastal scenery and panoramic views out to sea and into Fortescue Bay. If time allows you can leave the big pack at the track junction for the 2-hour return walk to the tip of Cape Hauy. It’s a very steep descent with hundreds of stairs to navigate and dangerously strong winds in places. But the wild, windswept coastline delivers sweeping views of the soaring dolomite pillars.
The final stretch of the hike is the hardest. After an exhausting climb back up the steps, the heavy backpack weighs you down and carrying it downhill for another 4 kilometres is hard work. When I finally made it to the Fortescue Bay campsite, I was exhausted.
The beach at Fortescue Bay is beautiful with cold, crystal-clear water and white sand. It’s a great place for a swim and the perfect way to cool down after the hike. Several walkers were brave enough to swim in the icy water, but I wasn’t one of them.
Pennicotts bus picked us up and checked everyone had arrived safely before delivering us back to the Port Arthur historic site to meet the bus to Hobart.
How to do the 3 Capes Walk in Tasmania
I booked with the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service on a self-guided 4-day walk with accommodation in basic eco-cabins. There are separate heated kitchens and toilets. I loved the experience and highly recommend this hike! But book ahead!
The Three Capes Track is one of the most popular multi-day hikes in Tasmania and is booked out months ahead. I had to book almost a year in advance to reserve a place for the school holidays.
Three Capes Track Cost
Adult: A$495 (Walk in winter for A$360 per person from 1 to 31 August 2023).
Budget: If you’re on a tight budget and you’re happy to carry a heavy pack with your tent and cooking equipment, there are basic campsites at Fortescue Bay and at Bare Knoll near Retakunna hut. It’s a 2 or 3-day hike to Cape Hauy and Cape Pillar that starts and ends at the Fortescue Bay campsite. National Park fees apply.
Luxury: Several tour companies offer a more expensive luxury version of the Three Capes hike with comfortable private lodge accommodations, gourmet meals and expert guides.
Day Walks to the Three Capes
- Fortescue Bay to Cape Hauy can be done as a day walk from the campsite at Fortescue Bay (4 hours return).
- A day hike to Cape Raoul from Port Arthur – The 5-hour walk to Cape Raoul has spectacular coastal views but can be very windy. The walk commences off Stormlea Road (off Nubeena Road) and is not part of the 3 Capes Walk in Tasmania.
3 Capes Track Packing List
When packing for the 3 Capes track, it’s best to be prepared for warm sunny days and freezing cold wet weather in both Summer and Winter. Pack light and carry as little as possible. Take layers of clothing with warm thermals and waterproof layers. You’ll need to take the following:
- Layers of clothing
- Sturdy shoes or hiking boots + socks
- Thermal underwear
- Warm hat, scarf & gloves
- Sunhat & sunscreen
- Waterproof rain jacket & pants
- A small 30 – 50 litre lightweight waterproof backpack + fold-away daypack
- Dehydrated meals
- Lightweight Cup, plate & cutlery
- Refillable water bottles (2 litres of water per day)
- Warm sleeping bag & sleep sheet
- First Aid kit
- Hiking poles (optional but good to have)
- Camera/ phone (optional)
How to get to Port Arthur from Hobart
Walkers can leave their cars in the car park at the Port Arthur Historic Site. But if you’re not driving, the Pennicotts Bus is the perfect way to get to the Three Capes Track from Hobart without a car. The bus departs from Franklin Wharf in Hobart at 07:45 AM (07:30 AM check-in) and arrives at the Port Arthur Historic Site at 09:45 AM. Book ahead.
After checking in for the 3 capes hike there’s time to explore the Port Arthur Historic site before catching the 11:30 ferry to the start of the trail.
On the return journey, the Pennicotts bus leaves the Port Arthur Historic site at 4:45 PM for Hobart.
Where to stay near the 3 Capes track
Port Arthur has some good accommodation options and is the closest place to stay near the 3 Capes Walk in Tasmania.
Budget: The NRMA Port Arthur Holiday Park has great facilities for campers including a lounge with an open fireplace & TV for when the weather turns foul. (Firewood is available to purchase) There were wild wallabies hopping around my tent & a fire pit on my site. It’s a 5-minute drive or a 50-minute walk to the Port Arthur Historic Site from the holiday park.
Camping inside the Tasman National Park is possible for a small fee at the Fortescue Bay campsite. Access is via an unsealed road and there are basic facilities. Bookings are recommended.
Mid Range: Port Arthur Villas offer comfortable accommodation with kitchen facilities for self-catering and a beautiful garden setting a short walk from the Port Arthur Historic Site.
Stuarts Bay Lodge provides self-contained chalets and cabins with fully equipped kitchens in a peaceful bush setting. There are gorgeous water views between the trees and the lodge is just a 5-minute drive, or a short walk, to the Port Arthur Historic Site.
Is there phone reception on the 3 Capes walk?
Yes, there is phone reception on the 3 Capes Walk but it’s patchy. Mobile reception is available on days 1, 2 & 4. I was receiving texts and emails on days 1 – 3 and phone calls are possible at Suveyors and Retakunna hut near the helicopter pad but there’s limited reception at Munro.
Are there toilets on the Three Capes track?
The National Park cabins have eco toilet blocks and facilities for washing with tank water. There are no other toilet facilities on the 3 Capes track. There are toilet facilities at the Port Arthur Historic Site and at the Fortescue Bay Campsite at the beginning and end of the hike.
Best Time of Year for the 3 Capes Walk in Tasmania – Final Thoughts
The best time of year to do the 3 Capes walk is in November at the end of spring while the bush and heathlands are in flower. It’s an incredibly beautiful time to experience the stunning scenery of the Three Capes Track. The days are longer, and the weather is warming up, but there may be some cold, wet weather on the trail.
For the warmest weather, February is the driest and the warmest month of the year but December, January and March are also great months to hike the Three Capes track in Tasmania.
The worst weather for hiking in Tasmania is in winter but it’s also the quietest time of year. It’s easier to book and there are fewer walkers on the trail. And this winter there’s a discount for walkers on the Three Capes Track from 1 to 31 August 2023.
My advice would be to book a slot and go! The Three Capes track is becoming more and more popular and harder to book. Even in summer, there’s no guarantee of reliable weather in Tasmania and you can do the 3 Capes Walk at any time of the year. Take layers of clothes, thermals, and waterproof gear even in the warmer months.
This was my first multi-day hike and carrying a backpack that weighed roughly 13 kg was a challenge for me, but the track was well-maintained and easy to follow. Hiking poles were well worth taking to save your knees and to help with balance while carrying the pack.
The National Park cabins were warm and comfortable, and a Park Ranger was there each evening making sure everyone was OK and giving advice on what to expect the next day. Overall, it was a well-organised exhilarating adventure into the Tasmanian wilderness.
I hope this 3 Capes Walk review has been helpful!