Andrew Davey of the Hobart Walking Club talks about the early days of the Three Capes Track.
“Prior to any proper tracks, the area was seldom walked due to patches of dense wiry scrub or extensive thick forest, and the scarcity of drinking water. Only areas very close to towns or major tourist spots had walking tracks, some very rough until after the 1960s. There were a few, usually rough, dirt roads and cleared fire breaks for forestry purposes running deeper into a few sub-areas.
The first walking tracks were put in by the Hobart Walking Club utilising a few of these egresses. This started around 1969 with a marked route for a rough track to Cape Pillar. From the mid 70’s the track was gradually improved. Official permission was given for a track starting at Waterfall Bay (near Tasman Arch) running south to Fortescue Bay, then on towards Cape Hauy (northern end of the now Three Capes Track) then south over Mt Fortescue to Ritakuna Creek then join the Cape Pillar route.
The walking club began work on this in 1972. Records show about 8,000 man-days were put in over about 35 years on various tracks in the area. Some key persons like Frank Morley then Richard Hopkins put in a huge effort. Frank participated in and oversaw most work from Waterfall Bay to Fortescue Bay, while it was mainly Richard from the Cape Hauy Track junction south to the junction with the Cape Pillar Track, completed in about 1991 but for some improvements.
As there were no huts and few reliable streams, the main camping areas were Ritakuna and Lunchtime Creeks and Perdition Ponds. These are several hundred metres from the Three Capes Track, and still accessible. Some camped elsewhere but usually carried water from one of the aforementioned sources. (Bare Knoll near Lunchtime Creek was the largest camping area prior to its demise by Parks & Wildlife because it would be on the Three Capes Track.) The stunning clifftop views made the area popular with local bushwalkers, especially in the cooler months.
When the Overland Track reached what was deemed its carrying capacity in the 1990s another overnight walk for tourists was sought. The Cape Pillar area was thought best due to its benign climate, showcase views and relative ease of access. It took several years to plan, cost and obtain finance for what was to be an all-weather mudless walk of low difficulty – the premier bushwalking track in Tasmania. A feasibility study for the “Three Capes Track” was published in 2007.
Originally planned to be a five hut walk, cost soon scuttled this. The upgrade of the Cape Hauy Track occurred during 2011-2012. The ‘Three Capes’ track work started in 2012 and the track opened in late 2015. Unlike the earlier track, the upgrade involved helicopters and other mechanised means almost to the maximum feasible. Similarly, the huts were assembled from prefabricated sections flown in. The original track to Arthurs Peak was marked and cut by the Hobart Walking Club. It comes in from the east off the original Cape Pillar Track after it leaves some old Forestry fire breaks. This is the biggest deviation of the Three Capes Track from an original track.
Generally speaking, the original Cape Pillar and Mt Fortescue Tracks are not far from The Three Capes Track once the current T-junction to Cape Pillar and Munro Hut, and Ritakuna Hut is reached. Sometimes the current tracks are on the same ground as former tracks. For those who have walked the original tracks and the new, it is fair to say that the new allows one to readily travel at about twice the pace in most places.”