Cape Hauy | The Best Short Walk On The Tasman Peninsula

Protruding from the southeastern corner of Tasmania, the Tasman Peninsula looks out of place with its colossal dolerite columns piercing the horizon, and dropping up to 300 m into the wild ocean below. The best way to experience these monstrous seaside cliffs is by completing the Cape Hauy walk. 

The Cape Hauy walk will take you through a thriving coastal woodland before propelling you onto the rugged headland, where sea mist clings to the dark rock and Pacific gulls float in the coastal winds wrapping around the cliffs. 

Cape Hauy will test your stamina with over 2,000 stone steps and your head for heights once you reach the precipitous ledge. But in return, you’ll witness a natural wonder that no words or images can truly describe. 

Classed as one of Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks, the Cape Hauy hike can be completed within 4 hours and is, in fact, the easiest cape to reach in the Tasman Peninsula. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know for this hike, including how to beat the crowds. 

Hiking the snaking trail on the final stretch of the Cape Hauy Walk in the Tasman Peninsula

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Completing The Cape Hauy Walk In The Tasman Peninsula

9.5 km return

3.5 – 4 hrs

Elevation Gain
508 m

Highest Elevation
181 m

Grade 3 – some experience recommended

Entrance Fees
Tasmanian Parks Pass

Visitor centre, Toilet block, Camping Grounds, Day Shelter

Where Is Cape Hauy?

The famous dolerite sea cliffs of Cape Hauy can be found protruding from the southeastern edge of the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania’s south. The trailhead begins at Fortescue Bay, a beautiful destination worthy of a visit if only to experience the pristine beaches and cosy campsites. 

You’ll find Fortescue Bay 1 hr 30 minutes southeast of Hobart and 3 hrs 25 minutes southeast of Launceston. The closest town to Cape Hauy where you can buy basic goods is Nubeena.

How To Get To The Cape Hauy Walk On The Tasman Peninsula

The Tasman Peninsula, and the Cape Hauy walk in particular, is one of the most popular day trips from Hobart. The best way to reach Fortescue Bay, where the hike begins, is by car. If you don’t have access to your own vehicle, we suggest checking out Rental Cars for the best deals on car hire.

Another alternative is to join a walking tour which will most commonly include some of the other major walks within the Tasman Peninsula. Here are a few of the top-rated tours for walking in the Tasman Peninsula. 


Directions From Hobart To Fortescue Bay, Tasman Peninsula

To reach the Cape Hauy trailhead at Fortescue Bay, head east on Tasman Hwy (A3) until you hit Sorell. After 25 km, at the major intersection, take a right turn (east) onto Arthur Hwy (A9) which you will follow for 85 km. 

Signs will help you find the left turn that will take you onto Fortescue Bay Rd, and another quick right turn will allow you to stay on Fortescue Bay Rd (a well-maintained unsealed road) for the remaining 12 km. The road will ultimately end at Fortescue Bay where you’ll find Mills Creek Campground, a Day Shelter and Car Park and Banksia Campground. 

Note: If you type Fortescue Bay into Google Maps, it will take you the wrong way. Instead, type in Cape Hauy Track which will allow you to access the accurate directions. As long as you don’t turn off Fortescue Bay Rd until you reach the very obvious campgrounds, you’ll find the trailhead easily. 

Cape Hauy Walking Notes

Fortescue Bay glowing in the morning sunrise
View over Fortescue Bay from the Cape Hauy Track

Beginning from the day shelter that can be found sandwiched between Banksia and Mill Creek campgrounds, you’ll spot the trailhead hugging Fortescue Bay as it leads towards Mill Creek campground. 

Passing the boat ramp, you’ll enter the tall gums that flank the coast and provide shade for the trail. The first kilometre continues with little elevation along a wide and well-groomed path that hugs the banks of Fortescue Bay. 

Hiking along the well groomed Cape Hauy Walking Track
Hiking along the well groomed Cape Hauy Walking Track

Almost as soon as you hit the 1 km mark, the trail swings slightly to the right and begins its arduous ascent through a thriving coastal forest filled with stringybark, blue gums and bright yellow wattle. 

The 2.5 km ascent is aided by beautifully sculpted stone steps with several bench seats scattered throughout if a rest is needed. But before the grumbling consumes you, the high point and track intersection are simultaneously reached and your first glimpse of Cape Hauy will most certainly lift your spirits. 

The Trail Junction

Cape Hauy Hike Trail Sign

At the track intersection, you’ll find a sign indicating that Cape Hauy continues to the left. Just beyond the trail, you’ll also find a clearing with stone benches that can be used for a break before completing the second half of the outbound trail. 

The trail junction signals the beginning of a descent through blade grass and banksias as you walk towards the exposed cliffs of Cape Hauy. Every step allows increasingly breathtaking views of the imposing headland, with the yellow stone trail weaving through green coastal shrubs to the edge of the giant dolerite cliffs.

View over Tasman Peninsula from the Cape Hauy Hike

Keep one eye on the shrubs beside the trail as this section is a favourite hang-out spot for echidnas searching for ants along the stone steps. 

The Final Ascent

Hiking along the Cape Hauy Saddle overlooking the mighty sea cliffs of the Tasman Peninsula

Once you reach the saddle before the headland, where you have the chance to search for seals along the rocks 50 m below, a final ascent to the edge of the cliffs awaits. 

Numerous pull-out points are scattered along the ascent, where you can test your fear of heights. But beware, there are no railings or buffers between you and the treacherous ocean over 100 m below. 

After approximately 5 km, you’ll reach the edge of the mighty dolerite pillars where a railing allows you to peer over the edge with a little more confidence. 

Standing On The Edge Of Cape Hauy

Over looking the Southern Ocean from the Cape Hauy Lookout

You’ll likely feel the full force of the southern winds standing precariously atop such an exposed headland, where the Pacific gulls sing as they hover around the sea cliffs looking for lunch. Allow enough time to soak it all in, you might even be lucky enough to spot seals or whales if you happened to bring along a pair of binoculars. 

The views from Cape Hauy extend all the way to Bivouac Bay in the north and out to the staggering dolerite columns of Cape Pillar in the south. The cliffs around Cape Pillar are the tallest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere, reaching a mighty height of 300 m! 

But perhaps the most impressive sight can be found just below you to the east, where you can just make out the top of the Totem Pole. 

The Totem Pole

Watching a rock climber zip line the Totem Pole on the Cape Huay hike in the Tasman Peninsula
View of the climbing site the Totem Pole on the Cape Huay hike in the Tasman Peninsula

If you’re a climber or have any rock-climbing buddies then no doubt you’ve heard of the Totem Pole. This skinny dolerite column stands all alone, surrounded by the foaming sea and only accessible by either swimming or swinging across on a rope. 

It’s a real treat to witness someone climbing this high-graded climb that to us mere mortals, seems utterly impossible! Just past the Totem Pole is another famous climbing route on a mass of dolerite pillars called The Candlestick. While these are slightly easier climbs, it’s still just as difficult to reach the rock stacks that stand alone. 

Returning To The Trailhead

Walking down the many Stairs found on the Cape Hauy Walk

After spending time wandering about Cape Hauy to access better views of the Totem Pole and The Candlestick, make your way back along the winding stone steps. The return walk allows for new vantage points of the monstrous sea cliffs before you once again enter the dry coastal forest. 

The standard time allowed for the Cape Hauy walk is 4 hours, which is generous if you’re fit with a small pack. However, there are over 2,500 stairs along the route so we suggest allowing 4 hrs just in case! Who knows, you might get stuck in a trance while watching a climber ascend the Totem Pole.

Best Time To Complete The Cape Hauy Walk

View of the impressive Tasman Peninsula Coastline from Cape Hauy
View of the impressive Tasman Peninsula Coastline from Cape Hauy

The Cape Hauy walk is one of the most popular walks near Hobart and is often intensely crowded. Therefore, the best time to hike Cape Hauy is in winter or during the week when there is a smaller chance of large crowds. Due to the low elevation, you’ll find manageable temperatures year-round. 

The best time of day to hike Cape Hauy is sunrise or sunset. Not only will you be gifted with wondrous beams of light sifting between the seacliffs, but you’ll also have an even higher chance of avoiding the bulk of the crowds.

Leave No Trace

Tasmania has become an immensely popular destination for travellers looking to be immersed in nature. But unfortunately, the increased crowds also bring increased amounts of rubbish found on the trails. 

Please follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles and ensure that you leave a destination how you found it – or better! It’s up to each and every one of us to help end the damage done to our environment and wildlife caused by littering and an utter disregard for nature. 

There are toilet facilities located at the day shelter at Fortescue Bay but no rubbish bins. Please take your rubbish with you – including tissues and food scraps! 

What To Bring

Hiking to the Cape Huay Lookout on the Tasman Peninsula

The Cape Hauy walk can be completed within 4 hours and therefore, doesn’t require a big list of gear. However, the trail is very exposed once you hit the headland which will either result in freezing winds or unrelenting sun exposure. 

We suggest packing an extra jacket, hat and sun protection for the hike out the Cape Hauy in order to be prepared for whatever the weather throws your way. 

Additionally, a pair of binoculars is a handy piece of equipment to carry to help spot sea life along the cliffs. 

Here is our basic list of items that we recommend taking on the Cape Hauy walk:

Where To Stay Near Cape Hauy, Tasmania

Our favourite place to stay near Cape Hauy is the campgrounds at Fortescue Bay. The Mill Creek and Banksia campgrounds are located closest to the trailhead and offer picturesque sites beside the bay. Visit the Tasmanian Parks website for more information on these two campgrounds. 

If camping isn’t your style, never fear, there are plenty of unique and cosy options for places to stay in the Tasman Peninsula or in the towns close by. 

Port Arthur

White Beach (Near Nubeena)

Eaglehawk Neck