Tasman National Park
Tasman National Park protects diverse forest and spectacular coastline from Cape Surville to Waterfall Bay and Fortescue Bay; and from Cape Hauy to Cape Pillar and Cape Raoul. The park incorporates several off-shore islands, including Fossil Island, Hippolyte Rocks and Tasman Island.
It is an area of great beauty and natural diversity, including some of the most stunning coastal scenery anywhere in Australia. Not suprisingly, the park offers some of the best coastal walks in the country. Many interesting rock formations can be found along the coastline, while the southern end of the park has some of the highest and most spectacular sea cliffs in Australia. The park is also home to a wide range of land and marine animals, and several species of rare plant.
Where Is it?: Tasman National Park is located on the Tasman and Forestier Peninsulas in south-eastern Tasmania. From Hobart, take the A3 to Sorell and then the Arthur Highway (A9) to Port Arthur. The park has several main access roads.
Tasmans Arch from the sea
The northern end of the park can can accessed via the Blowhole Road (C338) turnoff just after Eaglehawk Neck. This will will take you to Tasman Arch and Devils Kitchen. Along the C338, a sign-posted gravel road to the right leads to Waterfall Bay. The Waterfall Bay Rd provides access to the Tasman Track southwards or up to the Tasman Arch north.
To reach the southern area of the park, continue along the A9 towards Port Arthur. Access to the south-western part of the park is also via the Arthur Highway (A9), and onto the Safety Cove Rd at Port Arthur township to access Remarkable Cave, Maignon Blowhole and walking tracks to Mount Brown and Crescent Bay. Further west, the access to the walking tracks to Cape Raoul, Shipstern Bluff and Tunnel Bay leave the Arthur Highway at Stormlea Road.
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The 60 metres deep Devil's Kitchen has been formed by a similar process to that which has created Tasman's Arch. Basically, if an arch like Tasman's Arch collapsed, it would lead to the creation of a landform like the Devils Kitchen. This feature is near the settlement of Pirates Bay.
The largest blowhole on the Australian coastline, Tasman Blowhole takes the form of a long tunnel which opens out into a large collapsed cavern into which the waves of the ocean blow. On days where rough seas occur, the water can spurt over 10 metres high. It is best seen at high tide, but is attractive at any time. The Tasman Coastal Track, which begins at the Blowhole and leads to Cape Pillar, is considered one of the great bushwalks of Tasmania. This feature is near the settlement of Pirates Bay.
A natural arch which is an enlarged tunnel running from the coast along a zone of closely spaced cracks and extending inland to a second zone that is perpendicular to the first. The roof at the landward end of the tunnel has collapsed but the hole is too large and the sides are too high to form a blowhole. The tunnel was produced by wave action. The arch ceiling is 52.7 m above sea level. Most people only see the land-side view - a boat trip alongside the coastal cliffs offers a different perspective of the arch. This feature is near the settlement of Pirates Bay.
Similar in size to Tasman Arch, this natural bridge is somewhat smaller but still quite dramatic. The arch is located near Waterfall Bay and can be viewed from the walking track from the Devils Kitchen carpark to Waterfall Bay.
Ten minutes south from Pirates Bay Jetty, Waterfall Bay and Waterfall Bluff is considered the best boat diving area in southern Tasmania as it offers a range of 10 separate dive sites depending on the level of experience of the diver. The most popular dive for open water certification and above is Cathedral Cave. The average depth during the dive is 21 metres.
The Catacombs is an area of tunnels that are just big enough for one diver at time. Revelation Bend is one of Tasmania's most photographed underwater views. The walls below Cathedral Dome have some of the most spectacular displays of jewel anemones and zoanthids found anywhere. Other popular dive spots are around Waterfall bay are Patersons Arch, Suicide Cliffs, Studio Two, Dragon City, Horseshow Cave, Dogleg Cave, Knome Cave, The Bluff, Headbanger Cave and Dragons Lair.
Waterfall Bay can also be reached by road or by a clifftop walk from the Devil's Kitchen carpark. On its way south to Waterfall Bluff, the walk passes Waterfall Creek, which is the source of the huge cascade at Waterfall Bay. After it is crossed upstream, there is a sheltered area near a series of further cascades. These include Camp Falls and Shower Falls, where you can climb into a cave behind the curtain of water.
To reach the southern area of the park, continue along the A9 towards Port Arthur. Access to Fortescue Bay and walking tracks to Cape Hauy, Cape Pillar and Waterfall Bay can be reached along the Fortescue Rd, a 12km gravel road.
Access to the south-western part of the park is also via the Arthur Highway (A9), and onto the Safety Cove Rd at Port Arthur township to access Remarkable Cave, Maignon Blowhole and walking tracks to Mount Brown and Crescent Bay. Further west, the access to the walking tracks to Cape Raoul, Shipstern Bluff and Tunnel Bay leave the Arthur Highway at Stormlea Road.
Cape Raoul is a rugged cape offering panoramic views of spectacular cliffs and the dolerite spires at the end of the cape, views across Storm Bay to Bruny Island from the Storm Bay Lookout, and a seal colony on the rocks below. The walking path across the cape begins at the Nubeena Post Office.
Tunnel Bay on Cape Raoul at the foot of Tasman Peninsula is just one of the numerous walking destinations on the peninsula. Tunnel Bay is named because of a natural rock tunnel there that has ben created by water erosion. Nearby, to the south, is Shipstern Bluff, a rugged headland jutting out into the sea. Suitable only for the most capable and experienced extreme surfer.
Cape Raoul and Raoul Bay were named by French explorer Bruny D'Entrecasteaux on 11 May 1792. It is named after Joseph Francois Raoul, a pilot on D'Entrecasteaux's expedition. Flinders named it Basaltic Cape but this name was never adopted.
This rugged headland on the Tasman Peninsula is generally accepted as being the most challenging surfing location in Australia. Below the bluff, heaving swells hit a reef head-on, causing a huge body of water to arc up seemingly out of nowhere. In recent years, this churning swell has become a major surfing spot that attracts elite surfers from around the world, dominating the surf media and setting the bar for extreme surfing in Australia.
Located off the south eastern tip of the peninsula, Tasman Island stands defiantly beyond the tip of Cape Pillar. It is a rugged, desolate and windswept rock that was named after Dutch seaman Abel Tasman who cautiously skirted its thunderous shores in 1642. Like a fortress, the island's grey basalt columns rise 240 metres straight out of the sea. Above is a plateau of only 50 hectares, pock-marked with sink holes, caves and small clumps of windswept vegetation.
Perched atop the island is Tasman Island Lighthouse, one of Australia's most inaccessible light stations, being posted there was so unpopular that it was likened to the infamous American island prison Alcatraz. There was a sense of isolation which sent numerous lightkeepers mad.
There are few more dramatic, scenic features on the Tasmanian coast than Cape Pillar. The sheer cliffs rise vertically to a height of 300m and are fluted like organ pipes - a common characteristic of the Jurassic dolerite from which they are formed. And if they are not enough to take one's breathe away, there is also Cathedral Rock, The Blade, the Chasm and Tasman Island just 500 metres away across a turbulent strait. A signposted walking track to this rugged corner of the continent begins off Fortescue Bay Road.
The track to Cape Pillar leaves from Fortescue Bay, a short distance back up the road from the ranger station. It is very well made and climbs gently around the hill and across a few small gullies, emerging on the flatter hilltop after a surprisingly easy climb to Tornado Ridge before descending steeply to Lunchtime Creek. The views beyond Perdition Ponds are superb.
The Blade and Tasman Island
The Blade is not to be missed, and provides a supremely spectacular view of the surrounding cliffs and Tasman Island. Here the sheer dolerite cliffs fall 280 metres away to the sea below. Beyond The Blade is Tasman Island, complete with lighthouse and 3 houses set high above the sea, as the island is surrounded by high cliffs. Before The Blade, there are other lookouts, each with their own unique, spectacular view.
Cape Pillar was named by British explorer Matthew Flinders on 9 December 1798, during his voyage of circumnavigation around Tasmania. Its name is descriptive of its shape.
One of the most dramatic, distinctive looking capes on the Australian coastline, the end of which looks as if it has been sliced up like a loaf of bread to form the two rounded islands called The Lanterns. Next to them is The Candlestick and the famous Totem Pole (see below). The location provides views to Cape Pillar, Cathedral Rock and Schouten Island off the end of Freycinet Peninsula. A walking track to the end of the cape begins at the Fortescue Bay boat ramp.
The Cape Hauy Track leads from Fortescue Bay, just near the boat ramp. The walk passes through a variety of heath and woodland, with boronia, banksia, pultenaea and pimelia, among others, before coming to the magnificent views of steep cliffs and rock formations. When Cape Hauy comes into view, it looms straight ahead as a series of massive, slanted dolerite bluffs backed by the Tasman Sea. To the right is the next cape south: the prodigious Cape Pillar, with the mass of Tasman Island disguised behind it.
The tip of one of The Lanterns
The spectacular dolerite columns and cliffs at the tip of Cape Hauy are popular areas for climbing and abseiling. A pair of sea stacks the Candlestick and Totem Pole are used by climbers and climbing them is not, you may be pleased to know, a part of this 4 hour return walk.
Cape Hauy were named by French botanist Francois Peron on 17 February 1802. Peron visited the area as part of a French exploratory expedition led by Nicolas Baudin. Peron named the cape after Rene Just Hauy (1743-1822), a French mineralogist. Born at St. Just, in the department of Oise, Hauy was educated at the colleges of Navarre and Lemoine, became a teacher at the latter and turned to natural history. He founded the science of crystallography.
The Totem Pole and The Candlestick are two sea stacks at Cape Hauy on the eastern coast of the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania's south-east corner. They were named by Tim Christie in 1965 when he climbed them. A 65 metre high slender column of natural dolerite, the Totem Pole is in a deep, shady, chasm between the first of The Lanterns formations and the headland of Cape Hauy. The Candelstick is a thicker, taller chunk of dolerite which stands at the far entrance to the same chasm.
The 65 metre high Totem Pole is one of the most spectacular pieces of rock on the planet. It is a free-standing dolerite pillar spearing straight out of the water in a gloomy chasm infested with sharks and subject to volatile swell patterns. It is over sixty metres tall, but only about four metres wide at the base. It sways in the wind and shudders with the crash of every wave. The prospect this piece of rock presents the climber is uncompromising and chilling.
The Totem Pole is known to be one of the most difficult vertical climbs in Australia and one of the more popular attractions in the Tasmania region. It was first free climbed in 1995. American Mark Anderson claimed the second Ascent. In an article published on the Chockstone rock climbing website, a Victoria, Australia based website, Anderson describes the climb: "The height of the thing and the perspective from the Cape gives the illusion that it actually gets wider and thicker as it gets taller, which is a stunning illusion! And that doesn't even consider the setting of the Totem Pole, which is simply surreal. The climbing is absolutely awesome. The rock is excellent, the moves are enjoyable, and the setting is completely unmatched. In terms of pure enjoyment and satisfaction, it was one of the best climbing days I've ever had! It sounds cliched, but a route like that is the reason you learn to climb."
The Totem Pole is dwarfed by the surrounding rocky spires. The whole of the peninsula's coastal features are a haven for rock climbers, from Cape Raoul to Cape Pillar and up the east coast to Eaglehawk Neck. The development of many new sport climbs at Mt. Brown and the climbing of the Free Route on the Totem Pole has seen a resurgence in climbing on the Peninsula. Most of the climbing on the Peninsula depends on swell size more than anything. Generally the swell is bigger in winter, but there is nothing south between the Totem Pole and Antarctica, so big swells are possible (and even likely) all times of the year.
A truly remarkable work of nature, Remarkable Cave has been carved out of the rock of Safety Cove. The cave, which is actually a natural bridge with two entries from the sea, was created over millions of years by the raging seas which pound this isolated coastline. A staircase leads from the cliff top down right into the mouth of the cave. At low tide it is possible to walk through the cave to the ocean side of the cliffs.