STAGGERING SEA CLIFFS

4 May 2021.  Cape Raoul, Tasmania. 

What do we love about the wilderness? The isolation. The undisturbed quiet. To be completely immersed in an environment, engaging all the senses. So our hearts sank as we pulled into the crowed carpark at Cape Raoul, on the Tasman Peninsula. A convoy of at least a dozen campervans had pulled up and the group of raucous campers were assembling at the trailhead. We lingered to let them go on ahead, hoping they were doing the other walk starting from here. And it worked! We neither saw, nor heard from them again. 

We fired off a quick text to the family to let them know where to look for us if we go missing and set off on the trail. Meandering uphill through dry eucalypt forest, we came across spiky bushes laden with pink berries. 

“I wonder if they’re edible?…Should I try one?” he teased

“NO!” I chuckled “we haven’t seen any birds eating them, have we?” I’ve since looked up this pink berry, and it’s called ‘Pink Mountain Berry’ and yes, it’s edible raw and cooked. Perhaps I won’t mention this to David, lest they show up on my dinner plate.

“Woah!!” Still on the trail, I heard David arrive at the lookout. 

“Is it worth it?” I asked approaching the lookout, knowing what to expect from the trail notes. I stopped in my tracks.“Woah! What a view!” 

We found ourselves standing 450m above sea level on the edge of sheer sea cliffs. To the east, was Cape Raoul, the direction we were headed. To the west, are the blue cliffs of Bruny Island. 

“Amazing.” Dave said quietly. 

With some of Australia’s tallest sea cliffs, we knew this would be an exciting walk, but nothing prepares you for the reality.  

We considered setting up to sketch right here, but it’s just the start of the walk. I looked at my watch, we’d walked 2km, which meant we had about 14km to go. 

“Let’s keep going.”

The track zig-zagged, descending through tall rainforest illuminated with rays of sparkling sunshine.  

As we walked, we talked about getting a GoPro for better recording our adventures and the conversation turned to cooking up hair-brained ideas for making money while perpetually travelling. But decided that would turn our adventures into a job, which defeats the point, doesn’t it? 

Rainforest shifted to a cliff-side she-oak forest, punctuated with lookouts and staggering views of the sea cliffs. Looking back, we could see that the highest point was the first lookout we’d just come from. 

“Listen to the wind in the pine needles” I said looking up. We were completely sheltered from the wind, and enjoyed that familiar sound of wind moving through fine needles. 

The she-oaks had a personality of their own, reminding me of Dr Zeus characters.   

The track steepened and turned to well maintained stone stairs. I paused at the top. I knew there was a reasonable descent ahead and suddenly had a flash back to the pain of the stairs at Wineglass Bay, last week. “Hang on Dave, I might just stretch out my hamstrings first.” Thankfully this worked perfectly! No pain what so ever. 

Down on the plateau, the stunted forest grew only as tall as David, and even I could see over the top in places. I’m glad I could because there was a view to the other side of the cape and more cliffs in the distance. 

A section of boardwalk curved gracefully through the last of the plateau. Turning a bend, suddenly we stepped onto the windswept escarpment of the cape. A spectacular wall of dolerite columns dominated the horizon. 

Dave turned back to face me and smiled, watching my reaction. 

“Woah!” We’re constantly being amazed on this walk. 

We stopped at the lookout points along the edge, trying to come to grips with this staggering sight. A sheer wall of towering dolerite columns. Around 200 meters high, plunging straight down, in places. The sea below seem to move in slow motion, washing against the columns.  

“It’s a calm day, image this is a fierce storm!” Dave said eyebrows raised.

“There’s no two ways about it. Tassie is a spectacular state!”

A crisp salty wind, whipped across the exposed escarpment so we stopped to put our wind jackets on. It must always be windy here, I thought noticing the the plants grew more or less horizontally against the rocks. 

They looked like wise old limbs, twisted and embedded into the crevices. Miniature, flat packed trees. 

Passing a decent sized lake, we continued into a miniature forest. At first it looked like heath, but on closer inspection they look more like stunted trees. 

“They look like a bonsai, naturally bonsai-ed by the wind” My husband, the botanist.    

“Here’s a miniature banksia” I said coming across a diminutive yellow flower.

Eventually we arrived at the tip of the Cape with a view down through the a narrow line of columns, jutting into the ocean. 

The view east along the cliffs, revealed another lookout with Cape Pillar on the horizon (of the ‘Three Capes’ multi-day hike. One for the bucket list).

The next lookout along, looked back at the previous, giving us a side view of the point. Looking down, we could see into the cracks between the dolerite columns and wondered how long it will take for this bit to erode away. 

I checked my watch, we’d done 7.5km and it was time to turn around and head back. But first we looked for a spot to have a snack, to refuel for the mainly uphill return. 

“Somewhere out of the wind, in the sun, with a bit of a view.” Dave described our brief perfectly. Sure enough we found a place beside the track on the cliff edge, not too close and certainly not ‘instagram close’. 

Earlier we’d passed a couple; she was taking a photo of him balanced on a column, over the edge. I held my tongue. Living on the cliffs in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, we have witnessed the aftermath of three needless deaths of dumb-arse selfie takers posing for instagram. What is that about? 

We didn’t linger in our sheltered spot, keen to get going. Back at the sheer dolerite cliffs we stopped for a second look and to try to burn them into our memory, knowing the photos weren’t doing it justice. It is a magnificent sight. 

“Look, it breaks off in cubes” David pointed down into a crevice.  

We looked at the return journey as a workout, and fell into a fairly steady rhythm. 

Warming up I wanted to remove my wind jacket but didn’t want to stop. Somehow I managed to keep climbing stairs while disrobing, zipping up, folding and putting away the jacket. Result!

“We’ve got an hour or so of daylight, should we do a spot of sketching?” I asked Dave as we approached the first lookout.

“I’ve got teriyaki on the mind” he chuckled. We’d just been discussing dinner plans.

Arriving back at the first lookout, we paused to take in the view.

“I’m having a good life, Carol.”

“I’m having a good life, too!” 


After spending the day marvelling at a spectacular natural landscape, it‘s depressing to witness deforestation. For whatever reason these trees have been cleared and set alight, we can’t help but see this as a tragedy.

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