By Road & Track
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By Road & Track

On foot to Waterfall Bay

Waterfall Bay is an easy, short walk on Tasmania’s Tasman Peninsula. The peninsula offers a number of walks spanning easy to longer to overnight.

Low clouds hide the headland at Waterfall Bay.

WHY we decided to drive here on a day of low cloud was to pick up a couple friends from the mainland who were coming off the four-day, Three Capes walk.

We’ve had other friends do the walk and they all say how spectacular it is. For we who live on this island, however, the charge the national parks service makes to do the walk suggests it is a park service cash cow, especially when those of us with some bushwalking experience can cover the same territory for free by following the older tracks. The difference is that those paying for the walk get to sleep in comfortable huts while bushwalkers sleep in their tents. Whether the walk qualifies as an authentic Tasmanian bushwalk where hikers have to rough it a little, and whether the parks service is troubled (they aren’t) by the social injustice of their fee in a state with the lowest incomes in the country is an ongoing topic of discussion.

Okay, I just wanted to raise those issues because I have some concerns over the commoditisation of our wild places. I don’t want to detract from the experience people get by paying and walking the track. Our friends said that the name, Three Capes Track, is a misnomer. Only two capes are walked — Pillar and Huay — the other nearby cape, Raoul, is reached by following a different track.

Well, we collected our friends who thoughtfully did a RAT test for Covid before we met-up with us just in case there was a carrier in one of the huts where they stayed. The virus is still very active in Australia where infection rates exceed the peak of the pandemic, but where nost cases are mild thanks to the vast majority of the populaion being vaccinated.

Sandstone cliffs above a turquoise sea at Waterfall Bay.

The bay

Reaching Tasman Peninsula early, we decided to make the short walk from Tasman Arch to Waterfall Bay. We could see what we weren’t going to see as we approached the peninsula. The clouds were down on the clifftops and an off-and-on light drizzle was falling.

The walk is only a few kilometres along a well made track. It starts at Tasman Arch, a high sandstone arch standing above the surging sea, the result of a sea cave that collapsed in times very distant. Even in the occasional drizzle and even though the cloud base wasn’t many metres above us, the views from the lookouts were over high cliffs plunging hundreds of metres into the green-grey sea. Waterfall Bay is no sandy beach, just an indent in the cliffline over whose vertical cliff a stream plunges as a waterfall when there has been sufficient rain.

Passing through eucalyptus forest on the edge of the high sea cliff, the wide, even track was presumable built for tourists visiting Tasman Arch and venturing along a little further.

I recall the name of the bay from when I lived in Tasmania in the 1970s. I was a member of the Hobart Walking Club then. The club had a project to improve the track to the bay as it then existed. The late Frank Morely, whose family had a hop farm in the Derwent Valley, was the leader of the project.

We lingered at Waterfall Bay awhile, taking photos, thinking about all those eons over which the sandstone that makes up these cliffs was laid down and how the sea is nibbling them away to return them to the rock cycle. We saw, too, the sign locating the continuation of the Tasman Trail. Fortescue Bay seven hour walk, it told us, pointing the way into the tall eucalyptus forest that the trail transits along the top of the sea cliffs. That’s a walk for the long days of summer, not these shortening days of autumn, and you need someone to pick you up at Fortescue Bay to bring you back to Tasman Arch where you leave your vehicle.

It is a short, easy walk to Waterfall Bay along a wide track of even grade. Come, though, on a summer’s day when the sea sparkles blue and the cliffs glow orange in the light.

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Russ Grayson

Russ Grayson

I'm an independent online and photojournalist living on the Tasmanian coast after nine months on the road in a minivan.