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Cape Raoul

bushwalk.

This walk was undertaken in the Tasman National Park on a warm sunny day in late November by a diverse group; one fit male photography enthusiast and two sisters of very limited fitness who enjoy a little plant identification and bird watching. Consequently, although described in the guide book as taking 5 hours return, it took considerably longer. We would recommend allowing all day to enjoy its many aspects, not the least of which is awe-inspiring coastal scenery. We set off from Stormlea up a refurbished track cut through bracken, marked with orange ribbons, past a small pond, the only fresh water we encountered on the walk. Here the bird life was at its most abundant, although elusive. Having delighted in a large flock of Black Cockatoo as we left our accommodation at Safety Cove after breakfast, we disappointedly saw no more of these engagingly noisy birds.

However several Superb Fairy-wrens flashed by and we identified the Grey Shrike-thrush " jock-widd-ee" and Kookaburra by their characteristic calls. Dedicated birders (or twitchers) would have identified more. It was in this area that we also startled several wallabies on the return journey, late in the afternoon. The track soon left the bracken for dry sclerophyll forest, mainly a mixture of Stringybark eucalypts and acacia, with the occasional blue gum (eucalyptus globulus) with its smoother grey and cream bark. This well worn track then turned right up new sandstone steps past recent Parks and Wildlife signage and then gently descended to a presently dry stream bed. Then uphill through slightly more luxuriant forest where Pimelea humilus, Black-eye Susan (Tetratheca pilosa), Billardiera scandens and Native hop (Daviesia latifolia) formed large colourful swathes under the forest canopy.

Here the track divides; straight ahead for Cape Raoul, right for Ship Stern Bluff and Tunnel Bay. It seemed amazing to us that surfers would tramp this track laden with their boards but Ship Stern waves have a great reputation! A short steeper climb was rewarded with our first spectacular coastal view at Mount Raoul lookout, south down to the Cape itself with Ship Stern Bluff and Salters Point to the north along the rocky coast. On the western horizon over a sparkling blue green Storm Bay lay Bruny Island with the long blue line of mountains to South West Cape behind. Having admired the superb view of our objective we noted the steep decent (and climb on our return) required to achieve it. Less enthusiastic walkers could make this the end of their journey and stay longer to admire the panoramic view.

Shortly after resuming our walk the track begins this descent through south-facing forest with a distinct change in the ecosystem. Subject to the prevailing westerlies and violent southerlies, the taller and thicker forest canopy included Dogwood, with ferns and a lone Dicksonia antartica in a gully. The forest floor was covered with mosses and lichens that also grew on tree trunks giving them a distinct patterning. Here the track, often indistinct, was marked with faded tree markers. The last section of the descent drew closer to the coast and the sea could be glimpsed through the progressively stunted eucalypts, acacia and banksia. We emerged above the cliffs of a small inlet where the view expanded: to the west Bruny Island, while beyond and to the north, the bulk of Mount Wellington. And for the first time a view was revealed, over vegetation to Tasman Island and Cape Pillar in the east.

Now we entered an extensive forest of her oaks and occasional bull oaks, broken only by a short stretch of relatively exposed plateau with stunted bushes. By no means beautiful, these are great coastal survivors. And with the thick carpet of needles muffling our footsteps and giving welcome protection from increasing heat (or on a blustery day from the wind and rain) this area has a magic of its own. Finally we emerged onto a stony plateau where tenacious small bushes clung on in the face of what must be, in winter, severe gales. Here, sadly, the raised paths were no longer needed to preserve walking boots from swampy ground and the lake had completely dried up (due to this year´s dry spring, or has this happened over a number of years?) A lone swallow skimmed the dry bed in hope. The last section of the track passed between the lake and a dramatic coastal inlet, exposing a widening view to the east to include Tasman Island, Cape Pillar and Mt Brown, finally skirting the fluted basalt cliffs above a noisy seal colony. Beyond lay Antarctica!

Helen Hitchen 27th of November, 2006


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