Cave to Coast – a proposal for Tasmania’s next iconic multi day walking experience

A brief description:

This walk starts at Hastings Caves and ends at South Cape Bay. It adheres to the Tasmanian World Heritage Management Plan 2016 and takes existing trails and tracks; builds new where necessary and cleverly links them all to existing tourism highlights enhanced with commercially viable yet sensitively placed guiding and accommodation.  Walkers will experience an unusual complex of ecologies including karst systems, beaches, button grass plains, dry to wet Sclerophyll Forest (including stands of old growth forests).  They can ride on the historic tiny train to Southport Bay’s beautiful Deep Hole or cycle along the tracks as an option…tramp the splendid landscape encasing Southport Lagoon keeping one eye on those unreal mountains… sense the presence of the First Nations people…be guided by local Indigenous and other specialist rangers… learn of past explorers  …safely boat across Recherche Bay toward Cockle Creek…then take the magnificent hike out to  South Cape Bay. As a finale they will stand in the presence of Australia’s southernmost point. We are confident that this walk has sufficient unique hooks to accommodate an iconic status.

Each of the evenings can be spent in mid range accommodation designed to be contemporary, eco friendly and referencing past occupation. Or visitors may choose to camp at the low impact camp sites. This walk is designed to attract interstate and international visitors whilst enhancing the enjoyment by local people of their own ‘backyards’. Either group can choose to take a commercial ‘upgrade’.

The Far South consortia has been working with many community stakeholders to put forward our vision for the state’s next great multi-day walking experience. With Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife funding on the table for the right experience we believe that this route will provide well deserved and improved infrastructure for the benefit of all the community as well as training and employment opportunities.

Location: Hastings Caves to South Cape Bay / 4 days – 3 nights

Key attractions:

  • Australia’s largest publicly accessible dolomite cave.
  • Two secluded bays, two lagoons, two oceans and numerous thermal springs temperate rainforest environments, including areas of old growth forests.
  • Heathland environments.
  • A ride on the 1920 heritage listed bush tramway, the Ida Bay Railway overlooking the bay where Lady Jane Franklin journeyed upriver searching for her lost countryman.
  • Spectacular and largely undeveloped coastlines including pure and remote sandy beaches. 
  • Rich Aboriginal cultural links.
  • Location of one of the earliest known and friendly contact between Europeans and Tasmanian Aborigines.
  • Landscapes and seascapes that have changed little since this contact.
  • The opportunity to learn about the area’s early industries including whaling, fishing, boat building, mining and forestry, as well as the stories of explorers, sealers, convicts and early settlers.
  • Riparian environments.
  • Locality from which many of the type specimens of Australian flora were collected by French and English scientists in the late 18th and early 19th century.
  • The opportunity to see and learn about local fauna including White Bellied Sea Eagles, Hooded Plovers, Wedge Tailed Eagles, burrowing crayfish, live-bearing sea stars, devils, wallabies, echidnas, whales and seals.
  • The landscape where the D’Entrecasteaux expedition planted a French garden and undertook the first European scientific observation.
  • Visit to the South Coast in Tasmania’s renowned South West National Park and World Heritage Area.
  • Views of Australia’s southernmost point (South East Cape).
  • Temperate climate.

Day 1

Visitors would travel from Hobart in under 2 hours or from localities in the Huon Valley / Far South region to start the trip at Hastings Caves, where they would have a guided tour of the spectacular formations in Newdegate Cave. Visitors would then follow a new walking track running parallel to Hastings Caves Road to the Thermal Pool, and thence across Lune Plain to Ida Bay. The section of track north of the Thermal Pool could access patches of old growth forest, a rare stand of 10m tall slender tree fern (Cyathea australis), and natural springs. Lune Plain is a largely natural mosaic of buttongrass and woodland, which features the remnants of historic logging tramways and offers spectacular views of the adjacent mountain ranges of the World Heritage Area. The track would also feature riparian environments in the vicinity of Mesa Creek and Lune River.

Overnight accommodation would be on the area of the Ida Bay State Reserve west of Lune River Road, looking out onto Lune Plain with views towards Adamsons Peak and the Southern Ranges. The accommodation at this site could be nestled among the woodland patches. There would be opportunities for star gazing and nocturnal wildlife spotting in the vicinity of the accommodation.

Day 2

After visitors have walked a short distance to the Ida Bay railway station, their day would start with a train ride from Ida Bay to Elliott Beach on one of Australia’s last operating bush tramways – assuming the railway can be kept operational. Otherwise, it is assumed that a cycle path would be constructed whilst protecting its heritage values to enable visitors to cycle to Elliott Beach.

From Elliott Beach, visitors would follow a constructed walking track along existing road casements and thence into the Southport Lagoon Conservation Area, to the northern shore of Southport Lagoon. They would then follow a new walking track along the western shore of the lagoon to a campsite near its southern shore.

Accommodation are a series of custom designed and Indigenous inspired huts in a bush camp. This would be a short walk from the southern end of Big Lagoon Beach, which visitors could explore at the end of the day’s walk or at the start of the following day.

Day 3

Visitors would follow a new walking track along the alignment of former vehicle tracks to Leprena, with a side-circuit to Little Lagoon Beach. At Leprena they would cross the Leprena Track and walk a short circuit through oldgrowth forest adjacent to the lower reaches of the D’Entrecasteaux River, before returning to the Leprena Track. Just downstream of the Leprena Track, they would board a boat which would take them across Recherche Bay to Cockle Creek. The boat trip would offer interpretation of the rich Aboriginal and European heritage associated with the bay. The total walk length (including beaches) would be approximately 10 km. Overnight accommodation would be in specially built cabins in the Cockle Creek Visitor Services Zone.

Day 4

Visitors would do a return walk along the existing South Cape Bay Track (part of the South Coast Track) from Cockle Creek to South Cape Bay. The highlight of the walk is South Cape Bay itself, which is a wild and rugged stretch of coastline exposed to the full force of the Southern Ocean. Walkers can access sandy beaches, and would have views of South East Cape, which is Australia’s southernmost point. The walk along the South Cape Bay Track features attractive heathlands, which are rich with wildflowers in summer and always impressive as a plain of button grass. The South Cape Bay Track is 7.5 km long, so the return walk is 15 km.




Emerge from Australia’s largest dolomite cave to ultimately stand in awe at the enormity of the waves of the nation’s southern-most point.

Breathe in the cleanest air in the world and blow those cobwebs away.

This is some journey. Tasmania’s stunning wild areas and waterways packed up into an incredible experience that cannot be anything but iconic.

Community group Far South Future, local tourism association Far South Tasmania, the Huon Valley Council and Destination Southern Tasmania have collaborated to curate a mystical expedition to our version of World’s End.

Far South Future President Rachael Truman said the promised sealing of the tourist road to Hastings Caves in 2019 will facilitate travel to the walk’s starting point.

“This will encourage development of this incredible area, and what better way to start the walk than to experience this amazingly diverse landscape above and below ground?” Ms Truman said.

Destination Southern Tasmania CEO Alex Heroys said DST was fully supportive of opportunities to create iconic experiences in southern Tasmania.

“The Cave to Coast Walk would increase regional dispersal and yield. This opportunity will stack up against other options around our state and whatever happens in the end, there is no doubt this is an exceptional idea in one of the most beautiful areas of the South,” Mr Heroys said.

The Cave to Coast will offer an unusual mix of complex and sometimes unique Tasmanian ecologies including karst systems, beaches, button grass plains and old growth forest.

Ms Trueman said in consultation with the South East Tasmanian Aboriginal Corporation (SETAC), the trail will continue to evolve to ensure that it does not transgress culturally sensitive areas or leave an ill-considered footprint in our World Heritage areas.

“The Cave to Coast concept has been designed to make the most of the existing trails and iconic highlights of the Far South including Hastings Caves and the area’s beautiful lagoons and hot springs,” she said.

“Hikers will have the opportunity to learn about the area’s significance to, and past caretaking practices by the Tasmanian Aboriginal people from indigenous park rangers. ”

“We know that respectful story-telling is the key to connecting visitors with place and culture, and ultimately this connection is what takes a walking experience from spectacular to iconic.

“The indigenous story is at its heart in the spirit of reconciliation but this story cannot be properly told without recognising European first contact and settler ingenuity.  On offer is the site of the first European scientific observation and the lost French garden amidst the landscape where the D’Entrecasteaux expedition first brought their explorers and scientists to Tasmanian shores.”

Ms Trueman said the Cave to Coast could be designed to be a four-day, three-night trail featuring a number of transport modes.

“Designed ultimately to immerse every walker in off-road simplicity and quiet, it still offers a variety of ways to diversify the journey including a boat trip in the bow waves of the French and British expeditions across timeless Recherché Bay, or the option to hop aboard a bike and maybe even board the most charming of small trains.

“Small mid-range eco accommodation will be designed to reflect the history and cultures of the walk and stargazing will feature as an evening activity with the chance to see the fabled Southern Aurora. With no ambient light to detract from the gaze, the Far South seems to serve up so many more stars with each being dazzlingly bright.”

Mr Heroys said the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service is looking to find the experience that best tells our story to visitors that will value and support our beliefs.

“What better way to do it than an authentic walking experience, shared by locals and visitors alike? Far South Future believes that this route is iconic and exceptional, and will benefit the community as well as creating training and employment opportunities.”