Cape Pillar, Three Capes Track, Tasmania: See 'the scariest cliff in the known universe'

Good things come to those who walk. And to get to Cape Pillar, the tallest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere, you will have to walk.

You will have to walk for four days, to stride out a total of 48 kilometres, including a 19 kilometre hike out to the cape itself on day three. You will have to do this, as well, in Tasmania, where it's not always warm and sunny, and the track isn't always flat – though it is beautifully maintained.

Your reward is one of Australia's most spectacular sights, and one few get to see: Cape Pillar, a finger of wind-buffeted land ringed by sea cliffs, sheer walls of dolerite rock that rise some 300 metres above the ocean. That's the height of the Eiffel Tower, for those keeping count. There's a reason this is known to some as "The Scariest Cliff in the Known Universe".

It's not just the height that's remarkable at Cape Pillar but the sheer rugged beauty of these cliffs, covered in vegetation and pounded by sea. It's the jagged but geometric nature of the rocks, dolerite formations that look like thousands of giant, grey four-by-twos stacked against each other.

Cape Pillar is in the south-east of Tasmania, on the Tasman Peninsula near Port Arthur. From the clifftops of the cape here you can see nearby Tasman Island, windswept and interesting; and from there, there's nothing but wild ocean until you hit Antarctica.

Cape Pillar used to be much harder to access, requiring a multi-day hike over very rough terrain, with no facilities to use along the way. Carrying a tent and all of your food and supplies is no easy feat in this area.

In 2015, however, the Three Capes Track changed everything. This is now one of Australia's premier hiking trails, a three-night, 48 kilometre round-trip from Port Arthur (with the help of a bus and a ferry) with hut accommodation and perfectly maintained trails. There are plenty of highlights along the way, including Cape Huay, Fortescue Bay and the boat ride through Port Arthur; however, no sight can match the majesty of Cape Pillar.

Supplied PR image for Traveller. Cape Pillar, Tasmania. Images from Tourism Tasmania. Ben Groundwater feature.

Photo: Tourism Tasmania

It's rare to see rock formations such as these. Dolerite rocks are thin, hexagonal prisms, which are formed as magma cools. Tasmania has the largest number of these exposed columns of anywhere in the world, geometric "pillars" that are visible throughout the Three Capes Track, though they're at their highest and most spectacular at Cape Pillar.


It doesn't take long as you stand there high above the ocean, buffeted by howling winds, to figure out why this is known as "The Scariest Cliff in the Known Universe", though that moniker actually comes from the few rock-climbers who have dared to scale them. The fear factor stems from the wind and the vision of cold seas below, as well as the sheer the height of the cliffs, and the commitment involved for climbers once they choose to abseil over the top to begin the challenge.

The Three Capes Track has already been hailed as Australia's premier coastal bushwalking experience. Over four days and three night you will cross chasms, tall forest and tip-toe to the edge of Australia's highest sea cliff. At days end, you can rest in warm comfortable cabins. Supplied PR image for Traveller. Cape Pillar, Tasmania. Images from Tourism Tasmania. Ben Groundwater feature.

Photo: Tourism Tasmania

Most of us, of course, will only experience Cape Pillar from the top, which is just fine. From there you can see the lighthouse on Tasman Island, an incredibly wild and isolated spot that was manned from 1906 to 1976 – the only way to reach the building now is by private helicopter tour. You can see the hexagonal columns. Then you can breathe the sea air and consider the remoteness and magnificence of such a beautiful spot.

And then you can retie your boots, and start walking again.


Cape Pillar is in the Tasman National Park, on Tasmania's Tasman Peninsula. It's accessible via the Three Capes Track, or the shorter Old Cape Pillar Track. All on-track accommodation needs to be booked in advance. See or

The writer travelled as his own expense.

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