Location: Southwest National Park
Length: 16 kilometres return
Grade: 3 (some bushwalking experience recommended for rough surfaces and short steep sections)
Distance from: Hobart - 121 km, Launceston - 321 km, Devonport - 403 km
Just driving to the trailhead for the South Cape Bay Trail makes you feel rugged, wild and isolated. You'll have to take the most southerly road in all of Australia down to Cockle Creek, which serves as the beginning and end to Tasmania's most hazardous and difficult hike -- the indomitable South Coast Track. But, don't worry, you are only going to walk the safest and easiest section of Tasmania's most infamous track which is known as the South Cape Bay Trail. And after enjoying the incredible scenery that the trail provides, you can brag to your friends about how you completed a piece of the South Coast Track.
You'll be walking into the largest swath of protected land Tasmania has to offer in Southwest National Park. There are no roads past the carpark at Cockle Creek heading south or west. The only other sign of human existence lay all the way at the southwest corner of Tasmania in a little hiker's station known as Melaleuca. That's where hikers get dropped off by plane or boat before walking their way across Southwest National Park to emerge at Cockle Creek. Perhaps you'll meet a few exhausted walkers along the way.
The drive down to the South Cape Bay Walk is nearly as beautiful as the walk itself. You'll have the privilege of taking the Huon Highway through the Huon River Valley; a verdant stretch of rolling hills full of apple orchards. It is the area that earns Tasmania the nickname "Apple Isle."
After passing the town of Huonville, follow the Huon Highway for another 70 kilometres to Hastings Caves Road (C635). This road eventually turns into Lune River Road, and, after 22 kilometres, you'll arrive at Cockle Creek. Find the Rangers station and you'll find the trailhead to the South Cape Bay Walk.
From Hobart, Cockle Creek is a 2 hour drive over 121 kilometres. Launceston is 4.5 hours away sitting 321 kilometres to the northeast. Devonport is clear across the island. At 403 kilometres away, the drive should take you about 5 hours and 19 minutes.
You'll be greeted by the Walker's Registration Box right at the outset of the hike alongside Cockle Creek. Make sure to sign the registration book and your intentions for the day as this information is used for upkeep of the track. It may also help you if inclement weather roles in and you need assistance.
You'll gently ascend a rocky track up Moulder's Hill for the next 3 kilometres before arriving at a marshland. Fortunately, duckboards are provided throughout the marshland to allow you to cover the next few kilometres rather quickly. After leaving the marshland, you'll come up and over a few easy hills before getting to a cliff top.
From here, you can see the entirety of South Cape Bay. Rocks seem to pour out of the lush forest to roll across the beach and off in the distance you can see Lion Rock; a rock formation emerging from the ocean that looks like a lion at rest. If the weather is nice and the surf is high, you're likely to see plenty of surfers enjoying the waves.
You can get down to the beach via a staircase at the far side of the cliff. You'll find toilets and a campground alongside a creek that flows to the ocean. After enjoying the beach and the seclusion, it's time to return on the same track.
This track is famous for its mud and poor traction. Always wear sturdy shoes with good grip.
Supervise children and take caution on the cliff edge.
Many walkers have to be rescued off the South Coast Track, and the South Cape Bay Walk is the very last section of this difficult hike. Make sure to bring plenty of food and water to share with anybody who may be distressed.
South Cape Bay is a remote beach with no lifeguards. Swim at your own risk.