Aboriginal culture, fauna, flora and marine life. True diversity.

Rocky Cape - National Park, North West Coast, Tasmania

Rocky Cape National Park: Tasmania (photo by Carol Haberle)

Rocky Cape National Park

by Carol Haberle

Rocky Cape National Park is today one of Tasmania’s smaller national parks; 3064 hectares in size, but rich in Aboriginal history, flora, fauna and sea life. Many fascinating rock formations can be found here including many aboriginal caves. The park can be accessed from two points…

1. from the west: turn left off the Bass Highway (A2) at Rocky Cape into Road C227 with park access clearly marked; and

2. from the east: turn off the Bass Highway 12km from Wynyard, to Boat Harbour Beach. About 1.5km from the highway take Irby’s Road and travel 8km to Sister’s Beach.

Mainly considered a day use park, there are many beautiful walks in the area with clearly marked tracks. Boat ramps are provided at both the eastern and western points of the national park and gas BBQ facilities, picnic areas and toilets are also available.

History of the Aboriginal People

Known to the aboriginal people as Tangdimmaa, aboriginal occupation of this area began many thousands of years ago. The vast cave middens reveal evidence of over 8000 years of occupation, and provide one of the largest and most complete records of the lifestyle of aboriginal people anywhere in Australia. Seals, scalefish and shellfish were the main food items of these people, also game such as wallaby and varieties of edible plants such as fern and grass tree, all of which are still living and growing in the area. Still today, Tangdimmaa holds special significance to the aboriginal people, who are actively involved in the planning management of the area, and visit frequently for cultural, spiritual and recreational purposes.

Rocky Cape - Aboriginal Cave

Cave Bay: Rocky Cape National Park (photos by Carol Haberle)

Tasmanian Native Flora

The hills of Rocky Cape come alive with native wildflowers regardless of the seasons. Year-round there is always something in flower. Rocky Cape is the home to hundreds of different plant species, many of which need fire to regenerate, including at least 40 species of orchids which lie dormant underground until fire passes over them. Plants such as banksia, wattle and she-oak grow stunted, ground hugging and craggy over the hills due to salt, wind factor and the poor soil resulting from the weathered quartzite, of which the hills consist of. All around can be seen purple iris, correa, yellow guinea flower, white flowering tea tree, pink and white epacris, boronia and Christmas bells to name but a few. Also seen here is the spectacular grass tree, Xanthorrhoea (known in my childhood as the ‘black boy’ but now politically incorrect!) with it’s grassy skirt and tall flower spike.

Rocky Cape - Tasmanian Flora

Flora: Rocky Cape National Park (photo by Carol Haberle)

Tasmanian Fauna

When sea levels rose at the end of the last Ice Age, Tasmania was separated from mainland Australia, and for the last 10,000 years Tasmania has been almost a living museum where ancient marsupials survive in isolation. Many of our native animals are nocturnal, coming out between dusk and dawn to feed. Here at Rocky Cape National Park a quiet walk at dawn or dusk will find wallabies, wombats, possums, quolls, bandicoots and even on the odd occasions a Tasmanian Devil can be seen feeding here. Throughout the daytime one can see large flocks of black cockatoo feeding on the banksias, their cheeky black heads popping up amongst the greenery. Other birdlife to be seen includes the White-bellied Sea-Eagle, New Holland Honeyeaters, Galah, Green Rosella and Little Wattlebird, in all over 90 species of birds visit this area. As the sun sets, and the magic of orange shades are cast over this land, one can also watch the beautiful sight as thousands of short-tailed shearwaters (mutton birds) return to their nesting burrows on the rocky shores.

Rocky Cape - Black Cockatoo

Cheeky Black Cockatoo: Tasmania (photo by Carol Haberle)

Marine Environment

The waters surrounding the Rocky Cape headland are popular with both snorkelers and divers, and contain many underwater habitats rich in marine life. Sandy bottoms, beds of seagrass, a vast rocky reef with many underwater caves and deep water sponge gardens are home to a very diverse range of sea life, including sea horses and the weedy sea dragon, both of which have become very vulnerable to fishing pressure and are now protected by the Tasmanian Government. Sea stars, sponges, anemones and sea fans are all common in this area. Fish such as sergeant bakers, half-banded seaperch and parrot fish live in this area, and fisherman find it a great spot to catch gummy shark, blue-throated wrasse, flathead and leather jacket. One does not have to be diver or fisherman to see the local marine life here; a walk along the rocky foreshore at low tide and one can see all manner of marine life in the many rock-pools, small fish, anemones, sea-plant life, mussels and sea stars.

Rocky Cape - Sunset in the National Park

Sunset: Rocky Cape National Park (photo by Carol Haberle)

Off the north east tip of Rocky Cape, in just a few metres of water also lies the historic shipwreck of the S.S. Southern Cross, a passenger steamer that ran aground in 1889.

The significance and biological diversity of these waters has led to the area being classified as part of the National Estate by the Federal Government.

Rocky Cape Lighthouse

This lighthouse was built in 1968 as part of a network of lighthouses that stretch around Bass Strait to warn sailors of the dangers of the treacherous waters. Communication takes the form of coded beams of flashing white light with a range of 27 kilometres. The next links in the Bass Strait chain of lighthouses are at Table Cape to the east, and at Highfield Point, Stanley, to the west.

Rocky Cape - Lighthouse

Rocky Cape Lighthouse: Bass Strait (photo by Carol Haberle)

Note: when visiting this park, please respect the Aboriginal Heritage of the area. Do not disturb middens and do not enter the Aboriginal Caves.

A National Parks Pass is needed for entry into all of Tasmania’s national parks. All money raised protects and maintains the parks for the future. You must display a parks pass while in a National Park. Passes can be purchased from all Service Tasmania outlets.

All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography. You can follow Carol on Facebook at Haberle Photo Cards

Map: Rocky Cape National Park, Tasmania

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