Cradle Mountain, one of the most popular natural tourist sites in Tasmania, is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area at the northern end of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. As the fifth highest mountain on the Apple Isle at 1,545 metres above sea level, the wild landscape around Cradle Mountain boasts a wide variety of flora and fauna waiting to be explored. For the less adventurous, the world-famous Overland Track that takes you on a long 6-day walk through the splendid mountain terrain at Cradle may seem daunting, but don’t worry. There are plenty of nice day walks to suit visitors of various fitness levels such as the Dove Lake Circuit and Weindorfers Forest Walk. Read on to find out how you can enjoy a relaxing and scenic day walk at Cradle Mountain to unveil its natural beauty!
Let the adorable wombats welcome you in the national park
With the extensive road network, most visitors in Tasmania will choose to rent a vehicle to explore the island’s rugged wilderness on their own. For those who choose not to drive, you may either book a private tour from tour operators like Groups Tasmania, or take a public bus to the mountain from Devonport or Launceston. The bus journey will take about 2 to 3 hours, depending on your boarding point. As part of the conservation efforts to preserve the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, heavy vehicles are not permitted in the park. So if you are travelling by public bus, transfer to the complimentary McDermott’s Coaches’ shuttle bus service operated on behalf of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service upon arrival at the visitor centre.
Along the way to the Dove Lake carpark – gateway to a lovely introductory walk to the park, let the cute and chubby wombats welcome you! Do approach these territorial marsupials quietly from the front as their sense of smell is better than their sight. If they detect your smell from their backs before they see you, they may be frightened and take flight out of fear. The cuddly wombat is native to Australia and is a common sight in this area, so don’t forget to look out for them once you enter the national park.
Marvel at the magnificent Cradle Mountain views across Dove Lake
Gear yourself for at least 2 hours of picturesque views of the Cradle Mountain along the great Dove Lake Circuit walk of ~6 kilometres long. Start on the left side of Dove Lake carpark and follow the newly-completed track clockwise around the lake. The narrow but well-preserved track takes you under the beautiful shadow of the mountain, through the tranquil Ballroom Forest and back along the lake’s western shore to the starting point.
For the first hour or so, the journey will be relatively easy and pleasant for most people with its generally gentle terrain. Midway through the track, you will be able to find large wooden benches by the lake to rest on. Do pack along your own nutritious lunch for this day walk so that you may enjoy an awesome picnic in the wild by the gorgeous lake overlooking the mountain. Replenish your energy here to prepare for a slightly more strenuous journey ahead comprising of numerous large steps uphill followed by rocky slopes downhill, a relatively rugged terrain compared to the first half of the track. Nonetheless, the rewards you will reap upon reaching the elevated point along this track is worth the effort, for you will be able to discover unique alpine and subalpine vegetation and soak in breathtaking views of the Cradle.
Admire the colourful deciduous beech
Amidst the evergreen native Australian flora such as the Tasmanian Snow Gum and Pandani in the mountain, lies the colourful deciduous beech, which is more commonly known as Fagus. This yellow-leave shrub is Down Under’s only cold climate winter-deciduous plant and can only be found in the highlands of west and central Tasmania. Depending on the season you visit, the colour of its leaves differ, from bright green in the summer, to yellow in spring till early autumn, and finally brilliant red in the later part of autumn.
Find your picture-perfect spot near the iconic boatshed
Built in 1940 by the first ranger at Cradle Mountain, this famous boatshed has appeared in countless photos featuring the mountain. It was made mainly of King Billy pine, a Tasmanian endemic softwood tree found in cold and wet sub-alpine forests. Until the 1960s, it was used to house a number of Huon Pine boats that ferried visitors around the lake. Although left vacant now, it continues to be a historical highlight for Cradle visitors as it remains largely in its original form, except for some restoration works completed in 1983. With the impressive mountain as the backdrop, the iconic boatshed on the northwestern shore of Dove Lake about 600m from the starting point is the perfect spot to take lovely pictures!
Check out the forest around the home of the national park’s founder
Done with the Dove Lake Circuit and still eager to discover more Tasmanian wilderness in the national park? Then take a short 20-minute easy grade walk in the Weindorfers Forest starting from the Waldheim chalet. This rustic chalet was once home of Gustav Weindorfer, an Austrian-born Australian who was the founding father of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. Enjoy your stroll as you navigate through the forest of huge King Billy pines, celery-top pines and myrtles.
If you can, take some time to view the displays in the chalet for a glimpse into Gustav’s pioneering life at Cradle. In addition, if you are lucky, you may find wild Wallabies and Pademelons leaping around near the forest. So do keep your eyes open for pleasant surprises like this!
Immerse in Tasmanian wilderness at Cradle Mountain
You will not regret making a day trip to the world-famous Cradle Mountain to experience Tasmanian wilderness and immerse in its natural beauty. The entrance fee of 16.50 AUD (11.70 USD) is valid for 24 hours per adult of at least 18 years old and includes usage of the Cradle Mountain shuttle bus service mentioned earlier. The fee is halved for children aged 5 to 17 years old and free for kids under the age of 5. It goes directly towards the upkeep of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park and is used to maintain and upgrade visitor facilities, walking tracks and information booths. By paying a small fee, you get to contribute to the conservation efforts of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and enjoy the scenic site at its best. Definitely a meaningful and worthwhile trip isn’t it? Enjoy your hike!