Tasmania, the Apple Isle… Not everything in Tasmania is about apples and orchards! The island state is known for its pristine natural environment and I was very curious about entering this world. But on this occasion, we were reasonably limited in time and had to find an easy way of penetrating the wilderness. Driving from Hobart to the North of Tasmania, we found a way to explore beautiful Cradle Mountain and the Tasmanian Wilderness.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Located in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Cradle Mountain is probably one of Tasmania’s most iconic sights. Nestled in the heart of the Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area, the park was created in 1910 as a conservation area. The Tasmanian Wilderness is recognised as an area of unique cultural and natural significance to the world and is noted for its flora and fauna.
Standing at 1,545m, Cradle Mountain towers over Dove Lake and offers beautiful and iconic views, with evergreen sub-alpine vegetation.
A Hiking Paradise
The Cradle Mountain area boasts some 60 hiking trails, suitable for various fitness levels and different lengths. Cradle Mountain hosts the Overland Track, a 65-km, 6-day long walk and one of Tasmania’s most famous hiking trails. Cradle Mountain and its surrounds are ideal for those who want to get away from it all, albeit for a few hours, and enjoy nature at its best.
Tasmania is generally colder than the rest of Australia and the weather in the sub-alpine regions is quite unpredictable, so it’s important to come prepared. Even for a short hike, I recommend being prepared for the changing weather. You need to pack warm clothes, including a scarf and a head covering. Also, rain showers can come and go unannounced so weatherproof clothing is a requirement. And if you are lucky to catch a few sun rays, sunscreen is necessary.
Other Walks Within the National Park
- Enchanted Walk (from Cradle Mountain Lodge) – Allow approximately 20 min.
- King Billy Walk (from Cradle Mountain Lodge) – Allow approximately 30 min.
- Knyvet Falls (opposite Cradle Mountain Lodge) – Allow approximately 45 min.
- Dove Canyon Circuit (via Knyvet Falls) – (opposite Cradle Mountain Lodge) – Allow approximately 2-3 hours.
- Pencil Pine Falls and Rainforest Walk – (from Interpretation Centre) – Allow approximately 10 min.
- Cradle Valley Boardwalk – (from Interpretation Centre) – Allow approximately 2 hours one way to Ronny Creek or 3 hours one way to Dove Lake.
- Weindorfers Forest Walk – (from Waldheim Chalet) – Allow approximately 20 min.
- Ronny Creek to Dove Lake (via Lake Lilla) – (from Ronny Creek Carpark) – Allow approximately 1 hour one way.
- Ronny Creek to Dove Lake (via Crater Lake, Wombat Pool and Lake Lilla) – (from Ronny Creek Carpark) – Allow approximately 1.5-2 hours one way.
- Dove Lake Circuit – (from Dove Lake Carpark) – Allow approximately 2-3 hours.
- Marion’s Lookout (via Crater Lake) – (From Ronny Carpark or Dover Lake Carpark) – Allow approximately 3 hours.
Cradle Mountain is also the start of the Overland Track, a 65km medium grade walk. Over 6 days, this walk will take you through some beautiful wilderness.
Dove Lake Circuit Walk is the most popular hike at Cradle Mountain. A grade medium, it is accessible to everyone with a reasonable degree of fitness. Allow 2 to 3 hours to walk the 6 km around the lake. The walk is to be done in a clockwise direction and a boardwalk runs along a large section of it. The walk is reasonably easy and doesn’t require any particular preparation.
The walk can get busy but you are sure to catch some beautiful sights. As it is Tasmania, the weather might be cloudy and the top of Cradle Mountain may be hidden in misty clouds. Nevertheless, it is a very pleasant walk, offering plenty of photo opportunities.
There is one hill to climb but nothing too difficult. We started the walk under a menacing sky, as is often the case in Tasmania… and then the weather cleared up a little bit. And then it rained, and then cleared up again…
The Boat Shed
Built in 1940, the boat shed is a very much photographed icon of Cradle Mountain. I suspect you have to be patient and get up early in the morning to catch the best light and create an outstanding shot… However, it is a very nice image, any time of the day.
The Tasmanian Wilderness
Visiting the Tasmanian Wilderness is a must-do, however, finding the time and the right conditions to go deeply into remote areas can be a challenge when you don’t have much time. We drove from Hobart to Cradle Mountain via the Lyell Highway. Between Derwent Bridge and Queenstown, the road meanders through the wilderness, which will give you a great opportunity to experience this unique environment.
The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area covers one-fifth of the state and is one of the last true wilderness regions on Earth. The wilderness is a mix of ancient rainforest and grassland. The scenery is wild and remote, with many different shades of green. The fauna living in this area includes wombats, platypuses, echidna and the protected Tasmanian devils. According to some believers, the Tasmanian tigers still lurks in those hills…
Just on the edge of the wilderness, and close to the West Coast, is a copper mining area. Queenstown was a bustling little mining town for a while and is now a lot quieter. The interesting thing is to see how starkly different the scenery is with the impact of mining. The “moonscape” of Queenstown gives a fair idea of how much damage man-made activity can inflict on the natural environment, and how important the Wilderness Area is.
A drive through this area will take you through the ages and through the most beautiful nature, all in the space of a few hours. If you continue the road around Mount Dundas National Reserve, you will end up in Strahan, a small town on the west coast of Tasmania.
Sheffield, Town of Murals
Sheffield is a lovely little find. Only thirty kilometres from Devonport and an hour’s drive from Cradle Mountain, Sheffield first appears to be very typical of the Australian rural small town. Surrounded by a rural landscape, with rolling hills and dairy farms, Sheffield is settled in the majestic vicinity of Mount Roland, and at the time of our visit, bushfires gave the sky an eerie colour.
Thirty years ago, Sheffield decided to escape its small-town destiny and modelled itself on the Canadian town of Chemainus in order to create a way to attract visitors. In 1986, the first mural appeared and started telling the story of Sheffield. Since then, 60 murals have been painted, telling the story of Sheffield and giving its people a sense of pride.
Sheffield is worth a stroll or even several hours. The murals are of various artistic quality, but all tell a story and make for an interesting discovery.
Hobart to Launceston
This little road trip takes two nights and three days unless you want to spend more time hiking around Cradle Mountain. It is a great way to get from Launceston to Hobart while seeing some of Tasmania’s beautiful nature. The park entry pass costs AUD24 per car per day (up to 8 people). If you are spending more time in Tasmania, you can also consider the holiday pass, which costs AUD60 per car for up to 8 weeks. There are so many national parks in Tasmania, this is great value.
Tasmania fully deserves more than a few days. I have been there several times and I still feel there is something to discover. I especially recommend the East Coast.
Have you visited Cradle Mountain and the Tasmanian Wilderness? Please share your experience in the comments below!