- Shelley Dark
#12 Cradle Mountain
The very name Cradle Mountain has its own magic cachet. Because of excellent marketing? As significant as we'd been led to believe? We planned to find out.
Like everywhere else in Tassie, it's quite close to civilisation. A bit over an hour from Burnie, 2 hours from Launceston Airport if you want to fly in. It's part of the vast Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area which covers one-fifth of Tasmania.
view from Vale of Belvoir lookout
Cradle Mountain is at the northern end of the Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair National Park. We'll end our Tassie holiday at Pump House Point on the southern end.
There's a huge choice of accommodation lining the road in, from camping grounds to basic huts and hotels - Cradle Mountain is quite an industry! The best accommodation and closest to the park itself seemed to be Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge.
There's a central lodge with dark wooden walls, two restaurants, a sitting room, bar and spa.
Expect slightly run-down rustic cabins with basic 4 star comfort, spread out over the large sloping site on meandering bitumen roads - parking is outside your cabin. When we were there it was totally booked out.
Loved the vase of flowers in the foyer on checkin!
The small lake is near the lodge itself. Cabins have air-conditioning, a decent shower, comfortable bed, carpeted floor, a sofa facing a wood heater, a small table and chairs and a small verandah with 2 outdoor chairs. Wifi and TV are available only at the lodge (not in your room) and there's no coffee maker. We were amused to find our minibar chocolates had been opened and gnawed by some critter - the desk said probably a possum.
We wanted to do the most popular walk, at dawn, the 6km Dove Lake Circuit (on left on map). The red walks are easy, the black ones for the overnighters, the fitter or just more adventurous.
After checkin, we drove two kilometres back along the main road to the Visitors Centre to buy our parks pass for the next day.
The enormous dirt carpark looked like a vast Westfield shopping centre on a busy day - a huge number of cars and buses. With battalions of wall-to-wall hikers in khaki and camouflage with tractor tyre boots, floppy ventilated hats and backpacks I couldn't carry from the front door to the car. A forest of short shorts and beautiful brown legs.
This is how it works. There's a boom gate on the main road just beyond Cradle Mountain Lodge, leading into the park proper. From 8am-6pm, our helper said, the shuttle buses take tourists back and forth on the narrow one-way road, a precipitous drop on the side. They use radios to keep tabs on each other and private vehicles are not allowed to enter during those times.
But private vehicles can enter before 8am but must ask to follow a bus back out after that time. Sounded like a plan!
Late that afternoon we did the short very pretty Enchanted Walk near the lodge. It follows a gurgling stream through mossy forests and back again. That evening at dinner we chatted to other guests who were here for the tenth or more time, doing the same loved walks or trying new ones. Each season is different. It was a refrain we heard repeated while we were there. Cradle Mountain is very much loved.
I had nightmares during the night of meeting a car coming down the one-way road before dawn with us having to back up. I needn't have worried. We left in the foggy dark and were at the Dove Lake Circuit just as dawn was breaking. The road wasn't precipitous at all. We didn't meet a soul.
Magically, as we arrived, the mist began to lift. It's only a short walk from the carpark to this view on the shores of Dove Lake.
The full vista revealed.
The suggested route is clockwise so we set off to the left on a well-marked gravel path in the silence of dawn.
Through pretty flowering heath land, stopping now and then to take a photograph.
Past little pebble beaches with gnarled trees guarding them.
Consulted on the environment with a friendly currawong.
The path soon turned into a raised wooden walkway which continued for most of the circuit. It's covered with chicken wire to prevent slipping. A superb facility.
We met one curmudgeon later in the day who muttered, Why do people need these wooden walkways? We should be walking on the ground and wading through the mud! That would stop the whingers coming!
At every turn another view of this majestic saw-toothed mountain. And another photo. Lots of deleting to do that night!
Pretty paper barks.
Through forest and heath.
Native bushes flowering along the way.
Towards the end of the walk the path turns to gravel once more.
The historic boat shed made from King Billy pine on the northwestern shore was built in 1940 by the first ranger at Cradle Mountain. Boating was popular on the lake up until the 1960s.