Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

Travel Guide Oceania Australia Tasmania Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

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Introduction

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is located in the Central Highlands area of Tasmania (Australia), 165 kilometres northwest of Hobart. The park contains many walking trails, and is where hikes along the well-known Overland Track usually begin. Major features are Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff in the northern end, Mount Pelion East, Mount Pelion West, Mount Oakleigh and Mount Ossa in the middle and Lake St Clair in the southern end of the park. The park is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

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Geography

This park has two main attractions - Cradle Mountain making up the north of the park, with Lake St Clair in the south. Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park has many mountains and spectacular lakes. Mountains which have made this national park famous include Cradle Mountain. Dove Lake and Lake St Clair are truly breathtaking. Padmelons, Bennett's wallabies, wombats and possums are some of the animals you will meet in this park. Watch out for the Currawongs (they look like ravens), who have learnt to unzip packs. Even if they can't get to your food, they can peck holes in things through your pack.

The climate here in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is very unpredictable and can change extremely rapidly. In this part of Tasmania, it rains 9 out of 10 days a year, so fully equip yourself with gear for wet weather.

The temperature is always colder than other parts of Tasmania, although it is not far south. Precipitation here is high because of the large number of trees. It could be raining for 5 minutes, and then it is suddenly sunny. Rain here is very light, like little "flakes" of water. Bring a raincoat instead of an umbrella, because it is extremely windy and you do not want to risk spoiling your brolly.

Be ready for freak weather - including snow in the summer.

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Sights and Activities

There are many spectacular mountains in the national park such as Cradle Mountain, Mt Emmett, Barn Bluff, Mt Oakleigh, Mt Pelion East, Mt Pelion West, Cathedral Mountain, Mt Ida, Mt Olympus, and Mt Ossa (which is the highest mountain in Tasmania). The vegetation at Cradle Mountain is classified as sub-alpine. It comprises of a diverse and beautiful mosaic of vegetation ranging from rainforest to buttongrass plains. The area contains ancient endemic conifers including King Billy Pine, Pencil Pine, Celery Top Pine, Nothofagus cunninghamii - a myrtle beech, and Nothofagus gunnii - a deciduous beech, which looks spectacular during the Autumn.
You are likely to see currawongs, wallabies, pademelons, wombats, and if you stay the night possums. Less common sights in the national park include Tasmanian Devils, platypus, echidnas, spotted-tailed quolls and eastern quolls.

You can take scenic flights from Cradle Mountain with Cradle Mountain Helicopters or go canyoning in the Dove River Canyon with Cradle Mountains Canyons.

Short Walks

  • Dove Lake Loop Track - A great introductory walk to the park, this walk leaves from the Dove Lake carpark. Take the track on the eastern (left hand) side of Dove Lake and follow it clockwise around the lake. The newly-completed track takes you under the shadow of Cradle Mountain, through the tranquil Ballroom Forest and back along the western shore of the lake to your starting point. Allow 2 hours.
  • Visitor Centre Rainforest Walk - Leaving from just behind the visitor centre is a short boardwalk that is a must for all visitors to Cradle. Take the time to meander through a patch of cool temperate rainforest and you'll be rewarded with views of the beautiful Pencil Pine Falls. The easy track, suitable for wheelchairs, then circles back to the carpark. Allow 8-10 minutes.
  • The Weindorfers Forest Walk - Leaves from Waldheim chalet and takes an easy grade through a forest of King Billy pines, celery-top pines and myrtles. The walk takes about 20 minutes at a gentle pace. Take a little extra time and view the displays in the chalet to catch a brief look at the life of the Weindorfers.
  • Enchanted Walk - This leaves from the bridge at the park entrance and passes by scenic waterfalls, pools, moorland and rainforest before returning to the Cradle Mountain Lodge. This walk takes about half an hour and is mostly dry underfoot.

Longer Walks

Times are indicative only. Times will vary depending on your fitness.

  • Marion's Lookout - 2 hours return. This hike takes you past Crater Falls and Crater Lake to a viewpoint overlooking Dove Lake. There is a steep section with chains.
  • Kitchen Hut - 4 hours return. This can be accessed via Marion's Lookout. This takes you up onto Cradle Plateau, where you can admire the alpine vegetation. Kitchen Hut can also be accessed via the Horse Track or by using the Lake Rodway or Lake Wilks tracks to access the Face Track and then the boardwalk to Kitchen Hut. These options will take longer than Marion's Lookout.
  • Cradle Mountain Summit - 6 hours return from Dove Lake carpark.
  • Waterfall Valley - 10 hours return or camp here overnight. This is the first overnight stop of the Overland Track.
  • Barn Bluff - 10 hours return or camp at Waterfall Valley.
  • Hanson's Peak - 2 hours return. A beautiful hike that, weather permitting, offers fantastic views of Cradle Mountain, Dove Lake and Marion's Lookout. There is a small section with chains. You will also be able to see Lake Hanson and one of the Twisted Lakes.
  • Lake Rodway - 6 hours return or staying in the Scott-Kilvert Hut. If staying overnight in the hut, there is information there about the walks that can be done from Lake Rodway. Accessed via the Lake Rodway Track and Hanson's Peak, although (if you are fit and prepared) it can be accessed by doing a loop around the back of Cradle Mountain. This would make it a very long day hike through some rough terrain.

The Overland Track

Cradle Mountain is the starting point of the world-famous Overland Track which runs for 65 km to lake St Clair at the southern end of the park. The walk demands a fair degree of preparation and physical fitness and takes 6 days to walk or longer depending on weather delays and the side trips you take. More information about this walk can be found the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service website.

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Opening Hours

Year-round.

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Cost

The Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre and all accommodation (except Waldheim) are a few kilometres outside the park. If you pay for a vehicle pass you can drive to Ronny Creek and Dove Lake inside the park. With a vehicle pass you cannot use the shuttle bus service. Alternatively, you can get a single person pass which entitles you to use the shuttle bus service. If you bought your own vehicle you can drive between the Visitor Centre and your accommodation (excluding Waldheim) and when you are actually going into the national park, park your vehicle at the Visitor Centre and take the shuttle bus.

  • Daily (up to 24 hours) - If bringing your own vehicle into the park you should have to pay only the $24 for the carload (up to 8 people). If you come on a bus you will have to pay $16.50 per person. You can only use the shuttle bus service if you have an individual pass.
  • Holiday (up to 8 weeks) - If you are staying in the park for a couple of days it will be cheaper to buy a holiday pass. Per vehicle with up to 8 people $60. Per person $30. A holiday pass is valid for every national park in Tasmania so it is well worth paying a little extra.

8 Annual and Two Year passes are also available.

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Getting There

Access from the south (Lake St. Clair) is usually from Derwent Bridge on the Lyell Highway. Northern access (Cradle Valley) is usually via Sheffield, Wilmot or Mole Creek. A less frequently used entrance is via the Arm River Track, from the east.

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Getting Around

By foot!

The Cradle Mountain shuttle service runs regularly between the Visitor Centre, Ronny Creek and Dove Lake.

There is a ferry service which operates on Lake St Clair between Narcissus and Cynthia Bay (where the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre is located). The price is $38 per person each way. This service is often used by walkers finishing the Overland Track as an alternative to walking back around the lake. There is a radio at Narcissus Hut connected to the Visitor Centre from which you can inquire about the ferry. Visitors to the Lake St Clair end of the park also take this ferry to Narcissus and then proceed to walk back to Cynthia Bay around the lake. The ferry will stop at Echo Point Hut (an hours walk from Narcissus) if requested. There is a radio located here also.

Scenic helicopter flights are available from a building beside the Visitor Centre. The aircraft in operation is a Robinson 44.

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Eat/Drink

All of the premium accommodation providers have restaurants, apart from Cradle Mountain Highlanders Cabins and Waldheim Cabins. Prices range from reasonable up. There is a small cafe at the Visitor's Centre, where you can buy items such as wraps and drinks.

A small selection of food (including frozen food) can be bought from the Discovery Holiday Park office. It is a good idea to stock up on food before coming to the park - there are plenty of supermarkets in Launceston (if coming from there) and a sizable Woolworths in Deloraine.

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Sleep

Premium

Booking in advance is recommended during peak season. They can be some good prices to be had during the off-season (no cheaper than what is listed here).

Cradle Mountain Hotel, 3718 Cradle Mountain Rd, Cradle Mountain, ☎ +61 3 6492 1404, e-mail: reservations@cradlemountainhotel.com.au. This hotel is nestled in alpine forests. Has two restaurants and a lounge bar. From $200.
Cradle Mountain Highlanders Cabins, 3876 Cradle Mountain Rd, Cradle Mountain, ☎ +61 3 6492 1116, e-mail: info@cradlehighlander.com.au. Cabins with a rustic feel. From $200.
Cradle Mountain Lodge - From $160 to $600. This hotel is right outside the entrance to the World Heritage Area, and is right next to the wombat burrows, so you are bound to see some wombats as you head out for dinner. The lodge building is beautiful, and very well fitted out for cold rainy days. If the restaurant's a bit pricey, the hotel has a very nice bar which does good meals at a reasonable price.
Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village, 3816 Cradle Mountain Rd, Cradle Mountain, ☎ +61 3 6492 1500. Check-in: 2pm, check-out: 10am. The hotel camouflages into the woody backdrop. From $300.
Lake St. Clair Lodge, Lake St Clair Rd, ☎ +61 3 6289 1137. Accommodation with an emphasis on eco-friendliness. There are studio cabins and suites. The restaurant requires bookings in advance.
Waldheim Cabins - $95 (4 person), $135 (6 person), $185 (8 person). The cabins are located inside the park and are equipped with electric heating, single bunk beds, basic cooking utensils, crockery, cutlery and an electric stove. Amenities block has showers and flushing toilets. Linen can be provided at an additional charge ($11 per person).

Budget

Discovery Holiday Parks are a budget accommodation provider opposite the Visitor Center. They offer:

  • Campsites - Unpowered sites for $35 and powered for $44.
  • Dorms - Male dorms and female dorms only, there are no mixed dorms. A 4 share dormitory costs $32. Rooms are heated and all linen is supplied. There is a shared kitchen with all crockery and cutlery supplied. A dorm, which sleeps 4, can be bought out for $74. There is no restriction on the dorm being mixed with this option.
  • Cabins - Self-contained, queen bed with electric blanket, bunk beds in separate bedroom, linen & doonas, air-conditioning, kitchenette (with microwave, full size fridge, electric fry pan, kettle and toaster, cookware, cooking utensils and cutlery), dining area and living area with sofa and LCD TV, bathroom with toilet, hair dryer, iron/ironing board. Rooms configured to accommodate 4 or 6 people are the same price. $129.
  • Cottages - Self-contained, queen bed with electric blanket, bunk beds in separate bedroom, linen & doonas, air-conditioning, kitchenette (with microwave, full size fridge, electric fry pan, kettle and toaster, cookware, cooking utensils and cutlery), dining area and living area with sofa and LCD TV, bathroom with toilet, hair dryer, iron/ironing board. With the addition of a gas log heater, dvd player, and balcony. Configured for 2, 4 or 5 people. Also as a separate option to the 4 person configuration is twin doubles. $149. For are extra $10 you can get a room with a spa.

Camping

Camping inside the national park is not permitted within the day walk area. The first two places you may camp outside the day walk area are Waterfall Valley and Lake Rodway, both of which have huts. Camping inside the park, where permitted, is free.

Huts

The huts inside the national park are free to use. All huts are located on the Overland Track with the exception of Lake Rodway Hut. Kitchen Hut and the Ranger Hut between Hansons Peak and Little Horn are for day use only, they should only be used overnight in emergencies.

If you are doing the Overland Track guided with Cradle Mountain Huts, you will use their own private huts. You may be looked after like a king but you need to be as rich as a king as well. Prices range from $2,000-3,000.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 14:19 on Mar 6, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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