Cradle Mountain a place you always want to return to

On the road ….. now finally provisioned up on fresh Tasmanian produce it was time to kick Le Frog into gear and head up into the central North of Tasmania to Cradle Mountain. But of course we aren’t taking the normal route, no we are going to take some of the back roads and discover some of the hidden gems along the way. 

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Taking our route along the Northern A1 west from Devonport. We turn left about 7 kilometres before we reach Ulverstone. As you come down the hill there is a sign that says, Wilmot Road …. Cradle Mountain. This is the road of our discovery. We would not advise it if you are hauling a large rig. This road is rather tight with lots of twists and turns but magnificent views with very little traffic. We will need to go back through the dash cam but if we said we had passed 6 cars we could be exaggerating. 

This route takes you through Wilmot and on to Letter Box Drive of funny curiosity letter boxes.

The whole town has developed this quirky letter box trail

It meanders through the “valley of views”, to a look out over Lake Barrington and beyond to Mount Roland and the Promised Land. Yes there is such a placed called the  “Promised Land”, and we can’t forget Nowhere Else, yep you certainly wouldn’t want to live “Nowhere Else” in the “Valley of Views”. And when we got to Middlesex it was time to remember why we were here ….. why were we here oh yes Cradle Mountain. 

Mount Roland dominates the skyline with most of the peak shroud in cloud
Lake Barrington in the middle ground

Arriving at the Cradle Mountain Discovery Park, we discovered an envelope with our name on it. Contactless reception, it doesn’t quite feel the same as a welcoming face behind a desk. Oh well the instructions were straight forward and we headed for our campsite. Each campsite is quite private with a lot of natural bush separating them. The ground is rough gravel and quite uneven, so be ready to sleep on a lean or spend time using your ramps or whatever to try and level up a bit. We found our site also had the track to the amenities building beside it but some thicker bush maintained our privacy to an extent. This is a no frills campsite. Whatever you bring in you take out and there is no drinking water available. We opted for an unpowered site to save money as our solar is keeping us well and truly juiced up. We were into bed early to insure we were up early for our next challenge …. hiking Cradle Mountain.

Our campsite at the Discovery Park Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain is a locality and mountain in the central highlands region of Tasmania. The mountain is situated in the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. At 1,545 metres (5,069 ft) above sea level, it is the 6th highest mountain in the state.

The area around the mountain has a large number of day walks, as well as being one terminus of the Overland Track. The Overland Track winds through a variety of landscapes to its opposite end—80.8 kilometres (50.2 mi) to the south at Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake.

The mountain is climbed by walkers virtually all year round. It is a strenuous return hike from the Dove Lake car park with a recommended allotted time of six-and-a-half hours. This was not something the Dreamtime crew were about to embark on but we were envious of those with younger legs venturing off. We had chosen to do the lesser but still fitness testing, Dove Lake circuit. 

The circuit follows the lake around to the base of the mountain retuning you to the famous boathouse

Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain National Park is a wonderland of spongey moss-carpeted floors, rolling buttongrass moors, scenic boardwalks, curious wildlife and the kind of trees that play host to entire worlds of budding, miniature greenery.

Such a diverse eco system

This beautiful national park was our absolute must do stop in Tasmania and if you love being out in nature it should be an essential stop on your Tasmania itinerary as well. We had travelled to Cradle Mountain some years back on a short visit day tripping from Launceston. It had such a lasting impression that we knew one day we would be back.

If you are heading this way ….. These are a few useful things we found helped us to prepare for our visit to Cradle Mountain National Park.

Like all national parks in Tasmania, you’ll need to pay the entry fee on arrival at the Visitor Centre which includes access to the Cradle Mountain National Park shuttle.

The entrance fee is $25.00 per adult per day, but if you’re travelling in a family group or visiting more than one park in Tasmania, it’s often more economical to buy the Holiday Pass which costs $40 per person or $80 per vehicle and is valid for 2 months.  We took the option of the 2 year pass for all Tasmanian National Parks, for 2 vehicles for 2 seniors at the amazing fee of $46, sometimes it pays to be old 😜. (prices as of January 2022). Check here for more info. 

Our seniors passes ready for the windscreen.

Since October 2018, the free Cradle Mountain shuttle bus is now the only way to travel through the park during opening hours, that is, between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. during summer (October through March) and 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m in winter. Shuttles leave every 10-minutes or so from the Visitor Centre (more frequently when demand is high) and can drop you at any of the main stops within the park, including the Interpretation Centre, Snake Hill, Ronny’s Creek and Dove Lake. See here for more info. When arriving at the beautifully designed information centre there are a number of staff on hand interested in what you want to see and will help you choose which walk is best for you. 

Though some visitors grumble about the fact they can no longer take their own cars into the park whenever they wish, we actually think this is a fantastic system that is efficient, convenient and goes a long way to easing congestion on the narrow winding roads. It is less of a disturbance to the wildlife and disperses visitors throughout the park very effectively.

We arrived in Tasmania in late January …. In the heart of Australia’s summer …. and despite the wonderfully balmy temperatures of 30 degrees + along the east coast of Queensland that calls for daily swims and lazing in the sunshine, we did welcome the Cradle Mountain moderate temperatures of 24-28 degrees, blue skies and cooler nights. Perfect weather for outdoor activities and then snuggling up at night preparing for another day of trekking.

Even if you’re visiting in summer like us, you’ll want to come fully prepared for wet, chilly conditions. We were exceptionally lucky to score crystal clear days for the whole time we were there. Seriously, it rains about three quarters of the year up there and a summer bout of snow is not all that unusual. Yes, snow in Australia… in summer, who knew!

Layers are key so be sure to pack essentials at any time of year: a thermal base layer like merino wool, warm fleece or puffer jacket and durable waterproof jacket. In winter when average temperatures hover around zero degrees, a scarf, beanie and gloves are all so a good idea. But alternatively you require hat, sunscreen and plenty of water for the hot temperatures that can come in summer. The hikers registration points have written guides on what they recommended you to carry whilst trekking in these mountains. The weather can change without warning and they are very forthcoming that hypothermia can kill.

Given the area receives an absolute drenching of rain, a solid pair of waterproof hiking boots and hiking socks are also the way to go. I love my new Keen waterproof hiking boots which are lightweight and super comfortable, with my quick dry bamboo socks, as well as my new hiking pole. I was set. Rob opted for a more traditional walking shoe as he feels more comfortable with nothing wrapping his titanium ankle so he wears these ones from Anaconda, I also picked him up a new hiking pole. 

Between the plumes of mist and bearded trees, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d just stumbled into Middle Earth, and while the gloomy skies actually lend rather well to these fairytale landscapes, if you’re here to hike, you’ll want to take full advantage of the fine weather. If your plans aren’t fixed and you’ve got some flexibility in your itinerary, don’t hesitate to make a beeline for Cradle Mountain if it looks like you’ll have a clear window. Or if the sky is clouding in head for another activity, nothing is far in Tasmania. There is a webcam available here for you to checkout the weather in real time.

Whether you’re driving or walking, Cradle Mountain provides plenty of opportunities for wildlife spotting.

Around dusk, wombats emerge from their burrows in full force, as do wallabies and Tassie Devils, and it’s not unusual to find them waddling across the road in a slight daze from their daytime slumber in search of an evening meal. If you’re behind the wheel, travelling on a winding road at the 45km/h dusk to dawn speed limit, this can still take you by surprise, so be sure to keep an eye out for anything ferreting about on the roadside and always be prepared to stop. If there is road kill on the road Tasmanian Devils find it irresistible to have an easy meal. We were advised if we were unlucky enough to hit and kill an animal, if it’s safe to do so stop and pull the carcass into the Bush. This stops Tassie Devils from venturing onto the road for a feed and becoming the next victim.

Out on the trails, you’ll more than likely see the full collection of Aussie cuties – echidna, Tasmanian Devils, wallabies, wombats and, if you’re really lucky, the elusive platypus. Generally, the animals will keep their distance so please repect that and certainly don’t go traipsing across the grasslands to get a closer photo – we saw this happening all too often! Keep your distance and, whatever you do, don’t feed them! We had a very inquisitive Pied Currawong. They feed on a variety of foods including small lizards, insects, caterpillars and berries. This one had us in fits of laughter because at first we thought he/she wanted our lunch. But we soon worked out that when we sat and opened our lunch the flies arrived in numbers. This bird was so clever it sat near us eating all the big fat marsh flies. Forget the Aeroguard. Really what every picnic table needs is a Pied Currawong.

The best fly catcher we have seen
That Pied Currawong didn’t want any corn beef sanga, fresh flies are the go aparently.

With wisps of mist unfurling rapidly between the peaks and radiant golden light glimmering across the landscapes, Cradle Mountain is an absolute feast for the eyes, and the lens. You can’t take a bad photo. As you walk your eyes are constantly drawn to the peaks and at every turn you take another amazing vista appears. So tantalising is the scenery, it’s easy to take much longer than the stated estimated time for your chosen hike as you are always stopping to admire the view and get another great photo.

Us on one of the many beaches

Dove Lake and its insta-famous boatshed are the obvious choice as they’re easy to access at any hour, offer up clear views toward the twin peaks and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get a perfect reflection to capture. It’s only a short walk from the drop off point so if you’re time limited, you can easily walk to the boatshed and take some Insta worthy pics and be on your way.

Rob taking his YouTube shots of the famed boatshed

However the Dove Lake walk is certainly a must if time permits. Take the day and don’t rush it. It’s not often you get to walk in pristine wilderness surrounded by such grandeur. You do need a modest level of fitness as there are broad walks, stairs,  and some steepish inclines. There is no rush so allow the time to be in your comfort zone with the pace you walk. It’s certainly possible to set your sights higher and enjoy the dawn light from one of the upper ridge-lines if you are fit and agile but remember to always register your plans when taking on the more challenging trails.

Reflections on a clear summers day not the norm

You’ll quickly notice that there are absolutely no rubbish bins anywhere around Cradle Mountain National Park. And yet, the landscapes are completely pristine and untarnished by the piles of trash that sadly are so pervasive in many other natural areas we have been to around the world.

This does, however, mean that you need to plan ahead. If you’re bringing any food into the park or hoping to have a picnic lunch, remember to bring an extra bag with you to take away all your rubbish. This includes tissues, food waste (even fruit peels and cores), and of course, any plastics. Then, dispose of your rubbish responsibly when you’re back at your accommodation.

Cradle Mountain National Park is by no means over crowded, but the early bird does get to enjoy the soft morning light and have the trails more to themselves.

No crowds early in the day

As the vast number of people visit on a day trip from Launceston, staying at the Discovery Wilderness Park certainly gives you the advantage to get on one of the first shuttles of the day and hit the trails bright and early. You’ll have plenty of time to disappear into the wilderness before the bulk of tourists arrive to spend their afternoon flitting around Dove Lake, as the crowds usually arrive around mid-morning. 

The walk varies from broad walks to steps to natural path ways.

But having that advantage does cost and at $75 per night in January to park your camper van or pitch a tent it is really up there. With that price you do get to use the amenities, it does not include power or water so you must be self sufficient as the water that is on site is non potable. We have to say, we wouldn’t return anytime soon. In our current situation with Covid we would expect the amenities to be cleaned but on both the times we used the showers they were not clean and Rob complained about the same two bandaids in the drain of his shower cubicle over two consecutive days 🤮. We felt the camp was very over priced for what you got. There is accommodation areas popping up along the roads into the park and some offer RV camping, so it would be worth looking at these as an option. But if you are wanting to stay in the heart of the National Park we have listed the info of the Discovery Park below, bookings are essential.

Cradle Mountain Peaks demand your attention

Put simply, Cradle Mountain is a place of magic, with its alpine heaths, overland tracks, rugged terrain, as well as its diverse flora and fauna.

White flowers were to be found everywhere, apparently the colour changes with the seasons.

From to the lush microcosms of budding greenery that dress every tree, to the fields of tea tree bushes blanketed in tiny white flowers that shimmer beneath the sun filled sky. From the abundance of wildlife and their freedom to roam to the ephemeral mists that roll across the mountains. From the sun-drenched boardwalks to the enchanting forests.

The rich tannins that seep down from the button grasses turns the water to the colour of rich tea.

It’s a place we were eager to return to as soon as we had left.

We will be back.

(please find following a collection of photos from our Dove Lake walk, we hope you enjoy them)

Join us next time when we explore some amazing waterfalls.

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Discovery Parks  | This Australia-wide chain run holiday park offers powered and unpowered campsites, dormitories and basic cottages for larger groups. Facilities include a shared guest kitchen, barbeque and laundry. Check rates and availability here and here.

The boat shed Cradle Mountain