Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the wonders of the Australian state of Tasmania. On an area of 160,000 hectares, in the land of 3,000 lakes, you will discover glaciers, rainforests, lakes and wildlife, including the famous Tasmanian Devil. In this article you will find all the information you need to explore this stunning national park.
Tasmania’s most popular National Park
The park has two entrances: Cradle Valley to the north and Lake Saint Clair to the south. Lake Saint Clair is the deepest lake in Australia (167 m). To the north, you will see the famous Cradle Mountain, which offers unforgettable hikes. For the more adventurous, the Cradle Summit offers a breathtaking panorama. The rich diversity of fauna includes wombats, wallabies, Tasmanian devils, echidnas, the dangerous tiger snakes, and various species of birds and birds of prey that roam the park. In the south, the deep Lake Saint Clair is as relaxing as it is mystical. This part of the park offers less steep walks and has a special atmosphere. Here you are far away from the Australian heat, the big cities, and the coasts.
To get the most out of the park, you need to be equipped with good hiking gear. Take warm clothes (also in summer), supplies, and water. The nearest towns are several kilometres away and you pay for drinking water in the Cradle Valley. Remember to check the weather conditions before you head off, and especially bushfires, which are common and destructive in Tasmania.
Best time to travel
The best season is obviously summer (December and January) when the valleys are blooming. However, the temperatures remain cool even at the foot of the mountain. For example, at the end of January in the morning it is only 10°C. In winter the mountain is covered with snow. The temperatures vary between 0 and 5 degrees and it rains much more than in summer.
How to get there
As you might have already realised, the island is small. In fact, it’s tiny, compared to the rest of the country! So you can easily drive from north to south of the island.
Cradle Mountain is no exception and is easily accessible from both Devonport and Hobart. From Devonport you drive 1h15min over the C132 to the Cradle Valley and 2h 30min to the lake. From Hobart you take the A10 and then the A15. The roads in Tasmania are good to drive on. It is better not to take the fastest way, but the most scenic.
The A10 connects Wynyard with Hobart, past Cradle Mountain. From Devonport to Hobart, this is the recommended route that will take you past innumerable lookouts, waterfalls, and national parks.
If you don’t have a car, you can take buses all over the island. However, bus trips take much longer and are more exhausting than driving your own vehicle. From Devonport, bus 745 will take you to the northern entrance of the park in one and a half hours.
There are of course organized tours. From Hobart, Tassie Tours offers day trips for $ 175. From Devonport, you pay $ 160 with Viator.
It’s no surprise that we spend the night in the great outdoors. There is not a lot available, but it’s enough. There are several free camps, 2 of which are literally at the entrance of the park. Very practical for early morning hikes. On the other hand, there are neither toilets nor drinking water. You asked for adventure, right?
For those looking for a hot shower after a hike, Discovery Park Cradle Mountain is the right place. This is also at the entrance of the park. You pay between 48 and 58 AUD for a campsite (unpowered or powered) or book one of the cabins or dorms for about a hundred dollars a night.
You can also rent a cabin at the Waldheim Rustic Cabins from the National Park itself. It’s a rustic accommodation for about $ 95 per night.
Lake St. Clair
There is less to choose from than in Cradle Valley … It’s best to go to Derwent Bridge, a small village a few kilometres away. With the National Park Pass you can use several campsites for free. Remember to book early.
In addition, Lake St Clair offers the chance for an unusual night at Pumphouse Point. In a cabin at the end of the pontoon, you are surrounded by an idyllic lake. This experience costs 495 AUD.
Things to do in Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair
To explore the National Park, all you need is a backpack and your feet! However, activities such as canyoning or helicopter flights are offered, too.
But let’s get to the heart of the topic: the walks.
There are numerous hiking trails, easy or very difficult, short or long. You will find detailed descriptions of the trails from “very short walk” to “overnight walk” on the website of the national park or at the information centre. We have enlisted a few hiking trails, the crème de la crème, so to speak.
One of the 60 most beautiful hikes in Tasmania. A short 20-minute walk, which is great for anyone and worth the detour. You actually feel like you’re in an enchanted forest.
This is the most famous lookout of the park! From there, you can see almost all of the lakes in the area and in particular Dove Lake, the largest and most beautiful. This is also the opportunity to see the pointy peaks of the mountains. There are several paths leading to this viewpoint.
Cradle Mountain Summit
To get to the summit, you hike from Ronnie Creek over the Overland Track. From there, you go to Marion’s Lookout and then to the foot of the mountain. There is a sign showing that you will need about two and a half hours to the top. You will probably have a guess how much time you will actually need. Trust me, you will need the two and a half hours. It’s not just hiking, it’s more climbing. There is no path, but poles fixed into the rocks, which serve as a support. You have to find grip with your hands and move forward. Challenging and dangerous!
Although this hike can make even the most adventurous hiker sweat, it is of course very satisfying to arrive at the top and to enjoy the view. Be well prepared, take plenty of water with you, allow enough of time, and watch where you’re going (especially on the descent!).
Billy King Walk
A 30-minute circular walk takes you amidst a dense tropical forest and to Old King Billy, the oldest pine in the area.
Dove Lake Circuit
This is the most popular hike in the park. You get to explore Dove Lake from all angles, between the boardwalk, the forest, the beaches, and the famous boathouse. However, we recommend that you combine this walk with another one because the entire trail may seem a bit long and redundant.
At the foot of the Cradle Mountain, you can take the Face Track, one of the park’s altitude trails. The path is steep, which gives it a certain charm. Also the Lake Willis Track is fantastic. Emotions are guaranteed there!
Platypus Bay and Aboriginal Culture Walk (Lake St. Clair)
A 5km walk will take you to a beautiful lookout from where you will see the lake and pier of the Cuiver River. Perhaps you are lucky enough to see a platypus in the early morning or late evening.
Mount Rufus Walk (Lake St Clair)
This is one of the most challenging hikes on Lake St Clair. You walk 18 km, 7 hours on foot, while enjoying a breathtaking view of the valley and the various lakes in the park.
THE trail of the park and the whole island is a 65 km walk from Cradle Mountain to Lake Saint Clair. You can see the mountains and all the natural beauties. The downside of this world-famous hike (apart from fitness) is the price of $200 and you need to make a reservation (sometimes months in advance).
The ticket to the National Park costs $ 16.50 per adult for 24 hours. We recommend that you buy the Car Pass for 8 weeks ($ 60), which allows you to visit other national parks in Tasmania.
Vehicles are prohibited in the Cradle Valley. Therefore, the only way to get to the trails is by shuttle. It leaves every 10 minutes from the centre and takes you quickly to various stations.
– Take hiking maps with you
– Be well equipped
– Look at the weather forecast before you leave
– There is no free drinking water in the Cradle Valley. Furthermore, surrounding places are far away. Remember to bring supplies.
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Written by Ronan Pezzini