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.
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Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair: 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. 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. Similarly, you will discover many old plants such as the deciduous beech but also various varieties of pines: the King Billy pine, the celery pine or the pencil pine. 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.
Hiking in Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair NP
The main activity of the national park is undoubtedly hiking!
Being well equipped
To get the most out of the park, you need to be equipped with good hiking gear. Plan good walking shoes as well as warm and waterproof clothes (even in summer) because the weather is unpredictable. It is not uncommon to have showers after a big blue sky, moreover, the wind is always fresh. Stock up on resources and water (the towns closest to the two entrances are several kilometers away) and don’t forget your sunscreen and your sunglasses (because yes they could be useful…).
Also remember to check the weather conditions (Bureau Of Meteorology) because bush fires are frequent and destructive in Tasmania. The Tasmanian fire alert site (keep yourselves throughout your trip to the island!): alert.tas.gov.au/pages/map.aspx.
Moreover, always check that the road is passable because it can be snowy. Finally, take the opportunity to fill up with pure and fresh air, you will be far from the Australian heat and its big crowded cities.
The park is teeming with hiking trails that are real gems. You can start with short and easy walks and then end up with more experienced or even formidable ones such as the unmissable Overland Track known throughout the world.
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.
The famous ‘Overland track’
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).
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!).
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.
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.
Best time to travel to Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair
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. Moreover, Tasmania is one of the few places in Australia where you can ski. Winters are also very rainy on the island, although it is true that it rains regularly throughout the year.
How to get there and how long to stay?
Getting to the National Park
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 or from Devonport.
Shuttle in the NP
A shuttle service has been introduced to protect the area and limit the number of vehicles in the park. Private vehicle access is not permitted between the Visitor Center and Dove Lake during shuttle hours. You will be able to find out the timetables at the visitor center, these vary according to the time of year. The shuttle fare is included in your entry to the national park. The Cradle Mountain Visitor Center is the departure point for the shuttle to Dove Lake.
How long should you plan for Cradle National Park?
The national park is huge and stretches over 160,000 hectares with glaciers, rainforests, lakes and abundant wildlife. Depending on the activities you plan on site, your stay in the park may be longer or shorter. If you want to do short hikes here and there then plan at least 2 days to go around the park. For more experienced walkers, we advise you to spend at least 4 or 5 days to take full advantage of the different walks available to you.
Also read: Cradle Mountain – 2 days Itinerary
Accommodation: where to stay?
It is no surprise that we remain in the same register of deep nature. For the more “roots” among you, the place is full of free camps, two of which are right at the entrance to the park. Very convenient for an early morning hike. However, these are rudimentary camping places, there are no toilets or drinking water. Adventure you say?
For those looking for comfort and in particular a hot shower, the Discovery Parks Cradle Mountain located at the entrance of the park will be your base. Count between $65 and $85 for a pitch (with or without electricity) or opt for a shared dormitory or a comfortable cabin from a hundred dollars a night.
For a visit in total immersion, you can also sleep in one of the cabins of the Waldheim Rustic Cabins. Rustic and typical accommodation whose price varies between $95 and $185 per night depending on the number of beds (4, 6 or 8).
Lake St. Clair
Live the experience of an unusual night in the heart of the heritage-listed Pumphouse Point. At the end of a pontoon, a small cabin on the lake will serve as your home for the night. Enjoy the calm to connect with nature and to rest. Tranquility at a price… You will still have to pay between $560 and $1,750 for one night for 2 adults. All meals of the day are included (breakfast, lunch and dinner), drinks as well as the rental of bicycles or rowboats.
Otherwise, the best solution is to go to Derwent Bridge, a small village a few kilometers away where you can sleep in one of the free campsites thanks to your national park pass. It is better to book your stay in advance on the national park website or by calling the office directly.
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.
Written by Ronan Pezzini