Exploring Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is one of Tasmania’s biggest attractions, a World Heritage Wilderness Area that’s home to the famous Overland track. This ancient land was once connected to Antarctica millions and millions of years ago, and when you arrive you’ll feel like you’re in a strange, otherworldly land, so unique and beautiful is this place.

Getting to Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

The entrance to the park is about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Launceston. An easy drive along the B1 highway, once you turn down from from Sheffield, the road becomes a lot steeper and windier, and you’ll notice a sharp change in the landscape around you. This is Tasmanian highlands, and scattered amongst the distinctive golden buttongrass and rosy shrubs are endemic conifers, eculalypts and beeches, all under the moody greys of the rolling fog.

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Keep driving until you reach the Visitor Centre and stop here to buy your National Park Pass. As well as park access, you can also take advantage of the shuttle bus with you pass. This is honestly the best way to go about accessing the park, especially in the colder months when there is still snow on the road. On our way in the shuttle bus we passed a car that had slipped down a gully and was left on its side. Luckily no one was injured, but this was the moment I learned a super important tip. Your rental car insurance doesn’t cover you on restricted roads. Ie; the roads you drive after you pass the park boom gates. Shit aye.

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So, leave the car at the visitor centre and take the shuttle bus. They depart every 20 minutes, stopping at the starts of several walks along the way, plus you can get some commentary on the park if your bus driver is feeling chatty.

Reaching Dove Lake

Dove Lake is the final stop on the shuttle bus run, and the probably the most popular place in the park. If you’re not sure where to go, jump off here.

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From here there’s a number of different tracks you can tackle. My plan was to attempt the Cradle Mountain Summit, a 13km, 7 hour round trip from the Dove Lake car park. However, Mother Nature had other plans and the drizzly, windy conditions forced a Plan B – the iconic Dove Lake Circuit trail. This 6km walk is far more straightforward, with clearly marked paths and boardwalks the whole way and no challenging climbs, but it is one of Tasmania’s premier walks.

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This walk will take you to the foot of Cradle Mountain, which were sleeping under a blanket of fog when I arrived, as well as the famous Dove Lake boathouse. I walked clockwise, heading in the direction of Glacier Rock, so I arrived at the boathouse at the end of my walk. I was amazed by the amount of people who drove all that way, only to hop out of their cars, take a picture, and then leave without even attempting any of the walks. So yeah, this little section is not as peaceful as my photos would have you believe, but the rest of the walk was enjoyed in relative solitude. Which was perfect for soaking up the magnificence of the area I was in.

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And trust me, after all this, a delicious meal and a drink will go down a treat when you get back to civilisation, if you actually want to leave that is!

Have you ever been to Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania before? Let me know how it went in the comments!

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