It was a shame to get up and leave our lovely AirBnB so early, as the surrounding gardens were wonderful; there was a flowering tree just outside our window covered in nectaring birds, including the Tasmanian endemic yellow wattlebird. But we were going on an adventure, and had to make the most of our day.
Be warned, if you want to park in the carpark closest to the start of your desired walk it’s best to get to Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park as early as possible, as when the shuttle buses are running (8am-6pm in summer, and 8:30am-4:30pm in winter) you’ll have to park at the visitor centre and get the shuttle to and from your start and end points. This information is very useful if you’re planning on doing some of the longer walks, such as climbing the summit of Cradle Mountain, as the length of the walk won’t give you enough time to get the last shuttle back to the carpark unless you get there early. If you don’t mind an extra-long walk then that’s fine, but as we weren’t planning on being out after dark, we elected to skip climbing to the summit.When you arrive at the visitor centre it’s essential to purchase a National Parks Pass from reception. I assume most people visiting the park will have driven there themselves, and are planning to visit more than just the one national park during their time in Tasmania, so it makes economic sense to purchase a 2 month vehicle pass for $60. This allows up to eight people in one vehicle to visit as many Tasmanian national parks as they wish during the time frame. And why would you come to Tasmania if you’re not planning on visiting multiple national parks!?
After purchasing our pass, we got on to a lovely new hybrid shuttle bus which dropped us off at our starting point at Ronny Creek carpark. We were the only two people to get off at that stop, with the majority of people heading straight to Dove Lake to walk the Dove Lake Circuit, or head up to Marions Lookout from there. At Ronny Creek we registered our walk, and then set out to follow the Overland Track towards Crater Lake, approaching Marions Lookout from that direction. From the get-go the scenery is stunning, even though you can’t yet see the mountain, and it was clearly abundant in wildlife, as evidenced by the vast carpet of wombat dung. In fact, the Tasmanian Wilderness area is so stunning that it actually meets seven of the ten cultural and natural criteria for UNESCO world heritage status, making it one of the highest scoring sites on the planet. But enough about statistics, hopefully some of the pictures I took will help convince you to visit.
The footpaths consist of gravel paths, rocky stairs with handrails, and wooden boardwalks, and like all Australian national parks are well marked out and maintained. Our walk took in Marions Point via Crater Lake, and then Kitchen Hut at the base of the summit before winding down steeply to Dove lake and following the gentle track to the Dove lake carpark. If my memory serves me correctly it took us around five hours to complete and took us through a range of habitats including moorland, rainforest and mountain peaks. There was plenty of wildlife to see including endemic green rosellas with their red and blue facial markings and black currawongs (picture something like a crow with a singing voice), also only found in Tassie.
The weather can be unpredictable at such altitudes so make sure you pack for different weather conditions. We visited in glorious sunshine, which was very lucky as it had rained on 285 days of the past 365! It was so hot that I even managed to burn the backs of my calves (wear sun cream kids!). But although we had great weather, people we later met who visited only a few days after us were walking around Dove Lake in a blizzard!
Overall, Cradle Mountain was a fantastic day out where we managed burn off a lot of calories, encounter amazing wildlife, and observe stunning scenery. If you head to Tasmania and don’t at least visit this national park, people will think you’re mad, and I’d tend to agree. You might even see a wombat or two.