Be inspired by the alpine wilderness of Tasmania's captivating Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
By Jennifer Ennion
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is arguably the jewel of Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage area, and undeniably one of Australia's most beautiful national parks. From the jagged peaks of Cradle Mountain to the mirrored waters of Crater Lake, this is a wilderness experience that will stay with you a lifetime.
- The view of Dove and Crater lakes from atop Cradle Mountain
- Watching the stars come out from the warmth of a park hut
- Staying at the stylish Pumphouse Point
How to get there
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is located in the middle of the island of Tasmania, and is easily accessible from the island's two main towns, Hobart and Launceston. There are two main access points to the park: the northern entrance, at the town of Sheffield, about 1½ hours from Launceston. The southern entrance is at Derwent Bridge, in Lake St Clair National Park – a 2½ hour drive west of Hobart.
Things to do and top attractions in Cradle Mountain
Hike the Overland Track
With magnificent views of alpine lakes and majestic mountains, it's no surprise the Overland Track remains the number one way to explore this stunning national park. The famous 65 kilometre (40 mile), six day trek to Lake St Clair is a serious challenge and great way to immerse yourself in the area's ever-changing scenery. Spot wallabies, wombats and possums as you trek from Cradle Valley to the top of Cradle Mountain, descend through rugged highlands, stop by waterfalls and explore myrtle forests with beech trees more than 60 million years old. Experienced hikers can tackle the track independently, but if you want to take the stress out of planning, sign up for the all-inclusive Cradle Mountain Huts Walk. Leading the way will be passionate, educated guides, and you'll stay in private hut accommodation, enjoying fine food and Tasmanian wine along the way.
Gaze at a star-filled galaxy
Like its Northern Hemisphere counterpart (Aurora Borealis), the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis) illuminate the night sky with flickering shades of green, blue, purple and red. Unlike Aurora Borealis, which is subject to extreme seasonal light changes, the Southern Lights can be viewed all year round – although most commonly during winter, May to August, and during the spring equinox in September. Tasmania is the best place in Australia to witness the stunning light show, and Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, with its series of flat, mirrored lakes, is a great backdrop for the Southern Lights. Head to the still waters of Cradle or Dove Lake and settle in for the show. You’ll be happy with or without the Southern Lights as the park is generally regarded as one of Australia’s best spots for stargazing.
Witness the "turning of the fagus"
If you’re visiting Tasmania in autumn (late April and May), head to Cradle Mountain to see what locals refer to as “the turning of the Fagus”. A delight for nature lovers and photographers, there's just a short window when the Tasmanian Deciduous Beech tree transforms from green to vibrant reds, oranges and golds. Fagus prefers cool, damp places, so it is often best seen in remote highlands. The Loop Track, which circles Dove Lake, is an easy two hour walk that passes through some patches of fagus. The even easier Weindorfers Forest Walk also offers easily accessible fagus, including trees that are much taller than the more usual stunted alpine form. One of the most spectacular displays of fagus is found around Crater Lake. Although this is a couple of hours return walk from the Dove Lake carpark, the sight of the steep slopes of the cup-shaped lake covered in brilliantly coloured fagus, makes it well worth the effort.
Take a scenic flight
Appreciate the stunning beauty of the national park from a helicopter. Cradle Mountain Helicopters has a handful of scenic flights to choose from, including trips that take in mirrored Dove Lake, Fury Gorge – Australia’s deepest gorge – Mount Ossa – Tasmania’s highest mountain, at 1617 metres (5305 feet) – the Walls of Jerusalem National Park and, of course, Cradle Mountain. The flights all leave from Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. HeliAdventures Tasmania flights leave from Launceston and head toward Mount Roland, above the rivers and gorges of the park, and over the Walls of Jerusalem and the Great Lakes district. During the trip there is even an opportunity to land the chopper to go walking.
Join an adventure tour
Hiking isn't the only way to appreciate the spectacular landscape of this national park. There are plenty of companies that offer alternatives, often with heart pumping adventure thrown in. If you want to get your heart racing, abseil 50 metres (164 feet) down into Dove Canyon with Cradle Mountain Canyons. No previous canyoning or abseiling experience is necessary but you do need to be open to a challenge. You can also explore the area on horseback with Cradle Country Adventures. Ride along Speeler Plain for 1½ hours while taking in amazing views of Cradle Mountain, Barn Bluff and Mount Roland. You can also climb to the top of the plain during a two hour quad bike tour. For both tours, the company will pick you up from your Cradle Mountain accommodation.
Stay at a boutique hotel
Pumphouse Point is one of Australia's most talked-about hotels, and when you visit you'll see why. This incredible retreat is located at the end of a pier built over the water at Lake St Clair, and was formerly a hydroelectric substation. Spend your days relaxing by the fireplace in the cosy lounge, walking through giant myrtle forests and picnicking on a quiet beach, before joining other guests for dinners of Tasmanian produce served at communal tables. Alternatively, stay at the fantastic Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, or at family-friendly accommodation option Cradle Mountain Hotel, at Cradle Mountain. The rooms are comfortable, the wood stoves toasty, the spa retreat relaxing and the bar inviting. Just up the road from here is Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village, a mix of private self-contained cottages and chalets set among rainforest.
Reward yourself at a day spa
After venturing in the great outdoors, reward yourself with a treatment at Waldheim Alpine Spa at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge. Surrounded by wilderness and just a two hour drive from Launceston, the lodge is a quintessential park experience. Spend time in the spa's therapeutic sanctuary, unwinding in the steam room, sauna and hot tub, before booking in for a facial, massage or body exfoliation. Afterwards, retire to your luxury lodge suite.
Make your trip happen