It’s an image that you could easily mistake for being somewhere in the Alps or maybe in the Rockies: a serene lake acting as a mirror for the rugged, uniquely shaped mountain behind it. However, this is the view of Cradle Mountain, one of Tasmania’s most popular destinations, if you look at it from the north, across Dove Lake.
Cradle Mountain is the jewel in the crown of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The dramatic landscape formed about 10,000 years ago during the last ice age, when the area was covered in an ice cap and glaciers eroded the rock underneath. As the glaciers began to melt, the first Aboriginal people moved in. Archaeological evidence such as stone tools, quarries and shelters suggests that the people remained mainly in the valleys and it’s thought that they used the area as seasonal hunting grounds.
The explorer Joseph Fossey named Cradle Mountain in 1827. The name probably comes from the fact that the mountain looks like a miner’s cradle. Henry Hellyer, a surveyor for the Van Diemen’s Land Company, was the first European to climb Cradle Mountain, back in 1831.
From the 1830s until into the 20th century, hunters, trappers and loggers worked in the area. There were even mining activities as late as 1930 and some of the walking tracks still used in the park were originally cut by miners. Logging continued into the 1970s.
A beautiful building in the park is Waldheim Chalet. This is a replica of the original, built in 1912 by Gustav and Kate Weindorfer, who had ceaselessly campaigned for the area to be declared a reserve. In 1922 their efforts paid off when 158,000 acres were declared a scenic preserve and in 1971 this preserve became a state reserve.
In Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park you’ll find diverse ecosystems, from rainforests to grassland. Among the animals you may spot here are Tasmanian devils, quolls, echidnas and platypus, not to mention a vast array of birds, reptiles, frogs and insects. The park is a mecca for hikers, with walks ranging from easy day walks to the 65 km one known as the Overland Track, which takes a minimum of 6 days to complete. If you want to walk the Overland Track between 1 October and 31 May, you need to book beforehand and you’ll be charged a fee.
Facilities in the park include cabins, an interpretation centre and a shop. There is a privately owned campground just outside the park. Some of the walking tracks are wheelchair accessible but you can also hire an all-terrain wheelchair, which you need to book with the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre 7 days before your visit.
To visit Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, you need a valid Parks Pass. You can get this at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre 2 km before the park entrance; buy it online or on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry; or at a Tasmanian Travel Information Centre or Service Tasmania shop like the ones in Launceston, Deloraine and Sheffield. Your Parks Pass also gives you access to the Cradle Mountain shuttle bus in the park.