High Hopes: Launceston to Cradle Mountain travel guide

It’s world famous for its natural beauty, so head to Cradle Mountain to enjoy first-class hiking up soaring peaks and around glacial lakes. Along the way you can stop to meet Tasmanian devils, go fly fishing and discover the area’s history.

WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT

A person stands on a bridge overlooking a snow-covered forest, Enchanted Walk, Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

In 1982, one and a half million hectares of the state was declared the Tasmanian World Wilderness Heritage Area, designed to protect its incredible natural and cultural assets. At its heart is the Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park, where the landscape was formed by glaciers. Some of the plants you’ll see – King Billy pines, for instance – have existed here since Gondwana split from the supercontinent, and the significant fauna includes endangered Tasmanian devils and quolls. Apart from all that, of course, it’s a stunning region and Cradle Mountain itself, located in the park’s north, is only about 150 kilometres from Launceston, Tasmania’s second biggest city. Leave the crowds behind though, and drive around the edge of the park to Lake St Clair where there are even more walks to enjoy, as well as the opportunity to go fly fishing.

DON’T MISS

A woman walks along a path in front of a lake and snow-capped mountains, Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

Set at the base of Cradle Mountain is Dove Lake, where, on a calm day, the mirror-like surface reflects the mountain ranges surrounding it. The best way to take it all in is on the popular six-kilometre Dove Lake circuit that snakes beneath Cradle Mountain, through rainforest and past endemic King Billy pines and fagus. This native beech is Australia’s only cold-climate deciduous tree; the turning of the fagus happens between late April and May each year and is becoming an increasingly popular visitor attraction.

FIVE ON THE DRIVE

  1. Get a glimpse into Tasmania’s colonial past – free settlers, convict workers and the Archer family, who’ve lived here for seven generations – at Brickendon Estate. The farm village, the hub of the property, remains as it was in the 1820s. Explore the buildings, meet the animals, stroll through the extensive gardens and take the Convict Farm Walk across the suspension bridge over the Macquarie River.

  2. The sparkling fresh water from Montana Falls offers the perfect growing conditions for salmon. At 41 South Tasmania, near Deloraine, you can see how they’re raised, throw some food into the ponds to draw the hungry fish to the surface, and take a break at the cafe to treat yourself to a salmon burger. There’s also a ginseng farm onsite.

  3. Drop by [email protected] to meet Australia’s three largest carnivorous marsupials – the Tasmanian devil and eastern and spotted-tail quolls – all of them endangered. There are several tours available at the sanctuary, including joey encounters for those intent on meeting a baby devil and after-dark feeding tours.

  4. See photographs, paintings, drawings, movies and installations that tell the story of this region at Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery. There are 12 rooms, some with permanent displays and others featuring changing exhibitions, circling a Tasmanian bush garden. One of the galleries is dedicated to photographer conservationists like Peter Dombrovskis and Olegas Truchanas who spent great periods of time in the Tasmanian wilderness, capturing its beauty and sharing it with the world.

  5. Many of the hikes around Cradle Mountain require a decent time commitment, but if you are looking for a shorter stroll try the Enchanted Walk. It passes through a dense, mossy forest and follows trickling Pencil Pine Creek. Keep an eye open for wombats and pademelons, who frequent the edge of the forest. And the whole circuit is only a kilometre long and takes about 20 minutes to complete.

WHERE TO STAY

Waldheim Cabins

Accommodation on the mountain is far from budget friendly. If you don’t need luxuries, Waldheim Cabins has eight rustic huts, sleeping between four and eight in bunks, with shared amenities. You do need to bring your own linen and towels. They’re behind historic Waldheim Chalet, a replica of guest accommodation built in 1912 (the original was destroyed in a fire in 1976).

Cradle Mountain Highlanders

Another option for cabins, from cosy studios for two to two-bedroom family options, is Cradle Mountain Highlanders, located near the northern entrance to the national park.

Derwent Bridge Chalets & Studios

Near Lake St Clair, Derwent Bridge Chalets & Studios has 10 self-contained units overlooking a snow gum forest. It’s the perfect place for those looking to do long hikes in the southern end of the park.

HERE’S HOW TO DO IT

Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain

Before you arrive in Tasmania, book a vehicle to pick up from Apex Car Rentals when you fly into Launceston Airport. It’s a lovely drive through the countryside to get to Cradle Mountain, one of Tasmania’s most famous landmarks. The Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park is huge, with road access tracking the edges of it and neighbouring conservation areas.

WHEN YOU’RE DONE

Snow at yingina / Great Lake

Rather than turning back the way you came, skirt around the southern edges of Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park and follow what is affectionately known as the Lake Highway past Great Lake, popular with fishers, bird watchers and hikers. There’s a small settlement called Miena where you can stop.