If you know anything about Tasmania, you’ll probably have heard of Cradle Mountain. It’s one of our most well-known landmarks and is a hugely popular area for visitors.
I’d not been there since I was in high school (so you know, about 12 years ago), when our family spent a weekend there. We stayed at what was then the Pencil Pine Lodge, now Cradle Mountain Lodge. I couldn’t remember much about it apart from some old pictures of Lil Sis and I looking at some wallabies.
This was our destination for the rest of the trip. We stayed at the Cradle Mountain Hotel, which is located outside the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
When we arrived mid-afternoon, it was raining and very windy, so we weren’t really enthusiastic about heading out to do anything. Originally we’d thought we’d do two or three shorter walks in the afternoon, and then aim for one or more of the longer walks the next day. (There are heaps of walks in the National Park, ranging from 10-20 minute walks that almost anyone could do, to the longer overnight walks, including the famous Overland Track, a 6 day hike from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair.)
But the weather wasn’t exactly favourable (I’m not a fan of wind or regular downpours) and we were tired, so we drove the couple of kilometres down the road to the Visitor Centre to see what they recommended.
There are several ways to access the park. You can drive your car in, but access is limited and controlled by a boom gate, so there can be a wait if you want to do that. There is no access for campers and caravans.
You can drive to the Interpretation Centre, which is just after the park boundary. There are several short walks that leave from there, as well as the Cradle Valley Boardwalk that goes from the Interpretation Centre to Dove Lake, about 8 km. It’s also the Ranger Station and has a lot of information about the park.
Rather than drive your own car, you can catch a shuttle bus from the Visitor Centre to one of four stops within the park. This is the recommended way to access the park, because of the narrow winding road and the associated safety and insurance issues. It’s not a road either of us really wanted to drive on, so we decided the shuttle bus was going to be the best option for the next day.
After speaking to the staff at the Visitor Centre, we decided to drive down to the Interpretation Centre, have a look around and do one of the shortest, easiest walks in the park, the Pencil Pine Falls walk. It’s a 10-minute (500 metre), accessible circuit through a pencil pine rainforest, past the Pencil Pine Falls.
Pencil Pines (Athrotaxis cupressoides), are trees that grow sub-alpine areas above 800 metres, and can live for longer than 1200 years.
10 minutes was quite doable for us. We got a bit wet, the camera got a bit wet, but we saw an amazing waterfall and it was a lovely little walk as an introduction to the park.
We decided to leave the rest of the walks for the next day, when the weather was predicted to be better, so we went back to the hotel and spotted some wildlife outside.
We had dinner at the Grey Gum restaurant at the hotel. The food was fantastic. (The poor old iPhone 4 doesn’t do a great job of food photos.)