One popular Australian camping spot known for its terrain is Cradle Mountain, located inside the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Although it seems straightforward to just go out and head to Cradle Mountain, we suggest reading up on it to learn about its history, the environment, the activities, the campgrounds, and other important information before doing so.
We have curated a brief but substantive guide below for all things Cradle Mountain. Whether you are an experienced camper, a visiting tourist, or simply a young individual seeking adventure, this guide has something for you. Continue reading to learn more.
How Do I Get To Cradle Mountain?
Located at the northern end of Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, Cradle Mountain can be reached via a shuttle bus from the departure point at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre, or by a private vehicle. The mountain is an hour and a half hour drive from Devonport, and two and a half hour drive from Launceston via Sheffield. There is currently no direct road linking two ends of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park.
The shuttle bus service being offered actually aims to protect important values of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, which Cradle Mountain is a part of, by limiting the amount of vehicles in the park at any given time. The fleet currently consists of new hybrid diesel/ electric shuttle buses capable of carrying more visitors, while ensuring compliance with the Disability Discrimination Act 1992. Tickets are included with every purchase of a Parks Pass.
Although private vehicles may be more convenient for some, they are not allowed during the operating hours of the park’s shuttle buses. This restriction is generally enforced between 9:00am and 5:00pm each day during the Winter season (01 April – 30 September), and 8:00am to 6:00pm over the Summer season (01 October – 31 March). The designated hours may change at any time so it is advisable to confirm the access times with the visitor centre.
What Should I Know About Cradle Mountain?
Cradle Mountain, which is named after its resemblance to a gold mining cradle, is located in Tasmania’s Central Highlands, situated in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. It is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982. It is considered to be the primary tourist site in Tasmania.
The mountain itself forms the northern end of the national park. Remains can be found in the caves that are scattered around and within Cradle Mountain, and even in Tasmania as a whole — showing that human occupation of the area dates back to at least 20,000 years ago. The mountain also exhibits geological evidence of three different glacial stages that took place on Earth over the span of the last 2 million years.
The national park is home to Tasmania’s highest mountain — Mt. Ossa, known for its Jurassic Dolerite peaks. Lake St. Clair, which is also located in the national park, is Australia’s deepest natural freshwater lake, and is actually a result of the occurrence of glacial periods over the last 2 million years. Rainy season at the park occurs between July and September, with some months even receiving as much as 9 inches of rain. Cradle Mountain’s environment allows its rainforest and heathlands to house a wide variety of flora and fauna, comprising different rock types and soils.
The ecosystem benefits from the multitude of fungi species that exist within the park through the recycling and/ or breaking down of fallen branches and leaves. Tourists can expect to encounter animals such as wombats, Tasmanian devils, echidnas, and tiger snakes.
What Are The Best Campgrounds At Cradle Mountain?
There are a number of great campgrounds at Cradle Mountain. Some of these are the Waldheim Cabins, the privately owned Discovery Park, and the Overland Track. The Waldheim Cabins are located about 5 kilometres inside the park and the cabins are equipped with gas heating, single bunk beds, basic cooking utensils, crockery, gas cooktop stoves, and ovens among others. Waldheim’s amenities block has showers and flushing toilets. Although it isn’t technically camping, it is almost as humble.
The privately owned Discovery Parks a campground that is home to campsites, cabins, bunk rooms, powered sites, and alpine-style huts. It is a nice caravan park and perfect for daytime adventures. Located along the 161,000 hectare Overland Track are campsites and huts. This track is perfect for those who also want to take photos of scenic/ picturesque places.
Discovery Parks At Cradle Mountain
Discovery Parks at Cradle Mountain is located near the park’s entrance, and offers cottages, cabins, and backpacker sites that can accommodate one person or as much as eight persons. The park features BBQ places, a kiosk/ store, a camp kitchen, and a laundry establishment. The park is also WiFi ready for when you decide to upload or post photos and/ or videos of your trip for your family/ friends to see.
Does Cradle Mountain Have Free Camping?
There are no free camping sites within the National Park. Tourists have the option of staying in a serviced campground, or other forms of accommodation like chalets, lodges, and self-contained accommodation. Booking ahead of time is important as accommodations at Cradle Mountain can fill up very quickly, especially during peak season.
Can You Take a Caravan To Cradle Mountain?
The park is accessible by campervan. The Cradle Mountain Tourist Park is the only caravan park located at Cradle Valley. It has both powered and unpowered sites, including any facility you might need.
Where Can I Take a Bushwalk in Cradle Mountain?
There are numerous self-guided walks in Cradle Mountain. Among these is the Enchanted Stroll, the King Billy Track, and the Waterfalls Walk. We have listed them all below with their corresponding difficulties and approximate duration.
- The Enchanted Stroll – Walk along the banks of the Pencil Pine River, and pass through a wide range of vegetation — buttongrass plains, eucalypt woodlands, tea tree thickets, and even mossy myrtle forests. You may also get an opportunity to see the very elusive Platypus at dawn or dusk. This is considered an easy walk with a duration of around 20 minutes (1km).
- King Billy Track – An age old temperate rainforest which is home to the myrtle, sassafras, and ancient King Billy pines that could be as much as 1,500 years old. This is considered an easy walk with a duration of around 40 minutes (2km).
- The Waterfalls Walk (Pencil Pine Falls and Knyvet Falls) – Those who enjoy tranquil rivers and cascading waterfalls will find satisfaction in this walk. This is a popular swimming spot and is known to provide an invigorating swim for those who visit. The entire track is a boardwalk, and the waterfalls look spectacular after brief periods of rain. This is considered an easy walk with a duration of around 30-40 minutes (1.5km).
- Speeler Track – This lies along the same route as the King Billy track, but offers scenic vistas that range from cool temperate rainforests to endless fields of buttongrass known as the ‘Fury Plains’. You will have a chance of catching glimpses of Cradle Valley and Cradle Mountain if the weather permits. This walk is perfect for those wanting to see wombats, wallabies, and echidnas. But beware, as this track becomes very muddy after a period of rain. This is considered a medium walk with a duration of 1.5 hours.
- Dove Canyon Track – This track continues to follow the path of the Pencil Pine River, just before taking you through temperate rainforests. A five minute detour approximately 500m just after you cross the river will take you to the junction of the Pencil Pine River and the Dove River. Continuing down this path will take you to the top of the Dove Canyon where cliffs that are 60-70m high form the boundaries of Dove Canyon. This also gives you a view of Cradle Valley and Cradle Mountain when the weather is clear. There is a portion which requires scaling up rocks, and is therefore not recommended after periods of rain. This is considered a hard walk with a duration of 3 hours.
- Dove Lake Circuit Walk – A relatively easy walk suitable for all ages, regardless of fitness levels. This path focuses on Cradle Mountain, subalpine plant communities, and temperate rainforests. This is considered an easy walk with a duration of 3 hours.
- Waldheim Drive Tour – The road leading to Waldheim turns off at about 2.5km before Dove Lake. It is then 500m to the chalet and car park. A visit to Waldheim will introduce you to the life and times of Cradle Valley’s pioneer conservationists, Gustave and Kate Weindorfer. This is considered easy with a duration of 2 hours.
- Crater Lake – An excellent walk taking you to the Crater Falls, and a forest with pandini and sassafras trees. Taking this path will allow you to discover the hidden glacial lake surrounded by 200m cliffs covered with fagus. This is considered a medium walk with a duration of 3 hours.
- Marions Lookout – A moderately difficult walk with some steep sections. This demands some reasonable degree of fitness. This will offer views of Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake in clear weather. This is considered a medium to hard walk, with a duration of 3 hours.
What Other Things Should I Do In Cradle Mountain?
There are a multitude of things to do in Cradle Mountain, aside from camping, bushwalking, and trekking. Some of these activities include horseback riding, canyoning (during the summer), fly fishing, mountain biking, boating tours on Lake St. Clair, wildlife tours, or even flying over the area in a helicopter.
Those looking to relax or unwind may find satisfaction in wine and cheese tasting at a local lodge, or an immersion at a spa to release the stresses of day to day life. While some tourists bring groceries with them, you may opt to eat at a variety of places at the national park. There are bistros and high-end restaurants located in the area.
When Is The Best Time To Go To Cradle Mountain?
The best time to visit Cradle Mountain is from December to March. The months of January and February experience the least amount of rainfall, while the winter season is the most quiet time. These months with the most stable weather are consequently the busiest. In fact, 2021 saw a new record in visitor count. Although the amount of visitors do increase on a yearly basis, November and April are months where the park is less crowded.
However, while it may sound straightforward to base your date of visit with the weather conditions, it is important to know that Cradle Mountain is known for its unpredictability. As such, it is also imperative that you check the weather forecast before any potentially dangerous activities such as hiking. There are two forecasts available — one for Dove Lake, and another for Cradle Mountain on 1,545m elevation. However, if you consider visiting during a specific season, then our brief guide below may give you an idea of what to expect:
- Spring (October-November) – During spring and summer, wildflowers are abundant. Tasmanian Waratah and Banksia are all flowering, and are very beautiful to witness. Echidnas can also be seen as they are starting to become active right after hibernation in winter. Day temperatures range between 10°C-15°C on average. October is also one of the windiest months of the year, while November will most likely bring about snow and hail.
- Summer (December-March) – December to April sees much more stable weather, with daily temperatures at a warmer 15°C-18°C. However, the “warmest” months are January and February, while much less rain can be expected from January all the way to March. However, since the weather in the area is unpredictable, it is best to be prepared for all four seasons in one day, even during summer.
- Autumn (April-May) – The wide range of autumn colors, ranging from gold to deep red appear in April and May. The deciduous beech tree known as Fagus is known to be the icing on the cake just until it starts to lose its leaves. Daily temperatures are around 10°C-15°C on average. The nights become cold at around 5°C-3°C, with rainfall starting to increase by April.
- Winter (June-September) – Winter is the most wet time of the year, which means snow season in Cradle Mountain. Snow is very common around July to September. The average daily temperature is 6°C, but can be colder during the night at below 0°C. Make sure to come prepared for minus degrees at night when camping. The coldest months are July and August.
What Are Other Camping Enthusiasts Saying About Cradle Mountain?
People have great things to say about Cradle Mountain. Listed below are some of the positive sentiments that generally reflect the sentiments of those who visited;
- “Tons of great walks for all levels of experience”
–“There are so many different walks there will be something to your liking, from 30 minutes to all day (and even over night). The shuttle bus is a great service as you can’t take your car in (however unfortunately due to road works on our visit ran sparingly). We saw a wombat in the carpark of the visitor centre as soon as we arrived. You need a parks pass, this also gives you access to the shuttle bus. The devil sanctuary is right nearby and also a must to visit.”
- “Not to be missed”
–“There are so many different walks there will be something to your liking, from 30 minutes to all day (and even over night). The shuttle bus is a great service as you can’t take your car in (however unfortunately due to road works on our visit ran sparingly). We saw a wombat in the carpark of the visitor centre as soon as we arrived. you need a parks pass, this also gives you access to the shuttle bus. The devil sanctuary is right nearby and also a must to visit.”
- “Stunning place amidst the summer snow”
–“From the moment we arrived, we saw patches of snow in November. The Visitors Centre is huge and amazing. The buildings are clearly well designed for a lot of visitors. The walks are spectacular, and of various length and difficulty including a rushing creek, ancient King Billy pines and lichen over fallen trees. We saw pademelons and hope to see wombats on dusk – there are heaps of cubed poo! The snow on the boardwalks make walking difficult but if you take care the walks are well worth the challenge. Highly recommended.”
- “Very enjoyable”
–“We were lucky to visit Crade Mountain when the sun was shining, no rain. There is little protection for visitors on the various walking paths so we were happy about the weather. This is a must-see for anyone visiting the western side of Tasmania. Mountains, streams, lakes, walkways, wildlife – it has everything. There are various motels situated close to the Cradle Mountain Visitors Centre but they were booked out. We stayed in Lemonthyne Wilderness Retreat and drove to Crade Mountain on our way to Strahan.”
How Far Away Is Cradle Mountain From Hobat?
Cradle Mountain is about 330 kilometres away from Hobart. It is roughly a 4 hour drive via the Midlands highway through Ross, and 6 and a half hours via the Lyell Highway through Queenstown. Cradle Mountain is situated at the northwestern part of Tasmania, 144 kilometres west of Launceston, and 83 kilometres south of Devonport.
Is It Worth Visiting Cradle Mountain?
Yes. As one of Tasmania’s principal tourist destinations, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is a very beautiful place that begs to be visited. Its diverse flora, fauna, geography, and climate will have something to offer for every kind of tourist. Cradle Mountain is also not limited to the outdoorsmen, but is also open to those simply looking to relax and take their time amidst the breathtaking sceneries.
Can I Fish Around Cradle Mountain?
Yes. The Cradle Mountain area is actually home to some good trout fishing in rivers and lakes. You can fish at the Dove Lake, Lake Lea, Lake Gairdner, Iris River, and Vale River. All of the three main lakes are a short drive away from Cradle Mountain. Although the area does not house larger fish that are the preferred target of some anglers, Cradle Mountain makes up for this through the sheer number of smaller fish that inhabit the waters.
All lakes and rivers mentioned above are about a 30 minute drive from one another. It should be noted that weather conditions will greatly affect the catch rate when fishing.