More than 100 years ago, Gustav Weindorfer – amateur botanist, lodge-keeper and Cradle Mountain enthusiast – stood atop its summit and declared, “This must be a national park for the people for all time.” Sure, he had a flair for the dramatic but so does Cradle Mountain, with its jagged dolerite peaks, icy lakes of unfathomable depth and changeable weather that regularly transforms the landscape. Located within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Cradle Mountain’s rustic lodges, wondrous scenery and crisp, clean air make it the ideal place to hit refresh. Here’s what to do on a Cradle Mountain retreat to emerge truly revived.
Find peace at Dove Lake
Image credit: Jason Charles Hill
To visit Cradle Mountain and not go for a hike would be like going to the Louvre and not seeing the Mona Lisa – you’d still have a good time but miss out on a major part of the experience. To see the beauty of this part of Tasmania, try the Dove Lake Circuit. The well-maintained six-kilometre loop is suitable for most walkers and though it only takes about two hours to circle the lake, the trail encompasses a number of different terrains, from scrubby buttongrass to dense rainforest and teeming waterfalls. Of special note are Glacier Rock, still scarred with striations caused by rocks caught in the receding glacier that carved out Dove Lake millenia ago; the Ballroom Forest, a mossy rainforest filled with ancient myrtle beech trees; and the Boatshed (pictured, built in 1940 by the park’s first ranger.
Experienced walkers can up the ante by taking on the six-day Overland Track, which cuts a 65-kilometre swathe through the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Hiker numbers on this popular trail are capped so you’ll need to book your spot months in advance but trust us, the wait is worth it.
Experience luxury in the wilderness
Image credit: Cradle Mountain Lodge
The most lavish accommodation in Cradle Mountain is without a doubt the venerable Cradle Mountain Lodge, situated on the northern edge of the national park. But even grande dames need a makeover occasionally and in 2019-2020 the lodge underwent its first upgrade in more than 30 years. In addition to refurbishments to the Highland restaurant, Tavern Bar & Bistro and Waldheim Alpine Spa, the lodge’s prestigious King Billy suites were reimagined: think wooden decks with outdoor hot tubs, sleek new bathrooms, log fires, floor-to-ceiling windows, soft brown leather chairs and forest-green sofas.
Take it in from above
There are few experiences in life that instill awe the way being mid-air does. It’s common to become emotional on a plane (ever found yourself weeping at a standard rom-com at 40,000 feet?). But when you’re hovering over one of the world’s great wilderness areas in a helicopter, well, to describe the feeling as emotional is an understatement. Cradle Mountain Helicopters tours give you a view of the soaring mountains, glacier-hewn lakes and dramatic gorges all at once, leaving you humbled. Try the 60-minute Overland Adventure, which soars above towering Mount Ossa, the Land of 1000 Lakes and the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, to name just a few of the wonders you’ll encounter.
Commune with the devils
Image credit: Tourism Tasmania/Laura Helle
Seeing wild animals in their natural habitat touches something deep within us. But even in pristine Cradle Mountain, it’s a tall order to spot a Tasmanian devil in situ, especially with the recent decline in its population. Your guaranteed Tassie devil encounter will happen at Devils@Cradle, a dedicated sanctuary about a kilometre from Cradle Mountain Lodge. Three options stand out: the After Dark or Day Feeding tours (watch your fingers) and the summertime Sunset Experience, in which visitors get to visit the nursery to see young devils participate in a feeding session and then enjoy pre-dinner drinks and snacks while wandering through the alpine rainforest. Keep the connection to Tasmania and these rare creatures going by adopting a devil ($50 a year) and be updated on its progress.
Taste the region
Image credit: Tourism Tasmania and Chris Crerar
Cradle Mountain’s hiking trails are superb but if you’ve unlaced your boots, we suggest a trail of a less strenuous variety. Jump in a car and follow the Cradle to Coast Tasting Trail to sample the North West region’s best produce: honey and honey-based products at Melita Honey Farm (try the nougat); ice-cream and gelato from Van Diemens Land Creamery (pictured above); cool-climate drops at Ghost Rock Wines; and truffles from The Truffledore at Cradle Country Farm. There are lots of different itineraries to explore – and much more food and drink to sample – depending on your predilections and destination. You’ll encounter passionate small producers, family-run businesses and innovative farmers and perhaps ponder if a country cidery might not be a better pursuit than your current occupation.
Top image credit: Tourism Tasmania & Andrew McIntosh, Ocean Photography. Bottom image credit: Tourism Tasmania and Jason Charles Hill