After surviving a very cold night in the van, we were pleased to wake up and find that not only was it a beautiful clear morning, but also that the campsite had hot water. After a long shower and some breakfast in the camp kitchen, we were ready for a day of hiking in the National Park.
In an attempt to reduce visitor traffic, and protect the Park as much as possible, the number of private vehicles allowed into the park is restricted. We therefore parked at the Visitor Centre, and instead made use of the excellent shuttle bus service, which is included in the Park entrance fee of $16.50 (£10) each.
We stayed on the shuttle bus until the final stop at Dove Lake, which is situated right at the foot of Cradle Mountain. The view as we stepped off the bus was spectacular, with snowcapped mountains (something we weren’t expecting to see in Australia) towering over the vast, crystal clear lake.
After taking lots of photos, we began the 6km circular walk around the lake. Again, with conservation in mind, most of walk is along a raised boardwalk, helping to protect the delicate plants below.
We followed the meandering path, stopping for a rest at several of the small pebble beaches that line the edge of lake, where we confirmed that the water was even colder than it looked!
At the north end of the Lake, we reached the Boatshed, which has survived harsh winters and several bush fires, with very little restoration required since it was built by the Park’s first Ranger in 1940.
After reaching the end of the gentle walk, we decided to start a more adventurous climb into the mountains, taking the trail past Lake Lilla before continuing up steep steps towards Wombat Pool, all the while admiring the panoramic views of park around us.
We continued to climb, with our path merging with part of the Overland Track. One of Australia’s most famous hiking trails, the challenging 65km path from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair is usually competed over six days. Definitely not one for the fainthearted!
With our focus on the steep climb ahead of us, we almost missed the large snake that quickly slithered across the path just a few metres away from us, before disappearing into the bushes. After discovering that all three species of snake found in Tasmania are venomous, including the Lowland Copperhead that we saw, we were very thankful it wasn’t heading in our direction.
After what felt like forever we finally reached Marion’s Lookout, which sits below the summit of Cradle Mountain, at an altitude of 1,200m. From here the views across the park were amazing, with Dove Lake now far below us.
We decided against climbing any higher, with the upper reaches of the park only for hikers far more experienced and better prepared than us. The weather in the park can change rapidly, and by the this point the clear blue sky had been replaced by thick, stormy clouds. We began our descent, rejoining the Overland Track and travelling along the banks of Crater Lake before heading into thick woodland, where we found several small waterfalls.
The final section of the walk took us along a wooden boardwalk, built to protect the thick marsh below. We eventually made it back to the road to complete our days work, having walked a total distance of 19km!
After some much needed refreshments from the Park’s visitor centre, we wearily made our way back to the van before starting our journey back to Hobart, with our flight home to Sydney the following day.