Cradle Mountain is located in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park in the north west area of Tasmania. Cradle Mountain is one of those places that lives up to the hype you will hear about it; actually it was better, much better. The changing ecosystems and natural beauty took our breath away at every turn. The wild landscape of the highlands to the grass meadows below, home to wombats, quolls, echidnas and other wildlife, it is a somewhere you absolutely must get to on your travels in Tasmania.
Planning Your Visit
The Cradle Mountain section of the national park is accessible by a road starting at the Visitors Centre up to Dove Lake at the top. The road has a number of stops giving access to the start of various walks.
The Visitors Centre
The Visitors Centre, 3845 Cradle Mountain Rd, Cradle Mountain Tasmania, is located at the entry to the National Park and is the starting point for visiting Cradle Mountain. The Visitors Centre provides:
Parking: At the Visitors Centre there is a large car park with ample space to park all size rigs. Parking is free (or included in your ticket price) and is not timed.
Tickets Sales: There are a number of ticket options and each includes the use of the Shuttle Buses. (There is no discount if you opt not to use the shuttle buses). Ticket options can be found here.
We were gifted tickets to the national park on the day we visited however we would recommend the Holiday Vehicle Ticket which allows entry for up to 8 people into all national parks in Tasmania for 8 weeks. The cost is currently $60.
It may be useful to know that a 24 hour ticket will allow to you entry on two on consecutive days with the first being the day of purchase.
Other: The Visitors Centre also has staff to answer inquiries and provide information, toilets, tour information and sales, a cafe and souvenir shop.
Cradle Shuttle Bus route includes the Visitors Centre, Rangers Station and Interpretation Centre, Snake Hill, Ronny Creek and Dove Lake. The shuttles run every 15 – 20 minutes and throughout the day you are permitted to get on and off them as many times as you need, in fact you can ride the shuttles all day if you wish.
We recommend parking your vehicle in the car park at the Visitors Centre, and make use of the shuttle buses for the reasons of:
- Safety: Road from the Visitors Centre up to Dove Lake is very narrow and windy with numerous sections only wide enough for one vehicle at a time. We witnessed, from the shuttle buses, the bus drivers using their patience and knowledge of the road to make up for shortcomings of nervous drivers to ensure the road remained unblocked and accidents were avoided.
- Convenience: Not all trails start and end at the same stop along the Cradle Mountain road. By using the shuttle buses this gives you the freedom to get on and off where it suits you.
At each of the stops along the Cradle Mountain road are registers for writing the number in your party and which trails you plan on walking. It likely serves both as safety precaution if needed and some raw data for NPWS about the trails visitors opt to use.
What To Take or Pack
We recommend for a day visit to the area that you wear suitable clothing and shoes for walking. The weather can be variable throughout the day so be prepared. We took ski jackets and used them in the morning and in the afternoon they were in our backpacks. We also suggest taking food and plenty of water as well as your camera.
Cradle Mountain Trails
For exploring the area there is a network of numerous trails in, around and to the summit, including the start of the famous six day Overlander Track. Dove Lake Circuit Track is the most popular and while it is 6km around the lake it is a well maintained easy track to walk. It is best to get yourself a map from the Visitors Centre and plan your walk or exploration.
We chose to walk the Dove Lake circuit track in a clockwise direction, then we took the track to Marions Lookout and from there we followed the beginning section of the Overland Track back to Ronny Creek. All totalled this took us nearly 5 hours to complete with the Dove Lake trail being the easiest and the climb to Marions Lookout the most difficult as it was very steep in places but well worth the effort. On our chosen route we saw numerous distinctive ecosystems, views to Cradle Mountain, various lakes and at the end we were rewarded with the opportunity to get up close to wombats, echidna’s and Tasmanian Nativehens on the meadows.
Where To Stay (Free or Low Cost Options)
We stayed at the Lake Gairdner campground in Moina, about 30 minutes from Cradle Mountain. This is a free option for camping. There are no amenities however the views of the lake and the platypus in the river are amazing.
The town of Waratah, where tin was discovered in Tasmania, is also another popular place to stay for going to Cradle Mountain. Waratah is also about 30 minutes from Cradle Mountain. This town offers a low cost caravan park as well as platypus and a waterfall right in town!
There are also accommodation and campground options nearer to Cradle Mountain. These are not considered free or low cost camping options nor are many of them dog friendly so we didn’t consider these. An internet search should provide you with the information you require if needed.
Dogs or Pets
Dogs or pets are not permitted in national parks, not even in vehicles with the Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park being no exception. The Visitors Centre car park is located immediately outside the national park so with the weather being very cool we opted to leave Chika and she slept until we returned. This may or may not be an option that would suit your pet or you would feel comfortable with and is your decision to make. We were not able to find any pet sitters in the area.
Cradle Mountain and our day spent there is in the top 5 places we have enjoyed in our three months so far in Tasmania. The diversity of ecosystems and the natural beauty of the area have left a lasting impression with us and we highly recommend anyone visiting Tasmania make the time to visit.
Originally written and published: 20 February 2018
Edited and republished: 12 December 2019