Cradle Mountain National Park
Cradle Mountain forms the northern end of the wild Cradle Mt - Lake St Clair National Park, itself a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The jagged contours of Cradle Mountain epitomise the feel of a wild landscape, while ancient rainforest and alpine heathlands, buttongrass and stands of colourful deciduous beech provide a range of environments to explore. Icy streams cascading out of rugged mountains, stands of ancient pines mirrored in the still waters of glacial lakes and a wealth of wildlife ensure there is always something to captivate you. The area is one of the most popular natural areas in Tasmania. A visit will reveal why.
Cradle is the starting point for the world-famous Overland Track, a magnificent 6 day walk that will take you through the heart of some of the finest mountain terrain.
Cradle Mountain lies at the northern end of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. It is 1 1/2 hours from Devonport via the B19 and B14 south to Sheffield, then C136 and C132 to the park entrance.
From Launceston, it is a 2 1/2 hour drive on the Bass Highway (A1), then the signposted route via B13 and C156 through Sheffield.
From the west, drive 2 hours along the A10 and C132 from Queenstown or 1 1/2 hours from Burnie via B18 through Ridgley, then the A10 and C132 to reach the park.
There is no direct road link through the Cradle Mountain- Lake St Clair National Park to join the two ends of the park. Visitors may most easily reach Lake St Clair via the Cradle Link Road (C132) and the Muchison and Lyell Highways (A10).
Please note that buses over 8 tonnes (28 seater) must be left at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre carpark and a shuttle bus must be used for accessing Lake Dove and Waldheim.
Cradle Shuttle Bus
McDermotts Coaches operates a shuttle bus service on behalf of the Parks and Wildlife Service. The shuttle bus service operates between the Cradle Mountain Information Centre at the former airstrip to Dove Lake. The service is aimed at protecting the important values of the World Heritage Area while also preserving the visitor experience.
The service has been highly successful in reducing visitor traffic on the road to Dove Lake by one-third. It has attracted a highly favourable response from Tasmanian, interstate and overseas visitors since its introduction.
During summer the shuttle service operates seven days a week, however during winter the service does not run.
Day visitor facilities
Picnic shelters with electric barbecues are found adjacent to the visitor centre and there are picnic tables close to Waldheim. As well, there are plenty of opportunities for informal picnicking in Cradle Valley.
Toilets are located at the Visitor Centre, Waldheim and Dove Lake. All of these are wheelchair accessible.
A public telephone with local, ISD and IDD access is located at the entrance to the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. (There is no mobile phone service available within the Cradle Mountain area).
A limited line of grocery items may be purchased from the campground shop.
Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre
Located just inside the national park entrance, this centre provides visitors with a wide range of services that includes informative displays, an art gallery, videos and a welcoming log fire! Information officers provide advice on walks and activities. The centre is open daily from 8 am to 5 pm.
The Overland Track Check-in Counter is located inside the Visitor Centre. All walkers planning to walk the Overland Track to Lake St Clair between the months of November and April will need to check-in here. Here you can collect your Overland Track Pass, your National Parks Pass and have a chat to staff about the Track.
A visit to the centre as soon as you arrive is recommended. This will help you to make the most out of your stay.
Within the Visitor Centre is the National Park shop. The shop is well stocked with some stunning wilderness postcards, posters and framed pictures, as well as Tasmanian reference & souvenir books. The shop sells a wide range of all-weather clothing including thermals, quality raincoats, beanies & fleecy jumpers, many with unique Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair logos. Bushwalkers find particularly useful the shops’ stock of bushwalking gear, including camping stoves, fuel, and waterproof pack-liners.
Nestled among the myrtles and King Billy pines at Cradle Valley, Waldheim Chalet takes you back to the time when the Weindorfers first offered their renowned hospitality to their guests. Having fallen in love with what is now Cradle Mountain -- Lake St Clair National Park, Gustav and Kate Weindorfer built the rustic home and guest chalet in 1912. The chalet was named Waldheim, meaning "forest home".
Waldheim Chalet continued to be used for accomodation until 1974. After a fire, it was beyond repair and demolished. The replica, rebuilt in 1976 using traditional bush carpentry techniques, is made from shingles split from King Billy pine.
Today the story of their lives and love of the mountain is told through a display and audio presentation. Visit the chalet for an insight into the early days at Cradle Valley.
Nestled between buttongrass plains and ancient temperate rainforest are the rustic and unique Waldheim Cabins. They offer an authentic wilderness experience.
Eight cabins (4 to 8 berth) provide simple and affordable lodgings, where a number of great walking tracks radiate from your front door.
The Cabins are located inside the park and are equipped with heating (gas, wood or electric), single bunk beds, basic cooking utensils, crockery, cutlery and a gas stove. Linen can be provided at a small cost. Two amenities blocks each with showers and flushing toilets. There are small fridges available in each cabin but no general use power points
Please bring your own bedding and toiletries.
Please note that all cabins are non-smoking.
Cabin keys can be collected from the Cradle Mountain Visitor centre during office hours 8am to 5pm, and a little later in summer. If you arrive outside office hours details of your cabin and keys will be left on the notice board near the Visitor Center entrance.
For the nature lover there is always something interesting happening here. The comings and goings of wallabies and wombats in the late afternoon near Waldheim and the changing colours of the flowers and leaves by the side of Lake Dove can all add new dimensions to your visit.
You could also have a chat with a ranger or an information officer at the visitor centre. They may reveal some interesting facts about the park that no book or guide would ever contain and point you in the right direction for you to make your own discoveries.
Ranger led activities
At certain times throughout the year, rangers offer a variety of activities such as walks, talks and slide shows for both adults and children. Besides being lots of fun these are a great way to learn about our national parks, wildlife and cultural heritage.
The park contains an extensive network of walking tracks to suit everyone's tastes. A Day Walk Map should be purchased from the visitor centre if you want to go on any day walks. Staff at the visitor centre will also provide tailor-made advice to match your walking needs with the tracks available.
Important! Before planning any walks, be sure to check the weather.
Dove Lake Loop Track - A great introductory walk to the park, this walk leaves from the Dove Lake carpark. Take the track on the eastern (left hand) side of Dove Lake and follow it clockwise around the lake. The newly-completed track takes you under the shadow of Cradle Mountain, through the tranquil Ballroom Forest and back along the western shore of the lake to your starting point. Allow 2 hours.
Visitor Centre Rainforest Walk - Leaving from just behind the visitor centre is a short boardwalk that is a must for all visitors to Cradle. Take the time to meander through a patch of cool temperate rainforest and you'll be rewarded with views of the beautiful Pencil Pine Falls. The easy track, suitable for wheelchairs, then circles back to the carpark. Allow 8-10 minutes.
The Weindorfers Forest Walk - Leaves from Waldheim chalet and takes an easy grade through a forest of King Billy pines, celery-top pines and myrtles. The walk takes about 20 minutes at a gentle pace. Take a little extra time and view the displays in the chalet to catch a brief look at the life of the Weindorfers.
Enchanted Walk - This leaves from the bridge at the park entrance and passes by scenic waterfalls, pools, moorland and rainforest before returning to the Cradle Mountain Lodge. This walk takes about half an hour and is mostly dry underfoot.
The Overland Track
Cradle Mountain is the starting point of the world-famous Overland Track which runs for 65 kilometres to lake St Clair at the southern end of the park. The walk demands a fair degree of preparation and physical fitness and takes 6 days to walk or longer depending on weather delays and the side trips you take.
For many, a highlight of their trip to the northern end of the Cradle Mountain -- Lake St Clair National Park is the view across Dove Lake to Cradle Mountain, one of Tasmania's natural highlights. The mountain itself is a jagged, dolerite peak which dominates the area. Its name, supposedly, is derived from the mountain's resemblance to a miner's cradle. This dramatic vista can be seen either on foot as you walk along the shores of the Lake, or from the carpark at Dove Lake. Visitors should bear in mind, however, that the wild weather of the Tasmanian highlands often shrouds the mountain in cloud.
There are a number of excellent walks in the area, including the Dove Lake Loop Track which takes you through the stunning Ballroom Forest, an area of cool temperate rainforest nestled against the slopes of the mountain. Other walks include the Weindorfers Forest walk. Of course, the area also marks the start of the famous Overland Track, one of Australia's premier wilderness walks.
The area around Weindorfer's Chalet is well worth a look. Rich in history, the rustic chalet was once home for Gustav Weindorfer, the founding father of the Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park. Stop by, and let the displays inside the building tell you the story of its past. The area in which the chalet is set is simply beautiful. You will soon understand why Gustav dedicated his life to ensuring the preservation of the Cradle Mountain area for all the people, for all time.
The Visitor Centre at the entrance to the park provides details on walks and other activities in the area. Interpretation displays reveal the many natural wonders of the area. Many of the natural and cultural values of the area have been recognised through the listing of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Aboriginal values are inclusive of all things associated with the land. All have importance to the Aboriginal community. The remnants of Aboriginal occupation of the land are only a small indication of Aboriginal values associated with an area.
Aboriginal use of the Cradle Mountain area is presently dated from the last ice age (from 10,000 years ago) and is thought to have been non-permanent, probably consisting mostly of seasonal hunting excursions during the summer months.
Cradle Valley and the surrounding areas contain many Aboriginal living areas or sites. These living areas are generally identified by the stone tools still present, caves or rock shelters that contain evidence of Aboriginal use and stone sources or quarries, where people sourced the stone for making stone tools.
The unique Pleistocene archaeological sites are of great antiquity and demonstrate the sequence of human occupation at high southern latitudes during the last ice age. They are testimony to the adaptation and survival of human societies to glacial climatic cycles and periods of long isolation from other communities. The human societies in Tasmania were the most southerly known peoples on earth during the last ice age.
Little evidence survives of the early European activities of hunting, surveying and mineral exploration. By the 1860s logging was being carried out along Pencil Pine River. Some mining was carried out from about 1890 to 1920 between Cradle Mountain and the Pelion area. Several of the present-day walking tracks in this area are tracks that were originally blazed during this period. In about 1930, a small copper mine was worked along the Dove River, about 1km from the junction of Dove River and Pencil Pine Creek. However, mining in the area proved uneconomic and was eventually abandoned.
Trappers and hunters frequented the area. Snarers and prospectors constructed many huts in the area prior to the 1920s. The death from exposure of one such trapper, a sixteen year old boy, Bert Hanson, in 1906 was the first recorded death of a European in the area and the naming of Hanson's Peak, to the east of Cradle Mountain, recalls this event.
In 1912 Kate and Gustav Weindorfer built a rustic home and guest chalet at Cradle Valley on purchased crown land. The chalet, which they named 'Waldheim' , was sited in a sheltered position on the fringe of a forest near a running stream and was constructed from local materials using traditional bush carpentry. Weindorfer and a small group of ardent supporters, including Major R E Smith and Fred Smithies, campaigned actively to have the Cradle Mountain area reserved.
In May 1922, an area of 158 000 acres (63 943 hectares) between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair was gazetted as Scenic Reserve under the Scenery Preservation Act 1915. In 1935 the Scenery Preservation Board appointed Lionel Connell as the first permanent ranger at Cradle Mountain. Connell bought the Weindorfer land and continued to upgrade the facilities at Waldheim. Connell was responsible for the construction of the Trailside Museum and several other buildings and tracks at Waldheim and in the surrounding area.
A timber mill for King Billy pine operated in the valley from the 1930s through to the 1970s. It is estimated that in the five-year period between 1964 and 1969, over 1 million super feet of native pine were felled in the area.
The road to Dove Lake was constructed in 1965 by the Scenery Preservation Board to provide access for motorists to the magnificent view of Cradle Mountain from the shore of Dove Lake. (During 2003 the road from Pencil Pine Creek to Waldheim and Dove Lake was upgraded and sealed to improve traffic flow and drainage, and to reduce erosion and dust pollution).
In 1971 the reserve was proclaimed a State Reserve under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1970, and responsibility for the area was transferred from the Scenery Preservation Board to the newly formed National Parks and Wildlife Service. In 1982 the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park became a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area which today encompasses 21% of the land area of Tasmania.
The Cradle Mountain region is an area of marked geological contrasts.
In the area of the visitor centre and north and northeast across the Middlesex Plains, basalt flows formed an extensive plain about 8 to 16 million years ago, a portion of which outcrops at Pencil Pine Falls.
The region has been extensively shaped by glacial erosion and deposition over the past 2 million years. The various glaciers which covered the area have left behind a variety of glacial features including the U-shaped valley of the Dove River (the river is a relatively unusual example of a glacial "u" shaped valley superimposed by a fluvially eroded "v" shaped valley), kettle and kame moraines, numerous lakes and tarns, meltwash channels, circular disintegration mounds, drainage diversions and outwash deposits/patterns.
The geomorphological evolution of the region continues to this day, with periglaciation, fluvial deposition and development of peat soils and blanket bogs. The blanket bogs of the WHA are considered to be the most extensive of their type in the southern hemisphere and that those of the Cradle area occur at a particularly high altitude.
The vegetation of the Cradle Mountain area comprises a diverse and beautiful mosaic of vegetation communities from rainforest to grassland.
The area contains ancient plants which reveal their Gondwanan origins, including the long-lived and endemic conifers (such as King Billy pine, Athrotaxis selaginoides, pencil pine, Athrotaxis cupressoides, the hybrid Athrotaxis laxifolia and celery top pine, Phyllocladus aspleniifolius); plant species in the families Cunoniaceae (Bauera rubioides), Winteraceae (Tasmannia lanceolata), Stylidiaceae (Stylidium graminifolium) and other plants with Gondwanan links such as deciduous beech, Nothofagus gunnii and and myrtle beech, N. cunninghamii.
The Cradle area contains a wide range of habitats that are home to a diversity of animals. These species live in a reasonably undisturbed environment and include a number of Tasmanian endemic mammals, birds and invertebrates. The area is home to an assemblage of the world's largest carnivorous marsupials including the Tasmanian devil , the spotted-tailed quoll and the eastern quoll. Two of the world's only three surviving monotremes - the most primitive group of mammals in the world - are also found in the area, the platypus and the echidna
Many of the species found in the area reveal their Gonwanan heritage, including marsupials, velvet worms, fish in the family Galaxiidae; aquatic insect groups such as dragonflies, stoneflies and caddis-flies; and crustaceans (e.g. Anaspidacea, and the burrowing crayfish Engaeus sp.)
Other invertebrates reveal a more ancient origin. The pencil pine moth (Dirce aesiodora), a day-flying alpine moth is among the most primitive of the large, cosmopolitan family of moths, the Geometrid moths, whose closest relatives live on mountains in South America, Europe and North America, thus implying links to the ancient super-continent Pangea.
4057 Cradle Mountain Road
Cradle Mountain TAS 7310
Phone:03 6492 1110
Fax:03 6492 1120
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania