When planning a trip to Tasmania, the hardest part is selecting the destinations to add to your itinerary. Unless you’re travelling around the island for many weeks, you’ll have to make choices as you won’t be able to go everywhere. Cradle Mountain is not the easiest destination to reach, so you may wonder what’s so special about it and whether you should add it to your list. Here’s why we love Cradle Mountain and keep going back, along with a few tips to help you organise your trip.
Six things that make Cradle Mountain so special
In a nutshell, Cradle Mountain is heaven for nature lovers, with cute wildlife and spectacular landscapes that you won’t find elsewhere in Australia. In the national park, you’ll find many opportunities to connect with nature, regardless of your fitness and adventure levels. It’s an excellent place to enjoy wilderness.
1. Alpine environment in Australia
While stunning white sand beaches that never end are nice, they are relatively common in Australia. I have seen many perfect beaches after living in Australia for more than 10 years, so it’s no longer special. For example, I enjoyed visiting Freycinet National Park, but I was honestly not in awe the second time as I had been to more impressed by the stunning beaches on the south coast of Western Australia.
Alpine environments in Australia, on the other hand, are rare and unique. The landscape and flora are quite distinctive, and the lakes are incredibly beautiful.
However, it’s worth noting that Cradle Mountain is one of the coldest places in Australia, which can be a bonus for some visitors, especially during summer holidays. I love the heat (that’s why I live in Brisbane!), so this felt rather special too (not necessarily in a positive way!). The weather can be unpredictable, even in summer, so ensure you have the appropriate gear to stay safe.
Don’t forget to research the weather and temperature in Tasmania when planning your trip. It will play a significant role in your experience, especially in places at altitude like Cradle Mountain.
2. An iconic summit
In addition to the glacier lakes and surrounding mountains, Cradle Mountain itself is iconic and adds charm to the area. The view from the summit is stunning, but you can appreciate the mountain without climbing it. The craggy rock can be seen from many hiking tracks of varying difficulty levels.
If you decide to climb Cradle Mountain or one of the nearby peaks, make sure you’re well-prepared. The information centre will provide excellent tips to help you choose the most suitable track for you on that day, as the weather makes a real difference to your experience. You’ll also need plenty of water, snacks, suitable footwear, and multiple layers of clothing.
3. Cute wildlife
Do I need to say more than the photos above? Every late afternoon at the end of our hiking day, we saw cute wombats near the boardwalk on our way back to Ronny Creek. They’re wild animals but are not bothered by visitors in Cradle Mountain National Park. It’s one of the best places to see wildlife in Australia.
Responsible travel tip: Do not touch or feed wildlife. It is dangerous for them (and potentially for you) and can make them sick. The wombats are cute and come very close, but as tempting as it may be, you should never pet wildlife.
4. Accessible, well-protected wilderness
When you hit the walking tracks in Cradle Mountains National Park, you truly feel like you’re in the wild. If you are lucky to visit on a sunny day, you’ll appreciate the views of nature all around you. Often, you cannot spot a building or farmland at all.
Despite being in the wilderness, Cradle Mountain is easy to access. They have built a large car park at the entrance, and shuttles take many visitors to the start of the walks at different spots in the park. Even those with mobility issues will find a way to explore Cradle Mountain National Park.
5. Large choice of activities for all fitness levels
There are many things to do in Cradle Mountain National Park that are all strongly connected to nature and with a touch of adventure. You don’t need to be an experienced hiker or adventurer to enjoy the park; there’s something for everyone.
The Interpretation Centre and the Visitor Centre are not the same. The Visitor Centre is located in the main car park, where you’ll most likely stop first to check-in and purchase your bus ticket to explore the park. The Interpretation Centre is located further down the road within the national park and can be accessed via one of the bus stops. Once inside, visitors can explore interactive displays and videos to learn more about the park’s fauna and flora.
From accessible boardwalks to challenging peaks and summit tracks, the hiking trails in Cradle Mountain National Park offer a wide range of options for visitors. Even those on the easiest walks will be rewarded with breathtaking views, serene forests, and adorable wildlife. For the more adventurous hiker, the famous Overland Track offers a multi-day hike that crosses the park.
I really enjoyed our canyoning experiences in Australia (Blue Mountains and Cairns). However, with the cold weather, I didn’t feel like trying it in Cradle Mountain. If you’re adventurous and less sensitive to the cold than me, you may want to give it a go. Canyoning is a fantastic way to connect with nature and push your limits.
During our visit, we didn’t have time to explore Dove Lake on a kayak. We preferred hitting the walking tracks. However, kayaking is an excellent option for those who have more time in the park or who want a break from hiking, offering splendid views of the surrounding peaks.
For those who may not want to walk, helicopter tours provide stunning views of the park’s breathtaking scenery.
Guided wildlife walks
Although we were able to spot wombats and many birds during our hikes, many animals remained hidden. If you’re staying overnight in the park, you could join a guided wildlife walk to increase your chances of spotting cute animals.
6. Stunning accommodations
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to stay in the national park or the beautiful chalets nearby, as they were all booked out when we organised our trip. We were a bit disappointed, as spending the night in a national park is a perfect way to spot wildlife.
Additionally, you don’t have to rough it to sleep in Cradle Mountain National Park, as the accommodation options are quite luxurious. Who wouldn’t enjoy a comfortable room with a spa* in the middle of nature to recover from walking all day? We could only dream of it! I’ve included more accommodation tips below.
Did you find Cradle Mountain special? Share your experience in the comments below!
How many days do you need at Cradle Mountain?
I recommend spending at least two days (one night) in Cradle Mountain, especially if you enjoy hiking. While the mountain is iconic, it’s not the only attraction in the national park. You want to allow enough time to hike around the park and stop to admire the peaceful wilderness and meet the local wildlife later in the day, as most animals are nocturnal.
If you wish to explore the southern part of the national park (Lake St Clair, known as Australia’s deepest glacial lake), you’ll need to add an extra day. It takes about three hours to drive from the northern part of the park to the southern part. We preferred the northern part, but friends highly recommended the Mount Rufus walk in the southern part if you go that way.
You can visit Cradle Mountain in one day, but you may have to prioritise what to see. If you’re not a regular hiker, you’ll probably have had enough after walking the Dove Lake Circuit (about three hours). But it’s worth adding an easy walk in the forest (Enchanted Walk) and a stop at Ronny Creek to try to spot wildlife.
If you plan to go to Cradle Mountain as a day trip from Launceston, I highly recommend joining a tour* to avoid getting tired from driving.
Where to stay to visit Cradle Mountain
Accommodation within Cradle Mountain National Park is limited, so it’s best to book as early as possible. Staying within the national park is quite expensive, but convenient for proximity to hikes and wildlife spotting at night. Consider the Cradle Mountain Hotel* and the spa cabins at Cradle Mountain Highlanders*. For self-contained or group accommodation, the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village* is a good option. However, all of these were fully booked when we organised our trip. If you’re in the same situation, you may find more options near Moina, which is only 20 km away from the park (Lemonthyme Wilderness Retreat* and Tiny Escapes Cradle Valley* for example).
Discovery Parks* is the only camping ground within Cradle Mountain National Park, but it is expensive for very basic accommodation. They had availabilities, but we opted for a much cheaper campsite outside the national park and drove in the morning. We used WikiCamp and CamperMate to find affordable campsites and settled on a powered site at Round Hill Coffee, which was approximately 45 minutes away from the national park.
How to get to Cradle Mountain
Cradle Mountain National Park has two different access points. The one in the north, where you can see the iconic mountain, is the most popular and one of the most visited places in Tasmania. It takes approximately 75 minutes to drive there from Devonport and 2 hours from Launceston. In the south, you can see Lake St Clair and other mountains. It takes almost 3 hours to drive there from the northern part, and 2.5 hours from Launceston or Hobart.
Unless you’re joining a tour, you’ll need your own vehicle to get to Cradle Mountain. They have built a large car park near the information centre. From there, you can check in and get a shuttle ticket that will take you to different parts of the park on the winding narrow road. This makes it great to walk a bit further without needing to return to your starting point.
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