Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

While touring Tasmania for a few days leading up to our Gone Nuts 101km Adventure Run, we loosely decided to make our way north via the western side of the island, and go down the eastern side back to Hobart, from where we’ll fly back to NZ (via Melbourne).

We were really playing the whole trip by ear – our flights were sorted, two nights accommodation in Hobart on arrival, as well as accommodation for the few days around the ultra were booked. But for the rest, we just went where the road took us. Being not much of a shopper, and not too keen on big cities, I was keen to go where we could hopefully spot some wallabies, pademelons, wombats (my new favourite animal!), and if we’re lucky, a platypus or Tasmanian devil.

After leaving Queenstown, we headed west and further into the region of between-nowhere-and-nothing. On the way, we encountered lots of dead wallabies and no less than three dead wombats. At the first encounter we stopped and got out of the car to have a closer look – like real tourists. I’ve never seen a wombat in real life before, dead or alive, when one of the locals stopped to chat and take the dead animal out of the road. He then mentioned in passing that they don’t have much road sense. Such a shame to see so many dead animals on the road, especially in this more remote area. On the other hand, I have also never seen an animal with as much road savvy as the echidna (it reminded me of a porcupine). Not a single dead body in the road on all the roads we traveled. And we’ve seen heaps right next to the road. Echidna is an extremely interesting animal. According to the Wired magazine website: The echidna has spines like a porcupine, a beak like a bird, a pouch like a kangaroo, and lays eggs like a reptile. Also known as spiny anteaters, they’re small, solitary mammals native to Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea”. They have the lowest body temperature of all mammals and a slow metabolism. And are evidently clever enough to stay clear of the roads. Not wonder they live to grow up to 45 years! And here’s a fun fact courtesy of the same magazine: Male echidnas have a bizarre, four-headed penis. You might wonder how you mate with a four-headed penis. During sex, two of the heads shut down while the other two grow bigger to fit into the female’s two-branched reproductive tract. Males alternate the heads they use between matings.” Fascinating animals to say the very least. Of course I had to Google echidna penis photos!

As part of the Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage site, we were very keen to make a stop-over at Cradle Mountain. Luckily Gerry could secure a cabin, short notice, for one night. After checking in, we had a cider and beer at the local cafe, before heading to our cabin at Waldheim which were behind security gates. We could drive in, but if you’re a day visitor only, and want to walk the tracks behind the secure gates, they have a free shuttle bus to take you the eight or so kilometres deeper into the park.

When we arrived at the cabin, we were greeted by a wombat grazing on the grass outside the cabin. After much initial excitement, some photos, unpacking and a shower, we went out for a stroll around one of the tracks, hoping to see more wildlife during the early evening. We opted to do a 7km trail passing by Lake Lilla, Wombat Pool, and Crater Lake. After about two kilometres, we heard quite a racket going on in a few trees near the track and saw another couple trying to figure out what was going on. It turned out to be a flock of yellow-tailed black cockatoos doing goodness knows what, but after much noisy deliberation on their part, they took off for another tree further away from the path.

I was hoping to spot some wallabies and pademelons, but unfortunately we only saw and heard the infamous black currawong. The trail is a well established trail with boardwalks to protect the delicate landscape. It is fairly hilly, and we walked a million stairs up and down. The last bit follows a stream with beautiful little waterfalls, and is also part of the Cradle Mountain overland track – a seven day hike traversing the whole park from north to south. Something I would love to do should we find ourselves in Tasmania again.

With less than one kilometre to get back to the cabin, we saw a wombat a few metres away in the tall grass. But the moment it saw us, it went and hid in the tall grass. We waited a while, but it would seem the wombat had more patience than us. And only a few metres further, we encountered another wombat only a couple of metres from the path. When it noticed us, the cheeky bugger went and hid underneath the wooden path we were walking on. We were standing right on top of it, but it wouldn’t move one iota. We kept dead still, hardly breathed, but it was clearly well aware of our presence, as all it did was to start scratching itself and later on noisily grazing on the grass underneath the path. It would not come out, much to my dismay. And here’s another intriguing fact – wombats poop square poops. The reason being to be able to mount their poops on rocks and tree stumps to mark their territory. The cube shaped poop is less likely to roll off.

Back at the cabin, no less than three pademelons were grazing on the grass outside the cabin. Another round of excitement, and photos, before we got bored and started cooking dinner. Later in the evening another wombat visited, and it was nice being able to watch it through the cabin window without disturbing it.

In the morning, we were lucky to also have a wallaby pair outside the cabin. After breakfast, we packed before heading out for another trail in the park. This time we opted for one of the 60 greatest walks in Tasmania, around Dove Lake, a roughly 6km loop trail. It was overcast when we started out, but by the time we reached the glacier rock (about 10 minutes in), a few spits of rain started falling. Going clockwise, the track is mainly in the bush hugging the lake with lovely picnic spots at the water’s edge every here and there.

We had a small window and only a couple of chances to have lovely views of Cradle Mountain, before it misted over and the spits turned into a light rain. Luckily no showers or downpours, but enough to get us quite wet after only three kilometres. At the far end of the loop, we entered the rainforest called the Ballroom Forest. After this, we started climbing a bit, and getting out of the forest were more exposed. The rain persisted and we were getting wetter by the minute.

Despite the rain, the track was very busy. The shuttle buses were constantly dropping off and picking up walkers.

Afterwards we headed for the nearest eatery (with a fire place!) for coffee and hot chips. It was a lovely walk, and I couldn’t help but think it is such a shame we didn’t have more time (and money) to stay longer. It is a beautiful area with lovely trails, and one would be able to spend hours running or walking in the park. One day really didn’t do it justice. We would love to come back for the overland trail some day maybe, and spend more time in the park afterwards. We might even spot a platypus if we could sit by the side of the lakes for extended periods.


3 thoughts on “Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

  1. I love hearing about places other people have been – there are just so many places in the world to go to – just not enough time or money!!

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