Yet another highlight of Tasmania, Cradle Mountain! We spent 3 days around Cradle Mountain exploring the easier trails and learning more about wildlife. I’ve put together our itinerary and other useful information for planning a visit to Cradle Mountain in this post. Hope you’ll get the chance to visit this beautiful place too!
From sea to summit. We couldn’t have done a month in Tasmania without a visit to Cradle Mountain. Despite having walked past Cradle Mountain 3 years ago on the Overland Track, I was looking forward Cradle Mountain again. Walked past, because that was all I could do on the previous trip. April (on the previous trip) is not known for kind weather. I never got a view of Cradle Mountain in its entirety, despite spending days around it. With this second trip 3 years later, in the middle of summer (December), I was hoping for better views of Cradle Mountain, more animal sightings, and some beautiful memories with my partner. For a short summary of what we saw, here’s a video of our visit to Cradle Mountain:
How we spent 3 days at Cradle Mountain
- Day 0
- Black Bluff Lookout
- Cradle Mountain Fishery & Camping
- Day 1
- Dove Lake Circuit
- Crater Lake Circuit
- Day 2
- Cradle Mountain Interpretation Centre
- Enchanted Walk
- Rainforest Walk
- King Billy Walk
- Afternoon break
- Wombat watching at Ronny Creek at dusk
- Night spotting tour
- Day 3
- Waldheim Chalet
From the northern coast of Tasmania, we emerged from the densely forested Hellyer Gorge along Murchinson Highway, and took a left on Belvoir Roa. Soon we were (or rather, our trusty Hiace was) climbing up towards the mountain ranges in central Tasmania. We stopped at Black Bluff Lookout, the highest point along Belvoir Road at 930m. Here, we had our first view of Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff. It was a clear day, and the view was spectacular. Lots of anticipation for the days ahead.
We continued along the C132, which became Cradle Mountain Road after the junction into Cradle Mountain. Given the peak crowds and prices within the Cradle Mountain area, we were fortunate to secure a campsite at Cradle Mountain Fishery & Camping, just a short drive away from Cradle Mountain, surrounded by nature and at a more palatable price. We headed for our campsite for the night. It had been a long day driving and Cradle Mountain had to wait.
At the campsite, there was a slight confusion over the reservation we had earlier made over email when we arrived. Scott, who runs the place, was friendly and had it sorted out. The campgrounds had lots at different levels on a slope overlooking a pond/ dam. Picturesque, but a little tricky to get our van neatly parked and on level ground. We had a little help from Scott and were soon making ourselves comfortable and enjoying dinner with a view over the dam and forest.
As we were just a short drive away from Cradle Mountain, we managed to arrive before the park got really crowded from the day tours from the cities. There were queues for bus tickets as well as for the bus, but these move quickly, and we were on the windy narrow mountain road towards Dove Lake in no time. On the approach to Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain peeked over the hills, as if in anticipation of new visitors for the day. Within steps off the bus at Dove Lake, it was all there in plain sight. Stunning and unmistakable, Cradle Mountain.
Dove Lake Circuit
It was a really strange feeling being back at the same place just 3 years apart, yet facing a totally different view. I walked for days across dozens of kilometres from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair in 2019, yet never came close to seeing Cradle Mountain in its full glory. And now, just seconds off a comfortable bus ride, this view of Cradle Mountain against a spotless sky. Might have been the jarring contrast from my previous experience here, but took awhile to take it all in. The awe never quite faded as we completed the Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain always within view.
Along the way, detours from the main path onto the lake provided different frames to Cradle Mountain. We came across other hikers every couple of minutes of so, but nothing like the crowd that had gathered at the Boat Shed. It was a hot day, and folks were cooling off in the water.
From the Boat Shed, we took a turn up the mountains towards Wombat Pool, where rocks were a deep red and wombats nowhere to be found. Trees grew sparser as we approached Crater Lake, with more spectacular views along the way. We considered heading up to Marions Lookout or Cradle Summit, but our unfit bodies decided we had enough of climbs for the day.
Dove Lake Lookout
The highest point on our hike that day, by the rim of Crater Lake. Not the highest yet along this trail (Marions Lookout just ahead, but probably for another time), but high enough for a good view.
From Crater Lake it was downhill most of the way. First down to the edge of the water at Crater Lake, where there was another boat shed. Then down next to Crater Falls, then further down to Ronny Creek.along Lake Lilla Track back to Dove Lake.
Ronny Creek/ Lake Lilla Track
From the bottom of the hill it was more or less flat along Lake Lilla Track all the way back to Dove Lake. The varying shapes and colours across the Tasmanian bush were captivating. Definitely felt a whole lot different to walking that same path in early winter.
Back at Dove Lake, one last look at Cradle Mountain before calling it a day.
Taking a long hike up Marions Lookout and to Cradle Summit might have crossed our minds, but our will wasn’t strong enough to commit to another full day of exertion. Besides, as we consoled ourselves, there was still plenty to do around Cradle Mountain that involved less effort. One thing we were really hoping to do was to spot some of the native wildlife.
We read that wombats are commonly found at Ronny Creek, and understood from rangers that we may not have seen any the day before because the weather was too hot. Hoping to find them in the morning getting about before the weather got hot, we first headed to Ronny Creek. Alas, no wombats in sight, but we did spot some fearsome looking native hens, a common sight across Tasmania.
Cradle Mountain Interpretation Center
As the sun was getting to us too, in the exposed and unsheltered Ronny Creek, we decided to visit the Cradle Mountain Interpretation Center. It’s a good sized museum/ exhibition. The interpretation center covers various aspects of Cradle Mountain. From it’s geographical and natural history, to how the park came to be as it is today. Probably a good half to one hour to provide a better appreciation of Cradle Mountain and the other wilderness areas.
Rainforest Walk and Enchanted Walk
A few short and easy trails start from the Interpretation Center. We did the Rainforest Walk and Enchanted Walk, though they were quite similar so now I can’t tell which photos are from where. They were nice walks though, sheltered from the harsh Tasmanian sun by the trees. Not much of views, but more to see the trees that make the forest and to spot some animals in the under bush. Understandably, visitors on tight schedules skipped these trails and head straight to Dove Lake. It was tranquil on the trails here.
King Billy Walk
We had a look at the restaurant at Cradle Mountain Lodge, which felt a little packed for our liking, and checked out the small retail store next door, before starting on our third walk, the King Billy Walk. Again, not one for mountain views, but a relaxing walk through a quiet forest and a close up experience with the magnificent King Billy Pines.
It was getting hot in the afternoon, and having done a few walks we decided to head back to the campsite for a siesta while planning what to do with the rest of the day.
There were a couple of private tour companies at the visitor center offering a range of tours (for a not-so-budget-friendly price). We really hoped to see wombats at Cradle Mountain (as they are often sighted here) but we hadn’t seen any yet, and thought long and hard about whether to go with a tour.
As bookings for the tour close in the afternoon, we had to decide on the tour before we had the next opportunity to try to see them. Given the heat in summer, wombats would only come out later in the day, towards dusk. Waiting till then was also a little risk. The sun sets late in summer, yet shuttle buses stop early in the evening. There was a chance that even if we took the last buses to Ronny Creek, we might not be late enough to see the wombats.
We eventually decided upon the night spotting tour with one of the private operators so as to secure a better chance to see wombats, as well as other night animals we would otherwise not have spotted unless we took a scary night out into the wilderness on our own.
Dusk at Ronny Creek
As the tour was after dusk after the last few buses of the day, we decided to head back to Cradle Mountain before the tour to try to spot wombats before the sun went down. We arrived at Ronny Creek just as the sun started on its journey behind the mountains. We were pleasantly surprised to spot our first wombat not far from the bus stop. As we walked just a little more along the boardwalk, we spotted a second, then a third.
With their stature and pace, those further away were initially not easy to spot, but it was soon clear that over the fields and up the hills wombats were out and about. We were in awe observing these teddy bear lookalikes running wild. Having seen wombats on Tasmania and mainland Australia, I learnt to differentiate between the pig-faced ones and the teddy bear looking ones. The wild ones in Tasmania are of the latter sort, very cuddly looking, but either way, not animals you should cuddle with.
Night Spotting Tour
We made our way back to the visitor center to start on the night spotting tour. A rugged looking bus came to pick us up and made its rounds to the other accommodation near the visitor center and within Cradle Mountain, before bring us back to Ronny Creek.
We had been here multiple times by now, but being here with a guide who was sharing more about the less commonly noticed aspects of wildlife (such as the fishes in the stream) showcased the area in a different light. We started along the boardwalk, getting to know the frogs, and of course, more wombats still around in the fast setting sun.
As it got progressively darker the quolls started darting around in the distance. I would totally have missed them if I were on my own, but the guide expertly pointed them out. We learnt more about the animals in Cradle Mountain as well as about spotting animals in the dark without causing them distress. Wombats, quolls, frogs and fishes were about all we spotted that night at Ronny Creek. Unfortunately but expectedly, no Tasmanian Devils that night. As the mountain road out was pitch dark and as there weren’t any other road users, the guide could go really slow on the road so that we could keep a lookout for other animals along the way. We came across brushtail possums, pademelons and wallabies, all common animals in Tasmania but still a cool experience to watch at night.
Return to Campsite
We were tired by the time we arrived back at the visitor center, and still had another 20 min drive in pitch darkness to get back to our campsite. Driving in Tasmania at night is terrifying as there are many nocturnal animals crossing the roads, and lots of fresh roadkill turn up every morning. We drove steadily yet cautiously and came across a couple of near misses, thankfully reaching the campsite with our 0 kill streak maintained.
Our lucky streak with the weather ended, and our third day at Cradle Mountain started overcast with hints of the inevitable storm. Just a few more things to see before we continued our our Tasmania road trip towards the west coast.
Having seen Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake in the best of weathers we thought it would be interesting to see it in a different light, or maybe just to reminisce the view from 3 years ago. We made a quick stop at Dove Lake and here’s how it looked like:
The rain picked up in intensity as we backtracked towards Ronny Creek for a last walk to the historic Waldheim Chalets. The initial part of the walk was across the exposed fields of Ronny Creek.
After a couple of turns we arrived at the Waldheim Cabins, current accommodation at Cradle Mountain run by the parks and wildlife service. Continuing down the road we reached Waldheim Chalet. Waldheim Chalet started over 100 years ago, in 1912. The Weindorfers, who used the chalet as a home and guest accommodation, played a significant role in Cradle Mountain becoming the well loved national park it is today. The chalet (a replica after the original burnt down) is not longer functioning as accommodation, but rather as a basic museum, providing a glimpse into how things were back then. A really cool spot to visit.
Bonus points for making the trip here were the wallabies just outside and the other memorial and view points around the chalet. The Weindorfers Forest Walk also starts here, but we decided to skip it as we had enough of the rain.
Final stretch in the rain, walking all the way back to Ronny Creek. Not the most ideal weather but certainly makes for a memorable finish.
Journy to the West
One last bus ride out later, we were back in the campervan on the highway, this time driving towards the west, for Strahan and Queenstown. More stories to follow!
Cradle Mountain Information
Here’s more information to help you plan your trip to Cradle Mountain (last updated 2023).
Getting to Cradle Mountain
Cradle Mountain is approximately 80km from Devonport, 140km from Launceston and 320km from Hobart. The common ways of getting to Cradle Mountain are via self-drive or with a shuttle or tour. Given the distances and things to see in the park a one day tour from the cities is not really ideal as it would be a really long and tiring day. If your budget allows, staying at one of the accommodation options at Cradle Mountain would probably be the best way to enjoy the national park. This would involve getting a car to drive to Cradle Mountain Visitor Center, or by arranging one of the shuttle/ transfer options from the major cities.
Accommodation at/ near Cradle Mountain
Closest to Cradle Mountain: Waldheim Cabins
These cabins are run by the parks and wildlife service and look like a great experience at a great price. However I believe these do run out quickly so some luck may be required to secure a spot here. This may also be the closest spot you can sleep to Cradle Mountain without getting on the Overland Track.
Live in luxury: Cradle Mountain Lodge
Next closest to Cradle Mountain is Cradle Mountain Lodge. If you’re up for a luxurious stay at Cradle Mountain this would be it. Pictures of the place do look stunning and if we had a higher budget for this trip we would have loved to spend some nights here. Cradle Mountain Lodge is located near the Interpretation Center, less remote than Waldheim Cabins but with couple of restaurant and retail options in the vicinity.
Near Cradle Mountain Visitor Center
There’s a range of options here such as Cradle Mountain Highlander Cottages, Discovery Parks – Cradle Mountain and Cradle Mountain Hotel. Some may be walkable to the visitor center daily for the bus while some make more sense to simply drive from to the visitor center daily to spend more time in the park than walking to the park. While not as expensive as Cradle Mountain Lodge, they can be pricey near the holiday season. In the end we opted to stay outside the park as the additional cost appeared to weigh heavier than the additional 10-20 minute drive required daily, and photos of the campsite appeared pretty congested without views.
We stayed at Cradle Mountain Fishery & Camping, which was about 15 minutes from the visitor center. Other than the amenities being on the basic side and the short daily drive, everything else was great (see commentary above). There seems to also be other accommodation options in the vicinity, including Wombat Cabin, Tiny Escapes Cradle Valley and Lemonthyme Wilderness Retreat. However as we did not consider those during our search I can’t comment on them.
Things to bring to Cradle Mountain (source: information boards at park)
For easier walks:
- Waterproof jacket with stormfront and hood
- Warm clothing (including a fleece or woolen jumper, beanie)
- Hiking boots
- Light daypack
- Sunscreen – important as it is easy to get sunburnt in Tasmania
- 1L water per person for every 3 hours
For moderate and difficult walks:
- Thermal underlayers
- Waterproof overtrousers
- Scarf/ neck warmers
- Mobile device
- High energy food
- Toilet paper and trowel
- First aid kit
- Emergency space blanket
Fees and admission for Cradle Mountain
A parks pass is required to visit Cradle Mountain. Various types of passes are available so pick one that’s most appropriate for your trip. If you’re on a road trip around Tasmania and will be heading to a couple of national parks, a holiday pass would likely make the most sense. There are no additional fees required for the shuttle bus, trails, the interpretation center, toilets or even the water coolers. No free food though.
Getting around Cradle Mountain
Almost all visitors will park at the huge carpark at Cradle Mountain visitor center. The shuttle bus takes care of the rest of the way to the Interpretation Center, Ronny Creek or Dove Lake. While the car park at the visitor center looks unlikely to run out of lots, it can be a long walk from your lot to the visitor center if the carpark is crowded, so it may pay to try to arrive earlier to spend more time walking in the national park than at the car park. To use the shuttle bus, you’d need to obtain a ticket at the visitor center by presenting your parks pass.
Outside of shuttle bus operational hours, it may be possible to drive all the way to Ronny Creek/ Dove Lake, subjected to the limited lots available. There might be a wait at the gantry near the Interpretation Center if many vehicles are within the restricted zone. If you do get in before shuttle bus operational hours and would like to drive out, you’d have to wait for a shuttle bus heading out and follow behind the bus.
Day Walks around Cradle Mountain (source: information boards at park)
- Rainforest Walk: 10 min circuit from Cradle Mountain Interpretation Centre
- Enchanted Walk: 20 min circuit from Cradle Mountain Interpretation Centre
- King Billy Walk: 40 min circuit from Cradle Mountain Lodge
- Knyvet Falls: 45 min return from Cradle Mountain Lodge Shop
- Cradle Valley Boardwalk: from Cradle Mountain Interpretation Centre. 2 hr one way to Ronny Creek, 3 hr one way to Dove Lake
- Weindorfers Forest Walk: 30 min circuit from Ronny Creek
- Other short walks: Dove Lake to Glacier Rock/ Dove Lake to Boat Shed
- Dove Canyon Circuit (via Knyvet Falls): 2-3hr circuit from Cradle Mountain Lodge Shop
- Crater Lake Circuit: 2-3 hr circuit from Ronny Creek
- Lake Lilla Track: 30 min return from Dove Lake
- Dove lake Circuit: 2-3 hr from Dove Lake
- Other half day walks (1-3 hr):
- Ronny Creek to Crater Falls and Crater Lake
- Dove Lake to Lake Lilla and Wombat Pool (return via same or Crater Lake and Crater Falls)
- Hansons Peak
- Lake Wilks
- Marions Lookout (via Crater Lake): 3 hr return from Ronny Creek or Dove Lake
- Other full day walks (4-6 hr):
- Marions Lookout and Kitchen Hut
- Horse Track to Crater Peak and Kitchen Hut
- Cradle Mountain summit; Face Track
- Lake Rodway
Discovery activities at Cradle Mountain
While we were at there there were a couple of free activities daily, organised by the Parks and Wildlife Service. These are usually hour long guided tours on specific topics such as on Gondwana, wombats, flora and fungi. Look out for posters at the visitor center for details on the upcoming tours and how to attend one.
Tours and other activities at Cradle Mountain
There are a couple of private tour companies at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Center providing small group/ private tours in Cradle Mountain, should you prefer a more personalised service or special itinerary. For example, we took up the night spotting tour as it would otherwise have been logistically difficult for us to enter the park after dark to spot the animals at night.
Food and beverages at Cradle Mountain
There’s a small snack bar at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Center and 2 restaurants further in at Cradle Mountain Lodge. The retail shops at Cradle Mountain Visitor Center and Cradle Mountain Lodge also sell a small range of camping food. If you’re camping it would be better to stock up in the city prior to heading to Cradle Mountain.
For water, bring your own bottle and refill for free at the visitor center. Remember to bring sufficient water in!