Located in the central highlands of Tasmania, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park offers scenic hikes along beautiful aged rainforests, pristine jeweled lakes, and rugged mountain terrain.
Cradle Mountain is about a two-hour drive from Launceston, a quaint, humble town in Tasmania. After spending a day in Launceston and being thrown off guard by the stillness of the town, my family and I were ready to take a day trip to the National Park.
On the road to Cradle Mountain, there are several points of interest to stop at such as a cheese factory, a town covered in murals, and a chocolate factory.
We booked a private tour with Murray’s Day Out, owned and operated by local Tasmanian Murray Smith. Murray, who has over 30 years of experience traveling around northern Tasmania, was a chipper fellow and reminded me of a stout Nigel Thornberry (from The Wild Thornberrys). He picked us up at our hotel, the Launceston Sebel, and off we went to explore.
We made our first stop at Ashgrove Cheese Factory and Tasmanian Farm Store less than an hour in. Ashgrove offered free tastings of lavender farm cheese, red chili cheese, and cheddar cheese, among others, and fig and quince fruit paste to pair with. Beside their confectionary store was a small cafe, which sold creamy farm ice cream and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Murray then drove us to a secluded spot by the South Esk River for some fresh pine-scented air and a beautiful view of Tasmania’s forest landscape. The morning we were there, the water banks were littered with broken branches and displaced rocks. Murray told us that three weeks ago, there had been a flood with over 200mm of water that killed three people. It was a rare occurrence in Tasmania, he said.
My family and I stood there for a moment, appreciating the silence. Soft light beamed through the trees and platypus swam upstream. It seemed crazy to imagine that rains had ravaged through such a peaceful spot not too long ago.
We hopped back onto the van, this time for a longer trip to Sheffield, a town covered with murals. Why is it covered with murals? Well, people used to drive through Sheffield on their way to Cradle Mountain and locals wanted to find a way to get visitors to stop by, so they thought of painting murals. A story of under-appreciation and economic interest, really.
Sheffield locals wanted to get people to visit every year, so they decided to hold an annual mural festival. Every year, the town sends invitations to budding artists with a verse or poem. The artists then go to Sheffield and paint what the verse means to them; the winner gets to convert their painting to an actual mural in the town.
I took a walk on my own, down some road to look at the cute houses and gardens surrounding Sheffield. With the view of the mountains in the background, I imagined it must be a pretty nice place to live.
Before we reached Cradle Mountain, we stopped by a little cafe outpost and ordered some sandwiches and fries to go. Inside the national park and UN World Heritage Site, we ascended winding mountainous roads, climbing 4,000 feet above sea level. We passed by 900-year-old Pencil pine and King Billy trees, and caught glimpses of wildlife scurrying around.
Finally, we reached Dove Lake, one of the hallmarks of the park, with the iconic backdrop of the crater-like peak of Cradle Mountain. From there, visitors have the option of taking a two-hour walk around the lake or spending a day hiking to the mountain’s summit. Because we were on a time crunch, we just wandered around and took photos.
Murray then took us to see Waldheim (“home in the forest”) Chalet, a small abandoned cottage previously built by Gustav Weindorfer, an Australian botanist and lodge-keeper who heavily promoted the national park. Beside it was the Weindorfers Forest Walk, an enchanting 20-minute stroll around a forest filled with King Billy pines, shrubbery, and moss akin to the scenery of Into the Woods.
After seeing Cradle Mountain, we all hopped back onto the van and made our way back to Launceston. We stopped by the Anvers Chocolate Factory to get some hot drinks, artisanal chocolate, and free tastings before the sun started to set on the day.
Most everyone in my family enjoyed getting out of Launceston and seeing Cradle Mountain. It was a long drive to get there, but the scenery around Dove Lake was beautiful. There’s something about unadulterated nature, something about the pureness, that instills a calm and leaves one in awe.