Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

Tell any Aussie that you’re going to Tasmania and they’ll probably say you absolutely have to go to Cradle Mountain. Well, it was time to visit this gem and see what all the fuss was about.

In last week’s article, Northern Tasmania, we left off with me dodging wallaby poo at my campsite in Gowrie Park Wilderness Village, about a 45 minute drive from the Visitors’ Center at Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. My goal that day was to do the Dove Lake Circuit Walk, a 6 km (3.7 mile) walk around Dove Lake, much of it on boardwalks. Although short, the circuit around Dove Lake is regarded by many as one of Tasmania’s best walks, for it passes through some wonderful sub-alpine scenery, with the lake as the centerpiece and the towering spires of Cradle Mountain jutting high on the skyline above.

The road from the Visitors’ Center to the trailhead is best described as a one-lane road with turnouts for passing, so the park service encourages, but does not require tourists to take a free shuttle bus. OK, I like to be accommodating whenever I can, so I parked my car and picked up my bus ticket at the counter and got in line, where a shuttle was loading. Traveling alone does sometimes have its advantages, and when there was but a single seat left on this shuttle, I was called up the front of the line to snag it. So far so good.

We made a couple of stops, but without any room to take on passengers, we didn’t stay at any stop too long. It seems if you want to board the shuttle anywhere but the first stop, you’re going to be there a long, long time.

We arrived at the Dove Lake trailhead, where there is a little hut of sorts with visitor info, including log books for hikers to document their planned walk. I completed an entry with my plan to walk the Dove Lake Circuit and took off around the lake with my usual supply of day hiking gear, photography gear, and water.

That Bug's In Here Somewhere!, Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia

An ant hunts for dinner deep inside a flower, at Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia.

The day was overcast, but pleasant, and I started looking for things to photograph. I’m not a fan of grey skies unless they are very dramatic – I just think they look depressing. So I put on my macro lens and was mostly looking for wildflowers and any interesting insects I might find. These subjects are actually easier to photograph on cloudy days.

Sure enough, it didn’t take me too long before I found a beautiful white and pink flower with a huge ant rummaging around inside it looking for something. I watched the ant for a while, and sure enough, he eventually found what he was looking for. I couldn’t really see what he was eating. All I could tell is that it looks like a head with antennae, so I’m not sure what it was before the ant got to it. Maybe it was a smaller ant. It’s a tough world out there.

So far I haven’t been able to identify this flower. I even sprung the AUD 12.00 at the Visitors’ Center for a copy of Exploring the Flora of Cradle Mountain Day Walk Areas, but it’s not in there. In fact, most of the flowers I photographed that day are not in the book. Sigh.

Ant Finds His Dinner, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Par

A large ant finds something tasty inside a blooming flower, in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia.

Nearby I spotted a Shiny tea-tree plant with a cluster of flowers that looked as if it had been arranged into a bouquet. One of the things I loved most about hiking in Tasmania is that you are almost always surrounded by eucalypts and tea-tree plants, and the fragrance is amazing! In this case I had a little bit of fun in post-processing by putting a white vignette around the flowers.

Tea Tree Bouquet, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia

Tee tree flowers cluster in the shape of a bouquet, in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia.

Next on the trail was a cluster of Tasmanian Christmas Bells, timely since this was Christmas week. These bright orange and yellow beauties are hard to miss.

Tasmanian Christmas Bells, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia

Tasmanian Christmas bells are in full bloom just days before Christmas and right on schedule, as spring gives way to summer in the Southern Hemisphere, in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia.

I found lots of other wildflowers along the trail, way too many to put in this article, but the ones shown here were my favorites.

When I got about half-way around the lake, and almost directly under Cradle Mountain, I noticed this composition with the boardwalk and the steps. A wide angle lens (17mm) makes the mountain appear much farther away than it actually is.

Beneath the Cradle, Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia

One of Tasmania’s premier walks, the Dove Lake Circuit passes beneath the towering spires of Cradle Mountain, near Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia.

Further around the lake I came to the famous Dove Lake Boatshed. I wasn’t excited about the overcast sky, but this was my only day here, so it was a photograph with overcast skies or nothing.

The boatshed was built in 1940, largely of King Billy pine, by Lionell Connell, the first Ranger at Cradle Mountain. It seems that boating was popular on the lake up until the 1960s. Anyway, no photographer visits Dove Lake without coming away with images of the boatshed, so here it is.

Stormy Day at the Boatshed, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia

Storm clouds provide just a hint at the intensity of the storm heading for the lake, at Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia.

During the second half of the walk it had begun to rain, and as I was heading back to the hut to sign out and catch my shuttle back to civilization, the rain really started coming down. I was shocked, however, to find the hut completely packed with tourists also waiting for a shuttle, and there were no shuttles in sight. In fact, it was at least twenty minutes before the first one arrived, and quite a few of them came and left before I had my turn. It probably took over an hour to get back to the Visitors’ Center, a mere 8 km away. Oh well, no worries, mate. I still had plenty of time to get to Stanley, my destination for that evening. And it was destined to be a pretty nice evening!

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One Response to “Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park”

  1. Lorraine Petrie says:

    Love that gold and green shrubbery around the boardwalk, and the mountain! I’m anxiously awaiting next week’s story…