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Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair Park

Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain
Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain
People use the words 'awe-inspiring' too much, but if ever there was a place that deserved that adjective, it is Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park. So much of Tasmania is unique and beautiful, and yet the magic of Cradle Mountain tops them all, in any season.

The park is accessible by campervan, so this is a must-do on your holiday. This world heritage-listed park is only 83km from Devonport and 144km from Launceston. At the entrance of the park is a visitor centre which has all the information you need to enjoy the park.

The Cradle Mountain Tourist Park is the only caravan park located at Cradle Valley, and has powered and unpowered sites, and all the facilities you would need, including a kiosk, a laundry, and internet access. There are also camping grounds at Lake St Clair. The campground just before the Cradle Mountain National Park entrance is privately operated by Cosy Cabins, and powered sites are available.

Named because it resembles a miners' cradle, Cradle Mountain soars majestically above Dove Lake. It was formed as the end result of massive glaciation; when the glaciers melted they left behind the peaks and landforms. Glaciers erode their terrain through plucking and abrasion; glaciers pick up stones as they moves along, and this rocky underbelly grinds the ground beneath it, so that when the glaciers melt they leave behind a strange landscape full of twists and striations. Even though the glaciers have gone, the weather conditions in the park can still be extreme, varying from sunny to rain and sleet in an hour. The sudden winds can be bone chilling, especially if you are climbing at higher altitudes, so come prepared before you start any long treks. Strong boots, thick socks, and plenty of layers of warm clothing are a must.

The best way to see the park is on foot. There are trails to suit all levels of fitness, ranging from 10min walks to 3hrs. If you take a hike at night, Tasmanian devils and possums might make an appearance. There is a road to the edge of Dove Lake, and with so many walking tracks that this part of the park would have to be one of the most accessible. There are also many varieties of alternative accommodation if you would prefer to spend a night in a cabin or luxurious lodge.

While exploring the park, Weindorfer's Chalet, 'Waldheim', is well worth a look. The rustic chalet was once home for Gustav Weindorfer, the major force behind the creation of the Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park. Stop by, and let the displays inside the building tell you the story of its past. The Chalet is one of the main attractions in the area, as it has been restored to resemble how it was originally, almost a century ago. The Weindorfer's Forest Walk leaves from this Chalet and takes you into the Ballroom Forest, where you think you've stepped back through a portal into prehistoric times. There are longer walks that return via the Dove River Gorge.

However, the most popular walk is the Overland Track, which also leaves from the Waldheim Chalet, and winds over 80km of the park. Taking at least six to eight days to complete, you will experience everything from temperate rainforest to grass and alpine plains. This will be a life-enriching trek. If you are attempting this walk make sure you are well prepared as it requires excellent fitness. Hikers should also be aware that there are guidelines to ensure that overnight walkers and those undertaking the Overland Track do not negatively impact upon each other's experience; contact the Tasmanian Parks & Wildlife Service for the guidelines.

The Harnett Falls are the highest of the falls along the Mersey River. It only takes about twenty minutes to reach these falls from the Overland Track, and the setting of the falls is a pretty gorge. The falls are impressive when seen from below, and the view from above the falls provides an attractive panorama down the gorge.

At over 1600 metres, Mt Ossa is Tasmania's highest mountain, and takes about three hours to trek to the summit from Pelion Gap if you are keen to do this. The views from the top are worth the trip. If you are attempting this trek, it is advised to bring water and provisions. Pelion Gap is also the starting point another side-trip climb: Mount Pelion East.

It would be easy to get lost in the grand scale of the scenery. However, the flora and fauna of the park are incredibly diverse, a direct result of the large range of environments within the parks borders. Take the opportunity to get to know the little inhabitants of the park, and you will rewarded with glimpses of some of the most intriguing plants, animals and fungi on the planet.

There is another worthwhile attraction to visit while you are in the park. There is the Wilderness Gallery, a unique purpose-built showcase of ten gallery rooms, for the display of environmental photography. The Wilderness Gallery is adjacent to the Cradle Mountain Chateau.

Whether you spend a few days or a week in the Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park, you will leave with an immense sense of wonder. Pictures and mere words can't convey the extraordinary allure of the park. This really is one of those places you have to visit for yourself.

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