Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain has the kind of vista that appears on billboards and in beer commercials.
It’s a glamorous, all natural spot. We travelled to Cradle Mountain from Hobart via Queenstown in a hire car. The road is winding and can be icy so don’t necessarily take the Google Maps estimate of travel time.
At Cradle Mountain there’s a range of accommodation. We opted for the thriftiest choice with an economy cabin at Discovery Parks. We had a family space with a double bed and a bunk. Our suitcases took up most of the floor space. There was a shared kitchen and shared bathrooms. All were clean and delightfully warm.
When we visited, the Discovery Parks campsite was damp and muddy. So much so, you feel like you’re on the set of a eucalyptus-tinged Deadwood (HBO drama set in a Dakota mining town). That said, the site is only 500 metres from the Cradle Mountain visitor information centre along a (not so muddy) blue slate path.
The visitor information centre for Cradle Mountain is a dark grey metal hulk that I imagine the architects designed to mimic the surrounding mountain range. Almost like a passport control hub, the visitor information centre has winding queues and a panel of workers behind plexiglass. There’s also a gift shop, a cafe and toilets.
The Tasmanian parks team working behind the counter are great. There’s a park entrance fee ($82 for two months). They suggest you take a photo of the receipt as the bits of paper are easily lost. The team share maps guiding you to the various hikes and point you to the shuttle bus that departs every 15 minutes.
“Not even Carnarvon Gorge was like this,” said my eldest, remarking that Cradle Mountain is unlike other big name Australian national parks. We opted for Marion’s Lookout – the most challenging hike from the Dove’s Lake lookout – with an estimated walk time of three hours.
Marion’s Lookout Hike
The walk starts with a series of stone steps. And the steps keep going. There are some really tough parts of the bushwalk. In the lower areas there was ice on the path. Higher up the track there was a fairly steep rock face that was climbed with the assistance of a metal chain link fence.
On the day we hiked we were blessed with an alpine blue sky day. The colours were so crisp and everything felt like it was in sharp focus. We had dressed in layers and stripped to t-shirts on the ascent.
At the top, Marion’s Lookout is sensational with views across to Cradle Mountain, Dove Lake below and mountain ridges all around. There was a great atmosphere at the summit: there was a couple vlogging, teens taking photos of each other and small groups munching on snacks and taking in the view.
I was a little worried about climbing down the same way we had come as the path is very steep. We made it. I was just so glad we weren’t hiking in the rain.
On our return we walked to a different shuttle bus pick up spot and spied so many wombats on the way. They were all different shades of brown, stocky and rectangular and munching on grass oblivious to the trekking armies in brightly coloured outdoor wear all around them.
Cradle Mountain Travel Tips
Bring as much water as you can. The water at Discovery Parks is untreated and requires boiling to be consumed.
There are dining options at Cradle Mountain but we chose to bring our own food for lunch and purchased a pizza from Discovery Parks to cook in the shared kitchen for dinner.
This is a serious bushwalk, dress in layers and have a pair of solid hiking boots.