Australia in a Campervan – Our Guide to Tasmania, Cradle Mountain & surrounds

Located in St Clair National Park and part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Cradle Mountain is a spectacular sight at any time of year. Its dolerite peaks stand proudly above the glacial lakes, grassy plains and the dense forests that conceal its abundant and unique wildlife from the elements. Only 2.5hrs away from Launceston, 2 hours from Queenstown and 1 hr from Sheffield, the love affair with Cradle Mountain is yet to wane as a quarter of all visitors to Tasmania visit this majestic beauty. Now it’s your turn!

Cradle Mountian- view from Dove Lake Boathouse

Cradle Mountain offers a number of short walks.

The Dove Lake walk is boardwalked much of the way and generally well maintained. Highlights during the 5.7km walk include Glacier Rock, the Ballroom Forest and the much photographed Boatshed. It’s a lovely 2 hour walk that requires no bushwalking experience with just a few stairs and gentle hills.

For quick walks, look at the Enchanted walk. This 20-minute circuit is suitable for all age groups and winds through a magical rainforest filled with wombat burrows.

Longer walks (2-3 hours) include Crater Falls, Crater Lake and Wombat Pool. Ranger guided walks are also available.

For those wanting full day walks, go for the ‘walk’ to the Cradle Mountain summit.  A grade 5 walk, it’s quite a challenge requiring fitness, experience and knowledge of first aid as the track is quite steep, and is rough and unmarked in parts. But the view is spectacular.  This 6 to 8-hour walk is part of the larger Overland Track, a 65km (40 mile) walk which navigates the heart of Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park.  With a variety of side trips (Mt Odessa, Tasmania’s highest peak and Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake) you will see the most exciting landscapes of the magnificent Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Download the 60 Great Short Walks app onto your Iphone/Ipad for first-hand stories from walkers, photographs and  safety tips. There are also video/audio podcasts covering bushwalking basics, the overland track and tasmanian water life.

April is considered the best time of year to undertake any of the tracks due the remarkable changing colours of the landscape. The winter months (June, July and August) can see snow on the tracks and caution is advised. Keep an eye on the weather before you venture out and check the Cradle Mountain Webcam.  In Summer the daily temperature ranges from 6 oC to 18oC while Winter temperatures vary between  1 oC  and 7oC. At night temperatures can fall below zero.

Cradle Mountain - Crater Lake

As this is a national park the facilities are somewhat limited. All toilets are wheelchair accessible and are located at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre and Dove Lake. There is no reliable mobile phone reception within the park but a public phone can be found at the Visitors Centre. Limited grocery items can be purchased from the Cradle Mountain Tourist Park and Campground with the closest supermarket at Sheffield.

Waldheim Chalets offer the only accommodation within the national park.  There are 8 affordable cabins with heating, cooking facilities and communal bathroom.  Alternatively, there are a few accommodation options close by – Cradle Mountain Lodge, Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village, Cradle Mountain Chateau and Cradle Mountain Highlanders Cabins.

People are encouraged to leave their cars at the transit terminal and catch the shuttle bus.  Buses (28 seater) and campervans over 5 metres must be left at the visitors centre. A fee applies for entry to all Tasmanian National Parks and any vehicles parked inside the park without proper authority will be fined. If you plan on visiting a few parks on your stay, the holiday pass is recommended. To avoid disappointment, be sure to check the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife website for the latest information on track closures.

Be sure to check out some of the surrounding towns for interesting activites. Five hundred metres from Cradle Mountain Lodge is [email protected]; a world class wildlife conservation sanctuary which focuses on the Tasmanian Devil, Eastern and Spotted-Tail Quoll.  Other activites and towns close by include:

Nelson Falls

The most popular time to tour Tasmania in a campervan or motorhome is summer, especially December, January and February, so make sure you book well in advance if you are planning your self-drive holiday during the summer holiday period.

Darwin – A General Guide

Situated on the edge of a harbour larger than the more well-known Sydney Harbour, Darwin is a small, yet cosmopolitan city.  There are only two seasons in Darwin – wet and dry.  The dry season (May to October) is the perfect time to visit with temperatures that vary between  21oC  and 32oC, but it’s usually sunny and 31oC every day.

The wet season (November to April), brings the rain and with it some splendid summer storm viewing. The grass is greener then, the waterfalls are full and splendid, but it’s wet. Really wet.

Waterfall Darwin

There are a number of activities on offer in and around Darwin. Crocosaurus Cove is located in the heart of the Darwin tourist precinct. Here you can hold a baby crocodile or if you are more adventurous, you could try the “Cage of Death”.  You are dropped into a crocodile enclosure in a see-through cage while handlers feed the crocs, ensuring a face-to-face encounter with a prehistoric beast.

For an activity that’s a little less intense, visit the Darwin Waterfront Precinct. This precinct features a wave lagoon and recreation lagoon and parklands, as well as picnic areas with public art dotted around. It’s fun for the whole family.

The Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory features Indigenous art and maritime archaeology from the local region.

At Aquascene you can feed hundreds of friendly wild fish by hand. This natural phenomenon has occurred for the past 60+ years and it’s possible to observe the fish species Mullet, Bream, Batfish, Barramundi, Rays, Mangrove Jack, Parrot and Diamond Fish.

Darwin Skyline

The Mindil Beach Sunset Markets run from April to October and on offer is food, arts, crafts and entertainment, all in a tropical beach sunset setting. The Deck Chair Cinema is an outdoor cinema that starts at 7pm, seven nights a week in the dry season. You will find it just near the esplanade. If you happen to be in Darwin in September, check out the Darwin International Film Festival.

There are a number of national parks surrounding Darwin, each with its own unique elements of landscape, fauna and flora. Whether inland or coastal, they are packed with beautiful natural features. Visit the Parks and Wildlife Commission for an overview of the parks closest to Darwin.

The Ghan Overland Journey: this train travels from Darwin to Adelaide. Legend has it the old Ghan was once stranded for two weeks in one spot and the engine driver had to shoot wild goats to feed his passengers. This train trip extends for 2,979kms, takes 54 hours and passes through the extensive russet desert landscapes to the tropical splendour of Darwin. Often found on the list of the greatest rail trips on the planet, this is definitely something to consider.

Darwin is also the gateway to the famous Kakadu National Park. You may also wish to head south to Alice Springs and on to Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock, with the surrounding Kata Tjuta National Park and nearby Kings Canyon.

Local national parks are the Casurina Coastal reserve, Charles Darwin National park, Holmes Jungle Nature Park, Knuckney Lagoons Conservation reserve and Leanyer Recreation Park.