Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain National Park

Resuming our tour of Tasmania’s wild and beautiful places after a break, here’s our walk around Dove Lake, under the ramparts of Cradle Mountain (map).

Tasmania is not very big, especially to Queenslanders like us, but Cradle Mountain is as hard to get to as Strahan, and for similar reasons: it’s at the end of several hours’ drive into wild country whether you start from Hobart or Launceston. Launceston is the closer of the two but the trip still takes a couple of hours – down the highway towards Burnie, then through Sheffield, past Mt Roland and up into the northern edge of the highlands. It’s worth the effort.

The entry-point to the park is a big new visitor centre with a carpark to match. Free shuttle buses run from it all day to Dove Lake, the end of their run, with stops at accommodation, walking tracks and the ranger centre.

We fitted the Dove Lake walk and two shorter walks (Enchanted and Waldheim) into the two long half-days we had there. Another day would have been nice, but I’ve already said that about several other places we saw, so I guess we really needed a longer holiday.

Dove Lake

The Dove Lake circuit is deservedly popular, being long enough to count as a ‘real’ walk but short enough to do in a day and without specialised gear. It begins at the southern end of the lake near Dove River, the lake’s outlet.  We turned left when we got to that point, so our walk follows the eastern shore towards the mountain before returning along the western shore, passing the famous boat shed near the end of the circuit. It’s an easy walk on good gravel paths and boardwalks but long enough to take three hours or more.

We visited in early December and enjoyed a wonderful display of flowering shrubs but not much wildlife; a black currawong joined us when we stopped for lunch, and we saw wombat droppings but that’s about all. The forecast was for a top of 9 degrees (but “feels like 2”) with showers, and that’s what we got – sunshine, light showers, and wind gusts kicking up water-devils on the lake. (Well, they would be dust-devils in dry paddocks, so why not?)

I couldn’t bring myself to reduce image sizes too much but I didn’t want the page to load too slowly, so click on any image and, if you like, scroll through to see them at full size in the lightbox.

Introduction and index to Tasmanian blog posts 2020-21.

Zeehan and Queenstown

We stopped in Zeehan on our way from Cradle Mountain to Strahan, and passed through Queenstown on our way from Strahan back to Hobart.

The two towns have similar histories, having prospered – boomed, in fact – because of mining in the late nineteenth century but dwindled during the twentieth. In this they resemble Charters Towers and Ravenswood in the Townsville hinterland, and all four towns have public buildings out of all proportion to their current population.

Zeehan PO and Grand Hotel
Zeehan Post Office (foreground) and Grand Hotel and Theatre

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Strahan and Macquarie Harbour

A North-South line through Hobart and Launceston divides Tasmania fairly accurately into the settled East and the wild West. The West is wetter and far more mountainous, and much of it is wilderness (and long may it remain so!). Macquarie Harbour opens onto the middle of the West coast and was one of the most isolated outposts of the early colony. Its main township, Strahan, did well enough from fishing and timber-getting to survive but is still a tiny spot of humanity in a world of mountains, water and trees.

Strahan

Strahan is now a pretty little town strung along the northern coast of Macquarie Harbour. Fishing and timber are still important but tourism, exemplified by day-long harbour tours on big catamarans, has become a major activity.

strahan beach
Looking along the Macquarie Harbout beach from Strahan caravan park towards the centre of town

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Cygnets in Cygnet

Cygnet is a pretty little town south-west of Hobart (map). It’s on a sheltered bay so it’s a yachting town as well as a farming town. It welcomes tourists, of course, and I know it as the home of a very good post-Christmas folk festival (still going ahead this summer although in a much reduced format).

wire sculpture
Wire sculpture in the courtyard of one of Cygnet’s cafes

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Friendly Beaches and other places near Freycinet

There aren’t many campervan sites on Freycinet Peninsula (previous post) and over-casual visitors are bumped out to free camping areas on the Friendly Beaches or near Moulting Lagoon, or to commercial van parks around Coles Bay. I therefore spent one night at each of the National Parks locations before heading North to Bicheno and then South again to the Three Thumbs and the Tasman Peninsula.

Moulting Lagoon

Lurking quietly between Coles Bay, Bicheno and Swansea is a large shallow estuarine area, a RAMSAR-proclaimed wetland and bird sanctuary. As Wikipedia says,

It comprises two adjacent and hydrologically continuous wetlands – Moulting Lagoon and the Apsley Marshes – at the head of Great Oyster Bay, near the base of the Freycinet Peninsula, between the towns of Swansea and Bicheno. Both components of the site are listed separately under the Ramsar Convention as wetlands of international significance. Moulting Lagoon is so named because it is a traditional moulting place for black swans.

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