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Cradle Mountain National Park

Tasmania

Cradle Mountain is one of the true beauty spots of Tasmania and a must for anyone touring the northern part of the island. The tranquility and beauty of the area gives you a real sense of wilderness.

 

 

Overview.

Cradle Mountain is part of the larger Cradle Mountain and Lake St. Clair National Park, which is itself within the amazing Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area. It is home to the start of the magnificent 6-day Overland Track (along with several short walks), has vegeatation ranging from grasslands to rainforest, interesting glacial geology with truly beautiful vistas and is a haven for wildlife. However, if your reason for visiting is purely wildlife viewing/photography then there are better locations in Tasmania.

When to go.

Cradle Mountain lies at a lattitude of 41 degrees south and Dove Lake is 950 metres above sea level. The weather is typically Alpine with strong seasonality. Winter snow is common and summer sleet is not unheard of. Winter temperatures average (min to max degrees C) are 0 to 5, summer avearages are 5 to 16. Rainfall is twice as high in the winter months and there is a better than average chance that it will rain on any given day. For the full list of averages visit the Bureau Of Meterology website.

My favourite time to go is definitely winter, more clear days, frosty mornings, log fires at night.

 

The twin peaks of Cradle Mountain behind Dove Lake

Where to stay. There is a reasonable range of accommodation in the area, just google 'accommodation cradle mountain'. The Cradle Mountain Lodge is right on the edge of the park and is very classy, with prices to match. However, even if you don't stay there it's certainly worth visiting for evening food. I've tried several places in the valley and they have all been fine. There are no camping sites inside the park but Discovery Holiday Parks have camping, as well as cabins and caravan sites, 5 kms from the park entrance.

Equipment. Your longest lenses for the wildlife, but also something shorter for close enconters with wombats and macropods. For the vast majority of images I use my 100-400 lens, with the 28-200 being used mainly for landscape stuff. However, opportunities to get close to some of the wildlife do occur and so having a wider lens would be handy.

Tripod and monopod

Polarizing filter.

Plenty of memory capacity or film.

Cleaning cloth and brush.

Good binoculars

Flashlight

How long to stay. I think you will pretty much exhaust opportunities in about 4 days (unless you are travelling further than just the area around Cradle Mountain) but a return visit at another time of year would certainly be worthwhile.

Stuff to take. Good wet weather gear, boots, gaiters (yes, there are leeches out there)

Wildlife
Wombats are plentiful throughout the park. Walk on any of the boardwalks and you are likely to spot the tell tale sign of the cube-shaped dung. A visit to any of these places at dusk or dawn is probably going to lead to wombat sightings (they are nocturnal and crepuscular), but you will need to visit the meadows below Waldheim Cabins for 'guaranteed' viewing.
Common wombat scratching
 
Macropods. Tasmania has three macropod species, the Forester (or Eastern Grey), Bennett's (or red-necked) wallaby, and the Tasmanian (or rufous bellied) pademelon. The latter two species are common around Cradle Mountain and should be pretty easy to see. Again, evening and night-time are the best times, but on cooler days they can often be seen around the meadows near Waldheim cabins and around the Lodge.
Bennett's wallaby
 
Echidnas. This is s great place to see the Tasmanian form of the short-beaked echidna, whose fur is so long that it almost covers the spines. The more wooded areas are best, such as one of the paths leading from the lodge, or on the wlak from Waldheim to Dove Lake. Just keep listening for the rustling of leaves and then stand still, and before you know it the little chap will be waddling over to you, unaware of your presence.
Short beaked echidna
 
Platypus. There are plenty of places around the area to see platypuses, just be sure to be looking at first or last light. The short boardwalk around the stream next to Cradle Mountain Lodge is good, as is Dove Lake itself. At the lodge you should be able to get quite close, but it is likely to be pretty dark. At the lake look out for the distinctive circular ripples. However, don't expect to get close here as these animals are extremely sensitive to vibrations and will hear your approach from a long way off. If you walk to the edge of the rock outcrop on the eastern side of the lake you get good views right across the lake and I have seen several platypuses down below on the eastern shore.

Devils and other carnivores. Cradle Mountain National Park has now reported cases of devil facial tumour disease and so the future of the wild population here is uncertain. However, it is still possible to see devils anywhere in the park, but it is far from guaranteed. Try spotlighting along the link road to the park or along the last couple of kms before the lake. For guaranteed sightings you will need to visit devils@cradle, just before the Lodge, or venture further out to Trowuna at Mole Creek.

The same applies to quolls. Both the large Spot-tailed and the Eastern are present but seeing one in the wild is extremely unlikely on a short trip.

Captive Tasmanian devil at devils@cradle

All images copyright Gerry Pearce

 
Birds. The area in and around Cradle Mountain has approximately 78 species of birds, half of which are passerines. Look out for the endemic Green Rosella, the beautiful Scarlet Robin and the Swamp Harrier. Click here for a full list of the birds of Cradle Mountain.
Gerry Pearce australia wild life mammal marsupial nature fine art photo photography photograph koala koalas bear kangaroo kangaroos roo dingo dingoes possum possums tasmanian devil devils wombat wombats wallaby wallabies sea lion lions fur seal seals echidna echidnas emu kookaburra kookaburras pelican pelicans bettong bettongs parrot parrots lorikeet lorikeets australian wildlife information