One of my favourite places in Tasmania is only minutes from the Cradle Mountain Dove Lake car park – yes the road leads right to the mountain. Built by Cradle Mountain’s first park ranger, the historic Dove Lake boat shed was built in the 1940s and stands as it was then today. It makes a great foreground for the looming backdrop of Cradle Mountain’s jagged peak.
Cradle Mountain, at 1,545m above sea level, is the fifth highest mountain in Tasmania.
Deep in the Central Highlands region of Tasmania it forms part of the Tasmanian World Heritage Wilderness Area at the northern end of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
The landscape in these parts is a contrast of ancient rainforest, alpine heathlands, button grass plains and stands of deciduous beech, better known locally as fagus.
Cradle Mountain is changeable. Given the light, the weather or if you can even see the mountain.
Still, I could find no better reason to travel here in winter with layers of thermals on to wait for that one moment in time when the reflecting red sunset hit the tip of Cradle Mountain.
It was in that moment that time stood still.
Cradle Mountain walks
There are many walks around Cradle Mountain, many of them day walks.
The most popular walk is the Dove Lake Circuit that follows the lake through the Ballroom Forest and under the mountain itself, past glacier rock and back around to the car park.
Along the road that leads to Cradle Mountain, make a right and head down Connell Avenue to Weindorfers Hut.
Here, “There is no time, and nothing matters.” according to Gustav Weindorfer who set out to explore Cradle Mountain in 1909.
Amazed with what they saw Gustav set about buying land in the Cradle Valley.
Wooden huts and forest walks
He built his forest home in the shelter of ancient pines near a mountain stream. Everything was carried in, including a large cast iron bath.
I spent three hours here and photographed everything in sight. Blue fungi, log cabins, forest paths, and this historic bath house, perched above a mountain stream.
This place is like another world, with wooden huts and forest walks dotted all around.
Given the great diversity of plants, habitats and micro-climates in the park if you look closely you’ll see fungi on the forest floor or sprouting out of the base of mossy trees.
The more you look the more you’ll find. I was lucky to be accompanied by an intrepid fungi finder on the Weindorfers Forest Walk, coming up with the goods with these blue beauties! Whoever said blue and green should never be seen?
What I was really here for was to see the fagus. Fagus is a rare Deciduous Beech (Nothofagus gunnii) seen only in two of Tasmania’s alpine regions, here in Cradle Mountain and in the alpine regions of Mount Field National Park.
The colours of the fagus, as it turns in winter from green to gold to amber and then rich ruby red, is a sight that sends nature lovers rushing to alpine heights to catch a glimpse of the rare native.
It’s a small window of time, where landscapes are ablaze with colour and a quiet reminder that some 100 million years ago, Tasmania was once a part of the supercontinent of Gondwana.