Cradle Mountain, Tasmania
Cradle Mountain, Tasmania. It’s arguably the jewel in the Apple Isles crown and for good reason.
Located in the Central Highlands, the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is the stuff a photographers dreams are made of. With alpine heathlands, rugged mountainous peaks, waterfalls, lakes, ethereal forests, an abundance of wildlife, walking trails to suit every level of fitness and accomodation to suit all budgets, there is something here for every photographer no matter your preferred genre of photography.
There is no “best time” to visit Cradle Mountain – it’s spectacular to visit no matter what season you’re visiting. Having been lucky enough to experience the sheer beauty of this place on a couple of occasions, Autumn and Winter were my personal favourite times to visit.
If botanical photography is your preferred genre of photography, then visiting Cradle Mountain in the Autumn for the turning of the fagus is quite the sight to behold as the landscape is dotted with the autumnal burnt orange and yellow leaves of this deciduous beech native only to Tasmania. In the Autumn, bright vibrant pops of pink from Mountain Berries are scattered throughout the forests and are very photogenic.
If you like to photograph vast expanses mountainous peaks blanketed in snow, then winter in Cradle Mountain would be the best time for you to plan your visit. The lush deep green of this rugged and wild wilderness is transformed into ultimate winter wonderland and the landscapes within Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park becomes a visual feast for the senses. It is worth noting that as with all of Tasmania, whilst there are definite seasons, it’s not uncommon for there to be snowfall year round in Cradle Mountain. The weather in Tasmania can be quite unpredictable and so it’s always a good idea to keep this in the back of your mind when planning any trips and packing your camera gear and clothing accordingly.
For the wildlife photographer, you are spoiled for choice at Cradle Mountain. It’s not uncommon to spot wildlife here, and it’s safe to say that wombats are the main attraction. These solid balls of fluff wander along the duckboard walkways and are often unfazed by having to share the path with humans. Pademelons and wallabies generally come out around dawn and dusk. Copperhead & Tiger snakes are abundant in the warmer months and so, care should always be taken when walking. Tasmanian devils, quolls, echidnas and an array of birdlife also call Cradle Mountain home.
Waterfall photographers will not be disappointed. There are numerous waterfalls to hike to around the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and the long exposure options are endless. Knyvet Falls and Pencil Pine Falls are located within a 2km radius of most accomodation. These particular waterfalls are made easily accessible due to the well maintained duck board paths. Regular snow fall ensures the waterfalls are full and flowing most of the year. Walking through forest tracks can be a visual feast for the senses all of its own, and it’s not uncommon to come across scenes that look like something out of Narnia.
From the Overland Track which can take up to seven days to complete to the Dove Lake Circuit which can take up to 2 hours to complete, there are a range of hikes to suit any photographers level of fitness and adventure.
A memorable hike I took was to the Kitchen Hut which sits at the base of Cradle Mountain. Taking a right at the start of the Dove Lake track, I followed signs to Marion’s Peak Lookout. From the lookout here there was a magnificent view of Dove Lake in it’s entirety, Crater Peak behind, and an expansive view over Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Continuing along toward the Kitchen Hut, tarns decorate the landscape like imperfect polka dots, and mountain peaks and vast alpine shrub land and heathland make for some stunning photographic opportunities. Further along there’s a fork in the track where you can take to the right and head toward Barn Bluff, or turn left and make your way to Cradle Mountain. I unfortunately didn’t pack my bag appropriately (as I’d originally only intended to do Dove Lake), and so the Barn Bluff loop remains on my bucket list for another day. I took the track to the Kitchen Hut and I recall the scene so vividly as I approached The Kitchen Hut. A single path led to the hut, with Cradle Mountain towering above it in the background. It gave a real sense of scale to this tiny hut against a backdrop of this magnificent mountain peak. After taking some time to sit back and enjoy exploring the area, I could see the weather changing and started the journey back to Dove Lake. I followed the Wombat Pool track to check out the Wombat Pool and Lake Lilla before getting back to Dove Lake. I decided to finish my day of hiking off by walking the Dove Lake Track, where I was met with more incredible photo opportunities before heading back to my accomodation.
Accomodation here is suitable for any budget. I’ve stayed at budget friendly Discovery Parks and I’ve also stayed at Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge. Both options were wonderful and provided different experiences relevant to what I needed for both visits. Discovery Parks was the perfect base for, no fuss, self-contained accomodation and was easily accessible to the Visitors Centre. It’s a great option for larger groups of people travelling together, for families and for more budget conscious photographers. Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge provided a more intimate and decadent escape and was the perfect place to kick back with a glass of red in front of the fire sifting through my photographs.
I’ve only explored a small piece of this incredible landscape, and whilst I no longer live in Tasmania, it certainly won’t be the last time I go in search of more photography adventures within the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
If you’ve decide to take the plunge and explore the incredible island state of Tasmania, then be sure to check out my other article on The Great Eastern Drive here. For more travel guides in other locations, you can simply head to my portfolio page and select the “travel guides” button. If you’d like to see more of my adventures behind the scenes, you can join me over on Instagram.
Until next time,
Founder, Lens & Muse