Note: This is part 1 of a 2 part article. It covers the North Coast and Cradle Mountain National Park. Part 2 will feature the East Coast, Hobart and the Huon Valley.
In 2000 I spent three months working in Tasmania and was fortunate to enjoy a few weekends exploring the capital city, Hobart, and places further afield. I recall Hobart already having a vibrant cafe scene, lively restaurants featuring modern Australian and international cuisine, beautiful coastal scenery, plus lakes, mountains and forests in abundance. Keen to get back to the Apple Isle, my husband and I organised 10 days, joined along the way by our friend Amanda.
We arrived into Devonport on the overnight car ferry from Port Melbourne, across the Bass Strait, at first light. Amanda was to fly into Launceston the following day so we had time to explore the north coast before backtracking into Launceston. We headed west as far as the charming little town of Stanley where there’s a a unique geographic feature that begs to be climbed. It’s called The Nut and is an old volcanic plug with steep sides and a flat top. Attached to the coast, it rises up out of the sea to 143 meters. The views of the surrounding countryside are enormous.
We plied our way back east along the coast road, stopping at leisure to see the scenery, take in the brisk, fresh air and stretch our legs. Another volcanic plug, the only other in Tasmania, is in Table Cape Geological Site, more well known for its large scale tulip growing. It being autumn, we did not get to see the dramatic rows of flowers grown side by side in fields forming colourful stripes across the slopes of the cape.
Then we came to the lively little town of Penguin, named because of the numerous penguin rookeries along the coast. The only penguins we saw were the ones adorning, shops, signs and rubbish bins as well as the Giant Penguin, a very tall fibreglass statue representing what is really a very small penguin (formerly known as a Fairy Penguin – now called the less-interesting Little Penguin).
After a night in Launceston and a trip to the airport to collect Amanda, we headed to Cradle Mountain National Park. Halfway there the rain came and it seemed it would never stop. We passed soaked villages and crossed swollen rivers but the sun finally shown just before sunset and our arrival at our lodgings for the next two nights.
We rented a cabin at Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village, just outside the park. It was perfect and warm – a lovely heat lamp in the bathroom – with a full kitchen so we were able to prepare some of our own meals. On that first evening we took advantage of dinner at the cozy Hellyer’s Restaurant. The standard of the meals was high with the Wallaby rump being a table favourite.
The next day we chose to walk the Dove Lake circuit which we did at a leisurely pace, punctuated by snacks and photo stops. The walk can be done in three hours but we stretched it out to just over four. The track itself is easy to follow and fortunately the rain of the previous day had not caused any serious mud! Vistas of Cradle mountain went in and out of cloud and we passed through different terrain and types of forest along the way.
Cradle Mountain National Park is a part of the UNESCO declared Tasmanian Wilderness, covering an area of over 1 million hectares. It constitutes one of the last expanses of temperate rainforest in the world. We only scratched the surface with just one walk and a little side loop near the lodge. A week would have done it more justice.
So, we left the park yearning for more and headed for the East Coast and then down to Hobart and the Huon Valley.