When we left Stanley it was drizzling rain, nothing significant, just nuisance rain; this persisted all the way along the coast to Burnie where we turned inland initially along the Ridgley Highway as far as the “Fingerpost” then joining the Murchison Highway to the turnoff to Cradle Mountain. We arrived safely at Cradle Mountain National Park after a journey of three hours travelling along wet roads through mainly timbered country (after we left the coast) much of which appeared to be plantation.
Once we arrived we firstly went to the visitor centre to convert our online Holiday Vehicle Parks Pass to the real thing. At the same time the Parks Officer provided us with a ticket for the Cradle Mountain Shuttle Bus for the ensuing three days. The Parks Service runs a shuttle bus every 10-15 minutes to and from Lake Dove with stops along the way as necessary. Access for vehicles into the park proper is strictly limited and the shuttle bus service assists with the transport of the thousands who visit the park.
From the Visitor Centre to the Holiday Park (more cabins than caravans) and we set up on site for the next few days.
After our lunch we set out for the Visitor Centre and the Shuttle Bus to explore further. The bus took us through to Dove Lake and we decided to take the Dove Lake Circuit walk even though it was still drizzly and the Mountain was clothed in mist and unable to be seen clearly.
The Dove Lake Circuit is approximately 6 kilometres in length and is rated “moderate” and is expected to take walkers about two hours to traverse. We set out going clockwise around the lake following a number of other visitors, taking photos as we went along. The first deviation was at a point called Glacier Rock where higher views of the lake could be had. When we arrived there was a party of Asian visitors who seemed in no hurry to leave, so we had a cursory look, took a couple of photos and moved on.
As we progressed around the lake perimeter we travelled on constructed gravel paths and many, many timber boardwalks that have been constructed to provide easy access (and protect the environment from the belligerent walker who is going around the lake no matter what). Mind you we did have to work a little bit to get round, there were lots of steps both up and down and some relatively steep parts that created significant increase in heart rate. After lots and lots of photos and about 2 hours and fifteen minutes we returned to the car park to jump on the shuttle bus which arrived just as we did.
What a difference a day makes – Monday morning arrived bright and clear and almost perfect. We packed our lunch and headed off again to see the sights (which today we could see). On to the Shuttle to Dove Lake to be greeted by a clear view and a wonderful vista of Cradle Mountain resplendent in its natural beauty towering above the Lake.
Because it was clear and dry we decided to climb to Marions Lookout – “Named by Gustav Weindorfer after his sister-in-law, Marion Cowle.” Marions Lookout is said to be 1223 metres – I am not sure if this is above sea level or just the local elevation but it was high. This walk is said to be 4 km in length and the track we chose is described as “very rough and steep” and so it proved to be. Mind you the views as you progressed higher up the side of the hill proved to be better and better.
About two-thirds of the way up we stopped on a shelf of rock for one of the many breathers we would take (we are not quite as young as we used to be) and were joined by another gent who was following us up. As he seemed to be fitter we eventually let him pass us to move at his own pace to the summit. For about the last quarter of the climb chains were in place to assist you up the steep slope. Eventually you reach a point on the mountain where a sign is posted “Marions Lookout – 5 minutes’ walk”. Maybe if you are young and fit – it took me a little longer but eventually we reached the summit and were rewarded with magnificent views.
At the lookout you can see all the lakes – Dove Lake, Crater Lake, Lake Lilla, and Lake Hanson (high above Dove Lake near Hansons Peak) and you have a really magnificent view of Cradle Mountain. At the lookout we were joined by many other walkers and took quite a few photos for various people posing in front of the view to the mountain. Many of these walkers (mostly younger folk) moved from the lookout to the Overland Track to continue walking further afield.
We turned our attention to the return journey and we had chosen to take an alternative route back to Ronny Creek. We thought this may be an easier journey and once we passed the chains on the last part of the climb (different chains to that we used on the way up and quite daunting as the track seemed to go straight down) there were many formed steps with timber frames which was much easier than that which we climbed up.
We reached the turnoff to take us past Crater Lake and ultimately Crater Falls and found the track to be quite rough in places. As we passed the boat shed on Crater Lake we encountered a large hiking party who were obviously planning on taking the Overland Track to somewhere; another group were enjoying a brisk swim in the cool waters of the lake. We moved on to finally reach Crater Falls where we stopped for a while to catch our breath. At this point we caught up with the gent who had followed us up the mountain but had left the lookout before us.
We moved off and reached Ronny Creek car park about 3 hours after we had left Dove Lake. Lunch was the order of the day and we took our time to let our muscles recuperate as we planned to take the 5 km walk along the Cradle Valley Boardwalk which is constructed timber board walk between the Ronny Creek car park and the Ranger Station. We stopped for a rest at Snake Hill (and a number of other places along the way) and arrived at the Ranger Station about 2:45pm and had only a short wait for the shuttle bus.
Today, Tuesday – our third day in Cradle Valley, it is raining and miserable. We had planned to do some short walks which radiate out from the Ranger Station but this is unlikely unless the rain abates. Tomorrow morning we head off to Strahan – the people in the site behind us came from Strahan and reported beautiful weather – remains to be seen how Mother Nature will treat us.