Paul Fleming experiences the very best Cradle Mountain has to offer from wide open spaces, great walks and wildlife experiences in winter. As your breath hangs suspended in the cool crisp air, you can feel the warmth of the midday sun turning your cheeks a rosy red; It's winter and the snow-dusted wilderness of Cradle Mountain is coming alive in a kaleidoscope of colour and light.
Summer may be when most people visit, but those who come in winter are in for a magical treat. Shuttle buses run frequently from the Visitors Centre to Dove Lake, which leaves you able to just relax and enjoy the view. The wombats aren’t put off by the cold – in fact spotting them in the white snow can be easier than in summer grasses.
Image – Wombat in the snow: Paul Fleming
Rug up, and step outside – there’s no better way to experience a winter wonderland than to feel the crunch of fresh snow under your feet and throw a snowball at an unsuspecting loved one. The Dove Lake Circuit track follows the lakes edge for 5.7km (2-3 hours walk) and provides some of the most awe-inspiring views of Cradle Mountain and surrounding peaks. While most of the walk is sheltered, parts are open and exposed to the elements, so be prepared for all weather conditions and take plenty of water and food. The Crater Lake and King Billy walks are also worth a wander.
Image – Cradle Mountain in Winter: Paul Fleming
Taking a stroll on the Enchanted Walk, behind Cradle Mountain Lodge, is a beautiful introduction to the secrets that the park holds deeper in its belly. Twisted, and gnarled, ancient myrtles provide homes for countless critters. From the bridge at the half-way point, you’ll find yourself mesmerized by the dark waters swirling through the frosted banks held in place by roots older than we can imagine.
Image – Bridge on the Enchanted Walk: Paul Fleming
Winter also means waterfalls, and within the Cradle visitor area you’ll find Pencil Pine and Knyvet Falls, as well at many cascades along the creeks and rivers.
For the adventurous, the Overland Track in winter is one of Australia’s greatest outdoor experiences. Whether you do it self-guided or on a tour, you will need to be prepared for all conditions – but it’s well worth it.
Image – Cradle Mountain Lodge: Paul Fleming
Let’s be honest, you’ve come to Tasmania and what you really want to see is some of our unique wildlife. Cradle Mountain is regarded as one of the best places to see our marsupials in the wild, even in winter. Tread softly and walk quietly, and have some patience, and you will eventually find yourself in the presence of a wombat, wallaby, pademelon or potoroo. At night, you’ll likely see possums; but keep a keen eye out for a quoll or the elusive Tassie Devil.
Image – Ronney Creek along Cradle Valley: Paul Fleming
Take a wander on the easy boardwalk from Ronney Creek along Cradle Valley; this is wombat central, even in winter. Look for their paw prints, or fix your gaze on exposed grassy tussocks – the wombats are searching for the same thing (though they want it to eat it, not just admire it!).
Wombats are cute, but what you really want to see are Tasmanian devils and there is a chance you can see one in the wild at Cradle Mountain- it’s pure luck if you do. At Devils @ Cradle, a breeding and rehabilitation centre, you can get up close to these incredible, and endangered animals.
For the ultimate view of the mountain, rise above the snowdrifts with Cradle Mountain Helicopters and marvel at the natural artistry from above. There are plenty of indoor experiences too – head to Cradle Mountain Hotel and their inspirational Wilderness Gallery. If you are in need of pampering and who isn’t , then the Waldheim Alpine Spa can soak your worries away, while gazing out to the wilderness.