For any family venturing South, it is likely you’ve already highlighted this hefty hill on your itinerary. Tourists to Tasmania flock to Cradle Mountain and its surrounds for some great walking tracks and wildlife encounters. Families with toddlers and teenage troupes alike can share some awesome experiences in the crisp air (and frequent rain!) of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park.
For an area famous for its untouched wilderness, there sure is a lot to do around Cradle Mountain. Give Mum and Dad a break from their little devils and visit devils of a different kind at Cradle Mountain Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary. Keeper tours, feeding tours and night tours will teach you the ins and outs of life as an endangered Tasmanian resident. The Visitor Centre is also a great chance to learn something new about the history and development of the area. For a great meal in a relaxed, kid-friendly setting, enjoy dinner at the Cradle Mountain Lodge Tavern. When I visited Cradle Mountain as a 15 year old it was wet and cold, so the toasty fireplace and delicious burgers at the Tavern hit the spot.
Frequent shuttle buses run out to Cradle Mountain itself. You should also visit Dove Lake, and perhaps stop for a picnic and a photo at the picturesque Boat Shed. On the other end of the Overland Track across the range, you’ll find the vast Lake St. Clair, which also has a great Visitor’s Centre and can be explored by ferry.
You’ve probably heard of Cradle’s renowned 6-day hike known as the Overland Track. If you’re travelling with pint-sized bushwalkers, then there are plenty of shorter alternatives suited to little legs. Starting at the Visitor Centre, the Rainforest Walk lasts ten to twenty minutes and is ideal for toddlers and young kids, as is the Enchanted Walk with its engaging information about local flora and fauna.
For kids in the middle, take the Dove Lake track circumnavigating the deep, blue waters. It has a few (but not many) short steep sections and will take a couple of hours, but is more than manageable for willing walkers.
Last but definitely not least, I would urge experienced teenage families to embark on one of my favourite overnight hikes of all time. Each of the six days of the Overland Track, starting at Cradle Mountain and ending at Lake St. Clair, offers up extraordinarily diverse scenery. At the end of each day there are basic huts to dry off in or even sleep in, plenty of camp spots and taps to fill up with water. The sheer number of walkers means the track is well maintained, but you will have to pre-book and pay for your position as rangers stagger walkers commencing the track to keep the flow moving. I recommend having a couple of overnight hikes under your belt before trying this one as you’ll want to know your way around the equipment before you go. I was about 15 when I walked the Overland in a fairly big group with my Dad (who has done loads of hiking) and 12 year old brother, and had conquered several 3-day or 4-day walks in the Blue Mountains and Snowy Mountains beforehand.
If you’re experienced and game, I would definitely recommend that you choose the camp spots and huts along the Overland as your accommodation. Otherwise, there are some excellent family options that will offer you just as much of an immersion into the Tasmanian bushland. Camp, caravan or cabin at the Big4 Holiday Park, rent a Cradle Mountain Highlanders Cottage, or stay in the beautiful and kid-friendly Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village.
Cradle Mountain, stunning as it is, is not the only magical mountain in Tasmania. The natural formation of Launceston’s Cataract Gorge also makes for a great day out, be it on foot, in the air on a chairlift, or in the water for a quick dip! There are lovely gardens and lawns to stroll through and to share with the resident peacocks, as well as toilet and change facilities and a kiosk selling tea and scones. Take a walk on the cliffside and across the suspension bridge for awesome views over the gorge, before enjoying the sun on the rocks and a paddle in the gorge’s basin or in the nearby swimming pool.
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