The gorgeous scenery of Cradle Mountain National Park is well worth the climb.
So, let’s state the obvious here — a walking holiday is not the first thing which springs to mind when discussing ways for someone the right side of 30 to let off steam.
Nor, particularly, is a walking holiday at the other end of the country.
Yet, as our shuttle bus rolls into Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania, it’s not anoraks in corduroys and bumbags.
The people heading off for a day’s trekking here are hip, young things with smart phones, designer stubble and those workout leggings you wear out for breakfast in North Beach.
And, there’s a very good reason the young crowd love this place —as they would say, it’s totally Instagrammable.
Disembark at the most walked spot of the national park, Dove Lake Circuit, and you can’t find a bad angle for a photo (even if you’re not down with the kids enough to have a selfie stick in your backpack).
Fifteen minutes in and even those of us who’d vowed off social media for the holiday had caved in to a #kingoftheworld selfie on Glacier Rock — the best spot for mountain views on this circuit.
The next hour and a half of the 6km track makes sure your eyes are rarely taken off those icing-dusted mountains in the distance before a snaking boardwalk weaves into the moody forest and emerges into a short but leg-warming stair climb.
Then there are more photo- worthy moments as the lake’s water sways against the timbers of a disused boatshed, seemingly out of place in an area miles from any homes.
Two hours or so after you set off, you’re back at the carpark where the followers of a dozen or so social media accounts are about to be given some serious holiday envy.
But there is a flip side to the social-media heaven being enjoyed by our fellow travellers.
An hour into the two-hour drive from Launceston Airport, the phone reception on my mobile phone takes a holiday of its own. I later learn that, unless you are a Telstra customer, you’re unlikely to pick up a single bar of phone signal anywhere in Cradle Mountain.
And it gets better.
In Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, one of the biggest hotels in the region, there is only one TV and that’s in the bar.
Aside from a little free wi-fi, you could find yourself taking on an unprecedented media blackout in Cradle Mountain.
While I’m sure this could constitute a First-World crisis for our selfie-taking friends on the tour bus, there is something wonderful about not being able to peek at the work emails and having nothing to stare aimlessly at except the open fire roaring after a walk in the rain.
And rain it will. Those sugar-dipped mountains come at a cost and, when the heavens open, the designer leggings just won’t cut it.
And so, soon into my trekking holiday, the unflattering silhouette of a woman in waterproofs made an appearance.
There are dozens of walks in the national park, ranging from the 20-minute Enchanted Stroll, to the eight-hour return hike to the Cradle Mountain summit and the six-day walk over the Overland Track.
Most of the tracks include well-maintained boardwalks, covered with chicken wire for grip.
All of them are well signposted with a guide of time frames and distances.
Recent floods have forced the closure of a handful of trails but there are still more than enough to keep my legs moving for the week.
When the legs get too heavy, a shuttle bus runs up and down the main meeting points every 30 minutes and a hop on board is included with a national parks pass.
No excuses then, out in the drizzle it is.
Upon advice from a few fellow walkers, I take the Cradle Valley Boardwalk — a three- hour walk from the lodge through to Dove Lake.
The rain may be beating on the hood of my waterproofs but the noise is soon drowned out by the roar of waterfalls and currawongs calling in the trees above.
Over the next 8.5km, I cover the boardwalks looping around them, bridges
crossing over them and step over the small, crystal-clear streams feeding into
I’m taken up inclines to views of the pine-decorated hills and down again into the woody smells of woodland paths.
Each rustling noise from the bushes is worth a rest stop. Bennetts wallabies, pademelons and the odd wombat seem unfazed by sound of the feet pounding on the boardwalk and roam comfortably, holding up traffic at will (not that the tourists seem to mind the disruption).
The decked walkways, while convenient, can take away that wholesome feeling from being outdoors so, 3km from the end, an “off-road” trek through rocks, pebbles and dirt is a welcome finale.
For those much keener than I am, there are a couple of diversions, through rougher terrain for photos and the chance to see a Tasmanian devil in the wild (though those desperate for a glimpse can see them in a nearby wildlife park).
It’s easy to lose track of distances with quirky track names — Wombat Pool and Pencil Pine Falls to name a couple — tempting, if only to find out what they lead to.
After all, every kilometre trekked will only make you feel more as though you have earned your spot next to the open fire when it’s time to rug up for the night.
- Cradle Mountain National Park is about 75 minutes by car from Devonport, two hours from Launceston and four hours from Hobart.
- National park passes start from $16.50 per day for adults and entry is free during some holiday periods. Information at parks.tas.gov.au.
- The average maximum winter temperature is 6C.
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