Overland Track and Cradle Mountain, Tasmania: Nine things you must see and do at Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

Climbing Cradle Mountain

Tasmania's Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park offers some of the most beautiful hiking trails in Australia. And the best part is, you can do it in a single day. Video: Craig Platt

I WANT  A LUXE STAY, CLOSE TO THE PARK

You're in luck. The best accommodation is right on the boundary of central Tasmania's spectacular UNESCO World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and has been undergoing a major makeover. A total of $10 million is being spent on upgrading the rustically luxurious Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge,  including the transformation of its open-plan King Billy Suites, which feature wood fires, large bathrooms and an al-fresco hot tub overlooking the surrounding bushland and wildlife. See cradlemountainlodge.com.au

I WANT TO EXPLORE THE KEY NATURE SIGHTS

Where to begin? That's the main challenge at the wonders-rich Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Aside from a few hours around dusk in the warmer months, private motor-vehicles are now banished from the park in favour of a fleet of more environmentally-friendly electric buses which transport visitors to the main sights. A good place to learn about what the park has to offer is the brand new Cradle Mountain Visitor Information Centre, with its architecturally-imposing design, situated on the boundary of this  outstanding national park. See parks.tas.gov.au; discovertasmania.com.au

I WANT TO SEE NATIVE WILDLIFE

You've come to the right corner of Australia and, for that matter, of Tasmania. One of the most rewarding aspects of a visit to Cradle Mountain is the abundance of native wildlife. You'll encounter a variety of native critters around Cradle Mountain Lodge and the park is home to wombats, pademelons, wallabies, echidnas and quolls as well as many bird species. At certain times of the year, you'll also be able to spot marsupial joeys snug in their mothers' pouches. See parks.tas.gov.au; discovertasmania.com.au

I WANT TO SEE A TASMANIAN DEVIL

You'll need some luck to spot a Tasmanian devil in the wild, even in wildlife-rich Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. By far your best bet is the Devils@Cradle sanctuary,d about 500 metres from the park entrance. The sanctuary is home to the biggest captive population of devils free of the virulent facial tumour disease that has devastated the species. There are several keeper-guided tours each day, including an after-dark feeding experience and an additional evening tour between October and April. There's even the opportunity to meet some devil joeys at the sanctuary's hand-rearing nursery. See devilsatcradle.com

I WANT TO TAKE GUIDED TOURS

Guests at Cradle Mountain Lodge have access to a range of daily guided tours that are listed on a noticeboard in the lobby. These include kayak tours on spectacular Dove Lake with Cradle Mountain as its thrilling backdrop. Don't miss the historic and photogenic boatshed on the lake's foreshore. Should the region's changeable climate fail to cooperate there's always an alternative tour, such as evening wildlife spotting, to be enjoyed and the cosy lodge itself is a perfect venue for relaxing near one of its multiple, usually roaring, fireplaces. See cradlemountainlodge.com.au

I WANT TO DO SOME WALKS

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is a haven for walkers of all fitness levels and interests. There is a variety of walks available, from  a 30-minute rainforest amble to multi-day hikes deep inside the park.  One of the easiest and most beautiful strolls, close to Cradle Mountain Lodge, is the Enchanted Forest Walk which takes in cascades, natural pools and rainforests. See parks.tas.gov.au; discovertasmania.com.au

I WANT TO TACKLE THE OVERLAND TRACK

Really? Are you sure? One of Australia's most iconic hikes, the Overland Track is a challenging six-day, 65-kilometre walk from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair.  Unless you're a highly-experienced bushwalker, the best and safest way to experience the Overland Track is on a guided, multi-day walk with an experienced operator. A permit is required during the popular October 1 to May 31 season and the alpine weather conditions can turn cold, wet and windy, even in summer. For a somewhat more comfortable experience, consider the Tasmanian Walking Company's Cradle Mountain Huts Walk during which guests stay  in private accommodation along the way, the only such accommodation on the track. See parks.tas.gov.au; discovertasmania.com.au; taswalkingco.com.au

I WANT TO  GOOD FOOD AND WINE

The village at Cradle Mountain is tiny with limited dining choices but despair not. Cradle Mountain Lodge's recently refurbished and excellent Highland Restaurant showcases Tasmania's renowned produce, the best option for breakfast and dinner. Do try to score a window table beside the small lake that is home to platypus -  though good luck spotting them. For lunch, try the more casual and soon-to-be refurbished Tavern Bar & Bistro. The lodge's shop also carries a good range of Tasmanian gourmet items including gin, whiskey and wines, and souvenirs. See cradlemountainlodge.com.au

I WANT TO LEARN ABOUT THE AREA'S HUMAN HERITAGE

The Indigenous people of the Cradle Mountain region, who had occupied this part of the island for tens of thousands of years, were brutally hunted down by early British settlers. The most famous early European settler was German-born Gustav Weindorfer who in 1912 built the rustic Waldheim Chalet in a secluded  part of what is now the World Heritage area. Weindorfer, an early conservationist, once declared that the Cradle Mountain region "must be a national park for the people for all time. It is magnificent and people must know about it and enjoy it." His wish was granted in 1922 and a faithful replica of his chalet -  in reality more an oversized hut - can be visited free-of-charge. See parks.tas.gov.au

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ONE MORE THING

Although the official winter months at Cradle Mountain  - between early June and the end of August  - limit the outdoor activities on offer in  the park, there's a special magic to the region at these times. The cosy Cradle Mountain Lodge, with its open fireplaces and alpine chalet ambience, becomes the great indoors with its newly-refurbished Waldheim Alpine Spa offering a range of treatments as well as a steam room, sauna, large hot-tub and plunge pool, plus a relaxation lounge. Walks in the snow-dusted (or covered) national park are not only possible but recommended but do bring the right kit for the conditions. See cradlemountainlodge.com.au

I WANT THE FACTS

MORE

traveller.com.au/Tasmania

LOCATION

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is in Tasmania's central highlands and less than three hours' drive from Launceston, the main urban centre in the island state's north-east and the nearest to Cradle Mountain. Jetstar operates regular flights, including some direct services, to Launceston from both Sydney and Melbourne. See discovertasmania.com; jetstar.com

ACCOMMODATION

 Prices at Cradle Mountain Lodge start from $229 a night for a standard Pencil Pine Cabin. See cradlemountainlodge.com.au; discovertasmania.com.au

CLIMATE

Cradle Mountain, which rises to 1545 metres, is an alpine area and subject to variable weather conditions. Come prepared with warm clothing, even in the warmer months, and watch out for the harsh sunlight.

LANDSCAPE

The Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair wilderness area, declared a World Heritage area in 1982 in recognition of its outstanding value, is classified as a glaciated region with dolerite intrusion and consists of moorlands, lakes and tarns, gorges, waterfalls and valleys. Cradle Mountain, the area's most imposing and instantly-recognisable natural feature, is a dolerite pillar formation.

Anthony Dennis travelled as a guest of Discover Tasmania and Cradle Mountain Lodge.

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