Unlike our east coast leg of this trip through Coles Bay and St Helens, my camera stayed mostly safe (and dry) in my backpack. But I wanted to share this part of our trip through Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair even with minimal photos!
We left St Helens just after sunrise as we wanted to get on the road as soon as possible as we would be covering our longest distance of the trip.
There are two main routes to drive from St Helens to Cradle Mountain. The first is the main tourist route which takes you on the slow and windy road through Scottsdale. I get horrifically car sick so was really not interested in unnecessary windy roads! We therefore opted for the highway route taking us through St Mary’s, Perth, and many more of Tasmania’s little country towns. This way is also a good hour travel time shorter which would mean less time in the car and more exploring Cradle Mountain.
Now to be honest I can’t tell you much about the drive as I was still worried about being sick so I took a travel sickness tablet which knocked me out for most of the trip! What I do recall is waking up every now and then noticing the closer we got to the mountains the darker the skies got. Those grey and misty skies however produced some incredible rainbows and once again I was amazed by the Tasman landscape.
We made a short stop in Sheffield for fuel, groceries, and a much needed coffee as so many of the towns we had driven through either didn’t have coffee shops or they were closed. Getting out of the car here made me realise that while it had been cool on the east coast, it was going to be freezing in the mountains as it was already much colder than Brisbane is in the middle of winter!
After jumping back in the car to get out of the cold, we began the last leg of the journey which was to head up the mountain. It was still raining on and off as we made the climb up and around the narrow, windy roads.
The landscape began to change from what we had been accustomed to in the last few days. The vegetation was much more sparse and obviously had adapted to deal with the extreme temperatures. When we arrived at our cabin at Discovery Parks the rain had really set in and all we wanted to do was curl up next to the heater with a cup of noodles which we had bought in Sheffield when we realised a hot lunch was going to be the best plan to warm up!
After a short rest we decided we couldn’t drive all this way just to sit in our cabin so I put on pretty much all the clothes that I had brought with me and we headed over to the Information Centre to catch the shuttle bus up to Dove Lake. Getting off the bus, we really were not sure how long we would last but we were both pretty determined to at least try and enjoy being in such a remarkable place (even if we never did get to see Cradle Mountain itself).
After going for a short walk, I was determined to go and check out the photogenic little boat house on the edge of the lake. It was no longer just raining but sleeting. I am so glad I had got a great deal on a waterproof North Face jacket and boots before we left as they kept me so dry, something I was feeling pretty grateful for, although our lack of waterproof pants meant that we were still pretty wet and cold. But it could have been much worse if I didn’t have at least some of the right gear!
On getting to the boat house the weather was still pretty fierce with ice stinging my face. There was no way I was going to be able to get my camera out so I had to settle with a few snaps on my phone. Which isn’t waterproof either, but it survived!
We jumped back on the bus and spent the rest of the afternoon warming up by the heater and reading, enjoying a glass of the Pinot we had purchased at Spring Vale Vineyard.
The next morning we decided to try once again and see Cradle Mountain. No deal. Speaking to a few people, this is very common due to the unpredictable nature of the weather in the mountains. It had also been a cold and miserable start to spring but we didn’t mind too much.
On the bus ride back we passed a Wombat near the visitor centre, so once we jumped off the bus we walked back to get a closer look. We had hoped to see a wombat in the wild so it was pretty exciting to be able to have this close encounter. Thanks to Jarryd for this photo!
It was once again time to jump back in the car to make our way to Lake St Clair National Park where we would be spending the night. This drive gave us a taste of some of Tasmania’s dramatic landscapes and was by far the most diverse and interesting that we went through. The size of the mountain ranges and the lakes that sat beneath them really put everything into perspective and made us feel tiny.
We made a quick stop in Queenstown which I must say was a weird place. A town built on mining and tourism. The town buzzed around the train station, as eager passengers awaited the West Coast Wilderness Express steam train that would taken them through to Strahan. As we left town, we ascended the bare mountain, a reminder of the mining industry that dominates here, and began weaving around the hairpin turns in the misty, rainy weather.
The drive through National Parks gave some amazing views and due to the rain many waterfalls had formed on the side of the road. Still wanting more we drove past Nelson Falls. For some reason we didn’t stop immediately but continued down the road until Jarryd decided to do a spontaneous u-turn to take us back. He didn’t want to find out later that it was incredible and regret not stopping. I couldn’t agree more! It’s a short flat walk to the falls and oh how we would have regretted not stopping here! Due to the rain the falls were on the extreme scale, with the spray instantly saturating us. I attempted a photograph but it was just way too wet. So the camera went away and we just enjoyed the powerful and impressive force of nature.
We finally arrived in Lake St Clair and checked into our cabin at the lodge. This was the nicest (and most expensive) night of our trip and we enjoyed the little extra comfort. As the weather outside was still cold and wet we enjoyed to opportunity to rest.
After a short stay, we were ready to head off again for our final drive to Hobart.