Things to do and see in Tasmania – Cradle Mountain, Franklin-Gordon & Mt Field National Park

What, three thousand six hundred words and ninety-seven pictures wasn’t quite enough hurt for you? What’s that, you want more I hear? In that case, welcome to my Tasmania trip part 2, where I (and you!) get a load of Tasmania’s prettiest landscapes at the iconic Cradle Mountain, see way too many waterfalls, and do a helluva lot of walking. Oh, and there’s also a pretty darn nice scallop pie, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Click right on in!

Part 1 | Part 3 | Part 4

Date of trip: 21/12/16 – 3/1/17

I love travel as much as I do food; it’s simply becoming less of a secret now as I expand I’m Still Hungry’s focus. The world is a far bigger than Sydney, and I wish to show it to you. Welcome to another installment of my travel series! 

In part 2, we move towards the southern inland to visit Cradle Mountain, and the inland areas of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park & Mt Field National Park.

Tasmania Trip Map

Key:

Red: food destination

Blue: scenery/sight/landmark destination

Destinations with an asterisk (*) are recommended

Cradle Mountain & Surrounds

Dove Lake Circuit*

Ronny’s Creek

Marion’s Lookout*

Cradle Mountain Lodge Tavern & Bar

Tullah Lakeside Bar & Grill

Montezuma Falls*

Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park & Mt Field National Park

Queenstown

Iron Blow Lookout*

Nelson Falls

Lake St Clair Walk / Platypus Bay

Lake St Clair Lodge

Pulpit Rock Lookout*

Collins Cap Cottage*

Lake Pedder*

Lake Pedder Wilderness Lodge

Gordon Dam*

Russell & Lady Barron Falls

Lake Dobson/Pandani Grove Walk

Styx Valley – Big Tree Reserve / River Walks*

Cradle Mountain & Surrounds

If you could only choose to visit one national park in Tasmania, it should absolutely be cradle mountain. Easily Tasmania’s most recognisable landmark, I wouldn’t be surprised if Cradle Mountain was single-handedly responsible for a third of Tasmania’s tourism. It really is an amazing area, with plenty of hikes & walks for various levels of fitness. In fact, there were so many options that we used two days of our trip on Cradle Mountain just to get through the walks we wanted to do. Unfortunately, the timing of our trip precluded us from attempting the summit itself (roughly an 8hr hike); something I definitely want to rectify if I ever visit Tasmania again.

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Cradle Mountain in the distance

Dove Lake Circuit*

The Dove Lake Circuit is a 2hr, 6km track that traces around the lake of the same name. One of Tasmania’s great walks, this extremely popular track is fairly flat, suitable for most levels of fitness, and provides almost constant views of Cradle Mountain’s summit, providing a relaxed way to enjoy the national park without breaking too much of a sweat. That said, apply sunscreen anyway – don’t underestimate the Aussie sun.

One of the primary attractions at Dove Lake Circuit is The Boatshed – a literal tin shed built out of pine that is many a photographer’s dream, due to its prime position with the summit in the background. A classic postcard shot, easily worth the walk alone.

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Dove Lake w/Cradle Mountain in the background

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The Boatshed

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Cradle Mountain in the morning

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Ronny’s Creek

Finished the Dove Lake walk with time to spare? Try Ronny’s Creek walk. The route takes you away from Cradle Mountain a bit, thus allowing you to absorb the majestic plains of the national park.

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Marion’s Lookout*

Still not done? Want something a bit more challenging? Marion’s Lookout is the hike you’ve been looking for. The creme de la creme of Cradle Mountain walks, Marion’s Lookout lives up to the name of providing one hell of a vantage point. The view from here, as you’ll soon see, is absolutely stunning – this is Facebook profile photo material. Ascending to Marion’s Lookout also grants you a view of Crater Lake, which is a pretty self-explanatory landscape feature.

As you’d expect, with a view as good as I’m hinting comes a price, and that is a 3hr return hike. With steep, exposed cliff faces, it’s a rough trek that will test the unfit. I’m definitely not calling it a walk. But keep in mind the rewards as you ascend, and you might just make it:

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Crater lake – the water was surprisingly dark!

B-e-a-utiful!

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Cradle Mountain Lodge Tavern & Bar

Unless you’re staying at one of Cradle Mountain’s resorts, you’ll do best to save some money and bring your own food before, during and after hiking. In our case, I wanted something a bit different from our standard diet of protein shakes and muesli bars (uh, yeah seriously), and so enjoyed a mussel pasta from Cradle Mountain Lodge. It was overcooked, but when you’ve just hiked for three hours up a literal mountain it was absolute ambrosia.

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Mussels & cherry tomato linguine – $38?

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Tullah Lakeside Bar & Grill

While I wanted to, we were unable to lodge at Cradle Mountain due to a lack of accommodation during our chosen visit period. Instead, we bunked at a town called Tullah, a 40min drive away. I’ll be honest – this is a veritable ghost town, there was almost nothing here. The only operating restaurant was Tullah Lakeside Bar & Grill which, for its remoteness, produced surprisingly robust cooking. Nothing fancy as per the standard in middle-of-nowhere venues, but I seriously couldn’t complain, especially as the prices were in the mid-$20s with reasonably-sized portions. If you were in my situation, it was either this or even more protein shakes.

And I have just about had it with protein shakes.

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Chicken parmigiana 

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Fish and salad 

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Baked fish

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Montezuma Falls*

Head a bit west of Cradle Mountain (but still within the national park) and you’ll come across the Montezuma Falls walk. Named after an old freight train company that used to run through the area (no, there was no secret Aztec empire that used to call this place home…that we know of), it’s a 3hr return walk that was frankly quite boring due to how monotonous the track was.

Having said that, this is still worth the time as at 104 metres, Montezuma Falls is Tasmania’s tallest waterfall. Got your attention now, eh?

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Single-file swing bridge next to the falls

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Nope, wrong direction fool!

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Ah there it is! Montezuma Falls

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Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park & Mt Field National Park

After Cradle Mountain, it was time to go south and west, towards and through the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and Mt Field National Parks. Taking up a good 30% of Tasmania’s landmass, these national parks are huge; there’s a lot to see.

Queenstown

Our last night in Tasmania’s East side before making the journey to the west was in a ghost town called Queenstown. It’s actually quite big; however as it’s a mining town, most of its population had gone back to visit home during the Christmas/New Year break.

This had one rather cool ramification: the fact that I felt like I was walking through a movie set for a classic Western flick. Other than that, there wasn’t much to see, and literally nothing to do except stay a night.

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Iron Blow Lookout*

Driving out of Queenstown brought us to Iron Blow Lookout, a hole in the ground resulting from extensive quarrying. A literal scar on the face of the earth, it’s as mesmerising as it is saddening to behold.

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Nelson Falls

Further east from Queenstown is Nelson Falls. A quick 20min saunter through a rainforest leads to – you guessed it – a waterfall. There’s not much else here, but stopping serves as a great R&R from driving.

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Lake St Clair Walk / Platypus Bay

Another hour’s drive from Nelson Falls will bring you to Lake St Clair & Platypus Bay. There are a variety of treks here ranging from leisurely strolls to near-full day trails, so choose accordingly. We picked a 5km circuit called the Figure 8 loop which took around 1.5 hours. While we saw a fair bit, we missed out on spotting any platypuses 🙁

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Lake St Clair Lodge

Most of the remote restaurants that we’ve visited so far have served food that has been acceptable – given the circumstances. Unfortunately, this streak ended at the Lake St Clair Lodge. I just can’t recommend this place – the food was expensive, and pretty much anything but tasty. If I were to give it my usual caesar score, it would receive a solid 4/10, no more.

I would rather drink protein shakes, than eat the food here.

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This excuse for a burger was over $20. Dry buns, flavourless meat, cheese that just would not melt, no sauce; no chill.

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Not sure if eating quiche or gooey flour. No flavour, tough and chewy; I guess it wasn’t undercooked.

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Pulpit Rock Lookout*

After taking in Lake St Clair, it was time to head to our Airbnb accommodation in a town called New Norfolk, a short drive from Hobart. Along the way is Pulpit Rock. Yeah, not a great name as there are a million “pulpit rocks” around the world, but that’s besides the point. This pulpit rock is a lookout that shouldn’t be missed as it gives a horseshoe view of the Derwent River, as well as the town of New Norfolk in the distance.

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Collins Cap Cottage*

Our Airbnb accommodation was at a place called Collins Cap Cottage located in the nearby suburb of Collinsvale, a homestead situated at 600m above sea level. I haven’t really talked about the places at which we stayed but this one’s charming farmhouse vibe won all of us over, so I had to include some pictures. If your trip is well-timed, a night here is well worth it. The owner also happens to be a wood smith who mostly works with Huon Pine (a slow-growing tree native to Tasmania), so be sure to ask about his workshop “museum”!

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Lake Pedder*

Lake Pedder used to be a small, natural lake, but after the construction of several dams, it became a massive impoundment lake. With a surface area of 242 square kilometres, it’s the largest freshwater lake in Australia. Check out the panorama below in full screen to appreciate just how big it is – while keeping in mind that I couldn’t even capture half of it.

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Lake Pedder Wilderness Lodge

The food options in this area are fairly limited so either BYO or in my case, try some dusted calamari at the Lake Pedder Wilderness Lodge. We only had a quick meal break here, but it looked like a great place to stay – if you have the cash.

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Dusted calamari – looks plain but this was actually really good; tender calamari, great better, fresh salad.

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Gordon Dam*

Speaking of dams, you may want to consider checking out Gordon Dam. At 140m, this gigantic structure is bloody impressive in a way that photos just can’t quite capture. You can also apparently abseil down the wall of the dam (*SHIVERS*), but nobody was doing it on the day I went.

Yeah, we detoured for nearly an hour to check out a dam. Worth it.

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Gordon Dam – photo courtesy of @yvoloi

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Another edit Gordon Dam – photo courtesy of Infl3xion.

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Russell & Lady Barron Falls

Travel further east and you’ll hit Mt Field National Park. Amongst other things, this park is known for waterfalls. Russell Falls and Lady Barron Falls are two popular ones, and you can easily find the time to check both of them out as they both start at the same point. Personally, I thought that Lady Barron Falls was the prettier of the two, especially as Russell Falls has a man-made barrier that stopped me from getting an ideal view.

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Russell Falls – I needed to get closer 🙁

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Lady Barron Falls – pretty!

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Lake Dobson/Pandani Grove Walk

Usually a very still lake, the sub-alpine Lake Dobson was relatively choppy when I visited. Due to its elevation, you can ski near here in winter. It’s not a must-visit, unless you’re really into lakes.

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Styx Valley – Big Tree Reserve / River Walks*

If you only have time to visit one destination in Mt Field, I highly recommend Styx Valley / Tall Trees Walk. Here lies Eucalyptus regnans or the swamp gum, trees that can grow stupendously tall. Indeed, the Big Tree Reserve in the Styx Valley is sometimes known as Gandalf’s Forest. One of the trees – known as Gandalf’s Staff – stands at 85m. However, new swamp gums of greater height are being found all the time – even in the Styx itself, a tree called the “Bigger Tree” (LOL) is taller at 87m. The current record holder is called The Centurion and at 99.6m, is the third-tallest tree in the world.

Definitely do this walk and be awed by just how small we are made to feel by these towering giants.

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The “Big Tree” – slightly shorter than the Bigger Tree, but still tall nonetheless!

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The Bigger Tree – doesn’t look tall right? Until you realise that I took three pictures and combined them vertically just to capture the full height of this tree!

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And that’s the end of part 2, part 3 will be up soon! I must commend you for staying focussed dear reader, you make a great audience!  I’ll take questions and feedback as always via the comments below!

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4 comments on “Things to do and see in Tasmania – Cradle Mountain, Franklin-Gordon & Mt Field National Park”

  1. Jake Reply

    Hi, what areas of Tasmania will part 3 & part 4 cover?

    Really enjoying your posts. Going to Hobart and Huon on May and would love to use your post as my guide.

    Thanks, keep up the good work.

    Jake

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Hi Jake! Part 3 will cover Bruny & Maria Island, Freycinet National Park & Bicheno/Bay of Fires. Part 4 will be on Hobart & MONA. Hope that helps and thanks for reading!

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