Dove Lake Walk in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park Tasmania is one of the most beautiful nature walks in Australia and will forever hold a special place in my heart. The walk was my first introduction to the absolute natural beauty of Tasmania. It was also where I got the chance to connect with the great outdoors, with myself and share a magical experience with my adult son. Because of these things, I believe it to be the best walk I have ever done.
We were travelling through Australia on a 6-week road trip, part of our longer 3-month world trip, and were staying in Tasmania for one week. I had worked into our itinerary a 2-night stay in Cradle Mountain, and the Dove Lake Walk was high on my list of things to do in Tasmania.
Dove Lake Walk is located deep inside Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty and a World Heritage Site. Dove Lake is a 6km loop route, and a walk around Dove Lake will take around 2 -3 hours to complete. However, if, like us, you keep stopping to admire the view and take photographs, then it may take a lot longer!
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How to Get to Dove Lake
The first part of the journey to Dove Lake starts at Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre and Transit Terminal. A shuttle bus service takes walkers to the Dove Lake car park to protect and preserve the area by limiting how many vehicles enter the park.
Tickets are free with a valid National Parks Pass, which can be bought at the visitor centre and is valid either for a 24 hour period or for 2-months if staying in Tasmania for a while. The park shuttle runs 7-days a week at regular intervals, and no private vehicles are allowed into Dove Lake while the shuttle is running.
Our Circuit Walk Around Dove Lake
We jumped off the shuttle bus and headed to the left-hand side of the car park, the starting point for the Dove Lake walking route. No sooner had we started the route than a group of people were huddled together looking into the bush. Being nosey onlookers, we stopped to see what the commotion was all about. To our delight, we saw it was an echidna – the long-nosed hedgehog-like creature that is indigenous to Australia.
Our first encounter with an echidna in Australia had been on Kangaroo Island, and we had marvelled at seeing a creature that, before that moment, we hadn’t known even existed. We had previously been to Kangaroo Island and now felt we were experts on Australian wildlife. Donning our nature guide caps, we told the onlookers what this spiky curled-up ball was called- David Attenborough would have been proud of us!
After the excitement of our unscheduled wildlife encounter, we embarked on the Dove Lake trail. Within minutes, we were mesmerised by the stunning visuals unfurling before us. Boarded walkways led us through the rainforest and ever-changing myriad of flora and fauna, while the sight of Cradle Mountain in the distance and glacial Dove Lake thrilled us.
This must be a national park for the people for all time. It is magnificent, and people must know about it and enjoy it.Gustav Weindorfer – TasmaniAN Botanist
Dove Lake Beaches
Along the way, several gravel beaches tempted us to the water’s edge. But why was the water a strange brown colour? We discovered it is because of the tree roots’ tannin that the water runs past that turns it this colour. It’s totally harmless!
Dove Lake beaches are a great spot to take photographs from but make sure to wear insect repellant as my ankles became a lunch-time snack for flying beasties. Of course, this was the one afternoon I had forgotten to put Mosquito Milk on my body, and the result later that night was red and itching bite marks – you have been warned!
Halfway around Dove Lake, we found ourselves directly in the shadow of the two mighty pinnacles of Cradle Mountain. This is one of the most famous destinations in Tasmania. The temperature had ramped up, and we were getting pretty hot. A welcome sight was a bench where we plonked ourselves for a while to enjoy the picnic lunch that we had brought with us.
Discovering the Ballroom Forest
Back on the trail and we came upon the magnificent cool temperate rainforest known as the Ballroom Forest. It is home to ancient myrtle trees and, combined with the vivid green moss growing over tree stumps and branches, made this area look and feel quite eerie. We half expected some strange woodland creature to come lumbering out of the forest.
The last quarter of the walk has some moderate elevation changes and quite a few steps – this might make it more challenging for some walkers. We did have to assist the ranger with the rescue of a gentleman hiking Dove Lake on his 100th birthday.
His legs gave way, and he couldn’t make it up the steps at the end of the circuit, so be sure that your fitness ability will allow you to cope. The ranger commandeered a speed boat that raced across the lake. He gathered up the elderly gentleman and returned him to flatter ground on the opposite shore. He certainly had a 100th birthday to remember. We thought how marvellous it was that he chose to do the Dove Lake Walk on such a poignant day.
Thankfully we made it to the top of the steps and found a bench waiting for us. From this point, there are awesome views back to Cradle Mountain towering resplendent above the lake, and this is your reward for completing the Dove Lake walk.
Dove Lake’s Iconic Boathouse
The Dove Lake walk finishes back in the car park, near the iconic Dove Lake boathouse. The boathouse once stored Huon pine pleasure boats to take passengers around the lake. It was first built in the 1940s by Lionell Connell, the first ranger at Cradle Mountain. This is now the best vantage point to capture the most beautiful photograph of the boathouse, Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain all in one frame.
If you have ever seen photos of Dove Lake, then it will have no doubt been taken from this spot but don’t expect to have it to yourself – we had to wait for 10 minutes for our chance to snap away without anybody being in our photograph!
We queued for about 5 minutes back in the car park and then returned on the park shuttle to Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. We had totally fallen in love with Dove Lake and back at the cabin, Dominic said it had been the best walk he had ever done. And to think that morning, he was questioning whether he wanted to do it at all. Mum always knows best!
How to Extend the Dove Lake Walk
If you have good fitness levels and want to make your Dove Lake walk longer, there is an option. You can hike up to the 1200m glacial plateau called Marion’s Lookout. This steep direct ascent is towards the finish of the Dove Lake Circuit. It gives you an elevated view over Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake. We didn’t attempt Marion’s Lookout as we decided it might be too challenging for us.
Wildlife in Dove Lake
Sadly apart from the echidna at the start of our walk, we didn’t see any more wildlife. We continually scanned the bush for sightings of a wallaby or wombat or even a Tasmanian devil but saw nothing. Cradle Mountain is jam-packed with wildlife, but it didn’t want to show up for us. We did have a few sightings of pademelons by our lodge and on the Enchanted Walk near Pencil Pine Creek.
Dove Lake Walk Top Tips
Make sure you have plenty of water and a snack with you on this walk. The cafe at the Visitor Centre sells provisions for walkers, including energy bars.
The closest drinking water and toilet facilities are in the carpark at the start of the walk.
Don’t forget to wear mosquito repellant – they are present around the edge of the water. I didn’t think there would be any mosquitos in Tasmania but unfortunately, there are!
Layer clothing to be in control of your body’s temperature – it can get hot on the walk.
Wear a hat and sunglasses – protection from the sun’s rays.
Always apply sunscreen of at least 30SPF, even if it’s cloudy, and keep reapplying during the day. Remember you are in Tasmania, and the ozone layer is thin in this hemisphere.
Need-To-Know Driving Distances to Cradle Mountain
Devonport to Cradle Mountain takes 1.5 hours
Launceston to Cradle Mountain takes 2 hours
Hobart to Cradle Mountain takes 4 hours
Where to Stay in Cradle Mountain
I can recommend Cradle Mountain Wilderness Lodge. We stayed in a self-catering cabin with a balcony overlooking eucalyptus trees. We could sit and watch different animals come and go each day, including a resident pademelon and joey.
Looking for modern comfort then Cradle Mountain Hotel is the one for you. We ate dinner here on the outside terrace and had a great view of the surroundings.
An outstanding property near the National Park is Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge. It commands outstanding views of the wilderness and a small lake – a great location for wildlife lovers.
Discovery Parks are the only budget-type of accommodation in Cradle Mountain.
Other Walks in Cradle Mountain
The Visitor Information Centre at the park entrance provides details on walks and other activities in the area.
Check out the National Parks guide to 60 great short walks in Tasmania.