Driving and hiking in Cradle Country, Tasmania
When we organise family holidays, Mr T and I have a deal: it can’t all be about food and wine.
He loves to drive and sightsee, add a daily walk in the mix and he’s happy. Back in our boating days, he wouldn’t care where we ended up, as long as it involved some kind of crossing and navigation planning. Being on the move is what drives him. Similarly, Anne looks forward to do something different everyday, be it catching a train to the city, go to the movies or visiting friends.
So, for this Tasmanian trip, I told them there would be a hike everyday, selected not only for them, but also to wear off all the food I was planning on sampling.
This is our second day, and I am looking forward to today’s hike in Cradle Mountain National Park.
The plan is to drive from Launceston to Cradle Mountain, stopping at Sheffield along the way, do at least one hike, fit in lunch and keep driving to Tullah, our overnight accomodation. On paper it looks totally doable: 190 klm, 2h30mn driving time according to Google Map. However, I have been told by a local lady it would be a pretty full on day and to plan accordingly.
I am so excited, I wake everyone really early to hit the road shortly after dawn, much to Anne’s displeasure who was hoping for a lazy hotel breakfast. I promise to make it up to her later in the morning while packing the complimentary chocolate truffles, just in case.
It is an easy drive to Sheffield, traffic is by Sydney standard non existent which allows Mr T to drive much faster than I’d like. Not that he is speeding, but the roadside is peppered with signs advertising a rasberry farm here, a Cheese factory there, the Truffledore, a fish farm, a winery…For someone who skipped breakfast, the temptation to stop is overwhelming. But Mr T is reminding me that we have places to go before sunset, so we stick to the plan and keep going.
We make it to Sheffield by mid-morning, first paying a visit to the Kentish Visitors Centre. The staff there is very welcoming and friendly, obviously proud to show what is known as The Town of Murals. Going back to the mid1980’s, the town decided to develop a tourist attraction which would be “ an outdoor art gallery depicting the pioneering history of the district and its people”. There are now 60 or more murals displayed within Sheffield where an International Mural Fest Competition is held annually, with 9 artists competing to each paint a mural in just one week. The pieces remain on display in Mural Park for 12 months after which the winner of the “paint-off” is added to the collection. We only had time to visit last year’s display in Mural Park and walked around the town’s main streets: genres are eclectic, some recording the history of the town, others more artistic and modern. It reminded me of a large painting that Terry’s older daughter did in year 8, featuring our boat sailing around tropical islands, palm trees and exotic birds…I think it would not have been out of place in Sheffield, Tasmania!
The visitor’s centre is full of information about the local area and this is also where you can purchase a National Parks Pass. When we mention our plan to visit a few of the National Parks during the week, we’re advised to go for the Holidays Vehicle Parks Pass which allows entry for the car and up to 8 passengers to all national parks during 2 months.
By the time we leave the centre, loaded with brochures and maps, our tummies are grumbling and we set out to look for a late breakfast /early lunch. The choice is wide, but we can’t go past Bossimis Bakery, advertising Tassie Scallop pie. Tasmanian Scallops are Mr T’s food obsession, and he has made it his mission to eat as many as possible during this trip.
The pie crust is standard flaky on top and short on the bottom, but the filling is a decadent mix of 5 scallops with roe on and small chunks of vegetables in a creamy curry sauce. Not bad for a snack! Anne opts for a meat pie as that is her favourite treat, she is back smiling and ready for the next drive.
It takes nearly 1 hour to reach Cradle Mountain NP and it seems cars and buses come out of nowhere, as we’re caught in traffic, shown to an “overflow” carpark because the park is so busy, access to Dove Lake is by Shuttle service only. Luckily, the shuttles run every 5-10 minutes between the Visitors Centre and Dove Lake, so we don’t have to wait very long. Still, we’re amazed by the number of tourists, some look like serious hikers setting off for a few days on the Overland Track, others are day visitors like us, equipped with not much else than running shoes and a camera.
Talking of camera, I start snapping away as soon as we arrive, telling Anne and Mr T to walk ahead as I know they can’t stand crowds.
The hike of the day is Dove Lake Circuit, which is arguably Tasmania’s most popular walk and with good reasons: 6 klm return, the track is suitable for most ages, being level most of the time with only gentle hills and very few steps. It can take up to 2 hours hiking on this incredibly well maintained path, taking you thru rainforests, along quartzite beaches, with lots of resting areas where people can sit and picnic. It is perfect to enjoy the spectacular view of Cradle Mountain peaks looming over the track except that in my case I hardly stop because I am trying to catch up with my team.
I didn’t think I stayed behind that long, and expect to meet Anne and Mr T only a few meters along the path. Only I can’t find them and by the time I realise that I might have missed them and ended up ahead, I have reached the half way point. Tossing between waiting for them here or having them waiting for me at the end. I choose to keep going, figuring that we’d all end up in the car park eventually. So, I am going against all “walk safely “ advice and walk alone, tell no one where I am or where I am going ( there is no phone coverage anyway ), stop just long enough to take a few photos and carry no water. But I manage to finish the hike in 1h20mn, check the Walkers Log book to find the others are not here and wait. Not long, they’re 10 minutes behind me, as they also have walked non stop. We have a bit of a row “ where were you? “ “ did you really think we’d leave you behind with no water? “ but all is good in the end. It turns out that Mr T had stopped at Glacier Rock, only 10mn into the walk. It is accessible thru a gate, and popular with people who want to have a great view of the lake and the mountains without venturing further. He figured I would want to stop there for photos. I did, but as I could see dozens of people crowding the top of the rock already, I never imagined agoraphobic Mr T would join them and wait for me there. So here we are, knowing each other so well we didn’t expect either of us to do the unexpected.
I suggest going back quickly to Glacier Rock for a family photo, but after all the rush and frustration, neither of them are in the mood for a group selfie.
On the more positive side, Anne gives the walk the thumbs up for scenic value and easy grade. And because I had allowed 3 hours including lengthy photo breaks, we now find ourselves ahead of schedule.
Just as well, because the 45 klm to Tullah take over 1 hour on narrow winding roads. The Peppers’ chocolate truffles came in handy as a substitute lunch and by the time we arrive at Tullah Lakeside Lodge at 4.30pm, we are ravenous.
But first, checking in: the location is very pretty, by the shore of Rosebery lake. The main building houses the restaurant, bar and kitchen, a small games alley and overlooks a large patch of grass with a giant game of chess, outdoor furniture and even a helicopter pad! The staff is quite friendly and hospitable, sharing bar and office duties it seems.
I must say that after the luxury of Peppers in Launceston the night before, I am feeling underwhelmed with our accomodation tonight. Admittedly the room rate is much lower but it feels like we are staying in a kids summer camp or a workers camp ( which it could easily have been ) with rooms lined in long narrow dongas ( australian term for a transportable tin building ), facing onto the courtyard and the adjoining donga. Ours is a Standard room, so no view of the lake, it is quite large with a queen and a single bed, but fairly basic, a very small bathroom ( original ) and fridge area. Still, it is clean, has a large TV, tea/coffee facilities and the beds are comfortable. It’s all we need for a good night sleep.
The restaurant is a pleasant surprise: after the indulgence of Stillwater, we are happy to go back to basic pub food. Servings are large and prices are reasonable. Mr T can’t help himself and orders crumbed scallops just to taste! What he really looks forward is the Tasmanian T-bone steak which he still raves about as I write this, saying it was the most flavoursome and tender beef he had in a long time. Anne chose the Chicken Parmigiana, which comes out as a massive portion as does my plate of baby back ribs. It is very much a stick to your ribs kind of meal, just what we wanted after the hike and the drive and we eat it all up!
Looking around, the dining room is filled with hikers and workers alike, all chatting about their day the same way we’re planning ours tomorrow: more driving and more hiking to come yet!