Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

 

It was not a long drive from Strahan to Cradle Mountain, and we had a stop at Zeehan to see the mining museum located in the old School of Mines. With a population today of 700, you could say the town was "quiet". The remains of its heyday can be seen in the main street with the theatre, masonic hall and a number of other period buildings - now not used for their original purposes, but preserved for posterity.

An early port for Zeehan was Trial Harbour but it was very precarious in its location on Ocean Beach and was overtaken by Strahan. Zeehan was established as a mining field, then as a town after the Zeehan-Dundas silver-lead deposits were found in 1882. The peak period for mining was up to the First World War, though lead mining continued on up to 1963 at mines such as the Montana and Oceana. The population of Zeehan-Dundas peaked at 10,000 about 1910, over ten times the current population. It was clearly in competition with the town further south, Queenstown, and while the silver boom lasted it was known as the Silver City. In the first decade of the twentieth century it was on a par with Launceston and Hobart for size. It's main street was over two miles long (3.2 km) and it had over 20 hotels. In the 1970s, and again in the 1990s, it saw increased activity due to operations at the nearby Renison Bell Tin mine.

Right at the far end of the main Street is the Pit Stop Cafe. I would have missed it if I had not studied Trip Advisor in advance. We just stopped for a coffee and, dare I say it, cake. The cafe is decorated with 50s rock n roll memorabilia. Even the toilets were worth visiting - "pit stop", get it?. We watched vintage Isle of Man TTs on a reproduction old TV and just sat and enjoyed the many knickknacks all over the shop. The lady owner was friendly and we thoroughly enjoyed our break from the rain.

Next stop was Rosebery, where we just happened to see a Teddy Bear house as we drove through, and stopped for the Boys to have a chat with the lady who made the bears. She had funded her daughter's education from bear sales.

Our destination was Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania. It is one of the principal tourist sites in Tasmania, owing to its natural beauty. The area around the mountain has a large number of day walks, as well as being one terminus of the Overland Track which runs 80 kms to Lake St Clair. They say you can climb Cradle Mountain on a 6.5 hour strenuous return hike from the Dove Lake car park. We got to the car park, but settled for the walk round the lake, which was strenuous enough for me.

Our base for the next two nights was Cradle Mountain Highlanders Cottages. We stayed in Snowgum Cottage. The wood fire was enjoyable and also efficient in heating the cabin. The bathroom was modern with underfloor heating and a large spa bath with plenty of hot water. Wifi was non existent in the cabin, but the satellite Tv worked well. I am always puzzled as to why places charging high prices then charge extra for things like breakfast 15 dollars per person, use of washing machine 5 dollars, wifi ( forget the price). The kitchen was well equipped, but if you want eat out, the choice is just between the two hotels, each 5 minutes drive away.

We ate one night at the Highland Restaurant in the Cradle Mountain Resort Hotel. I expect to pay top prices in a National Park venue. With two of their fixed price menus at 70 dollars each, then throw in a cheap bottle of wine at 50 dollars, plus a bottle of water - and the bill is 200 dollars. I would be happy to pay that if the food was of a top quality, but neither of our main courses was acceptable - the plates were stone cold and the food was stone cold. This was not a 200 dollar meal, even though it was in the wilderness. My starter of "ocean trout" with an exotic description of how it was soaked in whiskey and so on, comprised four small pieces of trout of little taste. The lamb main, was tasty, but stone cold and not enjoyable. My chocolate dessert was very good The service was very friendly, but a little obsequious -everything chosen from the menu was " good choice" from the waitress!. Personally I would not hurry back here to spend another 200 dollars on dinner. They also try to hurry you through the meal with indecent haste to turn tables round.

 

If you want to see Wombats, then this is the place to see them. You cannot avoid seeing Wombats here, and indeed the wombats are so used to humans with cameras that you can get close to them for photos.

It is a very scenic 2 hour walk round Dove Lake, and was well worth doing. The walking was easy, in that boardwalks and bridges had been put up in any difficult places. I probably could have done without the group of Japanese who were doing the walk at the same time as us. You cannot avoid a group, as everyone stops frequently to take photos, so you catch them up or they catch you up.The jagged shaped mountain in many of the photos is the eponymous Cradle Mountain. All went well till we got back to the car - our Park Pass blew away in the high wind when we opened the car door, and was impossible to find. Anyway the nice man at the Cabins, where we had bought the original, wrote us out a new one.

The Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous marsupial, now found in the wild only on the Australian island state of Tasmania. The size of a small dog, it is now the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world (as nobody has seen the larger Tasman Tiger since 1936). It has a stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odour, extremely loud and disturbing screech, and a keen sense of smell.

Since the late 1990s, devil facial tumour disease has drastically reduced the devil population and now threatens the survival of the species, which in 2008 was declared to be endangered. Programs are currently being undertaken by the Government of Tasmania to reduce the impact of the disease, including an initiative to build up a group of healthy devils in captivity, isolated from the disease. Localised populations of devils have also been severely reduced by collisions with cars, particularly when they are eating roadkill.

We went to the Devils@Cradle Sanctuary. Just four of us were shown round by guide. They have Quolls there as well as Tasman Devils. The Devils are not, or did not seem to be, as bad as either their name nor their previous history would make out. Whereas in the past they were promoted as "devils" and "fierce", they are now viewed as "loveable"- in order to help with the conservation of the species.

We wandered round other short walks in the National Park. Waldheim Chalet was originally built between 1912 and the early 1920s. It was largely the vision and dedication of Gustav and Kate Weindorfer that led to both the construction of the chalet and the creation of the national park. The chalet is in reasonable condition today, and has a number of exhibits. Though we did see Wallabies we looked in vain for Platypuses - even getting up at first light to visit the lake where we were told they might be!

Now it was on to Stanley.

On to Stanley

Australia 2013/2014