I was expecting Dove Lake to be amazing – unfortunately I was underwhelmed. Dove Lake Circuit is promoted as one of the must do activities for those holidaying around Cradle Mountain. For me, the hassle involved in getting there took the shine off the experience.
Location: Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain, TAS 7306
Walking Distance: 5.7km circuit
Elevation: Mostly gentle undulations, one steep section with lots of stairs
Time: 2-3 hours with kids
Costs/Permit: Permit to Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park required. A limited number of cars per day are given permits to drive to the lake, most visitors are encouraged to pay for the shuttle bus facility.
Opening Times: open 7 days 8:30am till 4:30pm
Facilities: Picnic tables , toilets, electric BBQs, visitor centre, interpretative centre
What to take: Warm clothing, water, snacks
The pristine waters of Dove Lake and the jagged peaks of Cradle Mountain do make for an impressive landscape. While Dove Lake is indisputably beautiful, getting there can be a hassle. Located in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, permits are needed to enter the area. A permit is needed to get close enough to even see Cradle Mountain! While this in itself wasn’t a problem, getting the permit and then getting to Dove Lake proved challenging for a family with 4 kids. In hindsight we should have paid for a vehicle permit and driven our car right up to the carpark at Dove Lake. What we did do was pay for the heavily promoted shuttle bus service which involved a fair bit of waiting around and an inability to stop when we wanted. The shuttle bus travels the approximately 8km from the Information Center to the Dove Lake car park at regular intervals. The road is windy and narrow, so if you’re not a confident driver the shuttle bus is a good idea.
Dove Lake is a premier tourist destination and attracts lots of visitors. Our visit coincided with the Christmas school holidays – I’m guessing this is their busiest time of year. While this stretched the shuttle bus service to its limits, the Dove Lake Circuit itself was able to accommodate the crowds. Dove Lake is pristine. There is a well maintained path that visitors are encouraged to travel in a clockwise direction. There are plenty of spots to stop along the way to take advantage of the stunning scenery. The Dove Lake Circuit encompasses many types of vegetation from alpine tundra to ancient rainforest and even sandy beaches.
The sandy beach, about one quarter of the way around, was a good spot for an impromptu picnic. Plenty of people discarded shoes and socks, rolled up their pants and waded into the water. To Queenslanders the water was freezing – but still lots of fun! I imagine winter here would be freezing. Even in summer we needed jackets.
There are numerous types of vegetation that the path takes you through, and some areas are quite challenging. By the end of the circuit we were thoroughly exhausted. Our own car at this point would have been most welcome, instead we had to queue about an hour for the shuttle bus. One benefit of the shuttle bus service was having the driver point out wild wombats, strolling down the hill for their afternoon walk.
Overall I’m left with mixed feelings. Dove Lake Circuit itself was lovely, although alpine tundra really isn’t my thing – I was expecting green not olive. However the transportation hassle with 4 kids in tow left me exhausted rather than exhilarated.