Hobart to Cradle Mountain: The Ultimate Road Trip
While Cradle Mountain is praised by photographers and hikers alike, it’s far from being the only attraction in the not-so-tiny island of Tasmania.
It’s a four-hour drive from Hobart to Cradle Mountain, which we recommend stretching into a full-day road trip. Tour through historic villages, witness stunning natural wonders and scope out the best second-hand store in Tassie. All you need is a car, a well-charged phone and a Google Maps travel route.
Load up the car and let’s go!
Please take caution while driving as wildlife are prone to jaywalking.
Even if you weren’t planning a trekking expedition of Tasmania’s fifth-highest mountain, chances are the village of Richmond would be part of your itinerary anyway. This historic township contains several heritage-listed landmarks, making it a haven for history buffs and photographers – but it also shares attractions and commerce for everyone to enjoy. Richmond has a puzzle shop and candy store for the young and young-at-heart, bakeries and cafes for those who “forgot” to eat breakfast before they left Hobart, and various stores selling things like paintings, framed pictures and even crafted wood. However, the best part of Richmond is its historical significance and mostly unchanged landscape. Grab a camera and check out their stone bridge – the oldest stone bridge in Australia; feel like a giant at the Old Hobart Town Model Village; or even tour through Australia’s oldest intact gaol: Richmond Gaol. There are also a handful of wineries and vineyards surrounding the village which are worth checking out.
Now we’re heading into what city-slickers tend to call “the sticks”, which also means untouched landscapes and well-preserved historical buildings. Oatlands, compared to other settlements on this road trip, has the largest collection of historical buildings. One hundred and fifty to be exact. As you continue on with your trip, you’ll feel an appreciation for the convicts who built most of the sandstone buildings throughout Australia. The most notable silhouette on the skyline of Oatlands is the Callington Mill, which is the only still-operating colonial windmill in the southern hemisphere. It produces and sells the best flour in Tassie. Another popular historical landmark is the Oatlands Supreme Court, built in 1829 to deal with extreme cases like murder and rape. The court was responsible for the execution of 18 people. The main man who got the job done was Solomon Blay, the longest-serving public executioner in the British Empire. In his time, he travelled between Hobart, Oatlands and Launceston to execute over 200 people. During your stay in the town, we recommend checking out their local stores selling arts, crafts and antiques.
Oatlands was considered a mini-capital city during the colonial years, but Campbell Town was the ultimate pit stop between Launceston and Hobart. It was where you’d stop for lunch, stock up on supplies, recuperate your thoughts and then continue on. Mind you, back then they had the horse-and-cart mode of transport, which could take upwards of 10 hours to travel between Hobart and Launceston. In those days you really could do with a pie and a lager. While you settle your mind and stomach, we recommend a perusal of the town history. Gander at the Red Bridge that crosses the tranquil Elizabeth River (said to contain a million red bricks) and stroll up High Street for the Convict Brick Trail, sharing the offences committed by Tasmania’s convicts. Can you find Joseph Maples who was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for stealing clogs? Also, if you’re a book lover like us, check out The Book Cellar, adjacent to the Red Bridge. The bookstore is set underneath what was once a convict-built coaching inn.
Launceston is relatively on the way and features some popular tourist attractions, with Cataract Gorge being top of the list. Work on your trekking skills and hike around the gorge and nearby trails, cross over a suspension bridge, and take a ride on the world’s longest single-span chairlift. If you’re looking for something less brisk, take a leisurely stroll through the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery with permanent fixtures and regularly changing exhibitions. A popular attraction is their planetarium which displays various shows about the night sky. There is also the Tramway Museum and Battery Shed nearby. And if the most important reason for stopping by is to eat and drink (coffee), then may we suggest Bryher Cafe. It’s got the feel of a 1920s cafe, with a menu that changes with the seasons and a dessert bar laden with sweet baked goods.
If you love your arts and crafts, then Deloraine is a great spot to stop, especially if you’re driving through in early November when the Tasmanian Craft Fair rolls into town. It’s the largest craft fair in Australia, attracting over 20,000 visitors each year. There are currently five different galleries in Deloraine that sell local and regional art, from paintings to sculptures and even yarn and silk. While you’re there, take a wander along Meander River for the fresh sounds of coursing water, and to check out the surrounding flora. If you still have a bit of time in your day, drive a few kilometres southeast of Deloraine to visit Liffey Falls. A return walk along the Liffey River takes 45 minutes, depending on how many snaps you take. There are several distinct waterfalls along the route, with the most majestic being Victoria Falls (commonly referred to as Liffey Falls). As for food in Deloraine, our top pick is Cruzin’ in the 50’s Diner. It’s decked out with all the necessary 1950s memorabilia, and even the overhead music is in on the action. Burger and milkshake anyone?
While many Cradle Mountain travellers tend to stop here for food and supplies (even though you can get your basic groceries near the information centre at Cradle Mountain), it’s not the sole reason to stop here. Sheffield is locally named the ‘town of murals’, with over 140 murals splashed on the sides of buildings and walls around the town. They even have Mural Park, dedicated to Sheffield’s International Mural Fest, where every year around Easter, nine painters are chosen to have a ‘paint off’. Once all the murals are painted and the winners are selected, they are then left there in Mural Park until next year’s competition. But wait! Before you head off, we highly recommend a visit to Tasmania’s (and possibly Australia’s) best second-hand store: The Emporium. They truly fit the definition of eccentric, selling all sorts of knick-knacks, with many products featuring funny reviews by the owner. Sneakily sift through some still-wrapped Playboy magazines or consider purchasing a bedpan. Whatever you need, they probably have it. Also, to make your stroll through the store a little more authentic, ask the man or woman behind the register to play “the dinosaur song“.
Ah, we’ve made it! Hopefully not too late either. First things first, where to stay? We recommend Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village. Their basic family-oriented villas are fitted with heaters, a television with DVD player, a self-contained kitchenette with a fridge and microwave, and comfy beds. They also have other cabins, including a spa cottage for lovey-dovey couples and differently sized chalets for differently sized groups. Also, check out the main hub for board games and DVDs, and to play some pool while drinking a beer or much-needed hot chocolate – side note: it’s one of the best hot chocolates we’ve had! They also have a tapas-style restaurant for those who like a bit of sharing, as well as a small store selling the super-basics.
When you’re ready to go out hiking, head across the road to the visitor’s centre for hiking gear and for a briefing on Cradle Mountain. In our experience, the Dove Lake circuit is a popular trek and perfect for all levels of fitness. Experienced hikers or, at least, the physically capable should try Marion’s Lookout, which gives you a gorgeous 360-degree view of Cradle Mountain and surrounds. There are also two gentle walks to do near Cradle Mountain Lodge – the last stop before the gates – as well as trails along the way to Dove Lake.
And lastly, if you want to take a different route back to Hobart, go via the Great Lake. It’s a stunning expanse surrounded by a desolate landscape and the odd shack-dwelling village.
Happy travels, dear reader!