Cradle Mountain is the number one destination for hiking in Tasmania. Most people start their trip in Hobart and wonder what the best way to get from Hobart to Cradle Mountain is.
Look no further as this itinerary will share the perfect route to pack the most value into a short time. Most itineraries simply follow the shortest route on google maps, there and back. I don’t know about you but I don’t like to see the same stuff twice!
This route follows a loop that doesn’t add significant distance but also takes in other amazing landmarks of Tasmania. The trip can be done in as little as 4 days but can easily be extended if you have more time.
Table of Contents
Hobart to Cradle Mountain Road Trip – Overview
- Hobart – Start Point
- Central Highlands/Great Lake Lookout
- Mole Creek Caves
- Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
- Horsetail and Nelson Falls
- Optional: Lake St Clair/The Wall in the Wilderness
- Mount Field National Park
Hobart to Cradle Mountain Summary
Day 1 – Drive across the scenic central highlands and explore the Mole Creek Caves
Night 1 – Cradle Mountain
Day 2 – Spend a full day hiking Cradle Mountain
Night 2 – Cradle Mountain
Day 3 – Explore some of the western wilderness in Queenstown and Strahan
Night 3 – Strahan
Day 4 – Drive the amazing ’99 bends’ mountain road, stopping at lookouts and waterfalls. Make an optional stop at Lake St Clair and ‘The Wall in the Wilderness’ art installation. Continue on to see the beautiful waterfalls and landscapes of Mt Field National Park.
Night 4 – Hobart
Extra Days – If you have more than 4 day then you should definitely extend this itinerary. Consider spending an extra day at Cradle Mountain or perhaps do some more hiking around Lake St Clair and spend a night there.
Total Driving Time
~12 hours driving time
Total KM Covered
Longest Stretch of Driving
4hr 45min, 347km – Hobart to Cradle Mountain via Mole Creek Caves
Best Tours from Hobart to Cradle Mountain
Not everyone likes to drive themselves while on holiday, especially on steep mountain roads. See below for the best tours from Hobart that include a stop at Cradle Mountain.
There are no tours that include a full day on the mountain so if this is your goal you will have to do it yourself. The below tours however are designed for active people and you will get a good amount of hiking time.
They take in much the same sights but on different timeframes. You will get to experience a taste of both the east and west coast on top of Cradle Mountain.
Can you do a day trip from Hobart to Cradle Mountain?
The short answer is not on your own! The amount of driving to get there and back means a super early start. Add to this a lot of hiking and you will be dangerously fatigued on the drive back.
There is however one way to do it if you are really short on time. The Big Day Out Tour handles all the driving for you and guarantees at least 5 hours to explore the mountain. As the name suggests, you will have to be prepared for a big day!
Best Time of Year To Visit Tasmania
December to March is the most reliable time to visit, with mostly clear days and mild temperatures. Don’t be afraid to travel in the bumper months, just bring some warmer clothing! We visited in April and had mostly good weather.
Hobart to Cradle Mountain Road Trip Tips
- Buy a Parks Pass: You will need a pass to access Cradle Mountain National Park. You can buy this at the visitors centre when you arrive for around $25pp. If you are travelling more of Tasmania then the best option is the holiday pass; for around $80 this will cover one vehicle and everyone in it.
- Don’t drive at night: Always plan your drives during daylight hours. There is a lot of wildlife along Tasmanian roads.
- Book ahead for popular stops: Tasmania is a popular holiday destination in the summer months. Make sure to book well ahead for accommodation in Cradle Mountain NP and Queenstown/Strahan. Also for any experiences like cruises, trains or wildlife parks.
- Be prepared for 4 seasons: Tasmania has some wild weather fluctuations. If hiking or out for the day, make sure to pack for all conditions.
►Check out our list of all of the best Australian road trip tips you must know before hitting the road!
Travel Insurance for Road Trips
If you are from overseas then make sure you have good insurance cover before road tripping in Australia. We use World Nomads when we travel as it’s perfect for adventures such as hiking, scuba diving, road trips etc.
Hiring a Car
If you are flying into Hobart and need to hire a car then check out Rental Cars. You can compare all the providers to find the best price. They also have an option to include full insurance with no excess, which is highly recommended.
Hobart to Cradle Mountain – An Essential Tasmania Road Trip
Day 1 – Hobart to Cradle Mountain (via Mole Creek Caves)
You’ll have to make an early start to get the most out of this action packed first day. The easiest way to find the correct route is to enter ‘Great Lakes Lookout’ into Google maps.
After turning off the main highway onto Highland Lakes Rd, the drive starts to get exciting. You will find a number of nice places to pull over and admire the view as you ascend to around 900m altitude. This is known alternatively as Tasmania’s central highlands or lake country.
After finding the ‘Great Lakes Lookout’ the next stop to enter will be ‘Marakoopa Cave’. The ticket office for the caves is located near here however they do advise to book in advance. See the official website for details of the various tours on offer and how to book.
From here you can head to your accommodation in Cradle Mountain or explore some other attractions. There are some great things to see and do between the town of Deloraine and Cradle Mountain. Check out the list below for some of the top spots.
- Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary – One of the highest rated wildlife parks in Tasmania and a great alternative to the busier parks in Hobart and Cradle Mountain.
- Tasmazia & The Village Of Lower Crackpot – A unique attraction featuring a number of mazes and a wacky model village.
- Sheffield – It’s about a 30 minute detour off your route but the town is very popular due to the beautiful murals adorning many buildings.
- Champagne and Bridal Veil Falls – Park at Lemonthyme Wilderness Retreat to start this hike. A moderate 4.8km return trail will visit both these falls. They are a little season so may have reduced flow in the drier months.
Where to Stay in Cradle Mountain NP
Discovery Parks Cradle Mountain – The caravan park offers economy dorms and private rooms. Basic but you can use all the park facilities.
Cradle Mountain Hotel – Attractive, well-appointed rooms and an onsite restaurant/lounge bar. Located in beautiful forest surrounds, about 1.8km from the visitor centre.
Cradle Mountain Highlanders – Beautiful wooden cabins with wood-stoves and spa baths. Exactly what you need after a long day hiking and the perfect place to enjoy a glass of Tasmanian Pinot!
Day 2 – Cradle Mountain
The hiking around Cradle Mountain is possibly the most scenic and fun of any I’ve done in Australia. You’ll want a nice early start to make the most of it and definitely if you want to attempt the summit hike.
Your day will start off at the visitors centre where you can get a map of the hiking routes. The shuttle bus into the park leaves from here, tickets are included with a Tasmanian Parks Pass, which is required to enter Cradle Mountain.
See the official website for details on the types and costs of passes. These can be purchased at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. Busses depart the Visitor Centre every 10 – 15 minutes and stop at a number of popular locations within the park.
The shuttle bus runs daily between 8:30am – 4:30pm with the last return bus departing Dove Lake at 5:30pm (don’t miss this bus!).
Best Cradle Mountain Walking and Hiking Trails
Enchanted Walk – The first bus stop after departing the visitor centre is the Cradle Mountain Interpretation Centre. This walk starts from here and is the easiest/shortest in the park. The 1.1km circuit passes through some beautiful rainforest scenery and along a pretty creek.
There are interpretive tunnels along the route that are fun for kids to climb through. Wildlife like pademelons and wombats can sometimes be spotted near the path. When you’re finished just jump on the next bus heading further into the park.
Dove Lake Circuit – This is the most popular trail due to it’s accessibility and relatively level grade. The well maintained trail loops around the stunning Dove Lake for 6.4km. There are great views of Cradle Mountain over the water and you will also pass through some nice forest.
The trail begins and ends right where the shuttle bus stops. You can complete the loop in around 3 hours which allows you to combine it with one or two other short hikes.
Cradle Valley Boardwalk – This is another nice easy walk that is suitable for all ages. It starts from the interpretation centre like the above so you can complete that and then walk into the park before getting the bus back.
This trail takes around 2 hours to Ronny Creek bus stop or 3 hours to the Dove Lake stop. The terrain is flat and you are on a purpose built boardwalk for most of the journey.
The scenery varies between fields, forests and waterfalls, with great views of Cradle Mountain along the way. The section between Ronny Creek and Dove Lake is one of the best places to spot wombats.
Marion’s Lookout – This lookout offers the most popular view of Cradle Mountain. You also get spectacular views of both Dove Lake below and Crater Lake on the opposite side of the ridge.
The most popular trail to access this lookout starts from the Dove Lake shuttle stop. You will turn off the Dove Lake Circuit and pass by Lake Lilla and Wombat Pool as you gently ascend up the ridgeline. This route is around 3hrs return and considered moderately difficult.
Another option is to take a shortcut from the Dove Lake Circuit. The Marion’s Lookout Link Track is a very steep trail that takes you pretty much straight to the lookout. It is grade 5 and requires a very good level of fitness as well as hauling yourself up almost vertical rock-faces using a fixed chain!
The lookout is located at around 1200m altitude so make sure to pack some warm clothes. The view from here is absolutely sublime and should be high on the list of priorities for your Hobart to Cradle Mountain road trip.
Cradle Mountain Summit Hike – This hike is not for the faint hearted as it involves some seriously challenging terrain. The 13km trail involves climbing through a large and steep field of boulders and some pretty scary cliff edges.
The hike is classified as a grade 5 and takes around 8 hours to complete. You will need a good level of fitness and some solid hiking experience. The reward is spectacular panoramic views on all sides, you can even see Lake St Clair in the distance.
Starting at Dove Lake, follow the trail past Lake Lilla, Wombat Pool and Crater Lake to Marion’s Lookout. From here you can jump onto the trail that starts ascending towards the summit. You can either return the same way or follow the Face Track and then the Lake Wilks Track which brings you down to the Dove Lake Circuit.
This is not a suitable hike for young children and shouldn’t be attempted during wet or snowy conditions. Pack for all conditions and wear solid hiking boots. It will take most of the day and you can’t miss the 5:30pm bus back, so start as early as possible.
Other Things to do in Cradle Mountain National Park
Devils @ Cradle – This is a brilliant spot to see Tasmanian Devils if you have the time.
Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery – Located at Cradle Mountain Hotel and free for guest or patrons of the restaurant. A great collection of local art and exhibitions.
Horse Riding – Just a short drive outside the park. Ride horses through this beautiful landscape with Cradle Country Adventures.
Scenic Helicopter Flights – Located right in the park, this company offers a variety of amazing scenic flights.
Day 3 – Queenstown & Strahan
It’s only a 1.5hr drive from Cradle Mountain to Queenstown, so you should have most of the day to explore all the top sights. As you drive west from Cradle Mountain you’ll ascend a steep hill with Black Bluff Lookout at the top. It’s worth making the short hike up the hill for views of sweeping grasslands and the mountain in the distance.
There are loads of things to do in Queenstown and Strahan so you will be spoiled for choice. The most popular and amazing experiences involve exploring the western wilderness. The Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is a huge wilderness area but you can see a small piece of it’s beauty on an amazing cruise or steam train journey.
West Coast Wilderness Railway
This is one of the most unique and wonderful experiences in Tasmania. The station in Queenstown has a small museum about the history of the railroad and a nice café. You will need to book your journey online well in advance.
There are a couple of different trips that depart from here on original steam locomotives. You will travel through spectacular wilderness along the King River, marvelling at the incredible engineering involved in building the line.
The carriages are modelled from originals and you can dine on a delicious lunch while you travel on some journeys. Check their website for further details and to make a booking.
Gordon River Cruise
From Strahan you can explore the Gordon River as well as several other sights on a relaxing cruise. There are two companies running cruises and both are highly rated. The one to book really just depends on which times suit you best.
The morning cruise might leave a little early since you have to drive from Cradle Mountain. There is an afternoon cruise option that includes dinner and means you will get to watch a beautiful sunset (weather permitting!).
You will see Sarah Island and Hell’s Gates before heading down the river and admiring the dense forest and clear waters. You can buy drinks on-board or upgrade to premium to access the upper deck with drinks included.
Other Things To Do
You should have plenty of time to see most of the sights around Strahan and Queenstown. Make sure to walk the riverfront esplanade in Strahan and check out the West Coast Reflections exhibition in the visitor centre. The road between the two towns is very scenic and there are a couple of places to stop for pictures.
In Queenstown you will want to see the railway museum and station, even if you don’t take the train trip. You also shouldn’t miss the Horsetail Falls walk and Iron Blow lookout. These are both along the ’99 Bends’ road out of Queenstown so you will pass them tomorrow and don’t have to stress too much about seeing them today.
Where to Stay in Strahan
You can choose to stay in either Queenstown or Strahan tonight. Strahan is recommended as there are better accommodation options and the town has a nicer ambiance.
Strahan Backpackers – Cute little private cabins as well as dorm rooms. Amazing value and right near the centre of town.
Castaway Holiday Apartments – This property is right near the centre of town and walking distance to all the attractions. The best part is the kitchen so you can save money cooking your own meals.
Risby Cove – Located right on the waterfront and with their own restaurant and bar. Very nice décor and timber features.
Day 4 – Strahan to Hobart via Mt Field National Park
This morning you’ll be making your way slowly back to Hobart via some amazing roads. After passing back through Queenstown you’ll be on the ’99 Bends’, an amazing switchback mountain road that rapidly ascends the steep slope of the Queen River valley.
Stops Along the Drive
Queenstown Steel Road Sign
There are a couple of pullouts to stop and take photos, but set your GPS for the Queenstown Steel Road Sign. This sign has a good parking area and the name of the town on it, with a spectacular background.
Horsetail Falls Boardwalk
The next stop is the Horsetail Falls Boardwalk. The falls are not particularly impressive in the dry months but the boardwalk itself is awesome even if the falls aren’t in full flow.
Iron Blow Lookout
Opposite the parking lot for the falls is a road leading to the Iron Blow Lookout. This looks over an old mine pit and has some informative signs about the history of mining in the area.
The road continues in dramatic fashion, descending down to the shore of Lake Burbury before crossing on a super scenic bridge. Make sure to stop on the other side and get out to admire the view of the mountains you just crossed.
A short distance away from Lake Burbury is the parking lot for Nelson Falls. There is a short but very nice trail through the forest before reaching the small but very photogenic waterfall.
Lake St Clair
Lake St Clair is another popular hiking area. We found it less scenic than Cradle Mountain or Mt Field so if you’re not set on seeing it then it might be better to prioritise Mt Field for today. There’s quite a bit of driving left so don’t spend too long here if you visit.
If you have more time to spend on this road trip then you can stay in this area tonight and spend the day hiking. There is a visitor centre and a café at the lake with info signs detailing all the various hikes.
The ‘Wall in the Wilderness’
Just two minutes further down the highway you will find the Wall in the Wilderness. This art installation involves over a 100m length of wooden panels, carved in high relief with images of Tasmanian life.
The project took the artist over 15 years and is an incredibly unique attraction. It is closed over winter and can get busy in the summer months. Check the website for details and bookings.
Mt Field National Park
From The Wall it will be a solid 1hr 45min stretch of driving to reach this beautiful national park. You can set the GPS for the visitors centre here as this is where the walks begin from. They will also give you a map of the routes so you can plan which hikes to do.
There are two areas of the park, the lower altitude forested area and the alpine. Depending on how early you leave in the morning you may not be able to fully explore the alpine hikes as they are longer. The forest hikes however are stunning, with some of the best waterfalls in Tasmania and some massive old trees.
Russell Falls is the main highlight and you can hike there in just 25mins down an easy trail. Horseshoe Falls is up about 200 steps from here. The Tall Trees Walk is an additional 30mins or you can drive to a parking lot and walk a short loop of the biggest trees.
The Three Falls Track is a longer hike following the same route but extending the trip to include Lady Barron Falls. This will take up to 2.5hrs. If you have more than 4 days then you can camp in this park or stay at nearby accommodation.
See the website for details of all the hikes, including the alpine, if you are staying or have time left in the day.
Return to Hobart
From Mount Field you will head back to Hobart. The road follows the Derwent River for much of the journey so it’s quite a pleasant drive. It’s around a 1hr drive to get back to the centre of the city.
Alternatively you could stay near Mt Field and maximise your hiking time, since it’s only a short drive back to Hobart. If you’re on a tight schedule and heading back to the city then check out the great accommodation options below. We have also created a list of the best day trips from Hobart if you have time to see more of Tasmania.
Where to Stay in Hobart
Alabama Hotel – This great little budget hotel is located right in the heart of the action. You’ll be in easy walking distance of many top tourist spots as well as the best drinking and dining options.
They have a cute little onsite bar and a nice terrace. As the name suggests, the place has a retro American theme. The rooms are simple but clean and comfortable. The bathrooms are shared but it’s a small price to pay for the value and location.
Customs House Hotel – Housed in a beautiful building dating from 1846, this hotel features classy rooms and a superb free breakfast. It is located in the best area, right near the bustling waterfront and many of the top tourist spots.
The price range of the rooms is great value for the quality and location of this property. You’ll struggle to find a better combination in Hobart.
The Henry Jones Art Hotel – This amazing property sits in one of the renovated warehouses along the historic waterfront. Dating from the 1820s, they have done a fantastic job at preserving an antique feel to the décor in a very classy way.
Some of the rooms feature views of the waterfront and they have a super nice bar on site. The property is also decorate with many original artworks that you can explore.
Thanks for reading! We hope you have an amazing time on this Hobart to Cradle Mountain road trip. We try to create itineraries that include some special spots along the way and aren’t covered in standard guides.
If you followed this itinerary let us know what you thought in the comments. Also make sure to check out our other Tasmanian guides to help you plan an unforgettable trip!
Read More on Tasmania
- 10 Day Tasmania Itinerary – A Bucket List Tasmania Road Trip
- 9 Best Things to do in Strahan, Tasmania
- The 10 Best Things to do in Stanley, Tasmania
- Maria Island Day Trip Itinerary
- Day Trips From Hobart – 11 Must-See Destinations
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