The Dove Lake Circuit is possibly the most popular and best-known walking trail in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
It’s a walk with a lot of sentimental value to us as it was our first introduction to the beauty of Tasmania. And unbeknown at the time, the catalyst for our move here, instead of Vietnam.
This iconic Tasmanian walk begins from the Dove Lake car park, which can be reached via shuttle bus from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. And can be walked either clockwise or anti-clockwise, but for this post, we’ve gone clockwise towards Glacier Rock.
And although most guides suggest around 2 hours to complete the 6.2-kilometre circuit, the reality is you’ll be stopping continuously to enjoy the spectacular views, so allow around 3 hours. Even longer if you’re a photographer.
From the Dove Lake car park, the walk to Glacier Rock will take you around 10 minutes.
The path to Glacier Rock is mostly flat with a rough gravel surface that ends with a slight slope just before the fenced-off entrance to Glacier Rock.
Glacier Rock is the closest attraction on the circuit, and therefore often one of the busiest. Luckily most walkers don’t continue past the rock. So once passed, you often have the trail to yourself.
The rock now has a lovely viewing platform, which replaced the previous method of walking on top of the unfenced rock. Which could get a little dangerous in rough wet weather.
If you look carefully, the rock contains groove mark left by the glacial ice which carved the massive depression in which Dove Lake now sits.
Leaving Glacier Rock, the walking trail heads downhill before following the edge of the lake for a quite a distance.
There are a few optional detours from the trail which take you to some of the small beaches located around the lake.
This section of the trail is open to the elements which afford you some impressive views of Cradle Mountain in front of you and across to the mountains on the opposite side of the lake.
The views are eventually replaced by a canopy of trees which turn the boardwalk into a long tunnel of green with some impressive lake views visible through the branches.
Eventually, the forest canopy opens up into what I think is the most beautiful area of Cradle Mountain. Everything you could possibly want from nature is here.
Green trees, yellow button grass and the spiky Pandani fill every inch of the landscape, but none of this can compete with the dominating presence of Cradle Mountain, which looks over the entire area.
Everywhere you look is covered in colourful vegetation. Beautiful mountains encircle you. Waterfalls tumbling down the face of the mountain. Plus beautiful views over the lake and the Honeymoon Islands.
This section is roughly the halfway point of the walk and features a few seated areas to stop for a break or a bite to eat before continuing on.
Moving away from the lake’s edge, the trail rises slightly as the boardwalk takes you through more fields of button grass as it climbs up towards the mountainside.
Eventually, you’ll turn a corner and come face to face with a giant rock wall. Here the boardwalk gets narrow and cuts along below the impressive rock wall before curving up into a short but steep set of stairs.
Once you’ve tackled the steep staircase, you’ll come to a section of the circuit that’s home to the unique deciduous beech, more commonly named Fagus.
The Fagus is the only cold climate winter-deciduous tree in Australia, and can only be found nowhere else on Earth but in a few areas of Tasmania. So keep an eye out for this unique species.
If you’re on the trail during late April and May, you might even be lucky enough to witness the Fagus changing to red and gold.
From here the boardwalk takes a slight dive downwards and follows the contours of the lake until it reaches the Ballroom Forest.
The Ballroom Forest is a patch of temperate rainforest which sweeps up the mountainside. The scenery in the ballroom is very much like Philosopher Falls, with bright green moss-covered trees dominating the area.
The raised boardwalk through the forest is due to the wide but shallow creek that floods the forest floor as it runs towards the lake.
From the Ballroom Forest, you’ll encounter one of the two steep inclines found along the circuit. The incline leads to a seated rest area, so don’t panic if you tire yourself out a little.
From up here, you get some pretty impressive views. Looking back you can see Cradle Mountain, as well as the Ballroom Forest creeping up the mountainside, and the waterfall that feeds the creek.
A short climb later will have you on the relatively flat plateau leading towards the Boat Shed.
The decline from the plateau can be a bit tricky due to the large rocky steps, especially in wet weather. But the circuit is almost complete.
A short push will find you at the final attraction along the Dove Lake Circuit. The iconic Boat Shed.
Built sometime in the 1940’s, The Boat Shed is without a doubt the most recognised landmark in Cradle Mountain.
The now battered and weathered Boat Shed blends perfectly into the alpine environment and has become part of the landscape as well as extremely popular with visitors.
The Boat Shed also signifies the near completion of the circuit. The trail makes one more short but steep climb up before turning downwards toward the ending of the circuit at the car park.
Dove Lake is without a doubt one of the most beautiful walking trails in the world and showcases the amazing wilderness of Tasmania. It should be on everyone’s Tasmanian itinerary.
- 3-4 hours
- Weather can change dramatically. Bring appropriate gear and clothing
- Walking trails are a mixture of gravel, rock and wooden boardwalks and contain potential trip and slip hazards
- A valid National Parks Pass is required to access Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
- Ronny Creek
- Snake Hill