On December 28, 2005, my family and I boarded an overnight ferry from Melbourne to Devonport with the intention of camping from the south end of Tasmania up along the east coast, around the north end, and inland to Cradle Mountain. Remember, this is the southern hemisphere so the end of December is summer holidays for the kiddies. This was not a winter camping trip! That said, we were warned that Tasmania can get a bit cold even in January, especially at Cradle Mountain. Of course, these were Australians warning Canadians about cold. We weren’t worried. Perhaps we should have listened a little more closely.
Taking the ferry instead of a plane allowed us to bring our car and all our camping gear. We’re not a multi-day trekking kind of camping family. We’re definitely car campers. We enjoy the comforts of air mattresses and even occasionally pillows. Comfortable helps when you’re camping with little ones too. Our oldest daughter was five at the time and the youngest was coming up on ten months, so there weren’t too many hardships planned on the itinerary. The ten-month old wasn’t even mobile yet; she figured out crawling a couple of weeks after we got back home.
We started with one night in Mt. Field National Park before heading down to Port Arthur for a couple of days. Port Arthur is home to a penal colony that operated from the early 1830s to 1850. It was viewed is inescapable due to its remote location. Just watch the movie Van Dieman’s Land to see what escaping served up to convicts who’d had enough. Actually, don’t watch it – it was a terrible movie.
From Port Arthur, we made our way up the east coast to Hobart and Freycinet NP before heading inland and staying at Mole Creek. There’s nothing special about Mole Creek, but we got to know some of the other campers there and our oldest daughter made fast friends with two girls her age. Much to her disappointment we headed out the next day for Cradle Mountain, leaving her new friends behind.
The picture above shows Cradle Mountain with the shore of Dove Lake in the foreground. The Dove Lake hike is the easy, family-friendly, 6km hike around the lake with great views of Cradle Mountain. As you can see in the photo, the weather was perfect. Not too warm, just right for hiking. The average maximum temperature in January at Cradle Mountain is 18.4C and the average minimum is 7.9C.
I now refer you back to the warning we’d received about it being a bit cold on Cradle Mountain. 8C for overnight camping isn’t that cold if you have the right kind of gear. Our sleeping bags were fine down to that kind of temperature. Of course 8C is the average low. We don’t know how cold it was that night, but we do know that it dropped comfortably below 0C. In the middle of summer!
That night, we had our ten-month old daughter in three sleepers and a hat. She was wrapped in two blankets like a well-stuffed sausage and then stuffed inside my sleeping bag with me. I kept checking her every hour or so. She had a cold nose, but was otherwise fine, and never even seemed to notice the cold. The next morning, when we had to scrape ice off the windscreen with a credit card, we decided one night at Cradle Mountain was enough and we headed back to rejoin our new friends down at Mole Creek.