Very few properties connect you with the soul of a place. But follow the timbered boardwalks that fan out from Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge and you’re only a few steps from entering a wild and ancient paradise near the edge of the earth.
Call of the wild
The first thing you notice when you enter the UNESCO World Heritage-listed wilderness area of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is the light and how it constantly shifts in harmony with the region’s mercurial moods. And the silence is everywhere. Suddenly, the afternoon rain begins to patter the rocks like a drum beat. A raptor calls out. Dark swirling clouds cast shadows across the lake’s frigid waters before it shoots up into the fingered mist and blankets the wintry terrain. Any understanding of a living Eden begins here – near the southern edge of the Earth.
Rocking the Cradle
In the midst of all this incredible beauty are a cathedral of lichen-covered Myrtle beech, Huon pine and eucalyptus trees dappled in a dusting of light snow. Sculptures of frozen streams and waterfalls. And on the evening drive across Cradle Mountain’s ice-laden switchback, wallabies, quoll and wombats materialise from the hinterland like red-eye phantoms from a Brothers Grimm fairytale.
Peppers in position
Yet for many visitors, the day’s best wildlife sightings are seen along the 65-kilometre Overland Track, a hiker’s nirvana that cuts a swathe through Tasmania’s gruelling backcountry as it snakes its way to Dove Lake. And it only takes a few steps from Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge to experience much of the park in all of its astonishing beauty.
First built more than 40 years ago as a simple mountain lodge, the four-star property is a cosy as it is enticing. With its river and stream decor – handsome leather couches surrounded by an overflowing library, roaring log-pile fireplaces that spit and crackle, and coffee tables strewn with game boards and piping teapots, guests can enjoy many indoor diversions.
Eyes are also drawn up to the wooden beams and walls adorned with vintage photos, a reminder of the simple bush life many Tasmanians experienced before ‘eco-tourism’ in the region became de rigueur. Paired with the expansive Highland Restaurant, which serves hardy Tasmanian trout, beef and rabbit dishes and a buffet breakfast to satisfy a lumberjack, the main lodge also houses the Tavern Bar & Bistro, another clubby enclave that hits the right spot for a casual lunch.
For a blissful night’s sleep, there are four different styles of accommodation that fans from the main lodge; each brilliantly positioned to capture the parkland’s natural surrounds.
Though not luxurious in any conventional sense, the well-appointed suites focus more on creature-comforts, a shrewd move to soften the day’s physical activities. Adding to the outdoor-indoor theme are the eco-hues of pine and green, simple soft furnishings, a well-stocked kitchenette and log fire, and a gigantic bathroom with an expansive spa.
Never mind the lack of in-room internet connectivity. Take it as a nudge to leave your room and enjoy the early evening festivities at the main lodge where the wine and cheese-tasting soiree offers an insider’s edge to Tasmania’s celebrated food and wine trails.
But the best afternoon hangout is at the Waldheim Alpine Spa, which pushes the boundaries in holistic treatments. The pristine setting is paradise, and any dressed-down newcomer will love the swirling hot tub and menu of massages. At the intimate end of the spa experience is a dip in the plunge pool — reflective moments that never drift into dreariness with its sweeping views of the bushland dressed in winter white.
Cradle Mountain occupies a sweet spot in the world’s acclaimed eco-stays — just as we want it.
Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge by Mantra Hotels is located on Cradle Mountain Road at the fringe of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania’s rugged northwest. The best route to take is the road from Devonport, just under 90 minutes away [longer during winter after dark]. mantrahotels.com/peppers-cradle-mountain-lodge
From mainland Australia, either fly to Launceston or Devonport, or take your car onboard from Port Melbourne to Devonport aboard Spirit of Tasmania. spiritoftasmania.com.au
Images courtesy of Tourism Tasmania & Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge