Following on from the Western Wilds delights of the previous post, we continued our adventure north from Strahan to another former mining town, Zeehan. I had read stories of a famous tunnel that contains Glow Worms and just had to add it to our itinerary.
Located at the end of Fowler Street and past the Golf Course, the Spray Tunnel is a leftover of the once booming silver mining industry that helped put Zeehan on the map at the end of the 19th Century. At one stage, Zeehan was the third largest town in Tasmania and had not one, not two, not three but TWENTY SEVEN pubs! That’s my kind of town haha.
You used to be able to drive through the tunnel but after a series of vehicular mishaps and insurance claims for scraped paintwork inside the narrow tunnel, it was decided pertinent to end that particular venture.
Getting to the tunnel is an adventure in itself as you drive across the golf course that has perhaps seen better days. You enter a forest that closes in around you and seems to twist and turn in all directions before finally spitting you out into a clearing where once the mine took pride of place. Nature has an amazing ability to take back its domain and has indeed done so here at Zeehan which was once a barren wasteland at the height of its productive industrial days. I’m sure there’s plenty of people lamenting about the collapse of the mining industry and of course loss of TWENTY SEVEN pubs but it’s definitely a much prettier and healthier place now.
We topped up the car’s petrol with some random never been seen fuel and got back on the road towards the main event, Cradle Mountain. On the way we pulled up on the side of the road to take in the stunning reflections of Lake Rosebery which looks more like a river that spans out in all directions.
The road out to Cradle Mountain National Park is unsurprisingly in pretty great condition and nice and wide, that is if you come from the West, it’s a different story going the other way but we’ll get to that…
Cradle Mountain is one of Tasmania’s most visited spots and with that comes a fair amount of infrastructure, with even more to come. To get to Dove Lake and onwards to the main attraction, you have to catch a shuttle bus from the Visitor Centre. At the time I wasn’t impressed and felt it turned the place into a bit of a Disneyland of Mother Nature but in hindsight it’s actually a really good idea and prevents the area becoming overly strained and polluted. The tourists aren’t going anywhere so the best we can do is manage what we can. There’s thankfully plenty more sights in Tassie that are truly wild and away from it all (and long may they remain that way!)
Anyhoodle, on with the adventure and exploration of the last great Tasmanian icon on my To Explore list. We hopped off the bus at Dove Lake and made our way straight onto the Dove Lake circuit, leaving the throngs to take THAT shot that everyone who comes here takes. Our quest for the day was for Gemma to do one last Abel before our little addition arrived. That Abel was to be Hanson’s Peak, a relatively easy to reach summit. The journey there was beautiful with the flowering bushes around Dove Lake making for a beautiful carpet in front of Cradle Mountain itself.
On our way to Hanson’s, we passed by another peak that….piqued our interest, Mount Campbell. Gemma was almost 8 months pregnant and the thought of even doing Hanson’s Peak seemed a bit of an ambitious task. So when Gemma said she quite fancied doing Campbell too, I was both shocked and enormously impressed at the same time haha.
First we had to get Hanson’s out of the way and after successfully scaling the chained section below the summit, we were there. Glorious views of Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake below were our prize, as well as my being one Abel away from 20! Mount Campbell suddenly became all the more tempting.
After battling our way down from Hanson’s Peak in the tumultuous wind, we weighed up our options at the junction that led to the summit of Mount Campbell. Do we press on and just do it or should we take it easy? Can you guess which option Gemma went with?
The hike up Mount Campbell is a little more arduous than Hanson’s with plenty of loose scree and pockets of thick bush but I’ll tell you something for nothing, it’s well worth it! We were blessed with a beautiful day, not too hot and not too cold, just right, a Goldilocks weather kind of day. The summit comes as a bit of a surprise as it completely flattens out to reveal a stunning carpet of cushion plants and alpine vegetation as far as the eye can see. The eye also gets to see a whole heap of Tassie’s iconic peaks including (most of) Mount Ossa, Mount Oakleigh and King David’s Peak over at the Walls of Jerusalem National Park.
Returning back down to civilisation at Dove Lake and the hordes of tourists who only come for the picture postcard view of Cradle. The wait for the bus was a battle with the many flies buzzing about and we were glad to finally see one coming around the corner.
Hitting the road once again to head back home we took the road that most people actually take to Cradle and it is a hectic and windy affair. We got passed by an impatient motorist who proceeded to then drive in the MIDDLE of the road and slowly for most of the drive back out. Makes me quietly confident I’ll get my P’s pretty easily when it comes my turn to show I’m a competent driver if this is the kind of driver who gets given a full licence.
The drive back to Hobart had a double edged beauty to it as we made our way down through the midlands. The sky was aglow with the most beautiful orange light but that was as a result of the Great Pine Tier fire which was still raging away to our right.
It was such an exciting experience to finally see Cradle Mountain and to get two Abels in at the same time was the icing on top of the cake. There’s so much to see in Cradle Mountain National Park that this is but a tiny taster of just how stunning a place it is. Sure the feeling of being out in nature is lost a little with the visitor centre and shuttle service but it only takes a small amount of walking/hiking and you’ve got it all to yourself, so if you can, leave the hordes behind and go for a wander beyond the been-there-done-that-got-the-t-shirt places and find your own slice of Tasmanian paradise.