Dove Lake Circuit | Cradle Mountain’s Best Short Walk

A trip to Tasmania wouldn’t be complete without visiting the iconic Cradle Mountain, arguably the most popular destination alongside the Freycinet Peninsula. And whether hiking rugged mountains or wandering along picturesque boardwalks is your style, we guarantee you’ll love the Dove Lake Circuit. 

I know this is a bold statement, especially seeing as the Dove Lake Circuit is one of the most popular walks at Cradle Mountain and, consequently, the busiest. But as soon as you leave the crowd at the boat shed and wander deeper into the enchanting forest, you’ll understand. 

The Dove Lake Circuit is an easy 6 km walk that envelopes you in an array of captivating terrain at the base of the mighty Cradle Mountain. In this post, we’ll explain all you need to know to make the most of your experience at Dove Lake, including how to beat the crowds.

Dove lake on a moody day overlooking Cradle Mountain near the boat shed

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Exploring The Dove Lake Circuit In Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

6 km return

1.5 – 2.5 hrs

Elevation Gain
171 m

Highest Elevation
982 m

Grade 2

Toilets, Shelter, Information Boards

Entrance Fees
Tasmanian Parks Pass

Over looking Dove Lake from the Lake Wilks Track on the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

Where Is Dove Lake

Dove Lake fills the base of an amphitheatre-like cirque carved out by glaciation thousands of years ago. The cirque can be found at the end of Dove Lake rd in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, with the prominent peaks of Marions Lookout, Hansons Peak and Cradle Mountain forming a crescent shape surrounding Dove Lake. 

The Circuit begins at the Dove Lake car park, 2 hours west of Launceston and 4 hrs 15 mins northwest of Hobart.

How To Get To The Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain

As I mentioned, Cradle Mountain is perhaps the most popular destination in Tasmania and as a result, there is a range of ways to visit Dove Lake, including public transport and day tours.

If you’d rather have the freedom of stopping at the numerous scenic locations along the drive and taking your time exploring the Dove Lake Circuit, we suggest driving yourself to Cradle Mountain. If you don’t have access to your own car, Rental Cars is a great resource to find the best deals for car hire. 

Driving To Dove Lake

The Dove Lake car park is accessible by private vehicles outside of the shuttle operating times and is limited to only 9 spaces. You can take the shuttle bus from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre car park, located 15 minutes north of Dove Lake. 

To reach the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre from Launceston, you’ll leave the city and head west on Bass Hwy (1) and follow the signs towards Sheffield. From Sheffield, take a left turn (southwest) onto Claude Rd (C136) and continue along the C136 until you hit an intersection at Moina. Here, you’ll turn left (south) onto Cradle Mountain Rd and follow it until you see a large sign indicating to take another left to reach the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre.

If you’re driving from Hobart, head north on the Midlands Hwy (1) and after 57 km, turn left onto Highland Lakes Rd (A5) which will take you all the way to Deloraine. From Deloraine, follow the signs to Sheffield and then use the directions above to reach the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. 

Cradle Mountain Shuttle Bus

The Cradle Mountain Shuttle Service fee is included in the cost of a Cradle Mountain Day Parks Pass, however a $15 fee applies to all other holiday or annual parks pass holders. Alternatively, you can purchase an annual Cradle Mountain Shuttle Bus ticket for $45 per person.

The Cradle Mountain shuttle bus runs daily and the most recent times are listed below. However, as these are subject to change, check with the visitor centre or the Parks website before you leave.    

  • 1 October – 31 March: 8 am to 6 pm every 10 to 15 minutes
  • 1 April – 30 September: 9 am to 5 pm every 15 to 20 minutes

How To Beat The Crowds At Dove Lake

To beat the crowds that flock to the Dove Lake Circuit, you can drive into Dove Lake car park before the shuttle buses begin. This will allow you to start your walk well before others are even wandering towards the bus.

Note: Dove Lake car park is small and only provides space for 9 vehicles, you will need to get in early if you hope to park here.

Alternatively, you can park at Ronny Creek (car park before Dove Lake). However, this option will require you to include the Lake Lilla track to the Dove Lake Circuit, adding on an extra 3 km and approximately one hour each way.

If you choose to drive into Dove Lake or Ronny Creek, you must follow a shuttle bus out when you leave. The road is very narrow and the shuttle drivers constantly communicate through radios to safely navigate past one another.

All you need to do is jump in your car and wait at the exit of the car park for a shuttle bus. Once you see one, signal to the driver and ensure you get a nod of understanding before following them out. 

A picture of the sign showing how to exit Dove Lake car park while shuttle busses are operating after finishing the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

Tours To Dove Lake

If you’d rather avoid any planning, there are plenty of tour options that will allow you enough time to complete the Dove Lake Circuit. Below is a list of the most popular options.


Dove Lake Circuit Walking Notes

Walking along the first section of the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk, the Dove Lake Circuit

Leaving the Cradle Mountain shuttle bus, you’ll walk the Dove Lake Circuit clockwise by first crossing a footbridge to the left of the car park and wandering along a well-groomed path towards the water’s edge.

Within a matter of minutes, you’ll find yourself standing on the sandy banks of Dove Lake with one of the best perspectives of Cradle Mountain. The seemingly razor-sharp dolerite ridgeline dominates the horizon and on a clear day, reflects perfectly in the tannin-stained lake.

Continuing on, the short scrubby bushland allows you to keep Cradle Mountain in view as you gently climb man-made stairs to the first side track en route. 

Glacier Rock

Cradle Mountain reflection from Dove Lake from under Glacier Rock Lookout

In under half a kilometre, a side track will point you in the direction of Glacier Rock. Requiring less than 100 m to reach, it’s worth the detour to witness the glacially scarred boulder. 

Benches, viewing platforms and interpretive signs cover Glacier Rock, making the experience slightly less exciting, yet the photo opportunities and prominent glacial history make up for the restricted access.

Returning to the Dove Lake Circuit trail, you’ll eventually leave the sub-alpine scrub and enter a deep green woodland of king billy pine and myrtle beech trees. A boardwalk keeps you suspended from the spongy forest floor as you weave in between the gnarled tree limbs.

Hiking along the Dove Lake Circuit surrounded by King Billy Pines

Not long after, another side track will guide you towards a sandy beach that’s slightly more secluded than the first, making it a popular swimming spot for the brave few or the lucky ones who scored a warm day. 

Continuing on, the forest thickens before dispersing to make way for the buttongrass moorland. The low-lying vegetation allows you to glimpse Marions Lookout towering over the western banks of Dove Lake. 

In autumn, this section of the trail is one of the best spots to experience the full force of the Fagus – Tasmania’s only deciduous tree that puts on a spectacular show of fiery red, orange and golden leaves. The Fagus creeps from the foothills beneath Marions Lookout and contrasts incredibly with the ‘Ballroom Forest’ below. 

As the vegetation opens up, additional peaks appear and you’ll be glad that the simple boardwalk allows your concentration to wander. 

The Southern End Of Dove Lake

Dove Lake Circuit on a misty day, one of the best day walks in Cradle Mountain National Park

At the halfway point, you’ll come to the southern end of Dove Lake where another sandy beach awaits along with a few scattered benches to rest. 

After crossing Kitchen Creek, you’ll once again find yourself enclosed in a tangle of tall trees, their trunks covered in vibrant green moss. A short clear window emerges as you wander beneath an overhanging boulder, take the time to turn around and experience the intimate view of Cradle Mountains’ iconic peak. 

The Ballroom Forest

Moss covered trees in the Ballroom Forest of the Dove Lake Circuit in Cradle Mountain

As the trail winds around the exposed cliff face, you’ll find yourself entering our favourite section of the Dove Lake Circuit, the Ballroom Forest. 

The enchanting rainforest is truly alive with fungi and moss encompassing every surface. A labyrinth of streams flows over the exposed roots of ancient king billy and pencil pine, and sassafras and myrtle beech trees. 

Boardwalks assists in keeping your feet dry as you wander deeper into the magical forest. Sadly, the Ballroom Forest doesn’t last very long and once again, you’ll find yourself emerging into a scrubby woodland.

Another side track will take you to the western banks of Dove Lake, where you’ll now have the opportunity to take in Hansons Peak rising dramatically from the eastern shores. 

The track winds away from the banks from this point to climb over a small rise. This is the only real ascent of the walk and is very gentle with man-made stairs making the experience even easier. 

A viewing platform and bench await at the peak of the small hill, offering yet another uninterrupted view of Cradle Mountain. 

After descending back towards the shore, the remainder of the walk wanders along the western side among a mixture of snow gums, button grass and pine.  

The Dove Lake Boatshed

Epic rainbow over the boat shed on Dove Lake in Cradle Mountain, Tasmania

Just before you complete the Dove Lake Circuit, a final side track will lead you to the Dove Lake Boatshed – arguably the most famous photography location in all of Cradle Mountain. 

It’s not hard to see why this vantage point is so sought after, with Dove Lake lapping at the boat shed and the spine beneath Marions Lookout tumbling to the banks. Cradle Mountain rises boldly beyond, providing the perfect backdrop to a perfect scene.

Often visitors simply walk from the car park to the boat shed, resulting in this little beach being overcrowded almost all day. However, that shouldn’t stop you from sitting and soaking in the landscape. 

The Dove Lake Circuit can be completed in 1.5 – 2.5 hours and with such little elevation, it’s the perfect choice for a range of abilities. While it’s not a walk we’d usually rave about due to its popularity and simplicity, the varied vegetation and breathtaking backdrop have captured us completely. We find ourselves excited to revisit this section each time we return to Cradle Mountain. 

Best Time To Visit Dove Lake

Cradle Mountain dwarfing the surrounding terrain and Dove Lake Boat Shed

Due to the lower elevation and nature of the walk, the Dove Lake Circuit is doable year-round and offers a unique experience in each season. Because you’re not relying on clear skies for views for the entire walk, it’s the perfect option when the skies are moody. 

But if you’d rather wait for a sunny day when Cradle Mountain is visible, you can check the webcam on the Tasmania Parks website before you make the trip all the way to Dove Lake. 

To decide what time of year would suit you best, we’ve included a little summary of the best and worst attributes of each season.

  • Summer: The weather is warm enough to swim (sometimes) and the wildflowers are out in force, but this is also the busiest time of year for Cradle Mountain
  • Autumn: Autumn offers the most spectacular show of the Fagus changing, dressing the cirque in a contrast of colours, however, you’ll also need to pack extra warm clothes as the days are usually chilly
  • Winter: For those that don’t mind the biting cold, winter often brings fewer crowds and a coating of snow, transforming Dove Lake into a winter wonderland
  • Spring: Aside from winter, spring is the most volatile season with wild winds and copious amounts of rain, yet the flowers begin to bloom and the young wildlife cover the moorlands
Cradle Mountain Standing tall above Dove Lake Circuit

Leave No Trace

Dove Lake has been protected since the early 1900s and is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness Worth Heritage Area. Endemic species thrive in this national park and they need our help to continue. 

No matter where you are in the wilderness, it’s your responsibility to follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles so that we can preserve our wild places and continue living in a healthy and thriving environment. 

There are toilets located at the Dove Lake car park and rubbish bins at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. Please take your rubbish with you – including your food scraps and toilet paper!! – until you can dispose of them properly. 

What To Bring

The Dove Lake Circuit is an easy and short walk that doesn’t require much equipment. The majority of the trail consists of boardwalks, allowing trail runners to be sufficient shoes of choice. However, if you’re planning to walk in winter we suggest wearing warm boots as the potential for snow is very high. 

The Cradle Mountain village has plenty of food options for you after you complete the track so all you really need is your water, camera and swimming gear or rainjacket depending on the time of year. 

Here is our basic list of items that we recommend taking on the Dove Lake Circuit

  • A sturdy and supportive pair of hiking boots or trail runners
  • A good rain jacket – Tasmania can be unpredictable and unfriendly
  • A tough, reusable Water bottle
  • Snacks
  • Phone

Where To Stay Near Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain

Sunrise on the balcony at Cradle Mountain Hotel

Cradle Mountain is unique in the fact that there is a well-equipped village located at the fringe of the national park. Within that village you’ll find plenty of options for places to stay, including a caravan park for camping. To learn more about the various options for staying in Cradle Mountain, take a look at our guide to visiting Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain


Mole Creek

Camping Near Dove Lake