Lake St Clair National Park should be on the list of every Tasmanian tourist and is a firm favourite of mine. When taking a trip from Queenstown or Hobart, it is easily accessed from the Lyell Highway close to Derwent Bridge.
Lake St Clair National Park & the Wilderness Hotel
For a first time tourist, parts of the Lyell Highway can be quite a test. This road cannot be likened to the Pacific, Hume or Calder highways of the mainland. In most parts, the road is single lane in each direction and I don’t feel comfortable travelling at speeds over 90km/hour.
Sometimes the regular travellers become impatient with the tourist; they want to travel on or over the speed limit and look for every opportunity to overtake. Don’t be pressured. Ignore the rear view mirror if you can. Concentrate on the road ahead and drive safely.
And don’t let this put you off. The spectacular scenery is well worth it. It’s 256km from Hobart to Queenstown and 170km to Derwent Bridge. There is so much to see along the way. If you’re travelling south from Queenstown, your first stop should be the Nelson Falls and nature trail then Donaghys Lookout. Consider an overnight stay so that you can appreciate Lake St Clair National Park and the unique Wall in the Wilderness without rushing.
Lake St Clair National Park Pass
You will need a pass to enter Lake St Clair National Park and these are available at the Visitor Centre, where there is also a café and a variety of interesting displays. Maps are available for the series of long and short walks.
For the short walks, it is advisable that you wear sturdy, comfortable footwear and carry waterproof clothing to cope with the frequent wet weather. In the winter months, you will most likely encounter falls of snow. The experienced walker will know the equipment required for the longer walk.
Wilderness Hotel, Derwent Bridge
If you don’t fancy camping in the national park, there are a few options close by. Several years ago, we chose to stay at the Wilderness Hotel in Derwent Bridge. The building is quite spectacular from the outside and even more so when you enter. I think it was built as a Government provisions store but I stand to be corrected by readers.
Giant timber posts and beams of Titanic proportion are the main feature of the large bar and restaurant area but the best thing is the huge fireplace that takes a log the size of almost half a tree! We met the live-in woodcutter who was quite happy receiving board, keep and beer in return.
Dormitory accommodation is popular with those finishing the Overland Trek. A bus also passes by the Wilderness Hotel to take them back to their cars at Cradle Mountain. We had a small standard room with shared facilities that were fine. It suited our needs for the one night stay, where we were lucky to experience one of the best nights ever. The pub food was great and so was the company.
People must see my back pocket to know that I’m loaded! Our four new friends were no exception. These lovely ladies were Melbourne teachers who had just completed the Overland. They sat around the blazing fire like exhausted drowned rats. The display of blistered feet ate at my heart and I suddenly became their Dutch Uncle by shouting drinks all round. I had fallen for “Stripes”. She could mix it with the best and didn’t look out of place playing pool in her striped thermals.
The next morning I went to pay my bill and was shocked to see that the drinks were more than the accommodation. This Dutch Uncle, feeling sorry for the poorly paid teachers, had shouted them drinks for the entire night! Jeanette often reminds me of my stupid generosity. I remind myself that I must return to Lake St Clair National Park and the Wilderness Hotel and do it all again.
Roger Findlay spends all his holidays in Tasmania, then writes about the experience for Think Tasmania. If you’d like Roger to visit you in the name of research (so we can publish information about your business), please contact us.