Lake St Clair, Tasmania
13 May 20 · 4 mins read
Lake St Clair, Tasmania
At the southern end of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, the moody beauty of Lake St Clair is a highlight of the pristine wilderness of Tasmania‘s west coast.
Like much of Tasmania’s highland country, Lake St Clair was formed by ice during several glaciations over the past two million years. The deep basin in which the lake lies – Australia’s deepest – was formed by the action of glaciers. Moraines – where debris was forced to the edge of the lake by the glaciers – run along part of the length of the lake.
Aboriginal Australians have lived in the Tasmanian highlands for over 10,000 years, with the area around Lake St Clair inhabited by members of the Larmairremener nation. They knew Lake St Clair as leeawuleena, meaning ‘sleeping water’. Though early European accounts of Aboriginal communities are notoriously unreliable, the most reliable accounts, written by surveyors and escaped convicts, record the existence of ‘well built houses of bark’. Sweeping button grass plains – which still mark the area today – were created by Aboriginal practices of using fire to clear pathways through rugged terrain and to aid hunting by attracting animals to newly sprouting vegetation.
The first European to visit Lake St Clair was likely a convict named James Goodwin, who traversed the Franklin and Gordon rivers in a log canoe, crossing the mountain passage at Wylds Crag, west of the Derwent River. The area was subsequently explored by James Calder in 1840, and Governor Sir John Franklin and his wife Lady Franklin in 1842.
Lake St Clair was declared a Scenic Reserve in 1922, and a National Park in 1947. In 1982, along with Cradle Mountain, the Franklin and Gordon River National Park, and a number of other national parks, it was declared part of the UNESCO World Heritage Tasmanian Wilderness Area. The area was recognised for its outstanding natural beauty, importance as one of the last expanses of temperate rainforest in the world, and for the continuing evidence of human interaction with the landscape.
The Lake St Clair area offers a number of walking trails. The lamairremener tabelti offers insight into the Lamairremener people who lived around Lake St Clair for thousands of years, passing the remnants of stone tools, caves and rock shelters. The Watersmeet Walk takes you to the confluence of the Cuvier and Hugel rivers, with the option of a short extension to Platypus Bay, where – as the name indicates – you can sometimes see platypus.
Lake St Clair is also the end point of the Overland Track, a 65 km, 6 day walk from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, seen by many as the ultimate Australian alpine adventure.
Odyssey Traveller visits Lake St Clair as part of our tour devoted to the wildlife and history of Tasmania. Beginning and ending in Hobart, our tour of Tasmania starts with a day trip to the convict settlement of Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula. We then head up the east coast, stopping for a day tour of Maria Island, before we head to the rugged coastline of the Freycinet Peninsula, Coles Bay, and Wineglass Bay.
After this, our guided tour heads inland, stopping off in Launceston, the unoffical capital of northern Tasmania, before we tour the glacial lakes, ancient rainforest, and mountain wilderness of Tasmania‘s west, visiting Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake, Queenstown, and Lake St Clair. Cradle Mountain park is home to a significant population of Tasmanian wildlife, including the Tasmanian devil. Stopping in Strahan, our Tasmania tour learns about the penal settlement on Sarah Island on a cruise around Macquarie Harbour. Finally, we return to Hobart and southern Tasmania, enjoying a day tour of Bruny Island on the last day of our Tasmania tour. After our trip to Bruny Island, we conclude the tour with dinner at a local restaurant.
Every Odyssey Traveller tour is designed especially for mature and senior travellers, who want an authentic and informed experience of their holiday destination. Moving in small groups of 6-12, our trip itinerary is selected by an experienced tour operator, with local guides chosen for their in-depth knowledge of our destination. While we visit the main tourist attractions – Port Arthur, Salamanca Place/Salamanca Market, and the dramatic coastlines of Wineglass Bay on Tasmania’s east coast – we also take the time to get off the beaten path, and leave plenty of opportunity for independent exploration and adventure. Our tour price includes hotel accommodation, entrance fees for attractions, and transport in a comfortable tour bus. We are committed to supporting Tasmanian small businesses, so our tour price also includes several meals – breakfast, lunch, and dinner – at local restaurants.
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