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Timber hut in forest Weindorfer's Hut

History of Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park

Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair National Park is renowned for its glassy lakes and pristine wilderness, with walking trails ranging from a gentle six-kilometre stroll around Dove Lake to the six-day Overland Track trek. Breathtaking views, crystal clear air and a soundtrack of pure silence make the area a destination for nature-lovers, and they're following in some very fine footsteps: the founding father and mother of the National Park, Gustav and Kate Weindorfer.

Weindorfer was a botanist who hailed from Austria and settled in Tassie after meeting and falling for fellow botanist (and Taswegian) Kate Cowle. The pair set up a farm in Kindred, in the state's north-west, but during a plant-finding expedition to Cradle Mountain in 1909 Gustav fell in love with the monolith and the wilderness surrounding it. Returning to the mountain the following year with his wife (officially the first woman to scale the mountain's summit), he famously stated, "This must be a National Park for the people for all time. It is magnificent, and people must know about it and enjoy it."

The Weindorfers purchased as much of the unspoilt land as they could and set about the difficult task of building their own mountain chalet using King Billy Pine harvested from the neighbouring forest, and going as far as carrying a claw-foot bath over miles of trackless bush land. The chalet was named Waldheim (forest home) and provided a welcoming hub for friends and travellers, as well as a base for the couple's botanical adventuring.

Through Gustav's persistent lobbying, a 13-kilometre track was cut in to allow horse and cart access to Waldheim, and in subsequent years the chalet became a popular tourist resort – due as much to the Weindorfers' jovial hospitality as the area's majestic scenery. Gustav continued to extend the house to accommodate guests, as well as clearing walking tracks around the valley.

Kate passed away in 1916, leaving the bereft Gustav to continue the work the pair had begun together. He single-handedly ran the property while acting as the park ranger, though Kate's untimely death left him in a permanent state of loneliness and despair. A glint of light at the end of the tunnel, however: following Gustav's 1921 tour of Tasmania to promote the concept, the Cradle Mountain's Lake St Clair area was finally classified as a national park.

Gustav Weindorfer carried on entertaining guests at Waldheim until his death in 1932. He passed away within sight of his beloved mountain, and was buried beside Kate in front of the 'forest home' they built together. Though the original Waldheim fell into disrepair in the years following Weindorfer's death, a replica King Billy Pine building has been erected on the site, providing a rustic home base for modern-day explorers.