Skip to main content

To become one with Tasmania’s winter wilds, all you need is a mountain, a kayak, and a plucky disregard for cold weather.

Primeval and magnificent, Anthony O’Hern has called Cradle Mountain’s landscapes home for more than 20 years.

“It’s the most beautiful place in the world, I reckon,” he says. “I’ve been here, I don’t know, hundreds, maybe thousands of times. But every time I’m really amazed by the beauty of the place.”

Wooden kayaks float on still, crystal-clear water on Dove Lake, with snow-covered mountain in the background.

Following several years as a bushwalking guide, O’Hern co-created Cradle Mountain Canyons, leading exhilarating alpine canyoning expeditions. In the Off Season, when the fast-flowing streams are too wild to traverse, O’Hern offers a more meditative alpine spectacle with his Dove Lake Kayak tours.

O’Hern’s days are spent embracing elemental unpredictability, including those still winter mornings “where it's like glass out on the lake … and there's snow on the mountain”.

A man wearing a wetsuit stands in front of a group people wearing lifejackets.
Dove Lake Kayak
Nick H Visuals

Drifting through the highlands

Dove Lake Kayaks’ three-hour Off Season offer, A morning adrift, is as atmospheric as it sounds. Glide along this expansive tarn’s calm, cool surface in a tandem kayak, stepping onto a pebbled shore for a stroll with O’Hern through a spellbinding rainforest, hot cuppa in hand.

Your senses are heightened when you’re doing that sort of stuff, when you’re outside of your comfort zone.

From gum trees to banksias and tea trees, O’Hern says the mountainous terrain hosts flora and geological phenomena seen across Australia, New Zealand and Patagonia – regions once connected to now isolated Tasmania.

A group of people pull three canoes sit in shallow water at the edge of water with tall peaks in the background.
Dove Lake Kayak
Nick H Visuals

“It’s a landscape that’s been carved by glaciers,” O’Hern says. “There are rocks that look like they’ve had a giant run their fingernails through them because that’s from the glacier passing over the top of them and scraping them.”

During the tour, encounter one of the largest existing stands of ancient King Billy pine. Some of these contorted conifer trees are 2000 years old, possessing the very timber O’Hern carefully shaped to handcraft his King Billy kayaks.

The hull of a wooden canoe is decorated with an image of a fresh-water trout inset into the wood.
Dove Lake Kayak
Nick H Visuals

This protected pine grows only in Tasmania.

“We're not allowed to cut it down and you haven't been allowed to for a long time,” O’Hern says. “It's a really special material and we wanted to be really sure we did it justice.”

Winter in the Cradle

Kayaking upon the 65m-deep Dove Lake isn’t the only cool-weather pastime worth pursuing in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Dip into a north-west wonderland of bewitching wildlife and enchanting wilderness.

“The Off Season’s special up here,” O’Hern says. “Sometimes you’ve got a heap of snow which you don’t tend to get in summer ... you get the wombats wandering through the snow.”

A park ranger holds a large Tasmanian Devil with thick black fur as two small children watch on.
Devils @ Cradle
Laura Helle

If you’re seeking the Cradle’s finest Off Season offers, start by tasting dessert with the devil in a decadent after-dark experience, where cheeky Tasmanian devils keep you company by the fire at Devils @ Cradle. In the wild, it's wise to keep your distance from these unique creatures, but at this wildlife park, expert handlers can give you a close-up experience. Combine your visit to the sanctuary with other alpine delights on a Tasmania Boutique Tours Wild Cradle Mountain adventure, or bundle it up with a Devils @ Cradle accommodation package at cosy Cradle Mountain Lodge.

Whether hiking or kayaking, O’Hern has crafted a clever mantra for embracing the elements.

“I just say, ‘I’m cold, but I don’t care’,” he says. When you get here, give it a try.

A boat with a viewing canopy travels along a narrow river through thick forest.
Leven River Cruises
Tourism Australia
A woman with a SLR digital camera with a large zoom lens leans over a rail under the canopy of a small cruise boat and takes a photo.
Leven River Cruises
Tourism Australia

The natural north west

Surrounding Cradle Mountain, Tasmania’s north west region sets the scene for more environmental immersion this Off Season.

If you’re voyaging on the Spirit of Tasmania from mainland Australia to Devonport, bring your binoculars for stargazing on the sea. High on a striking clifftop overlooking Bass Strait, Table House Farm is a dreamy spot for astrophotography, supper and wine beneath star-speckled skies. Or go deeper into the winter wilds, where only a boat can roam, with Leven River Cruises. Bring your woolly attire, and perhaps a camera or some fishing gear if you’d like to make friends with the birds (or make dinner with the fish).

And if you’re a winter person, like O’Hern, the joy of exploring the rugged north-west wilderness is made sweeter by what comes next…

A modern hotel foyer with large couches surrounding a suspended metal fireplace.
Cradle Mountain Hotel - Altitude Lodge Bar
Supplied courtesy of RACT Destinations
A couple sit on a couch in front of a fireplace in a modern hotel room.
Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge
Dearna Bond

Lay your head in the Cradle

In the Off Season, Tasmania’s accommodation feels that much cosier.

“My favourite experiences in the Off Season usually involve going out and doing something in the outdoors, getting kind of cold, usually on a river or a lake, and then going back home and getting warm,” O’Hern says.

It’s a good way to feel like your life is luxurious, if you get out in the elements.

O’Hern relishes a roaring fire and hearty fare at Cradle Mountain Hotel after a wild expedition. The hotel’s Cradle Explorer Package offers wine on arrival, breakfast and lunch, and a divine buffet feast at Altitude Restaurant during the Off Season. Or do winter like a highlander in a charming forest cabin: spy wildlife pottering on the powdery snow, hike the 3hr, 6km Dove Lake circuit (perhaps glimpsing O’Hern on the lake) and defrost after the fun with a hot chocolate by the fire.

An aerial view of a large icosahedron-shaped tent with large, triangular window panels sits on a platform in the forest. A woman sits in a bath in one corner of the platform.
Gleneagle Tasmania
Krista Eppelstun

Further afield in north-west Tasmania, it doesn’t get much more romantic than glamping in nature with Gleneagle Tasmania, toasting marshmallows over a glowing fire and steaming up the crisp forest air in a clawfoot bath. Or bask in the beauty of another dramatic mountain, Mount Roland, at Manna Hill Farm, where mulled wine or soothing soup warm up your winter stay.

But be warned: if you’re anything like O’Hern, one encounter with Tasmania’s breathtaking Off Season wilderness won’t be enough.

Four canoes float across a lake in front of the tall, dramatic peaks of Cradle Mountain on a clear day.
Dove Lake Kayak
Nick H Visuals

Frequently asked questions

What is the coldest month in Tasmania?

During the winter months of June, July and August, the temperature in Tasmania ranges from an average minimum of 5°C to an average maximum of 12°C. July is the coldest month in Tasmania. While Launceston produces hotter average maximum temperatures in summer (25°C) than Hobart (22°C), the northern town also achieves chillier average overnight minimums (2°C) than Tasmania’s capital (5°C) in winter. Find out what to pack for winter and seek inspiration from more local Off Season experts.

How far is Cradle Mountain from Hobart?

One of Tasmania’s most cherished natural landmarks, Cradle Mountain soars 1545m above sea level. The drive from Hobart to Cradle Mountain covers 300km and takes about 4hrs to navigate. The journey north west from Hobart brings you through lush green countryside, rocky plateaus and fern-flanked passes. The drive is even shorter from Launceston, meandering 140km west of the city for 1hr 45min. From rustic cabins to lavish spa suites, browse accommodation near Cradle Mountain.

Where can I go kayaking in Tasmania?

Whether you’re seeking a solo expedition or a group kayak tour, Tasmania has a plethora of options – many of them featuring jaw dropping backdrops. Pick a coastline, any coastline: from wondrous sea cliffs at Turrakana / Tasman Peninsula to vibrant turquoise bays on the Freycinet Peninsula and the far-flung wilds of south-west Tasmania. Don’t forget the many mirrored waterways further inland, from Pieman River to Dove Lake. Even the major cities offer scenic paddling tours. Looking for more? Check out the best kayaking in Tasmania.

Stay in the know

A flurry of unmissable Off Season offers and events has blown in for the winter. Subscribe for curated Off Season updates and handy tips.

Please add a valid name
Please select your location
A large procession of people carrying flags walk in a long, sprawling line towards a performance stage in the background.

By creating an account on Discover Tasmania, you agree to the terms of use outlined in our Privacy Statement

Success! You are now logged in.

Add to trip

Which trip would you like to add this to?

Need to Remove from a trip?

Remove from trip

Select the trip you would like to remove this from.


You have nearly reached the Explore Map plot limit of 27 items per itinerary.

Try splitting itineraries, rather than creating one large itinerary.

Manage trips
Please try again in a few moments.