Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park protects some of the most significant areas of cool temperate rainforest remaining on Earth.
Temperate rainforest, such as those found in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, occur in places of high rainfall, where the risk of bushfire is low. These protected forest are cool, dark and damp—peaceful havens where the trunks of rare trees are cloaked in velvety green moss and where some of the world’s most incredible animals and birds live in peace.
A fragment of Gondwana
Tasmania contains the largest tracts of cool temperate rainforest in Australia. Some of the trees and plants that grow here can be traced back over 60 million years of evolution—all the way to the ancient Gondwanan landmass. Much of Tasmania’s precious rainforests are protected within the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA), and contain plant species that occur nowhere else on the planet.
Myrtle trees dominate Tasmania’s rainforests, growing to heights of 50 metres, and living for up to 500 years. Sassafras is an aromatic evergreen tree that is prized for its dramatic timber. King Billy pine, found only in Tasmania, can grow up 40 metres high, and live up to 1300 years. Celery top pine is also native to Tasmania. This endemic conifer flourishes here and can live for up to 900 years. The leatherwood tree bursts into flower each summer, its delicate white blooms becoming the source of Tasmania’s coveted leatherwood honey. And Australia’s only deciduous tree, the fagus, which grows nowhere else on Earth, creates a stunning autumn display when its leaves transform form dark green to gold and burnished red.
These are some of Australia’s oldest plants, and they all evolved long before any eucalypts grew here.
Furniture makers and wood craftsmen prize Tasmania’s rainforest species, particularly sassafras, Huon pine, celery top and myrtle. Today, exquisite furniture and timber artefacts are crafted using only salvaged or sustainably sourced rainforest timbers.
Most of the animals that live in Cradle’s rainforests are smaller mammals, birds, frogs, reptiles and invertebrates.
You may not see many creatures as you walk through the forest, but in reality you are probably very close to a whole range of animals, including ringtail possums, pademelons or spotted-tailed quolls. Antechinus and the native long-tailed mouse also live here, hidden in the undergrowth, as well as frogs, skinks and snakes. The most obvious forest dwellers are the birds, and you may hear the call of green rosellas and black currawongs in the forest canopy, or the delicate song of smaller birds, including robins, whistlers and wrens.
Invertebrates, such as endemic velvet worms and springtails, live in the lichen-covered logs that fall to the forest floor. One Tasmanian species of springtail is thought to be the world’s largest, growing to 10 mm in length. These purple, alien-like creatures earn their name because they can jump when disturbed. The leaf litter, small plants and rotting logs that cover the forest floor are also home to a variety of moths and a large, predatory land snail that can grow to five centimetres in length and hunts at night!
Exploring the rainforest
You can easily experience Cradle Mountain’s cool temperate rainforest on a number of walks within the Park. Short, easily accessible walks close to Cradle Mountain Hotel include the Enchanted Walk, Weindorfers Forest Walk and the Dove Lake Circuit walk, which takes in the stunning Ballroom Forest.