Start - Lake St Clair Visitor Centre
Length - 4.4km (Twin Loops)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, Vehicle Track, Beach
Vertical Climb - 53m
Time - 1-2 Hours
Signed - Yes
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 11th April 2021
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Lairmairrener People
Directions - Located two and a half hours north west of Hobart, take the Brooker Hwy north and follow the signs for New Norfolk. Cross the River Derwent at New Norfolk and then follow the Lyall Highway north west all the way to Derwent Bridge. Turn onto Lake St Clair Road and follow this all the way to the car park for the Lake St Clair Lodge. The walk trails all start from the same location a short distance west of the lodge.
The Hike - Lake St Clair is one of the places that I was really looking forward to when Candy and Hal sent through the proposed itinerary for our Tasmania road trip. As the finishing point for the Overland Track, this glacial lake in the central highlands is a really pretty spot and home to a variety of walks. Our journey from Lake Pedder in the morning involved a stop off at the Creepy Crawly Nature Trail and Tarraleah Falls to break things up a bit and was a relaxing way to get to this idyllic wilderness location. As we left Tarraleah it started to lightly snow and at first I thought it was sleet but as we got out of the car at the Lake St Clair Lodge, it was confirmed to be snow and that had us very excited.
This was the first time Caris had seen snow in her life and for me it would be the first snowfall I had been in since a trip to England in 1996. Staying at the Lake St Clair Lodge, we found Candy and Hal and checked into our cabin that would be home for the next few days. I immediately wanted to have a bit of an exploration of the area to get my bearings so went for a short walk on the edge of the lake with Hal where I was amazed at the views looking towards the distant mountains and across the water to Pumphouse Point (which was sadly fully booked when Candy and Hal were booking accommodation). That afternoon we enjoyed the warmth of the lodge and planned what we were going to do during our stay here. Waking up the next day and heading to breakfast at the lodge, we were treated to a winter wonderland as the cold snap that was forecast had turned the place white and more was forecast to fall over the course of the day. The Lake St Clair Lodge is a really nice place with a cosy yet imposing feel to it, almost like a North American hunting lodge.
As a buffet breakfast was included with the rooms, we used the mornings over a plate of potatoes, eggs and baked beans as a way to plan ahead for the day. Thanks to the inclement weather forecast for the rest of the day, it was suggested we tackle one of the shorter walks on offer. Excited to hike in the snow for the first time in my life, we headed back to the cabin to change into appropriate gear and on the way Caris and Hal decided to engage in a snowball fight (it ended up being a draw). With thermals, jumpers, beanies, gloves and rain jackets on, we walked along the edge of the lake towards the starting point for all the walk trails in the area. The lodge had a nice dusting of snow by this point and with more falling along with some rain, it would be a challenge to keep my camera dry. After a bit of faffing by Hal trying to adjust his gaiters, we eventually got moving towards the information cabin on the track leading in and out of the lodge area. The Platypus Bay walk is basically the Watersmeet Track out to the river crossing and then a small loop on the edge of the bay before doubling back. We ended up adding in another loop section to head towards the lake to liven things up, making a nice twin loop arrangement.
Immediately I was fascinated by the juxtaposition of snow on traditional Australian flora like the Banksias and Eucalyptus leaves. Caris and I were a little giddy at seeing the forest blanketed in snow given with are from Western Australia where it snows once a year if we are lucky and only on the highest point of Bluff Knoll in the state's south. I was having a blast photographing everything I could as we all made our way along the wide Watersmeet Track. For the entirety of our stay at Lake St Clair and a little embarrassingly, I pronounced Watersmeet in my head as Water-smeet, thinking this was just a name and not relating to the two rivers joining near the bridge (hence the Waters Meet). It reminded me of saying Smeagol and I think I'll just keep on calling it Water Smeet in my head. As we headed along the path, there was plenty to see and even more to photograph thanks to the snow. This type of wide track wouldn't usually garner as much fascination from me if there was no snow but it made everything much more interesting.
One of my favourite scenes to photograph was all the ferns covered in snow as the contrast of deep greens and the crisp white really stood out to me. As we approached the bridge over the Hugel River, the canopy became a bit thicker so the ground covering of snow decreased. Here there were lichens, mosses and fungi hiding in the damp undergrowth and it was nice to have some variety to the shots. The bridge marks the junction for a few trails with the finishing section of the Overland Track coming in from the other side, along with the Platypus Bay loop and several other tracks continuing left along the river. From the bridge you can see the Hugel and Cuvier Rivers converge into one point with a rush of rapids and some frenetic white water rushing by. Around this time the rain and snow started to increase and to protect my lens from the elements I had it shoved inside my rain jacket when I wasn't taking photos. Add to this that I didn't have a dry pocket to store my lens cloth and pretty soon I had no way of cleaning my spotty lens, something that is quite evident in a lot of the photos.
Heading anti-clockwise on the Platypus Bay loop, you are on single track for the whole length and immersed in the thick forest. It's not long until you reach the wooden fences that serve as barriers for watching for the famous duck billed Platypus along the edge of the lake. Given it was very cold, wet and unlikely we were going to see any critters wandering around, we stayed for a short while before moving on to the next spot. Trying to be very quiet, we watched the snowy beach for signs of movement but no one could see anything in the weather we had so we continued on. I wanted to return to this spot later in our stay but time and the weather meant that didn't happen. Away from the official Platypus viewing area, the track continues to loop around the bay and we soon came across a beach we could walk out on. With the gloomy conditions it was looking a treat and the snow on sand was another cool feature. The remnants of an old jetty can be seen on the edge of the water and we stayed here for a while admiring the lake and marvelling at the forest lining the lake. We would end up heading into that forest as we re-joined the track and completed the loop. Joining up with the Overland Track, we were overtaken by a couple of girls that were almost running along the track as they finished their end to end.
They had probably been in the cold and wet weather all morning and just wanted to get to the warmth of the lodge. Arriving back at Watersmeet, we had finished the loop and just had the return journey back to the lodge to go. Hal and I had been for an afternoon stroll the day before and discovered the Fergy's Paddock Campsite area that includes a walk along the beach back to the lodge so we decided to take this route today and make the walk a bit more interesting. With the rain still falling, the views across the lake were a bit limited to start with but the snow cover made up for that. Reaching the steps leading up to the lodge, things started to clear a little and we could spot one of the distant peaks covered in snow. The views from this spot are something that will stick with me and I especially loved the scene looking across the lake to where the western bank of the lake juts out against the eastern bank in the background. The first photo in the main header gallery is one of my favourites from the whole trip and reminds me of something you'd see north of the wall in Westeros. With a successful snowy hike completed we had a chilled afternoon, enjoying the warmth of our rooms along with visiting the café at Derwent Bridge and the very impressive and highly recommended timber carvings of "The Wall".
Final Thoughts - The weather was always going to be an issue through this part of the trip as you never quite know what you are going to get in Tasmania. Having arrived in Hobart a week earlier to a 32C day, the last thing on my mind was the possibility of snow.
This is still a walk I would have enjoyed no matter what but having the snow just made it extra special. The trade off between not having great conditions for viewing the Platypus and getting some surreal photos thanks to the snow was worth it I think as you are never guaranteed seeing wildlife.
As one of the shorter walk options at Lake St Clair, it's a nice way to stretch your legs, see some sights and I can highly recommend taking the detour back via Fergy's Paddock for some variety.
Get out there and experience it!
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