A guided tour in hand-built, King Billy pine kayaks on the iconic Dove Lake
The view of Cradle Mountain with Dove Lake in the foreground is one of the most famous vistas in the Australian wilderness. This tour gives you an unique opportunity to immerse yourself in that vista.
You meet our guide for the tour at our boat shed, next to the Dove Lake viewing shelter. They will kit you out with the gear you need and then wheel the boats down to the lake on trolleys.
We will spend approximately two hours traversing the lake. Along the way, we will pass the most famous places in the Cradle Mountain area, including Glacier Rock, Honeymoon Island, the Ballroom Forrest and the boat shed.
At the southern end of the lake, with the spires of Cradle Mountain towering overhead, we will have a stop on a beach and a snack. We’ll also hunt around for a living King Billy.
Our King Billy Pine Kayaks
King Billy pine is a very rare timber found only in Tasmania. It grows very slowly and lives for thousands of years, but is very vulnerable to fire. Some of the biggest stands of King Billy left are found in the Cradle Mountain area, and around Dove Lake there are huge King Billy’s that could be two thousand years old.
Being remarkably light and strong, King Billy is highly prized by boat builders. For this tour, we knew we wanted our craft to be made of King Billy - because it is such a fantastic boat building material, but also because of its association with Cradle Mountain. Gustav Weindorfer ran arguably one of Tasmania’s first eco-tourism tours taking people out on Dove Lake in a boat he had built from King Billy pine. And the boat shed built of King Billy pine by the first government appointed ranger at Cradle, Lionel Connell, in 1940 remains standing to this day.
It is illegal to harvest King Billy and to source the timber for our boats, we went to the Bradshaw Mill on Tasmania’s West Coast. They have a shed containing what they call “the last King Billy in captivity”. The trees we have built the kayaks from were harvested in the 1960s from the Raglan Range, after a fire went through a stand of King Billy.
We have used the strip built method of kayak construction, using a design by Nick Shade. Hundreds of hours go into each boat and this has been a real labor of love. The design is a wide boat, making it stable, but it is also light and paddles beautifully.