Lake St Clair, Australia

Photo: N Preseault

You’re usually not a morning person. Far from it. But it’s hard not to be on the lake. As soon as your room starts to brighten, you slip out of bed to pull up the shade covering a huge picture window. Fog hovers over the calm water outside. You can’t see the mountains in the distance. But you can see the old pumphouse and the long walkway that leads out to it. An even earlier riser is on it peddling a bike toward the shore. While two small Bennett’s wallabies—your first marsupial sightings—graze on leaves in the shadow of a gnarled pine tree. Once you add a cup of coffee, your morning is pretty complete.

But your morning is just beginning. Over the next few hours, you’ll go downstairs to eat breakfast. An extensive spread includes eggs, baked beans, and make-your-own toasties. Don’t forget Leatherwood Honey; it’s the most delicious honey you’ve ever eaten. You’ll plan your walk of the day from a chair by the fireplace. Yesterday, you hiked the 11.5-kilometer Shadow Lake Circuit through rainforests, moorlands, and a eucalyptus forest. The trail was steep, muddy, and hard to follow at times, but the peaceful lake and the views of nearby Mount Rufus made it worth it. Other guests offer stories and tips from their own walks. After listening to them, you decide to hike along the edge of Lake St Clair today. The fog is starting to lift by the time you fill your water bottle, dress in more layers, and start driving toward the park center, where all of the trails begin.

You’re in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania. The Central Highlands park is home to the Overland Track, rugged mountains, glacial lakes, and interesting animals. All of the walking trails, not just one of Australia’s most popular ones, are well-marked and usually in good condition. While everywhere you look, the views are breathtaking.

Photo: N Preseault

This includes the trail and the views along Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake. Near the park center—where you find information about specific trails and Aboriginal history, a cafe, and always important bathrooms—you board the ferry that runs between Cynthia Bay, Echo Point, and Narcissus. It’s a peaceful ride along the sparkling lake. The sun is rising higher into the sky, and the ferry is the only boat on the water. After about 30 minutes, the ferry glides up to the wooden jetty at Echo Point. An overnight hut, for hikers finishing the Overland Track, sits on the hillside. Plus, as you start walking back toward Cynthia Bay, there are gorgeous water views on your left the entire time.

All of this walking is exhausting, though. By the time you reach Platypus Bay, where you find a gorgeous white-sand beach but, unfortunately, none of the egg-laying mammals, you’re sweaty, hungry, and, if you’re being honest, a bit cranky. Most hikers are returning to either a camp site or basic accommodations near the park center. You’re heading back to pure luxury at Pumphouse Point.

To reach Pumphouse Point, you follow a dirt road through the bush and wait for a mechanical gate to slowly open. The old pumphouse once extracted water from the lake to provide power for much of the island. When the endeavor proved too expensive, the building sat empty, until it, as well as another building on the shore, was recently turned into a unique hotel. The hotel’s rooms are cozy and comfortable with heated bathroom floors, Aēsop products, and larders stocked with Tasmanian food and beverages. You raid yours for Brie, whole-grain mustard, and a bottle of Pinot Gris as soon as you return. A freshly baked loaf of sourdough bread, which you can request anytime, will soon arrive, as well.

After your feast, you’ll spend the rest of the afternoon around the pumphouse. A shower and probably a short nap are the first things on your agenda. You might read downstairs by the huge windows in the lounge, sit on a wooden bench at the edge of the lake, or watch trout jump high above the water just out of the reach of a fly fisherman. Then you’ll join the other guests for a communal dinner as the sun sets. Butternut squash soup and warm rolls are served first. Lamb with a cucumber-yogurt sauce, couscous, and green vegetables are set out family style. Plus bottles of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, which should both pair well with the main dish, sit next to carafes of fresh lake water. Your Tasmanian retreat feels like a summer camp—an absolutely luxurious, kid-free summer camp.

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