Tasmania's high country is home to the King Billy pine tree - it is found nowhere else in the world. The trees grow only in highland rainforests above 600 metres. They are enormous - growing to heights of up to 40 metres. And ancient; it is estimated that the pine tree lives for more than 1000 years.
The trees are named after King Billy - the Aboriginal Tribal Leader of the Oyster Bay people who was named after the reigning King of England, King William.
King Billys (Athrotaxis selaginoides) were a prized wood source to the early settlers due to their durability to rot and insects. The wood was used as fuel for smelters and mines and was mostly used for ship building. As a result, the trees were heavily felled.
The Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park became a World Heritage National Park in 1982 - its natural beauty, its cultural significance and its unsurpassed pristine wilderness were all of global significance. The King Billy pine trees that grow in this World Heritage Wilderness are now protected. In fact, 84% of the forests in Tasmania are in protected reserves. Less than 10% of the trees are available for processing and sale; these are the fallen and fire killed trees or stump residues.
The main cause of the pine tree's most recent decline though has been due to bushfire; about 1/3rd of its habitat has been burnt in the twentieth century. Fire destroys all of the old growth trees as well as the seeds laying in and on the soil, destroying any chance of regeneration.
The King Billy Walking Track begins behind Cradle Mountain Lodge, near the main entrance to Cradle Mountain National Park.
The walk is fairly easy, though mostly uphill. There is a boardwalk to keep visitors off the forest floor. You can expect to complete the loop walk in an hour or so, but allow extra time to stop often, take photos and absorb the beautiful silence of this sub-alpine rainforest.
Close to the top of the track is a signposted stop off point. Here you can get really up close and personal to a forest giant. It's quite a humbling experience to stand at the base of a thousand year old tree.
From this point you can either return via the same path you came or continue on to join another circuit track that will take you back to the starting point. The walk up to the tree is about 30 minutes and the full circuit is approximately a 1 hour walk.
Remember to carry water with you and take a raincoat – the weather changes quickly here. And don't forget your camera!
Cradle Mountain National Park
All ages, The walking trail is steep in parts and could be slippery when wet/icy.
The King Billy Walk is outside of the National Park main gate, so a Park pass is not needed to do this walk. National Park passes must be purchased for entry into all of Tasmania's national parks.
I purchased the Holiday Pass, which was great value.
Important! Before leaving on any walks, be sure to check the weather.
Cradle Mountain National Park is approximately 150kms from Launceston and 330kms from Hobart.
There are lots of accommodation options in Cradle Mountain. Wherever you decide to stay, be sure to book well ahead; the site is Tasmania's premium tourist destination.
I stayed at Cradle Mountain Highlanders. The log cabins were warm, comfortable, well equipped, surrounded by flora and fauna and simply perfect.