It's a long steep drive up gravel roads which can be dodgy in winter. But if conditions allow, visiting Devil’s Gullet and Lake Mackenzie provide some great views, and a glimpse into the remote alpine world of Tasmania's central plateau.
The road conditions can sometimes be a barrier. On two Tasmanian holidays I was keen to drive to Devil's Gullet, but it was winter and the upper parts of the road were affected by snow. As I was in a two wheel drive hire car with "insurance implications" for travel on risky gravel roads, I left it for another time.
On my latest winter trip, conditions were better. It was still winter, and I was in a rental campervan, but I heard the road was free of snow. Also it hadn't been as wet as normal - it was as good as it would get for dodgy winter drives. With anticipation I set out from my base at Mole Creek and headed down the road towards Lake Rowallan, in the deep valley of the Mersey River.
The turn-off to Devil’s Gullet is well before Lake Rowallan, about 21 km from Mole Creek. It climbs right from the start, with little relief from the steady uphill grade until you reach the top of the plateau. I was relieved to find the road wider and firmer than other gravel roads in Tasmania, yet even in a drier than normal winter there were still a few slippery sections. Taking it slowly and carefully was sufficient ... but I was grateful the road wasn't any wetter.
Near the top of the climb is a roadside lookout - really just a space where there is more room to park at the roadside. On a clear day the views are magnificent, extending south past peaks on the plateau, and west towards Cradle Mountain. Even with some cloud it can be a pleasant sight. Apart from some scars from logging, all you see is nature.
A little further on the road reaches the plateau and levels out. On the right appears the small car park for Devil’s Gullet, from where a straightforward ten minute walk takes you to the lookout.
One moment you're walking through alpine shrubs on a mostly flat surface. The next, you're at a lookout perched on the edge of a cliff, with a deep valley almost under your feet. It's a dramatic view, one worth savouring if you don't get blown back from the edge on a windy day.
From Devil’s Gullet you can return the way you came, but if time allows and conditions are okay, Lake Mackenzie is only a few kilometres further along the road. It's mostly a flat drive, but can be a little more prone to slipperiness than most of the drive uphill to Devil’s Gullet.
Lake Mackenzie is the result of a low dam across a shallow valley, and can be a pleasantly tranquil spot for relaxing or picnicking on a sunny day. Fishing, boating and swimming are allowed, with restrictions, although the water temperatures make swimming an activity for summer. There are no facilities of any kind at Lake Mackenzie, not even toilets, so you need to be self sufficient.
Although it was cold on my visit, with frozen puddles and frost surviving in the shade, the sunlight and stillness made it comfortable. Reclined in the sun with with some good Tassie cheese, I even felt warm, but such friendly conditions can be deceptive. The lake is 1120 meters above sea level and can be battered by some nasty weather at times, not always with good warning.
The relative gentleness of Lake Mackenzie is in contrast to the dramatic relief at nearby Devil's Gullet. Visiting both, weather permitting, gives a more complete picture of the area around Mole Creek, and outside of summer peak days you'll probably see very little traffic.