Did you know that Launceston, the second largest city in Tasmania, was the first Australian city to have underground sewers? But there’s more to it than that! Nestled around where the North and South Esk Rivers join to form the River Tamar, it’s a place that is so pretty it’s definitely worth spending some extra time in!
So here are a few ideas for some great things to do while you’re there….
- Cataract Gorge Reserve. This is an amazing place to explore and it’s right in Launie’s backyard! Follow the signs from the city up through the gorge and onto any or all of the walk trails: Cataract walk, Zig Zag track, First Basin Loop and Duck Reach Trail are all there. The walks are between one and three kilometres each and can be linked up with each other and with the city for a very enjoyable couple of hours to half day. The suspension bridge will give you a birdseye view of the South Esk River as it flows through The Gorge and there is also a chairlift to take you back across (for a fee). There are some pretty Victorian gardens, named the Cliff Grounds, on the northern side. If all that walking is getting you hungry then check out the café or restaurant and if it’s warm enough there’s even a pool to swim in!
2. While Hobart and the south have Cascade, Launceston and the north have James Boag. The Brewery (on William St) was established in 1881 and once upon a time you couldn’t (and wouldn’t!) get Cascade north of Campbell Town nor Boag’s south. On every bottle of Boag’s Premium is stamped “Tasmania’s Finest”, a reference to the quality of Tasmania’s water, air and ingredients that are used in the brewing. Book a 90 min Experience tour and you have the opportunity to step inside the historic brewery and discover what goes into producing their beers, including an insight into James Boag’s history. Open every day except Christmas, with tastings included after the tour.
3. I mentioned Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area before but for a different type of activity go mountainbiking! There are a few MTB hire places in Launceston with Roll Rentals and My Ride just a couple. You can ride from the city up through the suburb of Trevallyn then loads of marked trails of varying difficulty are available. Some mountainbike experience and fitness is recommended, as with anything in Tassie there are hills! You can take in some of the views back over the city (any excuse for a rest, right?) or over the South Esk above The Gorge. Allow a few hours for all this, or if you’re really into mountainbiking, grab a hire car and go ride blue Derby which is an 1 hr 20mins drive away. Derby’s story is fascinating, from a boom history of tin mining followed by steady decline. However, it has transformed itself to become a mountainbiking mecca, a trail town that is the envy of many others with over 100kms of different level trails to ride amongst the beautiful Blue Tier Range. Businesses have opened up, real estate prices have increased and even a leg of the Enduro World Series is lined up. The app Trailforks is a pretty handy one to have.
4. The Tamar Island Wetlands are a unique estuarine wetland ecosystem teeming with plant and animal life, just a 10 minute drive from Launceston on the A7. If you want to escape the city, the 60 hectares of lagoons, islands and mud flats offer a different view of the Tasmanian landscape. Visit the informative interpretation centre and enjoy a tranquil walk along the boardwalk leading to Tamar Island. If you’re into birdwatching, the Wetlands are a haven for pelicans, black swans, egrets, cormorants and swamp harriers. From the bird hide you may also spot a white-bellied sea eagle or a migrating greenshank.
5. Go take a hike! Or just explore, there are quite a few scenic spots and plenty of Tassie’s 60 Great Short Walks around an hour’s drive from Launceston. You’ll need a vehicle and a plan, oh and maybe a jumper and raincoat just in case!
On the coast to the north is Narawntapu National Park. It’s a haven for wombats, kangaroos, pademelons and a large variety of birds (don’t forget your parks pass). There are a number of great walks here; exploring on Bakers Beach, taking in the views from Archers Knob, through to woodlands, wetlands and grasslands. Dusk is a great time to see the interactions of this park’s marsupials.
Liffey Falls and Meander Falls are found to the southwest of Launceston. The multi-level Liffey Falls are nestled in fern filled, mossy rainforest at the base of the Great Western Tiers. There are a couple of walks here; the shorter one along well made track is from the top carpark where there are also picnic facilities. The other walk is longer, from the lower car park on Gulf Rd, along a less well formed track. Both walks are equally as good and no parks pass is required. Meander Falls is a bit further on by road but in the same general direction. Although arguably more spectacular, these falls are less well visited, mainly as the walk is 10km (5-6 hrs) return. The walk to the falls takes you along the Meander River via some rocky, sometimes steep and muddy track, but the views and falls are amazing! You’ll be able to see why it’s one of Tassie’s 60 Great Short Walks!
6. Back in the city, the Queen Victoria Museum is walking distance across the North Esk River on Invermay Road. The museum houses numerous displays including those of the early colonial and bushranger era and the Tasmanian Tiger to name a couple. And just to show there’s a beer story everywhere, intact bottles from the 1797 wreck of the Sydney Cove were sampled and yeast extracted to brew new beer! Also inside is the Planetarium which operates a star projector onto the domed ceiling showing feature presentations while guests experience the feeling that they are out under the stars. Each Planetarium show is viewed from former aircraft seats, and includes narrative of the night sky over Tasmania (an entry fee applies).
The Art Gallery is at Royal Park on Wellington St and you can either walk from the museum or catch the free Tiger bus. The building itself was opened in 1891 as a combined museum and art gallery but the collection had been in the making since 1842, including early colonial art and a great exhibition on Tasmanian Aboriginal culture and history.
7. Go and pick some local berries! – You have a couple of choices here – either scratch yourself and rip your clothes on roadside blackberries (park safely of course), or go to a farm and pick plump strawberries, raspberries or delicious blueberries. There are a few places around Launceston to do this and the one I went to was Crestview, about 30kms out of Launceston (you can even catch a bus there). Most farms are free entry and you only pay for what you want to take away with you, at pretty reasonable prices. Some say “no eating while you pick” but I don’t know how much this is enforced. Good luck trying to hide the blue tongue on the way out…..
Inspiration Outdoors Tasmania Hiking Tours that depart from Launceston: