A few months ago, I came home, somewhat tipsy, and bought flights to Tasmania on a whim. Well, the October long weekend finally rolled around, and on Saturday morning, I was boarding my flight to Launceston. Inspired by images of Cradle Mountain and Bay of Fires, Tassie had been on my list for a little while now. So I chose to base myself in Launceston, and found myself with some time to spend in the Apple Isle’s northern city. Check out how I spent a day in Launceston (pronounced Lon-censton; not Lawn-ceston)…
The Cataract Gorge is considered Launceston’s premier tourist attraction, but what exactly is it? Formed by earthquakes around 80 – 40 million years, you can actually see where the fault lines meet. And in the wake of such cataclysmic seismic activity, a natural spectacle remains, with the river cutting through the mountains, and a large basin that’s been the playground for Launcestonians since the 1800’s.
The First Basin is a wide open space, perfect for picnics by the water. In the summer, the free swimming pool would be ideal for cooling off. You can also hop on the chairlift – the longest single span chairlift in the world apparently – and cross the basin to the Cliff Grounds, a landscaped Victorian garden with a lot of peacocks strutting around. From here, you cross the Alexandra Suspension Bridge and take the very short Cliff Walk back to First Basin. You don’t have to take the chairlift ($12) to get to the cliff grounds, it’s also a super short walk across the basin.
To get to and from the Gorge Reserve, located about 1.5km from the city, you can drive to the carpark, or take one of the walks there. The Gorge Walk takes you along the river side for some spectacular views and is an easy, flat walk across a pathway; or take the much more challenging Zig Zag walk, following a steeper, more rugged path through the bush. Both leave from King’s Bridge.
Another one of Launceston’s favourite attractions, it’s decidedly more man-made than the Gorge. The Penny Royal Complex reopened in April 2016 with an eye to promote the region’s taste for adventure, and a taste of Tasmania. It’s a little bit like a mini theme park based on the colonial history of the city.
Adults may enjoy the cliff walk, zip line, or rock climbing on the natural cliff face. And after my challenging – an embarrassingly unsuccessful – afternoon climbing session, a Tasmanian raspberry ice cream from the onsite ice creamery was a well-deserved reward! It’s a fun little place to kill a few hours, but this is definitely a place designed for families.
Launceston, while it’s Tasmania’s second biggest city, still feels like a large country town. The streets are wide, car parking plentiful and the people friendly. But what else is there to do in Launceston?
After some consideration about what foreign species would be best suited to Launceston’s climate, it was decided that macaque monkeys, best known for their bathing antics of the Japanese snow covered onsens, would make the best fit. The troop lives in City Park now, where you can also spend some time relaxing around the conservatory or shady lawns.
You could also visit the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, hit up the shopping mall, or sample some Tasmanian produce at any of the cafes and restuarants in town.
However, the main reason you’ll come to to Tasmania is to visit some of the great wilderness areas that dot this intriguing island. Launceston is great home base for day trips to Cradle Mountain, Bay of Fires and the north of Tasmania. The easiest way to explore is to hire a car, but beware that the roads in Tasmania can be narrow, winding and muddy, which makes it easy to get bogged!
Have you been to Launceston? Let me know what you enjoyed most about it!