The second largest city in Tasmania, Launceston sits at the junction of the North Esk and South Esk rivers and is a natural magnet for travellers.
Although located some 45 kilometres south of the Bass Strait, it is surrounded by natural beauty and boasts some magnificent and historic buildings. Originally settled in 1804, Launceston grew quickly after tin was discovered in the area in 1871, and even more so a few years later when gold mining got under way at nearby Beaconsfield.
As one of Australia’s oldest cities, it is said to have one of the country’s best-preserved early cityscapes with elegant Colonial and Victorian architecture and century-old parks. The best way to get to grips with this city’s fascinating past is to visit the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, Australia’s largest regional museum, which offers a unique insight into the history of this part of Tasmania.
Also well worth a visit is the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania and its display of vintage and classic cars … as well as trucks and motorbikes. For tram enthusiasts, the Launceston Tramway Museum is an absolute must. A highlight is a short 1940s tram ride immersed in the sounds and voices of the past.
Launceston’s iconic City Park was established in the 1820s and is at the very heart of the city’s cultural life. It houses beautiful gardens, a Victorian-era fountain, the Tasmanian Design Centre, and Monkey Island! The much-loved bandstand offers Music in the Park events throughout January.
Despite its age, Launceston is a bustling, modern city with a rejuvenated river port, countless restaurants and cafes, and numerous thriving markets. Many grey nomads particularly love the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Market, which is held every Saturday and brings together 40 or so select local producers to showcase their produce.
Talking of produce, a drive north brings you to Tasmania’s premium wine-growing region and numerous vineyards famed for their sparkling wines, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.
Also out in the beautiful Tamar Valley, you can find the Tamar Island Wetlands where a 500-metre boardwalk takes you to a ‘hide’ where you can observe wetland birds … and just relax. There are also some wonderful historic villages out this way.
Launceston’s star attraction is a little closer to home though. Just a 15-minute stroll from the city along the banks of the Tamar River brings you to the famous Cataract Gorge. On the southern side of this unique natural attraction is a swimming pool surrounded by bushland. On the shady northern side is a Victorian garden with ferns and exotic plants. The beautiful Kings Bridge over the Gorge was floated into place in 1867 and offers spectacular views.
If all of this swimming, walking and sightseeing has left you with a thirst, perhaps there’s just time to take in a quick tour of the famed J. Boag & Son Brewery before you head back to the van park.