Launceston and Central North
Clean, friendly and with an appealing cityscape, Launceston has a charming way to make you feel welcome in an instant. Launceston is the second biggest city in Tasmania and the centre of the northern region, yet it is compact enough for new visitors to find their way around easily. Should you ever get lost, the sociable locals seem always ready to give directions and offer a helping hand. With a growing number of stylish restaurants and modern cafes, Launceston offers urban delights at a country-town pace. Ornate Victorian buildings coin the cityscape, meticulously maintained parks and gardens add to the old-English feel.
Brisbane Street Mall is the heart of the city centre. The Quadrant, a winding alley with cosy cafés and boutiques, connects Brisbane Street and St John Street. Further northeast, the Yorktown Square also hosts Cafés and little shops. Many public buildings such as the library are located around Civic Square.
The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery is the reputable keeper of Launceston’s and Tasmania’s natural and cultural heritage. It is spread across two locations: the Art Gallery is in the original museum at Royal Park while the Museum and the Planetarium reside in the new complex at Inveresk.
Launceston prides itself on some of Australia’s oldest parks and recreational areas. They are all superbly maintained and with features such as cycle paths and playgrounds offer a range of activities for visitors and locals. The most notable are City Park, Princes Square, Windmill Hill, Royal Park and the Cataract Gorge Reserve. City park is a great place close to the CBD to let the children have a safe run around. There are the usual ducks and playground, with the more unusual Japanese Macaque monkey enclosure which is fascinating. Lonnie the Loco is a train ride (well it has wheels) that youngsters love that wanders the paths of the park. You don’t need to be a gardening enthusiast to love the John Hart Conservatory which outside showcases beautiful annuals. Inside there is always a beautiful horticultural display.
The draught of choice for most northern Tasmanians, Boag’s beer has been brewed in the Boag’s Brewery on William Street for over 130 years. You can take a guided tour through the premises or visit the Boag’s Centre for Beer Lovers across the street.
Dig into the town’s history on the Launceston City Ghost Tour. The 90 minute guided walk takes you past Launceston’s oldest buildings, which on a moonlit night inspire eerie stories of their long-gone residents.
Arguably the most impressive sight of Launceston, the magnificent Cataract Gorge is just a short stroll from the city centre. This is the site where the South Esk River has carved its way into the rocks, leaving a rugged ravine of near vertical cliffs. The area is a wildlife reserve.
Walking tracks run to both sides of the water to the First Basin, where the South Esk River forms a little lake. A suspension bridge connects the First Basin on the southern side with the Cliff Grounds on the northern side. The First Basin is a popular spot for a picnic or a swim in the lake. There is also a swimming pool and kiosk. The Gorge Restaurant serving authentic Tasmanian cuisine is located on the Cliffs Ground side. Take a bird’s eye view of this stunning piece of nature from the Chairlift connecting the two sides of the gorge. If you enjoy walking, follow the track to the Second Basin, which is about 45 minutes away.
From Launceston the Tamar River meanders north until it reaches the Bass Strait, leaving a fertile and scenic landscape to either side. This is Tasmania’s premiere food and wine location, home to many authentic wineries and numerous stylish restaurants serving fresh local produce. Most wineries have open cellars and offer tastings. The region’s specialties are sparkling wine, Chardonnay and Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir.
The Tamar Valley Wine Route takes you past 32 vineyards. You can explore the area by your own means or join a tour.
The picturesque town of Rosevears is home to the Rosevears Vineyard, the Ninth Island Vineyard and the Rotherhythe Vineyard – all highly regarded wineries.
Just 15 minutes north east of Launceston is Hollybank Treetop Adventures where you can glide through the forest canopy or join a Segway tour.
Beaconsfield further north sat on the source of a gold boom in the late 19th century. The Grubb Shaft Gold & Heritage Museum tells the tales of the golden era.
Dive into an entirely different sphere at the Seahorse World at Beauty Point. You can get nose to nose with the fascinating creatures in the aquarium, which informs about the life cycle of seahorses and their breeding. The Platypus House next door exhibits the semi-aquatic mammal in darkened aquariums.
To get to the eastern banks of the Tamar River, cross the Batman Bridge near Sidmouth. George Town is one of Australia’s oldest settlements with European history dating back to 1804.
Nearby Low Head is home to Australia’s oldest pilot station, which was built by convicts in 1805. Today it hosts a small Maritime Museum. Head straight to the end of the East Tamar Highway to enjoy magnificent views right across the river mouth and the Bass Strait. Penguins return to their burrows here at dusk and nocturnal tours are available.
You can follow the Tamar River back to Launceston or explore the wineries east of the Tamar. Among the most popular locations around Pipers Brook are the Pipers Brook Vineyard as well as the Jansz Wine Room and Interpretive Centre, where you can taste sparkling wine and enjoy a cheese platter.
In December and January the eye-catching purple fields of the Bridestowe Lavender Farm near Nabowla, are a popular photo motive. The farm cultivates and produces pure lavender oil, which is used as a base for perfume. You can visit the farm and its information centre and take a self-guided tour.
Westbury has been labelled the most English of all villages in Australia. It’s easy to see why: It has elegant old inns, tree-lined streets, a village green, and colonial buildings galore. The pleasant little town is scenically located in a peaceful landscape sheltered by the hills and mountains of the Great Western Tiers.
Westbury’s flagship building is the White House, a former domestic residence built in 1841. It has been turned into a museum and features an interior from colonial times. Kids will love the Westbury Maze made of giant hedges.
Photo credits: Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, MDT; Japanese Macaque monkeys, MDT; Boags Brewery, courtesy James Boag's; Cataract Gorge, MDT; grape vines, MDT; seahorses, courtesy Seahorse World; lavender in bloom, courtesy Bridestowe Lavender Farm; Fitzpatricks Inn, Westbury, MDT