Launceston might not immediately spring to mind as an Aussie holiday hotspot, but don’t underestimate the charms of Tasmania’s second largest city.
Not only does ‘Lonnie’, as its affectionately known to the locals, make a great entry point and base for exploring the island’s northern natural attractions (including Cradle Mountain, Freycinet National Park and the Bay of Fires), but you’ll find the city itself packed with amazing experiences. In fact, this destination could well be the biggest surprise of your Tassie trip!
Here are some ideas for how to spend 48 hours in Launceston. Book your stay with Choice Hotels.
8am: Do breakfast at Sweetbrew
Café culture is flourishing in Launceston’s CBD, and with the city’s wealth of Victorian-era heritage buildings, you’ll find coffee houses tucked in the most interesting places. Check out Sweetbrew, which occupies a former coach way. The entrance is on George Street, but the café extends out the back. The décor is a mash-up of industrial chic, murals and yellow accents that will brighten up your morning. The smashed avo is a work of art.
10am: Visit the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Launceston is home to Australia’s largest regional museum – the excellent Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. Depending on your available time, there are two extensive sites to explore. If you are travelling with a variety of ages, head for the museum complex in Inveresk (10 minutes’ walk from the CBD). It’s packed with colonial artefacts, dinosaur bones, whale teeth, and a variety of bugs under glass. There’s also a display on the long extinct Tasmanian tiger. The slightly more sedate Art Gallery is located on the edge of the CBD (by Royal Park). It has a collection of notable works, including an exquisite portrait of its imperious namesake, painted by Robert Dowling in 1862. It’s a copy of an 1852 original work by renowned German court portrait painter Franz Xaver Winterhalter.
2pm: Immerse yourself in the beauty of Cataract Gorge
Lonnie sits by a confluence of three rivers – the Tamar, North Esk and South Esk River, which flows into town through stunning Cataract Gorge. There are few Aussie cities with a natural attraction like this so close to the CBD, and you can walk to the gorge from the Art Gallery in around 30 minutes. Take the old-school chairlift across the expanse for awesome views. There are also a variety of walks on offer. The setting is sublime and the contrast between the native Australian bush and the Victorian-era pleasure gardens (complete with a bandstand, tearoom and the odd peacock) is quite striking.
4pm: Step back in time on a guided walking tour
Head back to town and get more of the backstory on the city’s many fine heritage buildings on a guided walk with. Based on the increasingly popular pay-what-you-think-the-tour-is-worth model (now found in many cities around the world), this 1.5-hour relaxed stroll departs from the main gates at City Park. It’s an engaging introduction to the likes of the General Post Office (constructed in the late 1880s), regal Town Hall, the Cornwall Hotel (said to have been the site where the plan for the settlement of Melbourne was hatched in 1834), and the Majestic Theatre.
6pm: Get a taste of the region’s best craft brews
Wet your whistle prior to dinner by dropping by the Saint John Craft Beer Bar in St John Street. Craft brewing is huge in Tassie and this relaxed bar has 14 taps running a variety of local, regional and international drops.
7pm: Enjoy a great steak
Stillwater restaurant is renowned as Launceston’s top spot for posh nosh, and the same team is behind the super slick Black Cow Bistro in the heart of the CBD. This upmarket steakhouse, which inhabits an Art Deco-era butcher shop, offers premium, free range, grass fed, artificial hormone free Tasmanian beef. Match your chosen cut with a suitable Tassie red.
9am: Graze at the Harvest Market
If it happens to be a Saturday morning, Launceston’s Harvest Market makes a great breakfast option. Held in the public carpark between Cimitiere and Cameron Streets (just down from magnificent Albert Hall), this farmers’ market brims with delicious delights and good vibes, courtesy of a huge variety of local growers and providores. Leave room for a pastry from Bread & Butter – an artisanal bakery, café and small batch butter factory. You’ll find it just up from the market (follow your nose and the steady stream of locals). It’s open daily. Walk off your flaky indulgences with a stroll in nearby City Park.
12.30pm: Do a Tamar Valley wine tour
Launceston is the gateway to the Tamar Valley cool climate wine region – renowned for its pinot noirs, pinot gris and chardonnays. Prestige Tours Tasmania offers a fabulous half day afternoon wine tour to three boutique cellar doors. Enjoy included tastings at each, along with a shared cheese platter and a glass of the wine of your choice.
7pm: Share a feast of local flavours
You’ve seen the landscape that yields Launceston’s fabulous fresh produce, now taste it at its incredible best at Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant. While it looks fairly unassuming from the outside, this contemporary European eatery offers an inventive menu of small to medium plates, that are all designed to be shared. If they’re doing the 14-hour braised lamb shoulder with carrots, mint and fetta, order it!
Need a place to stay?
Constructed back in 1847 to house a grammar school, Quality Hotel Colonial Launceston offers an atmospheric stay in a fabulous heritage setting, right on the edge of the Launceston CBD. The hotel couples modern facilities with old-world class, character and charm. Enjoy the period touches on display throughout the main building, including the QC Brasserie (originally a chapel) – where breakfast is served daily. Set aside at least one night during your stay to enjoy a great value dinner at Three Steps On George – the hotel’s onsite eatery. It occupies what was once the school gymnasium.
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has previously had the opportunity to travel the world as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten.