15 things to do in Launceston (Australia)

The second largest city in northern Tasmania is located at the mouth of the long Tamar River.

Launceston has some things you don’t come across often, such as an awe-inspiring river valley just a stone’s throw from the CBD, and an urban park with an island inhabited by macaque monkeys.

The record-breaking gondola rides through the Great Falls Gorge, while around the city there are many structures dating back to Launceston’s early 19th century origins.

Launceston can also be a platform into Tasmania’s fabled wilderness, cruising along the Tamar River or heading to the iconic Cradle Mountain.

1. Cataract Canyon

First Basin of Cataract Canyon

Not many cities can say they are within a 15 minute walk from the CBD to a majestic canyon.

The first European to discover Cataract Canyon was early settler William Collins in 1804. Today, it’s a full-fledged tourist attraction, with swimming pools, gondolas, gondolas, scenic suspension bridges, two cafes and an elegant landscaped garden cliff site where peacocks roam.

Walking through the bush, you can see the rock faces of the canyon and the arena-like bowl of the First Basin from the walking trails and scenic lookouts.

Upstream, you’ll come to the old Duck Reach Power Station, which has been transformed into an interpretive center for this one-of-a-kind place.

2. Cataract Canyon Gondola

Cataract Canyon Gondola

Worth mentioning is the canyon chairlift, which is officially the longest single-span chairlift in the world.

Opened in 1972, it has a total length of 457 meters and a record span of 308 meters, undisturbed by towers.

You’ll see stunning views of the gorge, the South Esk River and First Basin, as well as wooded hills.

The ride also takes you through the canyon’s magically landscaped park, full of rhododendrons and ferns.

The chairlift runs slowly and gives you all the time you need.

3. Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery

Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery

Launceston is home to Australia’s largest museum, which is not in the state capital.

This has two locations, the Royal Park Art Gallery in 1891 and the industrial-oriented railway workshop in Inveresk in the 1870s.

In the former, you can peruse colonial-era artwork and objects, as well as contemporary designs.

A fascinating exhibit at the site is a complete Chinese temple, built by immigrant tin miners in the 1880s, filled with artifacts related to the Chinese community who moved to work in northeastern Tasmania.

The Inveresk website is a fun miscellaneous showcasing content from Australia’s oldest merchant shipwreck, dinosaur fossils, historic aircraft, Tasmanian natural history specimens and real death masks, complete with a working planetarium.

4. Boag Brewery

Burger Brewery

The Launceston brewery was founded in 1881 by James Boag 1, a Scottish immigrant who arrived in Australia 30 years ago.

The last Boag to work in the industry died in 1976. The company is a major employer in Launceston, producing over 80,000,000 litres a year.

As for beer, Boag Draft has been in production since the 1880s, with some other newer varieties including Premium Lager, Premium Light, Strongarm Bitter, Draft Light and a range of limited edition and Tasmania specific beers.

Tours are available 7 days a week from the James Boag Brewery Experience, located at the Old Lake Dog Hotel from 1826. During the 90-minute experience, you’ll discover the journey of beer, from hop to bottle, and sample three labels from the Boag line.

5. City Park

Launceston City Park

As of 2020, Launceston’s main city park has been around in some form for 200 years.

This was originally the botanical garden of the Launceston Horticultural Society, before it was taken over by the City Council in the 1860s and adopted the earlier name People’s Park.

The charming park keeper’s cottage, now the headquarters of the City Park Radio, is an early reservation with wisteria vines planted in 1837. It adjoins the eclectic Albert Hall of the 1890s.

The city park retains its historic character, with monuments and facilities such as the John Hart School of Music, a bandstand, and an intricate cast-iron Jubilee Fountain.

The park has themed gardens and even a “monkey island,” where a group of macaques is separated from the public by moats and glass screens.

6. Alexandra Suspension Bridge

Alexandra Suspension Bridge

About 10 minutes from the car park at Cataract Gorge, you’ll come to this beautiful suspension bridge, first completed in 1904. The bridge is 67 meters long and is reinforced by two steel towers on either side of the canyon.

The first bridge was swept away by floodwaters in 1929, then rebuilt in 1955 and renovated in 2004 to celebrate its centenary.

There are information boards telling the history of the bridge.

Walk along the span and have a commanding view along the canyon and the First Basin to the north.

The road is narrow, but enough for two people to pass side by side, although you may notice some sway.

7. Tamar Island Wetland

Tamar Island Wetland

On the edge of town, Launceston has an urban wetland ecosystem of islands, lagoons and mudflats.

This is an important habitat for many birds, amphibians, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates.

Among the 60 different bird species recorded in the wetlands are several species of ducks, swans, cormorants, marsh harriers, egrets, and migratory birds from the northern hemisphere such as the common green-footed sandpiper.

There’s an interpretive center detailing the site’s subtle ecological and cultural history, from where you can set off along the boardwalk, and there’s a bird’s nest for bird watching.

8. Franklin House

Launceston Franklin House

Launceston’s only historic house museum is this Georgian mansion built by prisoners, now managed by the National Trust for Tasmania.

Franklin House was commissioned in 1838 by brewer, innkeeper and ex-convict Britton Jones, and later expanded to become a boys’ school.

An imposing Ion porch greets you at the entrance, and the interior is filled with period furniture and Art Deco, known for its extensive use of imported Australian red cedar.

After it was acquired in 1960, it became the first property of the National Trust and was open for guided tours.

The yard has a stable, 180 year old oak tree and a well kept Victorian kitchen garden.

After the tour, stop at the tea room for tea and scones.

9. Lilydale Falls

Lilydale Falls

A simple but rewarding excursion from Launceston, Lilydale Falls is located on the Second River in the countryside north of the city.

There are actually two waterfalls in the reserve, falling into pools full of moss and ferns, accessible via stairs and a viewing platform.

The lower waterfall is the higher of the pair, just under 10 meters, while a trail will take you to the second waterfall, about 5 meters high.

Both continue to flow in years with less rainfall and become more picturesque due to their densely wooded surroundings.

The hike takes less than an hour and can be done by families, while the sanctuary is equipped with BBQ facilities and a children’s playground.

10. National Motor Museum of Tasmania

National Automobile Museum of Tasmania

Since September 2019, the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania was first opened in a new location in 1987 by renowned racing engineer Geoff Smedley and his partner Sylvia.

From E-Type Jaguars to entire motorcycle fleets, the museum’s collection spans over a century, with helpful informative plaques attached to each exhibit.

The star of the show is the Muscle Hall, entirely dedicated to Australian muscle cars.

Some standouts here are the 1967 Ford Falcon XR GT, the 1969 Holden HT 350 Monaro, the 1973 Valiant Charger and the 1974 Holden Torana L34.

11. Josef Chromy wine

wine tasting

Tasmania was one of the first places in Australia to grow vines in the early 19th century.

The temperate marine climate supports cool climate varieties such as Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Chardonnay.

Since the 2000s, Tasmanian wines have unexpectedly benefited from climate change, with longer summers allowing fruit to fully ripen.

To learn about the island’s wine industry, Joseph Chromie Wine Estate is located in the idyllic countryside southeast of Launceston.

The wine cellar (tasting room) is located in an 1880s homestead where you can taste all the varieties listed above.

This is open for 7 days and the tasting session costs $5 per person and will be refunded after purchase.

12. Tamar River Tour

Batman Bridge next to Tamar

Starting in Launceston, Australia’s longest navigable estuary winds its way to Bass Strait for 70km.

The best way to explore the estuary is on the water, and Tamar River Cruises has a variety of sailings to choose from, departing from the Home Point Terminal, just a short distance from Launceston’s central business district.

If you want to take an outpost tour in Cataract Canyon, there are departures throughout the day.

You can also set sail to the Batman Bridge, a 30-kilometer round-trip, 4-hour sail, gently drifting over the valley’s vineyards and old homesteads to a landmark cable-stayed bridge built in 1966.

13. Penny Royal Adventures

Penny Royal Adventures

The rocky walls of the Cataract Gorge provide the foundation for the event centre, allowing people to experience life in the 19th century Van Diemen land.

The headline activity at Penny Royal Adventures is the Cliff Walk, where you’ll zip along over a dozen rope bridges and zip-line.

There is also rock climbing and a 20-meter cliff jump on the course.

Elsewhere, kids can cruise on a brig in search of gold and gems, while Matthew Brody Dark Ride introduces you to fugitives and pirates of the 1820s.

Finally, the Barefoot Sensation trail leads you over dirt, bark, sawdust, sand, gravel, stepping stones, tea branches and more.

14. Cradle Mountain Day Trip

Cradle Mountain

Launceston is in a convenient location if you want to learn more about Tasmania’s stunning landscape.

An image often associated with the island is the rugged ridge of Cradle Mountain in the Central Highlands.

It’s all protected for a century by Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, and from Launceston you can spend a day revelling in nature.

A day trip to Cradle Mountain is available through the online travel platform GetYourGuide.com, including a hike around Pigeon Lake at the base of the summit, as well as a walk in the rainforest, stopping to see the famous murals in Sheffield town and visiting to the town of Ashgrove local producers such as Cheese Farms.

15. Launceston Community Farmers Market

Launceston Community Farmers Market

Every Saturday morning, a nationally recognized farmers market trades in the shadow of Albert Hall.

If you care about where your food comes from, this is an opportunity to meet farmers and producers who will vouch for their wares and tell you how to get the most out of it.

Many of the traders here are very professional, selling asparagus, cherries, hazelnuts, berries, mushrooms, olives or peonies and that’s it.

Among the countless other stalls you’ll find eggs, truffles, cheese, cider, fresh yeast, seafood, coffee, ethical meat, honey, beer, pickles, cider, and more than we list thing.

For to-go, you can choose from crepes, paella, ice cream, Afghan polani, vegan snacks or Korean pancakes (hotteok).

Where to stay: The best hotels in Launceston, Australia
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