Launceston was once known as Tasmania’s second city – a moniker that may have only referred to population, but still sounded less than complimentary. However, in recent years, this northern city has forged its own exciting reputation that is quite distinctive from its southern sister Hobart.
With a reputation for exceptional food and drink, art and design, an abundance of spectacular outdoor parks and green spaces, and beautifully preserved heritage streetscapes, Launnie is an ideal spot for a short city break.
If you’ve got a little longer to spare, there are plenty other activities and attractions around Tasmania’s north. From traditional shack towns on the coast, to cutting-edge mountain bike trails and world-class wineries, this vibrant region is perfect for families, couples and solo travellers alike.
Tasmanians love a good festival, and Launceston has some of the best.
Junction Arts Festival takes places every September and transforms the city into a hub of contemporary music and arts, with performances taking place in a diverse range of unconventional venues. In summer, the big ticket is MONA FOMA (MOFO), the annual MONA-affiliated festival curated by Violent Femmes member Brian Ritchie that showcases local, national and international acts.
MOFO is shortly followed in February by Festivale, a three-day celebration of food and beverages that takes place in City Park. But rest assured that whatever time of year you visit Launceston, you’ll be able to enjoy top class restaurants, friendly cafes, and award-winning craft breweries.
You’ll also have the opportunity to discover some of the city’s wonderful outdoor spaces. The best known is Cataract Gorge – a stunning river gorge on the South Esk River that boasts walking trails, an outdoor swimming pool, and the world’s longest single-span chairlift. Adjacent to Cataract Gorge is Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area – the dam here is a popular spot for picnics and sightseeing.
The Tamar Valley Wine Route is a short drive north-west of Launceston and encompasses more than thirty vineyards and cellar doors, spread over about 170km. Just follow the distinctive blue and yellow signs around the valley.
It’s a beautiful region, with orchards, forests and farmland nestled up against the banks of kanamaluka/Tamar River. You can’t really go wrong – wherever you stop off you’ll find delicious cold climate wines like chardonnay, sparkling and pinot noir. You’ll find a warm welcome at spots including Delamere, Sinapius and Moores Hill, and more often than not, you’ll also have a chance to meet the growers and makers.
While you’re in the valley, make time to stop at Tamar Island Wetlands – a picturesque and family friendly spot where you can take a walk and enjoy the abundant local birdlife.
Outdoor activities at Ben Lomond and Derby
The striking alpine plateau of Ben Lomond can be seen across much of Tasmania’s north. This is where you’ll find one of Tasmania’s two ski-fields, so if you’re a winter sports fan and you’re here in winter, it’s not to be missed.
At other times of year, Ben Lomond is great for bushwalking and rock climbing. It’s a dramatic glacial landscape – even the road to the summit, up a very steep, winding incline called Jacob’s Ladder, can get the adrenaline pumping. From June to September only vehicles with snow chains are permitted. Alternatively, take the shuttle bus from the lower car park.
An hour and a half east of Launceston you’ll find the small town of Derby, which has become a global draw for MTB fanatics. With over 125km of world class trails, Derby has hosted the Enduro World Series twice, but there are trails to suit every age and experience level, so don’t be intimidated if you’re travelling with family. Bikes are available for hire, and the temperate rainforest surroundings are just beautiful.
The North Coast
If you’re keen to experience genuine Tasmanian shack life, head north of Launceston to the beautiful stretch of coast that encompasses Low Head, Lulworth, Weymouth and Bridport. You’ll find quiet beaches, a fresh sea breeze, and lots of beautiful coastal walks.
Low Head and George Town are the places to go if you’re interested in maritime history. The Bass and Flinders Maritime Museum, Low Head Maritime Museum, and Low Head Lighthouse are all in close proximity. There’s also a great walk along the kanamaluka Trail, and the chance to spot penguins with Low Head Penguin Tours.
The village of Bridport is a popular summer destination, and provides a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with nature – walk, swim and cycle to your heart’s content. You’re also just half an hour away from wineries in the Pipers River Wine Region and world class golf courses at Barnbougle, so there is truly something for everyone.
– Ruth Dawkins ( commissioned by Freycinet Resort)