Launceston, or ‘Lonnie’ as known by the locals, is Tasmania’s second largest city packed full of heritage, art galleries and museums. Surrounded by fabulous food and wine areas, the city offers a perfect combination of local delights to discover. It’s also a good place to base yourself for easy day tripping. Here are 10 top things to do in Launceston.
1- Buy local in Launceston
Visiting Launceston’s Harvest Market in Cimitiere Street is a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning.
It starts at a civilised 8.30am and runs till 12.30pm with a selection of fine fresh local produce, handmade cow and goat milk yoghurts and cheeses, free-range eggs, sourdough bread, local cider and beer, farmed salmon and local seafood, chutneys, sauces and much more.
Talk to the locals, grab some breakfast or stock up your self-catering kitchen with local fruit and vegetables. These are some of the social things to do in Launceston.
2- Take a walk around Launceston
Founded in the early 1800s, among other things to do in Launceston, the city has plenty of heritage to be discovered.
There are three Launceston Heritage Walks that all start at Civic Square and will take you all over town to discover churches and fine commercial buildings, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery or into railway workshops.
The trails take between 30 to 70 minutes return. The Seaport area is another great spot for a stroll beside the water and a chance to check out the local yachts.
3- Art and history in Launceston
Australia’s largest regional museum, the Queen Victorian Museum and Art Gallery has 10 galleries, a Guan Di Temple holding relics from Chinese temples in old mining towns and the Art Sparks! Family Art Space.
This is the place to see the distinctively-striped extinct Tasmanian tiger, check out images of colonial Tasmanians, and discover a range of changing exhibitions.
The Launceston Planetarium, also located at the Museum, reproduces all the stars visible to the naked eye in the southern hemisphere plus a solar telescope with a live cross to the sun (sunny days only).
4- A day in Launceston City Park
Monkeys, ducks, a chess board, flowers, huge trees, barbecues and a children’s playground, City Park in Launceston has got it all.
Established in 1863 and located in the heart of Launceston, the park has an enviable annual flower display and a Japanese Macaque monkey enclosure that rivals Big Brother for watching pleasure.
It’s also home to one of Tasmania’s premier food, wine and entertainment festivals, Festivale held in February each year in Launceston. Attending Festivale is one of the culturally enriching things to do in Launceston.
5- Be a rev head
With four changing exhibits in the main hall and a mezzanine packed with motorcycles, the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is a haven for car nuts.
Find it on the corner of Willis and Cimitiere Streets and it’s open every day except Christmas Day.
It’s a great place to lose hubby while you find other exciting things to do in Launceston, such as exploring the shops!
6- Eat out in Launceston
Drawing from the region’s bountiful local produce, Launceston has some eating establishments that punch well above their weight.
Put Stillwater at the historic Ritchie’s Mill, harbourside Mud Bar and The Gorge Restaurant located in the Cliff Grounds Reserve, on your list.
7- Take the Tamar Valley Wine Route
Just follow the bright blue and yellow Wine Route signs over the Batman Bridge (no cape required) to start exploring.
There are the dramatic hillsides of Relbia in the south and Mt Direction in the north to guide you into the Pipers River area.
The wines include Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and you can buy your favourite wines along the way without a worry about excess baggage.
The last winery on your journey will pack your Tamar Valley Wine Route Dozen and send your wines home for the cost of the freight.
8- Explore the Launceston Gorge
There’s plenty to do at Cataract Gorge Reserve which is a comfortable 15-minute walk along the back of the Tamar River or two-minute drive from Launceston’s CBD. Take the new pedestrian inclinator and arrive in style.
If you’re fit, walk through the fern-filled Victorian garden and along the cliff top on Hikers Zig Zag Track along the ancient rock gorge or take a half-day or full day climbing experience with Tasmanian Expeditions.
Afterwards, enjoy a break at Basin Café which is open from breakfast to afternoon with tea and scones.
Explore the large natural basin with a slow ride on the chairlift which spans the South Esk River. With a central span of 308 metres, it’s possibly the longest single chairlift in the world.
In summer there’s also a free outdoor swimming pool that’s perfect for a cooling dip.
Take the walk to the historic Duck Reach Power Station interpretation centre and, if you are game, discover the view from the seven-metre cantilevered lookout that juts over the river.
Cataract Gorge is certainly one of the best things to do in Launceston and simply should not be missed.
9- Take a Launceston tram
Not far from the city centre, the Launceston Tramway Museum will take you back to the days of double bogie trams, watching out for the inspector and Edwardian fashions.
You’ll discover a tram afterlife that includes everything from a honeymoon cottage to a motor racing tower and learn how restoration experts turn the near-derelict back into objects of desire. There’s a ride in a 1940s tram too.
10- Even if you don’t need an umbrella
Three generations of the Shott family owned the Old Umbrella Shop in George Street before it was taken over by the National Trust.
Yes, it still sells umbrellas along with National Trust and Tasmanian gifts and souvenir products, many made on premise.
Largely intact from the early years of the 20th century, it is believed to be the oldest shop in Launceston and is staffed by friendly volunteers who love a chat.
More things to do in Launceston – local tips
Launceston locals are a passionate lot, fiercely proud of their city and its multiple attractions. The affectionate nickname they proudly use for their hometown is Launnie. It’s pronounced ‘lonnie’ but don’t ever spell it that way or believe me, you will regret it. I foolishly misspelled it in a story about the top things to do in Launceston and stirred up a hornet’s nest of comments.
Outraged locals even took conducted a light-hearted poll to back their claim that the majority of Launcestonians, 76 percent, refer to their beautiful town as ‘Launnie’. Of the rest, 15 percent call it ‘Lonnie’ and the remainder don’t care or have another variation. I’m glad that’s settled.
Dear Launceston, please accept my deep apologies for my mistake. I promise it won’t happen again. Here are 10 tips from locals on what to do see and do in Launceston.
1- Ex-Launcestonian, photographer Mike Parry says the Eskmarket, the weekly, mostly undercover market held at the Launceston Showgrounds and Albert Hall is well worth a look and the cafe inside has great coffee and food.
Mike also says Princess Square, while fairly small compared to the city park, has one of the most spectacular ornate fountains in Australia and, if you’re a pushie, Launceston is a very bike-friendly city with many designated bikeways.
2- Saint John Craft Beer and PX Tapas are two ‘sure-fire winners’ to add to your bar and restaurant list says local Sharon Geale and Deb Malour adds Street Brasserie and Novaro’s Restaurant.
3- Also from Sharon Geale – Design Tasmania (just near the monkeys in City Park) has wonderful gifts and souvenirs or a whole dining suite should you be so inclined.
4- Deb Malor suggests while you’re checking out the Launceston Tramway Museum (#9) at Inveresk (free Tiger Bus from the CBD during the week, or 15 minutes interesting walk) it’s worth noting that the QVMAG – Museum is at Inveresk near the tram.
Also at Inveresk is the terrific Blue Cafe for a great breakfast or lunch, which gives you the opportunity to try their good wine list. Right next to the museum is the Academy of the Arts that also has a gallery open on weekdays.
5- Mia Nielsen’s tip is to take the shuttle bus from Launceston up to Low Head for a guided tour to see the Fairy Penguin colony.
6- Martine Cook says she had one of the best meals ‘ever’ had at Stillwater. The ambience, food and building were perfect.
7- Mandy Gibson wants you to visit beautiful Coralyn and Hollybank where there is a treetop adventure. Here are some other adventure activities around Launceston.
8- Jon Wilby says The Esk BeerFest should certainly be on the list.
9- Photographer Philip Kuruvita suggests you’ll want to take your memories of Launceston home in Launceston, a Sense of place.
10- Launceston is not a bad place to go hunting for the Southern Lights.
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