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 the top things to do in Launceston.
One of the special things about Launceston is it is one of the few cities in the world with a stunning gorge at its doorstep. Launceston Gorge is a 15-minute walk from the CBD.
- 1 Launceston
- 1.1 Things To Do in Launceston to get your bearings
- 1.2 Things to do in Launceston
- 1.2.1 3- Experience Launceston Gorge
- 1.2.2 4- Go on a Heritage Walk
- 1.2.3 5- Visit the Queen Victoria Museum
- 1.2.4 6- Spend a day in Launceston City Park
- 1.2.5 7- Visit the National Automobile Museum
- 1.2.6 8- Visit Launceston’s Harvest Market
- 1.2.7 9- Dine at Stillwater
- 1.2.8 10- Discover the Tamar Valley Wine Route
- 1.2.9 11- Visit the Launceston Tramway Museum
- 1.2.10 12- Shop at the Old Umbrella Shop
- 1.2.11 13- Visit Eskmarket
- 1.2.12 14- Drink beer at Saint John Craft Beer
- 1.2.13 15- See the Fairy Penguins
- 1.3 Really cool Launceston attractions
- 1.4 Day Trips From Launceston
- 1.5 Launceston accommodation
- 1.6 Where to shop in Launceston
- 1.7 Where to eat in Launceston
Things To Do in Launceston to get your bearings
1- Discover the Tamar River
A walk along the Tamar River will help you stretch your legs, get your bearings and show you what a lovely city Launceston is.
One of the most relaxing ways to experience the scenery around Launceston is to go on a cruise.
You can cruise the Tamar River, past picturesque vineyards and farms.
Cruising Australia’s longest navigable estuarine river to stunning Cataract Gorge in Launceston is a fantastic introduction to a city that is big on food and wine.
2- Float Over Launceston In A Hot Air Balloon
One of the best ways to get your bearings is to see a city from the sky and in Launceston, where there’s no tourist tower, a hot air balloon ride is a wonderful way to start the day.
Float over Launceston and admire the panoramic Great Western Tiers, which are part of the Central Highlands Plateau, rich farmland and the cool city below.
You’ll soon realise what a special place Launceston is in Tasmania.
Things to do in Launceston
By Kerry Heaney
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 per cent 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 some tips on what to do in Launceston.
3- Experience Launceston Gorge
There’s plenty to do at Cataract Gorge Reserve which is a comfortable 15-minute walk along the bank 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 clifftop 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.
Visiting this Australian landmark is certainly one of the best experiences in Launceston and simply should not be missed.
4- Go on a Heritage Walk
Founded in the early 1800s, the city has plenty of architecture and art in Launceston.
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.
5- Visit the Queen Victoria Museum
Australia’s largest regional museum, the Queen Victoria 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).
6- Spend a day in Launceston City Park
Monkeys, ducks, a chessboard, 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, such as Festivale held in February each year in Launceston.
Attending Festivale is one of the culturally enriching things to do in Launceston.
7- Visit the National Automobile Museum
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!
8- Visit Launceston’s Harvest Market
Visiting Launceston’s Harvest Market in Cimitiere Street is a wonderful way to spend a Saturday morning.
It starts at a civilised 8.30 am and runs till 12.30 pm with a selection of fine fresh local produce, handmade cow and goat milk yoghurts and cheeses, free-range eggs, sourdough bread, Tasmanian 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.
Going to the markets is one of the fabulous social things to do in Launceston.
9- Dine at Stillwater
Drawing from the region’s bountiful local produce, Launceston has some eating establishments that punch well above their weight.
One of the best Launceston restaurants is Stillwater at the historic Ritchie’s Mill, which is in a picturesque setting.
10- Discover 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 worrying 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.
Drive it yourself or let someone else do the driving on this Tamar Valley wine tour.
11- Visit the Launceston Tramway Museum
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.
While you’re checking out the Launceston Tramway Museum 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.
12- Shop at the Old Umbrella Shop
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.
13- Visit Eskmarket
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.
14- Drink beer at Saint John Craft Beer
Pull up a stool at Saint John Craft Beer and take your pick of Tasmanian, Australia and International beers on tap.
There’s a beer to suit all palates and the meals are pretty tasty too.
It’s one of the most popular bars and a good spot to rub shoulders with the locals.
15- See the Fairy Penguins
Take the shuttle bus from Launceston up to Low Head for a guided tour to see the Fairy Penguin colony.
The Fairy Penguins are the smallest of the penguin family and are cute to watch.
Really cool Launceston attractions
Behind the elegant streetscapes of Launceston you get the sense there’s some secret cool business going on.
It could be because the locals appear almost nonchalant about their city oozing with fine produce and creativity.
You won’t find them hollering about their fabulousness to the mainland though, but instead happily beavering away at their craft.
Here are more fun things to do in Launceston.
17- Forest Segway Tour
Gliding through the magnificent Hollybank Eucalypt Forest aboard a Segway is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.
You’ll feel like a kid again as you traverse the established walking trails with only the sound of nature whizzing past your ears.
The tour takes about two hours in total including training, and covering between seven and eight kilometres it’s suitable for all abilities and you can go as fast or as slow as you want.
If the adrenaline is still pumping, fly 30 metres above the ground through the forest canopy on a zip line.
Really spice up the evening aboard a night flight with the illuminated cloud stations as your guiding beacon.
18- Launceston Architecture
Launceston showcases almost every style of architecture possible: Georgian, Regency, Victorian, Federation, Italianate, Edwardian, Art Deco, Queen Anne Revival and even some Japanese inspired design given the sister city is Ikeda in Osaka.
Wondering why there are so many pubs in Launceston?
With your feet firmly planted on the ground, join the knowledgeable Robyn Jones for a Launceston Historic Walk and discover many fascinating facts about Australia’s 3rd oldest city.
Leave with a new appreciation for the city’s varied, and mostly intact, architectural styles and as Robyn says, “We’re only the caretakers of buildings.”
You’d be very lucky to be a caretaker of any of these buildings.
Tours start and end at 1842 Gallery, housed in the original Counting House of Johnstone and Wilmot’s food store.
The gallery is jam-packed with handcrafted furniture, fashioned by Robyn’s husband Trevor, as well as art nouveau and art deco antiques, clocks, jewellery and fine art.
19- Design Tasmania
So much more than a gallery, Design Tasmania is also an event space, education centre, unique retail outlet, a place where the community convenes and rotating exhibition space.
Situated on the edge of City Park, later you can contemplate all that creativity whilst strolling through the grounds as our ancestors once did.
Other places to check out if you’re a fan of art and design see:
- Homebody, 68 Charles Street
- Ecoco, 51 Balfour Street
- Red Fox Vintage, 66 Tamar Street opposite Design Tasmania
- Tulloch’s auction house, 20 Herbert Street, Invermay
- Armitage auction house, 9 Goodman Court Invermay
- The Academy Gallery, 4 Invermay Road
- Queen Victoria Museum, 2 Invermay Road
- Gallery Pejean, 57 George Street
- Sawtooth, 2/160 Cimitiere Street
- Queen Victoria Art Gallery for, 2 Wellington Street
20- James Boag Brewery Tour
You can’t possibly call yourself a beer lover and visit Launceston without at least sampling a James Boag.
Take it one step further with a tour through the historic brewery, built on the banks of the Esk River in 1881; a time when it was deemed safer to drink beer instead of the water.
Of course, that’s no longer the case and James Boag’s brews are crafted from Tasmania’s famed pure water, premium hops and barley.
Alternatively, in a city with over thirty pubs and breweries, you won’t have any trouble finding an amber tipple.
21- Launceston food vans
Calling all hipsters and lovers of retro fare.
By now you may have noticed many of Launceston’s restaurants are booked in advance by those in the know, so it’s kind of fun hailing down your food without a booking.
Follow Wanderlust Food Van, Eats with Beats, Turkish Tukka, Burger Junkie, Tacos de Pancho on social media to find their hiding holes.
Or chance it with a visit to the Harvest Markets, Saint John Craft Beer courtyard and festivals throughout the year.
22- Launceston Artbike tour
Starting at Design Tasmania, collect your Artbike, helmet and map for a unique arty adventure.
Pedal your way around Launceston’s cultural hotspots and of course the sky, or shall we say road, is the limit.
Some suggestions include Gallery Pejean, 1842 Gallery, Sawtooth and Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.
There’s a no booking policy, first-in, first-served, and they can be hired for the day, overnight or weekend.
Day Trips From Launceston
23- Visit Cradle Mountain National Park
From Launceston, you can venture to world-famous Cradle Mountain National Park into a magical wilderness of waterfalls and lakes, where Tasmanian wildlife roam free.
It’s a drawcard for nature lovers and one of the most stunning wilderness areas in Australia.
You can do it as a day trip but it will be a long day and it makes more sense to plan a road trip from Launceston to visit a number of areas.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is a World Heritage-listed park, where you will love the forest hikes and stunning views of Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain towering above it.
24- Explore Wineglass Bay
Another iconic spot in Tasmania that you can explore as a day trip from Launceston is the stunning Wineglass Bay.
Wineglass Bay in Freycinet National Park is one of the most stunning places in Tasmania.
If you’re visiting as a day trip, there are several short walks you can do in the park and incredibly scenic spots where you can snap those holiday photos.
25- Go skiing at Ben Lomond
Launceston is the closest city ski resort and although Ben Lomond doesn’t have huge ski runs, it’s about an hour’s drive away.
Go skiing or snowboarding in winter or hiking and mountain biking in other seasons.
The r18 km ride from the mountain top to the bottom takes about half an hour.
It would be a shame to visit Launceston and not have the opportunity to luxuriate in the city’s magnificent architecture first hand.
While there is plenty of Launceston hotels and boutique accommodation available, the Hatherley Birrell Collection takes luxury to the next level.
Each room, suite and apartment is unique, located in individual locations across town and while sympathetic to their surroundings, they’re understated to ensure you feel comfy enough to sloth around in your most casual or decadent attire and pretend this is how you usually live.
The keyless entry ensures complete discretion; although the chances of bumping into your multi-awarding winning hosts, husband and wife dynamic duo Rebecca and Jack Birrell, is highly likely given Launceston’s friendly community spirit.
Where to shop in Launceston
Launceston is just too cute to not return home without a keepsake of some kind.
Now run by the National Trust, the Umbrella Shop is deemed as the oldest shop in town and manned by charming ladies who may have even shopped for a parasol themselves in its heyday.
Vintage Red Fox
Pick up a vintage stole, hand-stitched evening bag or a little something sparkly from Vintage Red Fox; who at the time of writing this were in the throes of opening a café next door.
The Spotted Quoll
Another gorgeous find is pop-up shop The Spotted Quoll tucked away at Design Tasmania. Owner and designer Tamika Bannister transforms her nature photographs into useable works of art.
There’s no shortage of homewares, art and gourmet produce to stash in your suitcase at the Mill Providore which will keep you salivating long after you’ve returned home.
Where to eat in Launceston
Okay, I loath to pick just one restaurant in a city of such gourmet levitation but in this instance, the degustation at PX (formerly PX Tapas Wine) has left me hankering for more.
There’s probably a menu floating around somewhere, but just ask owner Damon Wecker to feed you.
It was a blur of Catalan eggs accosting bacon jam, smoked duck breast adorned with garlic mousse and a smoky chocolate brulee still teasing my taste buds all perfectly matched with local and international wines.
I can’t be entirely biased, however, and there are plenty of other mouth-watering options like:
- Black Cow
- Mud Bar
- Hallam’s Waterfront
Three great places to drink coffee on George Street are:
- Amelia Espresso (56 George St)
- Cocobean Chocolate for amazing Irish Coffee truffles (82 George St)
- Sweetbrew (93 George St)