This article was published on AWOL on February 26, 2020. Images by Mick Ross.
Tasmania’s cool capital Hobart may get all the attention but Launceston’s understated charm makes it a worthy destination in its own right. Next time you head south to the Apple Isle, consider paying it a visit. Here are eight fun ways to experience Launceston.
Explore Cataract Gorge
The first place most locals recommend visitors see is Cataract Gorge – and with good reason. A few minutes drive from the city, the spectacular ‘Gorge’ is a much-loved natural playground. Here, you can walk, hike, mountain bike, rock climb or just get back to nature. During warmer weather, take a dip in the outdoor pool or have a picnic in the pretty Cliff Gardens, in the north of the reserve, where peacocks roam.
Take an architecture tour
Launceston is rich in historic architecture, reflected in the diversity of buildings across the CBD and suburbs like Trevallyn. For those wanting to learn more about the city’s architectural history, the National Trust Tasmania offers a range of tours, including ‘Beautiful, brutal and just damn ugly’. This one-hour tour costs $20 and takes in buildings in Launceston city, spanning Early Colonial to 1980s Brutalism in style.
Eat your way around town
Tasmania has a well-deserved reputation for its first class produce and wines and dining out is the best way to experience them. Head to Bryher or Sweet Brew in the city for great coffee and brunch. Try Geronimo for aperitivos and share plates and Bar Two, a low-key, hole in the wall bar, for drinks and snacks. While lovers of fine dining will enjoy Stillwater and Henry’s.
On every Saturday morning from 8.30am to 12.30pm, grab a coffee and wander the Harvest Market in Launceston. You’ll find stalls brimming with fresh produce, meat, wine, baked goods and homemade treats from the nearby Tamar Valley.
Party at Mona Foma
When it comes to arts festivals, the biggest one on Launceston’s calendar is
Mona Foma. Run by the good folk of Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) in Hobart, this annual festival of music and art (Foma) takes over venues across the city. This year’s bill included Neneh Cherry, Courtney Barnett, PNAU, and Ethiopian jazz legend Mulatu Astatke. Mona Foma returns to Lonnie from January 17 to 19 in 2020, with the program to be announced later this year.
Try some local brews
James Boag has been brewing beer in Launceston since 1881. Visitors can take a look at the Boag’s beer-making process firsthand on a brewery tour, which runs for 90 minutes and concludes with a beer tasting. Come evening, head to craft beer bar Saint John in the city. On offer are over 170 craft beers (including 14 on tap), ciders, wines and spirits. Many of which are made in Tasmania.
Visit the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Spread across two buildings a few minutes drive apart in the city, a visit to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) is a great way to learn more about the history and culture of Launceston and Northern Tasmania. Permanent and rotating exhibitions showcase works from QVMAG’s history, natural sciences, visual arts and design collections. The Museum and Gallery are open daily from 10am–4pm. Admission is free.
Take in the Tamar Valley wine route
Over 30 wineries – including Josef Chromy Wines and Wines For Joanie – dot the scenic Tamar Valley wine route, which sits about 20 minutes north of Launceston. A perfect day trip, the region is known for its cool climate wines, particularly chardonnay, riesling, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, pinot noir and champagne.
Launceston is home to some wonderful independent and artisan stores. Shop Design Tasmania’s gallery/store for wood furnishings and interiors, Avenue Records for new and old vinyls, Petrarch’s for books, Gourlay’s for handmade sweets, and ecoco for homewares, interiors and kokedamas by local maker Homespun Botanical.