Oh the lovely Launceston, what a pleasant surprise you are. A delightful mix of colonial culture, wild nature, and a thriving culinary scene. There are plenty of things to do in Launceston to keep you busy for a couple of days or longer if you add a few day trips to explore the wider region.
Launceston’s central location in the north of the state makes it the perfect starting point for touring the wilds of north west Tasmania or the idyllic coastline of the state’s north east.
Affectionately known as Launnie, Launceston is Tasmania’s second-largest city, with a population of about 110,000 people. It has a very pretty cityscape of well-preserved Colonial and Victorian architecture and leafy city parks. And because of its sheltered location in a valley, it tends to have mild weather – perfect for walking around.
For ease of planning, Launceston’s attractions in this guide are organized based on geographic proximity to each other. So you can decide which areas of town you’d like to explore and how much time to spend there.
Launceston is compact enough to explore on foot. But if you get tired of walking, jump onto a free Tiger Bus (check bus route and timetable) that connects the city’s north with the Cataract Gorge via the CBD.
So without further ado, here are our favourite things to do in Launceston, including the highlights of the surrounding region to explore on day trips.
Explore Cataract Gorge
Kings Bridge, Trevallyn Road
You haven’t really been to Launceston if you didn’t visit the beautiful Cataract Gorge. The best way to experience the Cataract Gorge is by walking along the banks of the South Esk River. The walk starts at King’s Bridge (Trevallyn Road) just past Stillwater Restaurant, about a 10-15 minute walk from the city.
The walk takes about 15 minutes to reach the First Basin, where you find the Gorge restaurant, as well as dozens of tame peacocks and a few walking trails.
Cross Alexandra Suspension Bridge to visit the swimming pool and Cataract Gorge Visitor Centre or to take a ride across the full expanse of the gorge on the world’s longest single-span chairlift. Return to the city via the scenic Zig-Zag trail.
For something different, consider a paddling adventure in Cataract Gorge with Tasmanian Safaris that prove Hobie pedal-powered kayaks which means your hands will be free for taking pictures along the way.
Drop by Mill Providore & Gallery
2 Bridge Road, Launceston
Located on the top two floors of the charming 1830s flour mill on the banks of the Tamar river, above the Stillwater Restaurant, Mill Providore & Gallery is a curated collection of paintings, sculpture, photography, as well as furniture, jewellery, and woodcraft.
The Mill is the perfect place to pick up quality gifts, particularly handmade crafts. And it is conveniently located right next to the start of the Cataract Gorge walk.
Have Lunch at Stillwater Restaurant
2 Bridge Road, Launceston
If you worked up an appetite from all the explorations, you are in the perfect spot for lunch – the multi-award-winning Stillwater Restaurant, famous for its fresh local produce and premium Tasmanian wines, is right below the gallery.
The menu includes mouthwatering options like gnocchi fritto topped with ham and truffled pecorino, tiger prawn dumplings with scallops and Cape Grim beef steak.
Explore the City on a Walking Tour
Meet your guide at 2 Bridge Road, Launceston
You can easily explore Launceston independently, by strolling the city streets. But if you enjoy discovering local secrets and learning as you go, join the 3.5-hr Walking Tour led by a local guide who knows the city inside out.
The walk conveniently starts at Stillwater Restaurant and takes you along the seaport before heading into the city’s heart. As Australia’s 4th oldest city, Launceston is one of the best-preserved examples of 20th-century architecture, so there is plenty to explore. You could even include your lunch at Stillwater as part of the tour package.
Take a Stroll in the City Park
45-55 Tamar St, Launceston
If you prefer an independent wander, take a walk along Launceston’s lovely streets to the leafy City Park shaded by mighty old trees. Stroll among the gardens, past historic statues, and gazebos and don’t miss the fountain in the Dutch Garden – it is the oldest public fountain in Australia. Visit the flower display in the John Hart Conservatory – a beautiful building that was opened in 1932.
Right next door to the park is the Design Centre Tasmania which displays hand-crafted furniture made using Tasmanian timber and also has a store selling hand-made arts and crafts.
Visit a Museum
For a small city, Launceston has a surprising number of museums, and three of them are located just across the river from the City Park.
The free Queen Victoria Museum (2 Wellington Street) is a mix of art, history and natural science and home to Launceston’s Planetarium. In the same complex is the Tramway museum run by a volunteer-based organisation that works to restore and revive the old trams.
Another 10-minute walk away is the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania (84 Lindsay Street) with its collection of antique cars and motorbikes.
Stock up on Souvenirs
108 George St, Launceston
Launceston is a great spot to pick up some souvenirs for the family back home. You will find a huge range of Tassie souvenirs at the local family-run Tasmanian Artisan Shop at 108 George Street. The shop features work from hundreds of fabulous Tassie artists.
There is everything from Tasmania-themed woodwork, artwork, handcrafted jewellery, photography, pottery and glasswork to candles, scarfs, t-shirts, handbags and journals. It is the perfect one-stop shop for all your souvenirs and an opportunity to support local art.
Experience Tasmania’s Culinary Scene
You can’t visit Launceston and not sample some of Tasmania’s food specialties like truffles, cheese, wagyu beef, not to mention the state’s famously fresh seafood.
Some of Launceston’s top restaurants to consider are Geronimo Aperitivo Bar and Restaurant for modern European food and fresh Tasmanian produce; Stillwater for local produce and fine Tasmanian wines; and Grain of the Silos for everything from Cape Grim beef to Bruny Island cheese and everything moreish in between.
If you would like to combine a visit to a winery with a fine dining experience, head to Josef Chromy Wines, just 10 min south of Launceston. And if you don’t have a car or don’t want to drive, no problem, you can visit Joseph Chromy wines on a tour from Launceston.
Things to do near Launceston
If you have more than a day in Launceston, there are plenty of opportunities for day trips from the city to explore the wider region. And if you don’t have your own set of wheels, many of out of town attractions can be visited on day tours. Check out my guide to Best Day Tours from Launceston for ideas and recommendations.
200 Flinders St, Beauty Point. 45-minute drive from Launceston
Tasmania is one of the best places in Australia to see echidna and platypus in the wild. But if you didn’t get to see Australia’s most unique critters on your travels, head to Platypus House at Beauty Point (45 min drive north of Launceston) for an up-close and personal encounter with both monotremes.
The tours (Adult $26; Child $12.00) at Platypus house allow you to see and photograph these adorable egg-laying mammals feeding and playing in daylight and at a very close range.
Tamar Island Wetlands
W Tamar Hwy, Riverside. 15-minute drive from Launceston
Tamar Island Wetlands, just a 15-min drive north from Launceston (via A7) protects a lovely wetland area that provides habitat for over 50 bird species, including black swans, pelicans, several species of duck, egrets, cormorants and swamp harriers, occasionally, white-bellied sea eagles.
The best time to explore Tamar Island wetlands is early in the morning, when the birds are most active and before the heat of the day. There is an elevated boardwalk that meanders through grassland and over bridges across the Tamar River. The walk from the Visitor Center to Tamar Island is 1.5 km one way, but you can turn around any time you like.
Tamar Valley Wine Region
Wine lovers will love exploring the Tamar Valley wine region, which begins at Launceston’s doorstep and contains 30 vineyards and wineries. Among the 30, some of the best are:
- Tamar Ridge with stunning views over the valley (1a Waldhorn Dr Rosevears)
- Josef Chromy Wines with its award-winning restaurant and an 1800s homestead (370 Relbia Rd, Relbia)
- Iron Pot Bay Vineyard (7 W Bay Rd, Rowella)
- Swinging Gate Vineyard (103 Glendale Rd, Sidmouth)
- Goaty Hill Wines (530 Auburn Rd, Kayena)
To explore the wine region independently, use this interactive map from the Tamar Valley website to plan your visit. Or, if you prefer to enjoy the wines and not worry about driving, join the Tamar Valley Wine Tour from Launceston.
Hollybank Treetops Adventure
66 Hollybank Rd, Underwood
If you are looking for an adrenalin fix, Hollybank Treetops is for you. It’s an adventure centre with four types of activities: ziplining across the valley and Piper’s River at 50 metres above ground;1.5-hr off-road Segway tours; 2.5-hr tree ropes course; and a mountain biking park with three different trails.
You find the adventure park at 66 Hollybank Road Off Launceston-Lilydale Road, Underwood, about a 20-min drive from Launceston.
Narawntapu National Park
1349 Bakers Beach Rd, Bakers Beach. About 1hr drive from Launceston
Often referred to as Tasmanian Serengetti, Narawntapu National Park is one of only a handful of places in Tasmania where you can see Tasmania’s own subspecies of Eastern grey kangaroo – the Forester Kangaroo. It is also an excellent place to see wombats and Bennett’s wallabies in large numbers.
Just over an hour’s drive from Launceston, Narawntapu is an easy day trip to enjoy some of Tasmania’s abundant natural heritage.
The best place to see the kangaroos is along the banks of the Lagoon, near the Visitor Centre. Another area to explore is the epic and wild Bakers Beach.
If you feel like a long walk, the 9-kilometre Archers Knob loop trail – one of Tasmania’s Great Short Walks, takes in both the lagoon and the beach. Otherwise, you can drive to Bakers Beach and park at the foot of the sand dune for a short walk to the beach.
Bridestowe Lavender Farm
296 Gillespies Rd, Nabowla. 45-min drive from Launceston
One of Tasmania’s best-known lavender farms, Bridestowe Lavender farm is an easy 45-minute drive from Launceston. If you visit in the summer (from December through to early February), you’ll fall in love with the gorgeous lavender fields in full bloom.
Wonder the fields to your heart’s content and drop in by the cafe at the Visitor Centre to sample lavender tea, lavender ice cream, or lavender scones. The gift shop next door sells a range of gorgeous lavender souvenirs, from candles and soap to tea cups and essential oils.
Ashgrove Cheese Factory
6173 Bass Hwy, Elizabeth Town. 45-min drive from Launceston
Go for a drive west of Launceston, and in 45 minutes, you’ll reach Ashgrove Cheese Factory – a cheese lover’s heaven. This family-owned farm specializes in cheese-making. Scrumptious Cheddar, Blue and English Country style cheeses are hand-crafted on the farm following traditional methods like hand pressing, cloth binding and extended ageing in caves (!)
The best way to experience this cheese wonderland is to visit for breakfast or lunch and order High Cheese (yes, it is a thing!) or a Cheesy Flight tasting platter. There is also truffle fondue and freshly made gelato. And if feel like you’ve eaten a little bit too much, go for a walk on the farm and meet the world’s happiest cows.
Where to Stay in Launceston
There are plenty of lovely hotels and cottages in Launceston, depending on your preference.
For unbeatable water views, check out Peppers Silo – a series of 1960s grain silos on the banks of the Tamar River (89-91 Lindsay St) converted to a luxury hotel.
For a touch of romance, you can’t go past The Red Feather Inn in Meander Valley, a 10-minute drive from Launceston. The property consists of historic convict-built sandstone buildings with gorgeous interior design and a tranquil garden.
Change Overnight at 25 York St is Launceston’s newest boutique hotel. It has modern, stylish rooms that feel more like luxury apartments than typical hotel rooms.
Keeping to the historical theme, the adorable Kurrajong House on the corner of Adelaide and High Streets is the restored 1897 house with all the modern-day creature comforts and beautifully decorated rooms.
Auldington Hotel was built as Presentation Sister’s Convent and has since been converted into a lovely hotel with a gorgeous veranda with beautiful city views.
In the heart of the city, Waratah on York (12 York St) is another restored Victorian mansion with gorgeous interiors, some of which are the original features from 1862
The stylish Centennial Inn on Bathurst (120 Bathurst St) is conveniently located near Cataract Gorge. The rooms come equipped with heating, tea/coffee making facilities and flat-screen TVs. Free parking is available on site.
The affordable Mowbray Hotel on 254 Invermay Road is well-known for its friendly staff. The family rooms are highly rated.
Built in 1888, Arthouse Hostel (20 Lindsay Steet) is located on the banks of the North Esk River, between Seaport and Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery.
If you would like to see more options, check all accommodation options in Launceston available for your dates.
And this is a wrap on Launceston. What are your favourite things to do in Launceston? Share your tips in the comments below.
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