It is difficult to be completely unbiased when comparing the various cities of Tasmania. I grew up in Launceston but went to University in Hobart and then spent a number of years living in both Launceston and Hobart before now finally settling inHobart.
Personally I far prefer Hobart, not least because Lanceston does not have a beach close by. And yes you can point me to Green’s Beach but that is at least an hours drive and takes up a whole day trip really. I am referring to great beaches like Kingston Beach which is only 10 minutes away from Hobart.
Is Launceston Australia’s most underrated city?
Quite possibly, yes, despite its beauty, great food, fun attractions and position on the edge of the wilderness.
All I’m saying is: give Lonnie a chance.
In the lead-up to my trip, I read up on the most recommended things to do there, and I wasn’t thrilled by most things I read. Some articles referred to it as Launceston, a ‘city’ of Tasmania. Those quotation marks are what’s known as being condescending.
Another article stated the number one thing to do in Launceston as visiting Cradle Mountain, which is two hours away. That’s like saying the best thing to do in Melbourne is hightail it out of there and go to Bendigo instead. Then, when I was in Launceston I heard several people say that when they booked to visit, their friends scoffed, “Why go there?”
All of these people have missed the point. I’m here to tell you that Launceston (pronounced “Lon-ceston” – the locals cringe when you say “Lorn-ceston”) is wonderful, and there are many reasons to hang out in the city itself or in the areas surrounding it.
Here are some reasons (in no particular order) to visit Launceston and its surrounds:
Food and Wine
You’ve never seen so much fresh food, and people who are so proud of the local produce they have to offer. The seafood in particular is bloody amazing, and right nearby they also source beef, lamb, honey, truffles and apples. I didn’t go there to write about the food, but everything I ate was so great that next time I might do just that.
As for the wine, you’ve heard of the Tamar Valley, right? And you know Launceston is right on the Tamar River? (Which, by the way, is one of the most spectacular pieces of water you could hope to see.) There are wineries at every turn from the city right up to the river’s mouth, producing some beautiful cool climate reds, whites and sparklings.
It’s The Gateway to More Magnificence
Close by, the Tamar Valley is dotted with interesting spots (even aside from the wineries), like a penguin tour, gold mine, little cafes and quirky shops.
You can also use Launceston as a base to explore around the Bass Highway area, where you’ll find fresh produce (the raspberry farm is wonderful) and beautiful scenery.
Or Launceston could be your fly-in, fly-out launch from which to head over the east coast or down to the central wilderness. It’s a city that opens up so many doors.
A beautiful open grassy area, City Park is home to a great kids’ playground, space to walk or jog, a lovely outlook of the city, interesting history (this was the first spot in Launceston to be settled) and – best of all – monkeys! Yes, monkeys. The enclosure of Japanese macaque monkeys is fun to hang around (get it?) as these funny critters run around, eat and play in the water. You might also enjoy Royal Park, a similarly landscaped garden overlooking the river, which would make for some beautiful walks, jogs and picnics when the weather’s good.
This is a fabulously huge natural area, where Launceston locals head for picnics, running and other adventures, while visitors swarm in to check out what all the fuss is about. There are heaps of ways to enjoy Cataract Gorge – so much so, I have a whole post coming up on just that!
A Beautiful Historic City
Launceston was settled in 1806, making it Australia’s third oldest city. Heaps of old buildings still stand proud, and I couldn’t believe the beauty and history the streetscape displays at every turn. (And there are some great shops and cafes in those buildings!)
Galleries and Museums
The Queen Victoria Art Gallery and Queen Victoria Museum both have free entry, and are both fabulous. I visited the museum to find it’s small but fun and interesting. The kids’ area takes up a major portion of it, featuring hands-on scientific fun for the little (and slightly bigger) ones to play with, and extends outside for some more energetic play. It’s also a great chance to see a real (but obviously not alive) Thylacine and learn more about Tasmanian history.
“Launceston is the adventure capital of Australia,” says Ian, my mountain biking and rock climbing guide. Sure, he’s a bit biased, but he’s got a point. Close to the city itself you can rock climb, kayak and bushwalk, and a short drive will have you at places you can mountain bike and zipline.
This is the ultimate playground for Launceston locals and visitors. Only 15 minutes from the city itself, there are three ways to enjoy Hollybank at high speed – zipline through the tree canopies, mountain bike through the forest, or take a segway tour around the forest floor – or you can take it slow with a picnic and a walk.
Launceston is easy and cheap to fly into, just one hour and as low as $40 one way from Melbourne. If people ask you why you’re going there, just direct them here or give them your “wow” answer when you get home.
With thanks to Tourism Tasmania for hosting my visit.