Launceston, or ‘Lonnie’ to locals, is Tasmania’s second biggest city. Perhaps not as smart and cosmopolitan as Hobart, but if its colonial heritage you crave, you couldn’t choose better, because Launceston, founded in 1806, is one of the oldest cities in Australia.
And if it’s history you’re after, Launceston has not only plenty of its own historic buildings, some dating back to Georgian times, but some imported ones. The Penny Royal World is a collection of historical buildings which originally stood near Cressy and were moved to Launceston, stone by excruciating stone. They include a working watermill, windmill, and corn mill – with a tramway link from the Gunpowder Mill.
For a flavour of Launceston you can take home with you, visit the Design Centre of Tasmania – which is also home to the Wood Centre – for top quality crafts by Tasmanians. Or for a reminder of Launceston’s not so distant roots, visit the Inveresk Railyards, which showcases traditional Aboriginal shell necklaces and early colonial artwork.
Tasmania Zoo is located in Launceston and is well regarded for its work in wildlife conservation which includes a breeding program for Tasmanian Devils. And what trip to Tasmania could pass without seeing one of these little imps?
Launceston’s Top 10
10. The Don River Railway is the state’s largest preservation railway and has a carriage rebuilding workshop.
5. A.W Birchall & Sons is not only Launceston’s, but Australia’s oldest bookshop, dating back to November 1844 and still on Brisbane Street, now a part of Brisbane Mall.
9. Aurora Stadium Launceston teems with fans during AFL football season from April to August.
4. Launceston City Park is right next to the city centre, home to Albert Hall and a monkey house.
8. Franklin House is just 8km from Launceston and one of Tasmania’s most beautiful Georgian Homes.
3. The National Automobile Museum has a splendid collection of vintage classics.
7. Tamar Island Wetlands are just 10 minutes from Launceston’s CBD. Reptiles, birds and an Interpretation Centre (not required for those who speak reptile and bird).
2. The Queen Victoria Museum is a stately old dame, and home to one of Australia’s best collections of colonial art.
6. First Basin Swimming Pool Picnic grounds, good restaurant and peacocks aplenty.
1. Cataract Gorge is number one on this list because of its chairlift, the longest single span chairlift in the world. Magnificent views to say the least, with gardens, walks and a suspension bridge down below.
Launceston has become a real hub of tourist activity in recent years with visitors from the UK and the US making up a third of international visitors. Many come to visit the Cataract Gorge, as well as the Victoria Museum, which is the largest outside a capital city in Australia. It is a compact city – and most parts give attractive views of the River Tamar – with many leafy suburbs that don’t have the overcrowding and traffic of larger cities.
Launceston’s CBD is full of well preserved 19th and early 20th Century buildings including Launceston Synagogue, which has a unique Egyptian Revival style architecture. Holyman House, Lucks Corner and the former Star Theatre are classic examples of art-deco design, all of which give the city centre a period ambience – it’s almost like walking onto an Agatha Christie film set. This is something the city council is keen to preserve with a restriction on the height of any new buildings – hardly any structures in the CBD have more than five storeys.
Mowbray is a suburb of Launceston which also contains the minor suburbs of Vermont and Mowbray Heights. It is where famous Tasmanian pioneer William Effingham Lawrence built a home for his son Robert William Lawrence in 1826 – Robert being Tasmania’s first botanist of note. Today the Vermont Homesteads have undergone extensive renovation and is starting to be noticed for its historical importance. Mowbray is also home to Tasman Park Horse and Greyhound Racetrack – where the AAMI Launceston Cup takes place in February. The Tasmanian Summer Racing Carnival is one of Launceston’s highlights, where thoroughbreds mix with fashionistas. Mowbray Golf Course is also located in the area.
East Launceston is where the majority of the city’s poshest houses are found and Launceston Aquatic Centre is also located here, completed in 2009 at a cost of $26.3 million. Windmill Hill Swimming Pool and the Regional Tennis Centre are situated here too. No excuses for laziness in this part of Launceston.
Southern Launceston’s suburb of Prospect is home to the Country Club Casino – which is a hotel, casino and golf club complex. The Casino was only the second to be built in Tasmania – the first in Australia. Prospect is also home to the Mount Pleasant Laboratories and the Silverdome Complex – a multi-use sports facility which has an indoor cycling track, netball courts and seating for concerts and also where the Tasmanian Institute of Sport’s Headquarters are located.
Invermay is Launceston’s cultural centre, home to Tasmania University’s Drama School, the Queen Victoria Museum and York Park. York Park is a major host of pop concerts and other forms of entertainment on a big scale, such as sporting events including association football – or soccer. The suburb is also home to some good shops and a boardwalk which runs right through to historical Inveresk which houses the Tramway Museum and the Powerhouse Gallery.
Launceston Eat & Drink
With its status as major tourist destination, Launceston is the perfect host, food-wise, with restaurants geared towards every taste - from Italian, Chinese, French, modern Australian and Japanese. Fresh local produce add to the high standard of the cuisine, with fresh seafood a speciality. In Launceston’s restaurants, modern food is on the menu served with reminders of the past. The Jail House Grill for instance is a century old restaurant constructed of convict bricks, and The Duke of Wellington serves meals within the historic hotel of the same name. With over a 100 restaurants to choose from – at least one has your name on it.
Izakaya is the place to head if you hanker after some oriental flavours. Super sushi and noodle dishes in this relaxed Japanese restaurant – Launceston’s best Japanese cuisine.
Pierre’s is open for a hearty breakfast of eggs and fruit loaf, and serves lighter dishes for lunch including pasta and burgers. Good coffee too.
The Basin Café offers exceptional views over Launceston’s Cataract Gorge. The food is good too, from burgers to modern Oz cuisine.
Fish’n’Chips serves not only this Brit classic with panache, but seafood salads and antipasto platters. Kids are welcome, and the wine, which can be ordered by the glass is recommended.
The Royal Oak Hotel is thought by many to be the best pub in Launceston with open mic nights and good pub grub .
Fee & Me is an upmarket nouvelle cuisine style diner where all the dishes are delectable but tiny. Great service and plenty of wine choice.
Fresh is a superb new age hangout. Organic and veggi/vegan is the menu of choice here. It’s green in earnest, with their commitment to recycling and supporting local eco issues.
Get some Parisian ambience in Launceston at Tant pour Tant, a French patisserie which serves organic breads, croissants, cakes and continental breakfasts each day.
Burger Got Soul The hamburger just got healthy with lean meat and delicious salads. Veggie options available too. Can get busy, but is worth the wait.
Stillwater is housed in a renovated 1840s flour mill and one of Launceston’s best restaurants, serving modern Australian cuisine of the highest order. Only the best Tasmanian seafood and local produce served here.
BandE Rotary Duck Race takes place between Charles and Tamar Street Bridges, Launceston and features a spectacular helicopter drop of 6000 plastic ducks in the North Esk River – they float up to Tamar Bridge Street. First to cross the finish line is the winner! April is the date.
The AFL Grand Final is played at Aurora Stadium in April with top athletes battling it out Launceston’s premier venue.
The Banff Film Festival takes place in June at the Earl Arts Centre, Launceston and is a thought-provoking collection of adventure mountain films from remote landscapes.
The Taste of Tamar takes place in Launceston during August. An annual event which celebrates wine and regional produce.
The Royal Launceston Show showcases Tasmania’s love for cats and dogs as well as the agricultural industries – displays, activities and exhibitions during October.
Circus Oz comes to town in October when Launceston welcomes these highly skilled performers to entertain and amaze.
The Viking Superbikes Championship comes to Launceston in November at Symmons Plains Tasmania, just 30 minutes drive from the city during November.
V8 Supercars – Falken Tasmania Challenge takes place at the Symmons Plains Raceway, Launceston. Thrilling races held during November.
Festivale comes to Launceston during December is a riotous celebration of food, wine and entertainment at Launceston’s historic City Park. Attracts over 40,000.
Symphony Under the Stars is a free event where you can sit and listen to orchestral classics at City Park. Don’t forget the picnic rug (and the picnic) when you attend this December event.
When To Go
Launceston has four distinct seasons with warm summers and winters which can get quite chilly. The city which is located in the Tamar Valley is surrounded by hills and mountains which give the weather a somewhat changeable nature.
The warmest months are January and February which see average temperatures of around 25°C – unless there’s a heat wave when temps have been known to rise to around 40°C. The coldest month is July where temperatures tend to dip to around 2°C. Snow is a rare occurrence in Launceston.
Launceston can get foggy in the winter, and rain falls on average on 88 days a year.
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What To Miss
You may want to miss the city centre on Friday and Saturday nights, and in particular the Mall –since things can get a little rowdy.
Plan your vacation for Tassie’s spring and summer months or call ahead to check attractions will be open – lots of them close for the winter.
The taxi ride from the airport is a tad on the expensive side – so take the shuttle bus instead.
Car is King in Launceston – although the CBD has one way streets which are quite narrow. Launceston is perfectly situated for travel by road within the country with major highways to Hobart, Davenport and Burnie.
The public bus service, Metro Tasmania is the main form of public transport – and is run by the Tasmanian government. Redline is another bus service which operates a service both within the city and to numerous locations from Launceston across Tasmania.
Launceston used to have one of the most extensive trolleybus routes in Australia – nowadays the tramway museum is all that remains.
The second city of Tasmania trails only the state capital of Hobart in terms of size and population. Launceston however, has a great degree of history, with official establishment in 1806. This makes the city of 100,000 people one of the first in all of Australia and as a result, a beautiful array of early 19th century estates dots the modest cityscape. Other examples of notable architecture in Launceston includes a rare Egyptian Revival synagogue built in 1844, under National Trust of Australia protection.
With tourism to Tasmania through the roof in recent years, Launceston has been a principal beneficiary. The main attraction in town is Cataract Gorge, with a single span chairlift that extends further than any in the world. At a full distance of 308 m, the ride over the gorge is spectacular. Other highlights in Launceston include massive City Park and the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery.
Attractions & Nightlife
- Royal Launceston Show
- Australian Football League Games
- Agfest Launceston
- Festival of Kites
- Festivale Launceston
- Mud Bar & Restaurant
- Jailhouse Grill
- The Northern Club
Launceston has a climate with four distinct seasons and generally warm weather throughout the year.
- Winter (June to August) 2-14°C
- Spring (September to November) 5-20°C
- Summer (December to March) 10-24°C
- Fall (April to May) 5-19°C
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