Why would you go to Launceston when there are so many more spectacular destinations in Tasmania? Let me count the reasons.
1. If it’s the footy (AFL) season and Hawthorn has a game at UTAS Oval, it’s a ripper time to be in town. Especially if you barrack for the Hawks or the opposition of the day.
The town hums on footy weekends. The streets are awash with a sea of fans on game day and there’s an air of camaraderie, optimism, expectation and vibrancy – before the game at least. The tribal colours are everywhere and local businesses are enjoying the largesse.
A word of warning though, if you are planning to fly into Launceston on a footy weekend, book well in advance.
2. Cataract Gorge is a delightful 15-minute 1.5 kilometre walk from the city centre. It’s a beautiful area with pools, good amenities and wonderful open space. You can continue walking up the gorge or just plonk in a teahouse and watch the peacocks strut around or take a ride on the chairlift, which claims to be the longest single-span chairlift in the world. The longest span is 308 metres and the ride takes you across 457 metres. The cost is $13 one-way or $16 return.
3. On Saturdays from 8.30am to 12.30pm, the Harvest Market operates from a carpark in Cimitiere Street in the city. Just try to hold yourself back from loading up with fresh fruit and veggies, cheeses, amazing breads, brownies, boutique gins and beers and great hamburgers. The stall-holders and volunteers are delightfully friendly. There was even a volunteer on the bins to ensure all items posted in the recycling bins were, in fact, recyclable. It’s come to that and I’m rapt the issue of rubbish is being taken seriously.
4. A little further down the road is City Park – with bike tracks and playgrounds and … monkeys. In fact they are Japanese macaques. It seems odd to have macaque families in a large enclosure in one corner of the park, but the signage tells us the climate is appropriate and the conditions appear to be good. There were quite a few babies so they must be happy enough to breed. It was interesting to watch them go about their daily grooming and playing. The exhibit is free.
5. For beer lovers, visit Saint John Craft Beer Bar in St John Street (of course). It has a great atmosphere, good basic food and an interesting selection of craft beers on tap, which change regularly, plus bottled beers, ciders and wines. The friendly bartender told me after I’d bought a particular pale ale: “ If you don’t like it, the brewer is at the end of the bar, so go tell him.” There was no need to accost him, although if we knew who had brewed the chocolate chilli stout, we may have offered feedback. Let’s just say we didn’t order another.
Of course, Boags Brewery across town has tours for those who prefer regulation flavours.
6. But wait, there’s more.
We didn’t get to the National Automobile Museum or the Queen Vic Museum and Planetarium, but locals say they are well worth a visit.
And if you had the time, I’d highly recommend a visit to Evandale, which is 20 kilometres down the road past the airport. I still dream of the breakfast I had at the Ingleside Bakery Café several years ago.
Of course, you should wander around town and take in the old buildings, churches and clock towers built in the early 1800s. I can imagine many will be refurbished as the town’s tourist appeal continues to grow. There are walks along the scenic Tamar Estuary and Esk River.
And if you hire a car or camper, it could be the start of a tour of Tassie. And that’s a wonderful thing.
Have you been to Launceston? What were your favourite sights?
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