Affectionately known as ‘Lonnie’ to locals, Launceston is a lovely place to visit that has plenty to offer. The second-largest city in Tasmania, it lies in a scenic spot along the banks of the Tamar River with beautiful wetlands, national parks and of course Cataract Gorge – its standout sight – found nearby.
One of the oldest cities in Australia, it’s packed with fascinating historic sites and well-preserved colonial buildings with exquisitely manicured parks and public spaces. Besides diving into its thriving arts and dining scenes, visitors can check out its fantastic museums, enjoy exciting outdoor activities or take a delightful tour around the Tamar Valley’s numerous wineries.
With so many things to do in Launceston, the city certainly rivals Tasmania’s capital Hobart in terms of all that it has to offer.
In this post, we'll cover:
12. Design Centre Tasmania
Set at the southwest corner of City Park you can find Design Centre Tasmania, which hosts interesting exhibits and workshops. As well as a wonderful collection of wood carvings, it also has countless craft and design classes with the center acting as an important hub for Tasmania’s artistic community.
A firm favorite with local creatives, it was founded in 1976 to encourage and inspire art and design amateurs, aficionados and professionals alike in Australia and beyond. Since then, it has won great acclaim with its elegant and intricate Tasmanian wood carvings regularly touring around the world.
Visitors can shop for handmade crafts in its store, attend its temporary exhibitions or take part in one of the center’s weaving and woodcraft workshops.
11. Tasmania Zoo
Home to a staggering array of animals, the terrific Tasmania Zoo can be found just twenty minutes’ drive west of town. A fun and family-friendly place to visit, its expansive enclosures and gorgeous green spaces lie nestled amidst the rolling foothills of the Tamar Valley.
The only fully accredited zoo on the island, it now impressively houses more than a hundred species of birds, reptiles and animals. Cute critters endemic to Tasmania are located alongside exotic and endangered ones from abroad. As such, guests can spy kangaroos, koalas and Tasmanian devils next to Sumatran tigers, African lions and black-crested Macaques.
Aside from learning about the incredible animals, visitors can actually meet and stroke some of its friendly and furry residents, such as capybaras, meerkats and wombats, or explore the zoo’s swamp habitat which is full of amazing life-size dinosaur models.
10. National Automobile Museum of Tasmania
If you’re interested in fast cars and motorbikes, then you’ll definitely want to stop by the excellent National Automobile Museum of Tasmania. Set just across the North Esk River from the center, its showroom contains countless classic cars and interesting exhibitions on the history and evolution of the automobile.
Since opening in 1987, the museum’s collection has expanded considerably with remarkably well-preserved Porsches and Bugattis now found alongside a fabulous 1969 Fiat Spider and Ford Mustang from the same year. In total, it has over 110 vintage vehicles and contemporary cars to peruse with all kinds of makes, models and motorbikes on display.
After having explored its enormous exhibition space, guests can wander around its ‘Hall of Muscle’ which is dedicated to one of Australia’s most iconic kinds of car and shop for automobile themed merchandise and gifts at its on-site shop.
9. Cradle Mountain National Park
Although it lies just over two hours’ drive to the west of Launceston, Cradle Mountain National Park is certainly not to be missed when in town. This is because it boasts some of the most stunning scenery in Tasmania and offers outstanding outdoor activities.
Sprawled across a huge swathe of the Central Highlands, it encompasses everything from majestic mountains and glittering lakes to pristine rivers, rainforests and flower-filled meadows. While the lofty Cradle Mountain, after which it is named, is the park’s standout feature, the reflective Lake St. Clair and its numerous gorges and waterfalls are all equally well worth checking out.
Besides hiking and biking, visitors can kayak about its waterways or fish and swim in its lakes. In addition, you can often spot wombats, echidna and Tasmanian devils amidst its untouched and unspoiled wilderness.
8. Cruise the Tamar River
A wonderful way to see the city and its surroundings is to take a picturesque cruise along the Tamar River. Aside from meandering its way through the center of town, it passes by fertile farms and vineyards with lovely scenery and views wherever you look.
Stretching just over 70 kilometers in length, the humongous estuary reaches from George Town and the Bass Strait inland to Launceston where it is formed by the confluence of the North Esk and South Esk rivers. Lining its shores are quaint waterfront communities and beautiful nature reserves, with historic homesteads, churches and, of course, the incredible Cataract Gorge.
From town, a number of companies run cruises along the river with knowledgeable guides teaching you about the historic sights and nature spots. While watching the world float by you can sample delicious local fresh fruit, wines and cheese platters.
7. Tamar Island Wetlands
Also located along the river, the Tamar Island Wetlands lie ten minutes’ drive to the north of town. Very popular with birdwatchers, its scenic confines have pretty paths that wind their way amidst its lagoons, swamps and mudflats.
Protected as part of a nature reserve after having formerly been farmed, its wetlands are home to an astonishing array of wildlife. While strolling along its boardwalks visitors can expect to see everything from frogs and snakes to egrets, pelicans and swallows. Black swans and Glossy Grass Skinks can also be spotted from time to time.
Sight and snap photos of rare and vulnerable species, such as the gold and green frog or white-bellied sea eagle. Then stop off at its interpretation center and learn all about the history and nature of the wetlands.
6. James Boag Brewery
Set right in the center of town is the atmospheric old James Boag Brewery, one of the best places to enjoy a freshly pulled pint in Launceston. Aside from sampling its award-winning ales and lagers, you can also take tours around the site to see how its beers are brewed.
Impressively enough, James Boag’s beer has been brewed on William Street ever since 1881 with the brewery now occupying a whole block due to its overwhelming success and popularity. Take a tour to learn about traditional brewing techniques and see the production line, before sitting down for a drink at one of its three bars in the historic Tamar Hotel.
In addition, guests can delve into the history of both James Boag and the brewery, shop for gifts in its store and sip a cool draught of lager in its beer garden.
5. Heritage Walks
Launceston is full of beautiful old buildings and arresting public artworks, so it is well worth taking one of its self-guided Heritage Walks when in town. From its Visitor Information Centre, simply pick up a brochure and map and head off to explore all its amazing sights, squares and centuries-old buildings.
Currently, there are three routes to venture along with each looking at a different part of the city’s history and heritage. While the Merchants Machinery Trail explores its mining and milling past, the Rags to Riches route takes you past important and impressive churches, synagogues and commercial buildings.
There is also the Government to Gorge Trail that meanders by Launceston’s splendid Neoclassical Town Hall and other striking administrative buildings. This culminates in a spectacular view of Cataract Gorge.
4. Tamar Valley
Undoubtedly one of the prettiest parts of Tasmania is the vast Tamar Valley that lies either side of the winding river of the same name. This is home to everything from interesting historic sites and small, sleepy settlements to fertile farms and vineyards.
Stretching from Launceston to the Bass Strait, the green valley has a plethora of nature spots; rolling hills, lush farms and fields lie alongside the river. Aside from hiking and biking, visitors can enjoy scenic drives and check out sights such as Batman Bridge and the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre or visit George Town – one of Australia’s oldest settlements.
The main attraction for many people, however, has to be the dozens of wonderful wineries that dot the picture-perfect valley. With so many to try, it is well worth taking a tour around the vineyards and farms that also have fresh fruit, artisanal cheeses and delicious baked goods to sample.
3. City Park
City Park lies right in the historic heart of Launceston, just a stone’s throw from all of its main tourist attractions. As well as gorgeous green spaces and gardens, it has monuments and memorials, playgrounds, picnic areas and ponds.
Established in 1863, its picturesque paths are lined by colorful flowers and plants with pockets of woods and landscaped gardens. Besides an elaborate and elegant Victorian fountain and bandstand, the park also contains an enclosure of Japanese macaques which were gifted to the town by its sister city Ikeda in 1965.
Set within City Park you can find the historic Albert Hall, which hosts countless concerts, events and festivals during the year. The innovative Design Centre Tasmania is also nearby.
2. Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery
Just across the North Esk River from both City Park and the center of Launceston is another top attraction: the Queen Victoria Museum. It offers a fascinating insight into the peoples and cultures, history and nature of Tasmania, and is a must-visit when in town.
The largest regional museum in Australia, it occupies the restored and reimagined Inveresk railway yards with its grand galleries containing a captivating collection of artifacts and exhibitions. As well as exploring the island’s convict and colonial days, visitors can also watch educational shows in its state-of-the-art planetarium.
Located at another site next to Royal Park in the city center is the museum’s epic Art Gallery. This boasts a remarkable collection of Australian, Aboriginal and international artworks. Founded in 1891, it displays everything from fine decorative arts and furniture to fantastic paintings, photos and sculptures.
1. Cataract Gorge
While the city certainly has a rich history and stunning scenery and nature to enjoy, nothing can compare to the incredible Cataract Gorge. Protected as part of a reserve, it lies five minutes’ drive southwest of the centre and offers all kinds of fun outdoor activities and recreational opportunities.
Situated along the lower section of the South Esk River, the ginormous gorge is covered in beautiful bushland with phenomenal scenery and views wherever you look. Besides hiking, you can also venture along the Alexandra Suspension Bridge or take an unforgettable ride on the world’s longest single-span chairlift.
In addition, there is a refreshing swimming pool and pretty green park to be found in the basin of the gorge with cafes, restaurants and playgrounds also on offer.