Launceston may be one of Tasmania’s smaller cities, but it’s certainly not short on charm or things to do. Nestled in the heart of the Tamar Valley, Launceston boasts a rich history, stunning architecture, and a vibrant arts and culture scene. Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, or simply looking to soak up some natural beauty, Launceston has something to offer everyone. In this article, we’ll take you on a journey through some of the city’s top attractions, hidden gems, and must-see sights, so you can make the most of your time in this delightful Tasmanian destination.
Launceston is an Australian city in the state of Tasmania and is situated on the Tamar River. It has a population of about 110,000 people and is known for its rich history. It’s one of the most popular destinations in Australia for its diversity, natural beauty, clean environment, and friendly people.
The riverside city, in northern Tasmania, is well known for its spectacular views of the Cataract Gorge, which offers walking trails and sculpted gardens. Visitors can also visit the Queen Victoria Museum, located in a former railway workshop. A sister art gallery is located across the river in Royal Park. The city’s scenic Tamar Valley is a popular spot for outdoor activities.
Launceston won Wotif’s 2022 award for Best Australian town.
History of Launceston
Launceston, nestled on the banks of the Tamar River, holds a storied history that dates back centuries. As Tasmania’s second oldest city, Launceston has witnessed the ebb and flow of colonial settlements, economic booms, and social transformations. Let’s embark on a historical odyssey through Launceston’s evolution, unveiling its rich past with a timeline of significant milestones.
Early 19th Century – Colonial Establishment:
- Launceston was established in 1806 as a colonial outpost under Lieutenant Colonel William Paterson, who named the settlement after his birthplace in Cornwall, England.
1820s – The Arrival of Convicts:
- During the 1820s, Launceston experienced an influx of convicts, contributing to the growth of the settlement and the establishment of important buildings and infrastructure.
1835 – Township Status and Growth:
- In 1835, Launceston was proclaimed a township, further solidifying its importance as a regional center.
Mid-19th Century – A Flourishing Port City:
- By the mid-19th century, Launceston became a flourishing port city, serving as a hub for agricultural produce, minerals, and timber from the surrounding areas.
1850s – Gold Rush Influence:
- The discovery of gold in nearby regions during the 1850s brought a significant influx of people seeking their fortune, further fueling Launceston’s growth and prosperity.
Late 19th Century – Victorian Architecture and Civic Development:
- The late 19th century saw an architectural boom in Launceston, with many Victorian-style buildings and public spaces constructed, adding to the city’s charm.
1891 – Municipal Status:
- In 1891, Launceston was granted municipal status, gaining greater autonomy in local governance and administration.
20th Century – Industrialization and Social Change:
- The 20th century witnessed industrialization and modernization in Launceston, shaping the city’s economy and infrastructure. Social changes also marked this period, reflecting shifts in cultural attitudes.
1960s – Urban Renewal and Preservation:
- In the 1960s, Launceston embarked on urban renewal projects while also focusing on preserving its heritage and historical sites.
21st Century – A Flourishing Cultural Hub:
- Today, Launceston thrives as a cultural and economic hub in Tasmania. It offers a blend of historical landmarks, vibrant arts scene, and scenic landscapes, attracting tourists and locals alike.
Launceston: A Tapestry of Past and Present:
- Launceston’s timeline is a tapestry of colonial heritage, economic prosperity, and cultural growth. As a city that reveres its past while embracing the present, Launceston continues to evolve and offer a captivating journey through the pages of Australia’s history.
Launceston is a bustling, lively city with plenty of things to do and see.
Some of the most popular attractions in Launceston are:
The Launceston General Cemetery: What better way to explore death than at one of the most beautiful cemeteries in Australia?
The Fairy Penguins are one of the cutest animals in the world, and you can see them in action at the Umbrella Shop. The city’s elegant streetscapes make for a delightful experience, and the locals are remarkably nonchalant about the city’s charms. The town is also well known for its quality produce, and you can find an eclectic mix of vintage items in shops and boutiques. While visiting Launceston, don’t miss the opportunity to take a Segway tour, and even try some old-school food!
There are several outdoor activities to keep you busy. A trip to the Tamar Island Wetlands is a great way to spend a day with the family. The Tamar Valley is also home to a number of nature parks, including Cradle Mountain. You can even rent a bike to explore the surrounding area. There are no reservations, and you can hire the bike for the day or even for the entire weekend.
To experience the beauty of the region, you can embark on a cliff walk over the picturesque cliffs. There are also many opportunities to explore the town by boat, which is the most popular mode of transportation. Alternatively, you can take a river cruise on the Tamar River. The two are very different ways to experience the city. The Tamar River is a beautiful river that is home to a variety of species, from seahorses to whales.
For a picnic lunch, you can pack some cheese and cured meats. The Umbrella Shop is the oldest shop in the city and is staffed by lovely ladies. The Vintage Red Fox sells vintage items and is soon to open a cafe next door. The Spotted Quoll is a unique pop-up shop in Design Tasmania, which turns nature photographs into practical objects. You can also enjoy a stroll through the streets of Launceston by walking through the historic district.
Launceston’s own piece of wilderness just 15 minutes walk from the city centre. Here you’ll find hiking trails, the world’s longest single span chairlift, a swimming pool for hot days, a restaurant, kiosk, cafe and wildlife. There are beautiful gardens, a suspension bridge and an inclinator for easy access,
There is an Interpretation Centre and panoramic lookouts with spectacular views on the walking trails
Other notable attractions include Cornwall Park and Esk Market.
Step back in time with a visit to the Tasmanian Transport Museum. Parents and grandparents can relive their own childhood memories while introducing the next generation to this unforgettable part of Tasmania’s history. See the trains, trams and buses that were once a common sight throughout Tasmania. On the first and third Sunday of each month enjoy a short train ride, giving a small taste of bygone train travel.
There are a number of art galleries in Launceston. The most popular would be the Queen Victoria Gallery. The gallery has an extensive fine art and decorative arts collections can be found at a dedicated art gallery at Royal Park on the edge of Launceston’s city centre. QVMAG Art Gallery has an extensive collection of colonial art collection with works by John Glover when he was painting the Deddington district in sthe 1840s, Hugh Ramsay and Tom Roberts. Tasmania’s contemporary artists are also strongly represented with large scale artworks by Bea Maddock and Philip Wolfhagen who are painting the landscape today.
Other galleries in Launceston include 1842, Gallery Pejean, Poimena Gallery and the Academy Gallery.
There are a few hikes that you can do in the Cataract Gorge Walk. The hikes go along the banks of the river and provide some great views.
You can begin the walk in Launceston town the link I provided gives you detailed instruction on where to start your hike.
What do you like best about your city?
Its a large country town/city, with beautiful old builings, friendly locals, loads of parks and cafes. Launceston’s lovely river walk and Punchbowl park are great places to walk or relax with the family. Its a great place to bring up kids, and a great place to visit. It may be a small city but it has heaps of attractions and things to do.I love living here, and hope others will love visiting here too.
Best Restaurants in Launceston
For a small city Launceston has a great choice of restaurants and cuisines which are listed. For a unique night out, check out a food truck. There are numerous options for delicious eats, and there are a number of local and international trucks to choose from. Try a bite from a Turkish Tukka or a Burger Junkie. While in town, take in some live music at Lonnies Cafe, or go on a Segway tour! The locals are notoriously friendly and nonchalant about the city, so you will be able to enjoy the atmosphere without being pushed too hard.
If you’re on a foodie vacation in Tasmania, the first thing you should do is try the freshest seafood, crayfish, and other local delicacies. The state of Tasmania is well-known for its fresh, local produce, and Launceston is no exception. There are many options for eating in Launceston, and there are many restaurants to suit any taste and budget.
If you’re staying in a luxury hotel in Launceston, consider trying the restaurant at Peppers Silo Hotel, which is housed in an old grain elevator. The chefs prepare a menu of fresh seafood, which can include ingredients from the surrounding markets. The food here is delicious and will satisfy your hunger and thirst. The hotel’s restaurant has excellent reviews, and guests have praised the service.
If you’re craving fresh, local produce, you shouldn’t miss the Harvest Market in Launceston, which is held on Saturday mornings in the city centre. You’ll be able to see truffle farmers, gourmet producers, and more, while enjoying the ambiance and community spirit. There are many restaurants to choose from in Launceston, and it can be difficult to decide which one is the best.
The Stillwater Café, located in Civic Square, has a wide selection of Tasmanian and international dishes. The kitchen is home to international specialists and local chefs, and has an attached accommodation. Tex-Mex and Argentinian cuisine are available at the nearby Stillwater Seven. For more local fare, head to Burger Junkie, which has a popular local menu and a top-notch menu featuring locally-grown Black Angus Beef.
- Rupert and Hound – seafood restaurant with a great outlook with waterfront views
- The Metz Restaurant and Bar for wood fired pizzas
- Mekon Vietnamese Restaurant because I just love Vietnamese food.
- Mudbar Restaurant – fine dining Restaurant for special occasions
- Black Cow – another fine dining restaurant that specialises in steak
- Smoky Joe’s Creole Cafe’ – diner style meals with a creole twist
- Novaro’s Restaurant – Italian but must better than the usual.
Accommodation in Launceston
This is a small list of the best hotels and guest houses in Launceston. For more details and customer reviews please click on the links which will take you to TripAdvisor.
(H) denotes that it is a hotel in a historic building.
The Sebel Launceston hotel is superbly located within the city of Launceston with the convenience of major tourist attractions within walking distance of the property.
Peppers Silo Hotel was converted into a sophisticated 9 storey hotel providing a unique place to stay in Launceston as the hotel has been built within the grain silos.
Kurrajong House offers accommodation to adult only guests whom enjoy a quiet and tranquil stay within a heritage property that has been lovingly restored with a chic influence. (H)
The Grand Hotel Launceston is ideally located in downtown Launceston, adjacent to the beautiful City Park (H)
Hotel Grand Chancellor Launceston is only a short stroll from the main central business district, shopping malls and Aurora Sports Stadium.
Auldington Hotel offers true boutique accommodation in Launceston, Tasmania. What was once the Presentation Sisters Convent, built in 1899, has now been converted into a luxurious, welcoming and peaceful, 4.5 Star AAA rated hotel. (H)
Arthouse Hostel is a basic hotel set in a building dating from 1888 offering free Wi-Fi, plus a shared kitchen & a BBQ. (H)
Launceston Backpackers is set in a 100-year-old brick Federation-style house, this budget hostel is located in a residential area, 1.8 km from Launceston City Park and 1.9 km from Cataract Gorge.
Pod Inn is the first capsule accommodation in Tasmania. Pod Inn has a mission that is to achieve hotel standard service while maintaining affordable prices.
Festivale is a 3 day event held in summer that showcases Tasmanian food, wine and entertainment.
Launceston and surrounding areas holds many music festivals every year such as the Tamar Valley Vintage Festival, Launceston Folk Festival, and much more.
The Saloon Bar. The Royal Oak Hotel quite often have live music and there are a couple nightclubs in the town as well Lonnies being the biggest.
The Batman Fawkner Inn is worth a look as well. It’s the site of Launceston’s oldest pub (The Cornwall Hotel est 1824). It was only renamed in 1981 and most of the current building was done in 1904. This is a great old building and full of history although now has music at night and a video arcade in the main bar. Nice place for a meal though.
Best Day Trip out of the City:
Launceston is a charming city that is located in the heart of the Tamar Valley, surrounded by stunning natural beauty and a rich history. However, if you’re looking to explore beyond the city limits, there are plenty of fantastic day trips that you can take to experience even more of Tasmania’s unique attractions. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the best day trips from Launceston that you won’t want to miss.
- Cradle Mountain
Cradle Mountain is one of the most iconic natural attractions in Tasmania, located approximately two hours from Launceston. This stunning national park boasts breathtaking scenery, including glacial lakes, rugged mountain ranges, and a variety of unique wildlife. Whether you choose to go hiking, take a scenic drive, or join a guided tour, Cradle Mountain is a must-see destination for nature lovers.
- Bay of Fires
Located approximately two and a half hours from Launceston, the Bay of Fires is a picturesque coastal region that is famous for its crystal-clear waters, white sandy beaches, and unique orange-hued granite rocks. Take a dip in the ocean, enjoy a scenic hike, or simply relax and soak up the stunning views.
- Wineglass Bay
Wineglass Bay is a pristine beach located in the Freycinet National Park, approximately two and a half hours from Launceston. The beach is famous for its crystal-clear waters, white sand, and stunning views of the Hazards mountain range. Whether you choose to take a scenic flight, a guided tour, or simply hike to the beach, Wineglass Bay is a must-see destination for any Tasmania itinerary
Stanley is a charming seaside town located approximately two hours from Launceston. The town is famous for its historic buildings, stunning views of the Nut, a unique volcanic plug that rises 143 meters above the town, and delicious local seafood. Take a stroll along the historic streets, climb to the top of the Nut, or simply relax and enjoy the scenery.
In conclusion, Launceston is the perfect base for exploring Tasmania’s unique attractions, with plenty of fantastic day trips that you can take to experience even more of the state’s natural beauty and history. Whether you’re interested in hiking, relaxing on the beach, or learning about Tasmania’s fascinating past, there’s a day trip from Launceston that is sure to capture your interest.
Something not many tourists would know about Launceston
We have a great place called Heritage Park, that has picnic shelters and BBQ’s and lots of bike and walking paths that go for miles.
Interesting facts about Launceston
- Launceston was settled by Europeans in March 1806.
- The city was named after Launceston which is a town in Cornwall UK.
- Launceston was the first city to be lit by hydro-electricity.
- The city is prone to flooding and has a 4 metre levee bank protecting the city.
- Launceston has some great architecture and the oldest building in Launceston dates from 1824.
- 25% of international travellers to Launceston originate from the United Kingdom.
- Launceston is the second largest city in Tasmania, located in the north of the state.
- It is known for its historic buildings, including the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, which is housed in a former jail.
- The city is surrounded by beautiful natural scenery, including the Tamar Valley and the Cataract Gorge.
- Launceston is home to several universities and colleges, including the University of Tasmania and the TasTAFE Launceston Campus.
- The city has a rich cultural history, with many Aboriginal sites and artifacts found in the surrounding area.
- Launceston was the first city in Australia to have a public library, which opened in 1847.
- The city is home to a number of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Launceston Agricultural Show and the Festivale Food and Wine Festival.
- The city is known for its food and wine, with many local wineries and restaurants featuring produce from the surrounding region.
- Launceston is located near several national parks, including the Ben Lomond National Park and the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, which offer opportunities for hiking, biking, and other outdoor activities.