A Little Taste Of Paradise
Arriving in scenic Launceston, Tasmania, I immediately felt a calmness come over me. It’s so tranquil, beautiful, green and lush here. Launceston is a little taste of paradise on the banks of the Tamar River. Its charming cityscape, beautiful wilderness, unpolluted air, great food and wine make it perfect for a romantic getaway or family holiday destination. Known as ‘Launnie’ by the locals, it’s one of the oldest cities in Australia and there is something here for everyone to enjoy.
Launceston is only one hour flight from Melbourne or if you prefer you can take the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry to Devonport. The vehicular ferry is about 9 hours crossing the very rough waters of Bass Strait and you have the option of taking your car over from the mainland. I’ve travelled both ways and I was rather ill on the ferry, but that’s just me.
The straight stretches between the two states of Victoria and Tasmania and is open sea. Some experts say it’s the Indian Ocean, others say it’s the Pacific Ocean, it’s a bit confusing. Either way, it is only 340 metres wide and a rather shallow 50 metres deep.
Interesting fact: Bass Strait is also called the ‘Bass Strait Triangle’.
Why? Firstly, because of its shape. Secondly, because many ships, aircrafts and people have disappeared here without a trace over the years. UFO sightings have also been reported, to add to the myths and legends. Hence, it being likened to the famous Bermuda Triangle.
The fact is Bass Strait waters have always been notoriously rough and dangerous for ships, due to extreme winds, currents, tall waves, rocks and reefs. So it’s not surprising there has been many failed attempts at crossing the waters here in the past. But don’t panic – you’ll be happy to know that I have crossed it by both sea and air several times and have survived. Yay!
This beautiful river is about 65km long. It extends from Launceston into Bass Strait and is very picturesque, meandering through Tassie’s scenic countryside. It is used for some shipping purposes and of course, cruises. The Batman Bridge is the only crossing over the river. You can stroll or drive both sides of the Tamar River.
Where I stayed
I stayed at the lovely Hotel Grand Chancellor Launceston, which is centrally located. It has timeless elegance and charming rooms. Its very reasonably priced for a 4 star hotel too, with rooms starting at A$125 per night for 2 people.
Near the hotel is the popular City Park, which was established in the 1800’s. I happily spent a couple of hours here, where there is a conservatory housing gorgeous floral arrangements and plant life, a Japanese Macaque Monkey enclosure, yes!, a duck pond, fountains and a cafe. It’s a must for some peaceful downtime.
The cute little red-faced Macaque monkeys are donated from Japan and frolic happily in their own little world. It was a real surprise to see these playful critters here in the park, in their own enclosure. They are adorable and funny to watch; more entertaining than some reality TV shows (oops).
Monkeys at the Park
This park is also the location of the annual food festival held in February called ‘Festivale’, a must if you’re here at that time of year. It’s Tasmania’s yearly celebration, showcasing their best food, drinks, art, entertainment and heaps more, and lasts for 3 days.
Tamar Valley – a foodies paradise
The gorgeous Tamar Valley has a very popular wine route, with about 30 vineyards here making white and red wines. It’s one of the best wine regions in the country, and the world, for that matter. This area is known for its premium ‘cool-climate’ wines. A must visit for wine enthusiasts, like my husband. It’s very picturesque here with all the vineyards and fruit orchards on display in the region.
Also renowned for its dairy produce, the area has Tamar Valley Yoghurt. Yum! Tamar Valley Truffles here grow and make all manor of truffle products. Smaller producers make cheese, cider and various fruit products.
Launceston is a highly popular destination for ‘foodies’ who flock here from all over the country, and from abroad.
Cataract Gorge Reserve
Formed 80 million years ago (yes, you read that right), this super popular attraction is a river gorge. A beautiful wilderness so close to the city such as this is quite unique. It occurred naturally from a combination of volcanic activity and massive earthquakes long ago. The lovely steep rock formations of the gorge’s walls have been formed over time by the river passing through it, flooding and eroding the softer rock.
The basin’s water depth is more than 20 metres. It has the longest chairlift in the world, 450 meters long, spanning over the top of it! As I’m a bit of a chicken, I didn’t venture on it, but I’m assured that it is designed for complete safety. It’s also nice and slow, giving riders a spectacular view of the ancient rock gorge with amazing photo opportunities. Bummer! Cost for a ride on the Gorge Scenic Chairlift is A$16 per adult, across and back.
There is plenty of walking to be enjoyed on the trails around the Gorge, with lots of lookout points. So limber up and get ready. It’s a huge reserve of 475 acres of bush and wildlife for you to explore and enjoy. You will also find a suspension bridge on the southern side, a swimming pool, the Basin Cafe and the Gorge Restaurant. What more could you ask for? Well I’ll tell you – peacocks and wallabies, can be seen here too. You might even see a Tasmanian Devil, but that’s a bit more difficult considering they usually hibernate during the day. The Cliff Grounds on the northern side have a Victorian garden, a rotunda and exotic plants.
Furthermore, there are boat cruises on the Tamar River you can take, Cable Hang Gliding near by for the very adventurous, and rock climbing. This is probably the best natural reserve you will see, close to a city, and a prime tourist attraction, all for free! There is something for everyone here.
Tips: You can easily spend a whole day here, so I recommend you wear comfortable walking shoes, have a jacket as it can get cold in the wilderness, bring a drink bottle and snacks.
Other attractions to taste in Paradise
Nearby is a lovely restaurant I went to with water views, the iconic Stillwater Restaurant at Kings Park. Above it is the Mill Providore and Gallery. The building was actually a flour mill originally in the 1800’s and now offers the best produce, wine and artwork Tasmania has to offer. A must-see.
Launceston’s dockside precinct has restaurants aplenty, with marina views and many modern cuisines on offer. Some I recommend are Mud Bar which offers modern Australian cuisine, Spice Lounge serves Indian cuisine, and Levee Food Co provides steak and seafood, and all are casual and family friendly.
Other Interesting Stuff
Finally, Launceston also boasts a few other things you might be interested in knowing about:
- It has one of the first Casinos in Australia – Country Club Casino Tasmania;
- It’s the home of James Boag Beer;
- The actor Simon Baker (The Mentalist) was born here, and
- ‘Launnie’ has been labelled Australia’s most family friendly city.
Launceston really is a little taste of paradise.