Tasmania’s second major city Launceston is found at the riverside and is well-known for Cataract Gorge with panoramic views. There are many interesting things to do and see and being one of Australia’s oldest cities it offers impressive Colonial and Victorian architecture and many old and lovely parks. Tamar Valley has beautiful vineyards that stretch northwest along the Tamar River.
Locally Cataract Gorge Reserve is known simply as the Gorge. This is an unusual natural formation. Walking from Launceston along the banks of the Tamar River you’ll find yourself in the Gorge.
The First Basin on the south side has a cafe and a swimming pool that is surrounded by bush land which the locals refer to as Launceston’s Beach. Here families gather to have picnics and barbecues.
On the north side visitors will find the Cliff Grounds. This is a Victorian garden that was designed with ferns and exotic plants.
Spanning the gorge is the lovely Kings Bridge dating from 1867. There is a chairlift across the river offering amazing views. At dusk you can also see peacocks and wallabies.
Upstream is the historic Duck Reach Power Station has become an interpretation center and is well worth a visit.
Visit Australia’s largest regional museum The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG). Here you’ll find collections of Australian colonial art, decorative arts and design, Tasmanian history and natural science.
This museum is located on two site – the 1870s era railway workshop at Inveresk and the 1891 Royal Park Art Gallery building on Wellington Street.
The Inveresk site is home to preserved railway workshops and a new permanent exhibition Tasmanian Connections. The new exhibition offers a range of stories told by the museum’s social history and natural science collections in six striking installations. Visitors can see dinosaurs, death masks, soaring planes and artifacts from Australia’s oldest merchant shipwreck. There is also the Phenomena Factory which is a free-entry interactive science center that offer hands-on education for children of all ages.
At Inveresk you’ll also find The Launceston Planetarium where astronomical concepts are demonstrated.
The lovely Princes Square has shady oaks, pigeons and people peacefully relaxing. At one time this square hosted military drills, held public hangings and rowdy political meetings. There is an impressive bronze fountain which was purchased at the 1855 Paris Exhibition. There is also a statue of the first surgeon in the southern hemisphere to use general anesthesia Dr. William Russ Pugh with a top hat.
The large, expansive City Park has huge oak and plane trees to enjoy, an elegant fountain, a glass conservatory, a Victorian bandstand and a playground and mini-train for kids. A most amazing thing in this park is the glass-walled Japanese macaque enclosure which was a gift from the Japanese sister-city Ikeda.
You can see lovely handmade Tasmanian crafts at the Design Center Tasmania. The center has found its home in a heritage church hall on the fringe of City Park. Next door the wonderful Design Tasmania Wood Collection highlights local timber furniture design –sassafras, Huon pine and myrtle.
Since 1881 Boags Beer has been brewed on William Street. There are 90-minute tours with tastings afterwards. The brewery was begun by James Boag. In the on-site museum you can learn about the brewing history through old TV ads, beer labels and photos.
Once built by convicts and businessman Britton Jones, Franklin House is located in northern Tasmania at Franklin Village. This house is notable for its rich use of imported Australian Red Cedar. At one time it accommodated one of the colonies leading private schools that operated there from 1842 to 1866. Then the house became the birthplace of the National Trust in Tasmania in 1960. Today visitors can see the house, stables and garden as well as the nearby St. James Church built in 1845. The Tearooms serve light meals and refreshments.
The Tasmanian Zoo is a local family business in the foothills of the Tamar Valley some 18 kilometers from Launceston. It first opened its doors in 2003, exhibiting birds and some native species. Now the zoo has the largest collection of native and exotic wildlife in Tasmania. It counts as the only fully accredited zoo in Tasmania. Among the animal species are a number of endemic Tasmanian animals, as well as native and exotic species which have been recognized as critically endangered.
The Tasmanian Zoo offers the second largest collection of primates in any private zoo in Australia and is the only Australian zoo to exhibit the endangered Black Crested Macaque.
Enjoy the beauty of nature at Narawntapu National Park, a peaceful coastal refuge, with inlets, small islands, wetlands, sand dunes, lagoons and a large variety of plants and animals. The park is located on Tasmania’s central north coast and stretches from Greens Beach at the mouth of the Tamar River to Bakers Beach in the west. The park has many animals which can be easily observed when they come out in the evening to graze in the grasslands. Among them are Forester kangaroos, Bennetts wallabies and wombats. You can also hear the growls and screeches of Tasmanian devils.
Lots of bird species can be seen in the park, among them honeyeaters, rosellas, black cockatoos and all kinds of twittering robins. On the shores and the lagoons at Springlawn water birds can be observed. The park is also the feeding ground for the endangered Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and white-bellied sea eagles.
The park is rich in Aboriginal heritage and many shell middens and artifacts can be seen along the walking trails stretching across the park. Visitors can take fantastic full-day walks with amazing coastal views and see a variety of wildflowers and rare plants like club moss and prickly tree fern. For views far and wide of the surrounding landscape head for Point Vision. There is also a 26 km horse riding trail, with holding yards for overnight stays.
At Springlawn the visitor center has interpretive displays, picnic facilities, kiosks and toilets. During the summer holidays, discovery rangers offer a varied program of walks, talks and other activities for both adults and children.
The Tamar Island Wetlands is an unusual urban wetlands reserve. A short 500 meter walk from the interpretation center will take you to a bird hide with seating so you can observe wetland birds on the lagoon. The center offers visitors the chance to learn more about the wetlands and the boardwalk to the island can be easily accessed by wheelchair as well. There are also a range of activities for both adults and children. Volunteers offer lots of information.