Perched on the banks of Kanamaluka/The Tamar River, the historic city of Launceston is an oft-overlooked hub for great food, wine, arts and culture.
Launceston fuses countryside charm with creative urban energy. The result is a city with a unique and diverse array of cultural offerings, topped off with beautiful heritage architecture and beautiful nature to boot.
Albert Hall is just one example of stunning architecture to admire in Launceston. (Image: Tourism Australia/ Nick H Visuals)
There are plenty of things to do in Launceston, whether you want to delve into the foodie scene, explore the natural surroundings or uncover the city’s rich arts and culture. Although Launceston seems to fall under the radar when travelling in Tasmania, it’s bursting at the seams with pleasant surprises and lots of things to discover. We’ve rounded up some of our favourite things to do in Launceston that will help you make the most out of your stay.
1. Hop between wineries
Tamar Valley is a haven for wine aficionados. The picturesque valley is dotted with more than thirty wineries, each putting their unique spin on cool-climate winemaking. Spend the day hopping between Tamar Valley’s wineries, admiring the view from the cellar door and sampling some of Tasmania’s finest wines. Most vineyards will have sumptuous platters of local produce on offer, so you can enjoy a perfectly paired snack while you sip.
Tamar Valley has something for everyone. If you’ve got a penchant for Pinot Noir, the passionate Pinot specialists at Tamar Ridge Cellar Door have you covered. White wine appreciators will find lots to love at Iron Pot Bay Vineyard, where you can sip on Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and more at the cellar door located in a historic cottage. If sparkling is more your style, exchange your wine glass for a champagne flute over at Jansz Vineyards. There is a lot to discover— and if you require a designated driver, there are plenty of tour operators to ferry you from vineyard to vineyard.
Exchange your wine glass for a champagne flute over at Jansz Vineyards. (Image: Adam Gibson)
2. Go for a swim in Cataract Gorge
Get a glimpse of Tasmania’s mystical forest when you walk underneath a canopy of massive branches belonging to stands of giant slate-grey gums that line the Cataract Gorge Reserve. Immerse yourself in the landscape by descending into the wilderness and finding a sheltered pocket of shade by the water.
Go for a dip at Cataract Gorge or just admire the view. (Image: Tourism Tasmania/Jarrad Seng)
Launceston has its fair share of shiny hippie people: follow their lead and sway down the path that snakes its way to the cool, jade-green water. Having a swim in Cataract Gorge is a quintessential thing to do in Launceston, so don’t forget your swimmers.
Cross the suspension bridge in Cataract Gorge for panoramic views. (Image: Tourism Tasmania/Jarrad Seng)
You can also enjoy views over the water percolating down from the mountain courtesy of the Gorge Scenic Chairlift or suspension bridge, both of which offer panoramic views. Sit near the ribbon of water and listen to the branches squeaking in the breeze and the mournful echoes of birds sending their songs high into the trees.
Walk along Cataract Gorge to get a glimpse of Tasmania’s mystical forests. (Image: Nat Mendham)
3. Visit Harvest Market
A visit to Launceston’s Harvest Market on a Saturday morning is a little like buying tickets to a travelling production of Hair. There are dreadlocked hippies, grey-haired gents wearing brown berets, middle-aged women in carefully coiffed up-dos and little girls with beribboned braids.
Ease into Saturday mornings at Launceston’s Harvest Market. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Go for breakfast, when Launnie locals are sitting with their perambulating trolleys filled with haunches of ethically farmed meat and hand-shaped loaves of sourdough from APC.
Fill up on the goods at Harvest Market. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Launceston is a no-fuss kind of place and the market is a microcosm of that: it’s a relaxing place to be marooned at. Harvest Market is the most well-known of Launceston’s markets, but it’s by no means the only one.
Attending Harvest Market on a Saturday is a weekly ritual for many Launceston locals. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Markets are a fixture of Launceston’s lively foodie scene, so don’t stress if you miss out on Saturday. Keep an eye out for the myriad of other markets in Launceston throughout the week and the year.
Pick up fresh flowers as well as edible goods at Harvest Market. (Image: Tourism Australia)
4. Explore the cafe scene
Exploring the city’s trendy cafes, eateries and brunch spots is one of the best ways to experience Launceston.
Bread & Butter is a choice highlight. The quaint cafe is the brainchild of small-batch butter producers, The Tasmanian Butter Co., and is Launceston’s trendiest brunch spot, mainly due to its mouth-watering baked goods and, you guessed it, incredible butter.
Bread & Butter Cafe and Bakery is Launceston’s trendiest brunch spot. (Image: Supplied)
The large warehouse space boasts an open-fronted bakery and kitchen, enabling hungry customers to see the heart of the action as trays of piping hot croissants, loaves and cinnamon-laced buns are churned out. Get in early on weekends to be sure to have your pick of the pastries.
Bread + Butter are renowned for their mouth-watering baked goods. (Image: Supplied)
Coffee aficionados will also love Amelia Coffee Co, known for its excellent brews and knowledgeable baristas. You name it, Amelia Coffee Co. can make it. There are many more great cafes and eateries to be discovered. We’ve compiled a more comprehensive list of the best cafes in Launceston so you can cafe-hop like a local.
5. Enjoy a tipple at a trendy bar
On the Apple Isle, the cider house rules, so content yourself with its riches at the Red Brick Road Cider west of Launceston in Deloraine. The cider house handcrafts ciders and ‘perries’ (pear cider) based on traditional techniques. Pick up a sixer of the Red Brick Road Scrumpy from the cider house cellar door and sit while sipping and flipping through the racks of vintage vinyl.
On the Apple Isle, the cider house rules, so content yourself with its riches at the Red Brick Road Cider. (Image: Mitch Osborne)
Snooty beer nerds can also get their thrills on an ale trail that veers from the newly refurbished James Boag Brewery to Tandy’s Alehouse and St John Craft Beer Bar which has 14 brews on tap. Saint John’s celebrates the best native brews alongside lesser-known guest beers in a cosy bar. Founded by local beer nerds Tim Jarosz, Luke Dempsey and Ryan Campling, expert advice on what to sip on comes as standard.
Make like a tree and wrap yourself in a colourful knit to better blend in with the Launnie locals at the Kingsway Bar, where you can sample small-batch tipples such as Abel Gin and Poltergeist Gin.
If you don’t have time to head out to any of the Tamar valley wineries, you can enjoy a taste of local wine at Havilah, Bar Two and Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant. You’ll be cosseted in a warm ambience, with plenty of great snack options to graze on while you enjoy a tipple.
6. Dine out in style
Launceston was recently crowned a UNESCO’s City of Gastronomy. And after a visit to some of the city’s renowned restaurants, you’ll be able to see why.
Housed in an old flour mill, fine-dining restaurant Stillwater serves up modern Tasmanian dishes alongside its river views. Stillwater’s events calendar is always worth a look, as the venue frequently welcomes internationally recognised chefs and specialists through its doors to host sought-after experiences. Booking is recommended, especially at weekends, when you will want to be sure to ask for a window seat.
Housed in an old flour mill, fine-dining restaurant Stillwater serves up modern Tasmanian dishes. (Image: Nat Mendham)
We also strongly recommend checking out Kosaten, a recent addition via its sister space in Hobart. This restaurant fuses fresh Tasmanian seafood with Tokyo-inspired pop styling in a Japanese restaurant that delivers, whether you’re after a Speedy sushi train snack or an umami feast. Ordering dish by dish using your table’s personal iPad is the perfect solution for those who can never tell how hungry they are until they start eating. We won’t blame you for ordering double-fried chicken!
7. Embrace the local art scene
Tassie is prime territory for those who love the arts: events worth circling on your cultural calendar include Effervescence, Festivale, Junction Arts Festival and, of course, Mona Foma.
Festivale is one of Launceston’s many annual events. (Image: Adam Gibson)
While you’re in town, be sure to check out the local arts, crafts and design scene and discover the local talent.
Seagrass Design is Launceston’s go-to for adult and children’s fashion, homewares, ceramics and art prints. The brand was founded over a decade ago in Brisbane by Jamie and Kimberley McCabe. The couple has since relocated to Launnie, which is where – if you’re lucky – you’ll find them selling their colourful wares.
Glass Manifesto is a charming studio and gallery belonging to Anne Clifton and Peter Bowles, where you can browse their captivating glass sculptures and handicrafts at your leisure.
Those who value craftsmanship should factor in a pit stop at Design Tasmania, a not-for-profit design centre and museum which celebrates beautiful workmanship.
8. Visit the Galleries and Museums
A stroll through The Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery in Launceston does not have the same disorienting effect as tumbling down the rabbit hole that is MONA in Hobart. But the gallery is still a major destination for art, history and the natural sciences in northern Tassie.
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery is a Tassie destination in its own right. (Image: Tourism Australia)
QVMAG stands on the ancestral lands of the Tyerrenotepanner, Leterremairrener and Panninher clans and The First Tasmanians: Our Story is a permanent exhibition that pays respect to their customs and culture. You can also strap yourself into a former aircraft seat for a feature presentation of the night sky, presented like a dot-to-dot at the planetarium.
The sprawling interiors of The Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery. (Image: Tourism Australia)
Take a step back in time at the Launceston Tramway Museum. This delightful museum was made possible by the local community, which restored Launceston’s only surviving double bogie tram in 1990. Car enthusiasts will find a lot to love over at the National Car Museum, which exhibits a dazzling range of vintage automobiles, motorbikes and memorabilia.
9. Explore the antiques
Launceston is a treasure trove for vintage, second-hand and antique goods. Take a journey into the past and check out a few of the antique stores. Red Fox Antiques located on Tamar Street is the perfect spot to pick up a precious memento when visiting. Home to a hand-picked selection of silverware, jewellery, furniture, homewares, textiles and vintage fashion pieces, the tiny shop is part museum, part retail space, all enviably stylish.
Over at Tulloch’s Antique House, everything old is new again. Have a look around their showroom which is so extensive, that it almost feels like a museum. There are vintage cars, fine art, jewellery and more. If there’s anything you fancy, you can sign-up for an online or in-room auction.
Launceston is a treasure trove for vintage, second-hand and antique goods. (Image: Alastair Bett)
10. Bed down in a Historic Hotel
Launceston offers an excellent choice of hotels to suit every traveller. But for those who prefer bedding down in a pocket-friendly property that sings with history, The Florance guest house is for you. Combining traditional Victorian architecture with contemporary styling, it’s a stone’s throw from the city’s action. Think original stained glass, sumptuous textiles, and a light-filled conservatory in which to bookend your days. The friendly hosts are happy to share local secrets and offer suggestions for places to see and things to do in Launceston.
The Florance combines traditional Victorian architecture with contemporary styling, all while being a stone’s throw from the city. (Image: Anjie Blair)
The Airbnbs in Launceston also have many great options on offer. FLAX at Duck Reach offers guests the incredible opportunity to stay in a heritage-listed cottage, originally built in 1895 for the workers at the Duck Reach power station.
Spend the night in a heritage-listed cottage at Flax at Duck Reach. (Image: Flax at Duck Reach Airbnb)
11. Take a day trip further afield
Launceston sits at the doorstep of some incredible day trip experiences in the region. Head up to Low Head to discover the smallest (and cutest!) species of penguin— aptly known as ‘Fairy Penguins’.
Low Head Penguin Tours lets you get up close to these curious creatures while you watch them return to their burrows in the evening. Watching the penguins emerge from the waters to waddle home for the night is a truly enchanting way to end your day. In case you don’t have your own transport, there are transfer companies that will pick you up from your accommodation.
Take an excursion to the highly photogenic Bridestowe Lavender Estate, where you can spend a romantic day among the lavender fields. The fields generally reach full bloom in summer, when they become transformed into a majestic sea of purple. Taste lavender-infused ice cream and other delights at the cafe and peruse the selection of artisanal lavender products at the gift shop. Truly the stuff of dreams!
The highly photogenic lavender fields at Bridestowe Lavender Estate. (Image: Jamie Douros & Camille Helm)