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The Top Things to do in Launceston

With adored Colonial and Victorian architecture, Launceston is one of Australia’s oldest and most charming cities. But it could also offer Melbourne a stiff serve of competition for the title of ‘Hipster Capital’, with an emerging art scene and an influx of trendy cafes and bars opening on every corner. Venture a little further afield and you can tour the iconic peaks of Cradle Mountain, blend your own wine at Josef Chromy, soar through the treetops at Hollywell and stare in astonishment at the beauty of Wineglass Bay and the Freycinet. With our list of top experiences in Launceston, you’ll be booking in your annual leave for a Tasmania getaway in no time.

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The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS

Located a short two hour drive north of Hobart, the picturesque city of Launceston has a strong sense of identity and charm that helps separate it from many other cities and regions in Australia.

Featuring a prominent and colourful history, impressive colonial architecture and plenty of interesting natural surroundings, it makes for a great escape from the Aussie mainland.

Launceston is also a great location to immerse yourself in the wonders of nature, as Tasmania’s vivid greenery plays a large role in its sightseeing and travel offerings, while mountainous landscapes and wild coasts add a hint of adventure to the proceedings. Famously fresh air, delicious local produce and a bevy of fine wineries round out the greater Launceston and greater Tamar region’s offerings, making it a very well-rounded nature-based travel destination.

Being the third oldest and second largest city in Tasmania, you will find Launceston filled with locations of significance as well as with a variety of festivals and events that celebrate its rich heritage and culture dotted throughout the year. But what are the absolute must-do’s in the Launceston / Tamar region?

We take a detailed look at the Top 10 Things to do in Launceston and surrounds below.

The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS - Cradle Mountain with Tours Tasmania

1. Cradle Mountain with Tours Tasmania

Location: Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania

One of the greater Launceston region’s most obvious highlights also ranks amongst its best, and there are few spectacles that can compare with Cradle Mountain in Tasmania – both in terms of the view from afar and offered atop it. While not technically "in" Launceston, its essential nature and relatively close proximity thus make it tops on the list.

One of the state’s most treasured and famous natural icons due to its unique shape from which it derives its name, Cradle Mountain sits amongst the World Heritage listed Cradle Mountain / Lake St Clair National Park – a place rich with geological features that date back to the Jurassic period and features a variety of wondrous landscapes ranging from deep, lush valleys to glacial lakes, to intricate cave networks.

The National Park itself is a site to behold, to be sure, but it’s the distinctive mountain that is the proverbial cherry on top of the sightseeing sundae. Rising an impressive 1535m above sea level and named due to its resemblance to a gold mining cradle, Cradle Mountain provides a wonderful backdrop to many of the highly-popular walking tracks designed to provide great views of its four major peaks.

These walks range anywhere from short 20 minute strolls up to more endurance-testing feats such as the world-renowned Overland Track, a truly epic 6 day journey that takes you deep into this part of the Tasmanian wilderness. Other activities such as fishing, mountain biking, quad bike and horse riding and canoeing are also immensely popular here, so the adventurous will have their hands full with a wide variety of things to do.

One of the most easily recognisable vistas you’ll come across in the Cradle Mountain area is that of Dove Lake, a calm body of water that – when combined with the mountain looming over it – is a photographer’s dream.

The mirrored reflection of Cradle Mountain on Dove Lake’s waters at their flattest makes for an impressive photo subject, and it’s not uncommon to see photographers camped by the lakeside in an attempt to get that perfect shot. Strolling around the perimeter of the lake is an incredibly serene experience, and taking a seat and simply admiring the view can be both satisfying and strangely spiritual.

Tours of Cradle Mountain typically depart from Launceston – roughly a 1.5 hour drive – taking travellers to great viewing points of Cradle Mountain itself on the National Park’s northern end. These tours, which can be taken with operator Tours Tasmania take efficient routes to see particular standout highlights such as tumbling waterfalls, native wildlife (it’s the home of the Tasmanian Devil here, after all), and Dove Lake plateau, so if you’re not looking to face the large commitment that the multi-day Overland Track warrants, they can do very well as a shorter alternative.

Whether it’s simply to garner some lovely photos of its peak or head directly into the heart of the Tasmanian wilderness, if you’re spending any significant amount of time in Launceston, be sure to ensure that you allocate enough on your itinerary to be able to witness this spectacular peak and National Park combination during your trip.

The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS - Visit Cataract Gorge

2. Visit Cataract Gorge

Location: 74-90 Basin Rd, Launceston, Tasmania

Second only to #1 on this list below in terms of natural features most often associated with Launceston, Cataract Gorge and its surrounding reserve are a ruggedly beautiful section of Tasmania that’s remarkably close to Launceston city.

All it takes is a short, 15 minute walk from the CBD and you’ll find yourself in a delightful location that features a vibrant body of water, impressive rocky riverbanks, a lovely suspension bridge, and the Southern Hemisphere’s longest chairlift all in one spot!

Where total tourist numbers are concerned, Cataract Gorge is Tasmania’s most-visited tourist attraction, and upon arriving after the short trip it’s not hard to see why.

Launceston citizens are spoiled in having such a peaceful and scenic location virtually on their doorstep, and it’s a popular spot for fit locals to use as their morning jog – with the rushing river and sheer walls of the Gorge serving as an idyllic backdrop.

Getting to the Gorge is easy as there is a main pathway leading into its heart that is both well-paved and nicely lit (on the northern side – more difficult and steeper walks await on the southern section, so be wary of this) and makes accessing main, grassed area a breeze.

Launceston citizens are spoiled in having such a peaceful and ruggedly scenic location virtually on their doorstep, and it’s a popular spot for fit locals to use as their morning jog.

As long as you’re prepared with decent walking shoes, there’ll be nothing you can’t enjoy while at Cataract Gorge.

The Gorge’s main grassy section that overlooks the river is one of the most scenic spots in Australia you’re likely to have a picnic in, and there are plenty of facilities here including restaurants, barbecues and undercover areas for cases when the weather turns sour.

Wildlife such as peacocks (remarkably tame – watch your food!) and plenty of ducks add an additional touch of colour and nature to the proceedings, while possums can sometimes be spotted along the walking tracks which wind their way through the tranquil surroundings.

Cataract Gorge also comes equipped with a large, public swimming pool that is ideal for cooling off during the warmer months (it’s a definite no-go during winter), and a friendly, communal atmosphere abounds for swimmers and picnicers alike.

Inarguably however, the core attraction of the Gorge is the view itself, and this can be best taken in either by riding the 457m-long chairlift (requires a fee, incredible views throughout as you are taken directly over the rushing water below), or by walking the causeway and Alexandra Bridge (free, great views but only from a single angle).

Regardless of how you choose to take in the view, the spectacle offers photo opportunities that are nearly unmatched in the region, and are sure to serve as one of your favourite mementos of your time spent in Tassie. Simply put, given the minimal amount of effort required to get there, Cataract Gorge is one Launceston’s absolute can’t-miss attractions.

The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS - Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay

3. Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay

Location: Coles Bay Rd, Coles Bay, Tasmania

Home to one of Tasmania’s most famous images – the horseshoe-shaped spectacle of stunning Wineglass Bay – the wondrous Freycinet National Park is not technically “in” Launceston yet can be reached via a fairly reasonably 2+ hour drive to the south-east of the city.

The park offers a bevy of natural attractions over its expansive territory, and is one of the most popular places in the region for the likes of hiking, camping, swimming and bird watching, to name just a few.

There are few more picture-perfect places in the state of Tassie than here, with Wineglass Bay being its obvious poster-boy; if you’ve seen any kind of promotional material showcasing the state, you’ve no doubt come across a pic of the picturesque stretch of sand and water along the way.

In a sense, it’s quite odd to have such an iconic beach in Tasmania – it’s a part of Australia that’s much more often compared to the likes of England in terms of landscape and weather – yet Wineglass Bay manages to buck the trend by being one of the best beaches in all of Australia.

Wineglass Bay itself can best be viewed from its dedicated lookout – roughly a 1 hour return hike up a well constructed and maintained (yet steep and rather challenging) path that offers one of the most rewarding-for-your-effort views in the country.The beach itself can also be accessed by a downhill portion, and if you’ve got the time to spare it comes highly recommended.

If you’ve seen any kind of promotional material showcasing the state, you’ve no doubt come across a pic of the picturesque stretch of sand and water that is Freycinet’s Wineglass Bay.

The rest of the Freycinet National Park, which sits on the jutting spur of the aptly-named Freycinet Peninusla, is no slouch in terms of sights to see, either. Its combination of pinkish mountainous peaks named the Hazards, abundance of wildlife – particularly birds such as eagles and cockatoos – and periodic white sandy beaches interposed throughout stretches of dramatic coastline make the park a feast for the eyes that can be enjoyed as a sampler for a single day, or undertaken on an epic, 3-day walking journey dubbed the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit.

Stretching a robust 30km in total, this walk encompasses all the best of the peninsula at its most untouched. This lack of human development also comes with a lack of conventional huts that many “great walks” of the world have along their course.

if you’re wanting to make the trip, you’ll have to bring your own tent and likely want to travel within the warmer months (December – April) to avoid the cold weather while also getting the benefit of extended daylight hours.

If you’ve got days to spare, you’ll be able to take things slowly and take in the array of great beaches along the way, keep an eye out for local wildlife, and get some spectacular views from regular lookout points along the way.

Day tours to the Freycinet National Park depart daily from Launceston (and Hobart) and provide an easy and convenient way to see its best – ideal for those who are pressed for time – without having to plan your own itinerary.

One of Tasmania’s most widely-recognised natural attractions, Freycinet National Park (and Wineglass Bay in particular) should be a focal point of any trip to Australia’s southern state.

The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS - Hollybank Treetops Adventures

4. Hollybank Treetops Adventures

Location: 66 Hollybank Rd, Underwood, Tasmania

Tasmania’s lush forests aren’t just an impressive display of untouched nature at work – they also offer great opportunities for exploration and sightseeing.

The Launceston region’s Hollybank Treetops Adventure aims to take advantage of these towering trees by providing visitors with the chance to ascend high above the ground and take in some airborne-adventurous fun.

Featuring a series of integrated zip lines / flying foxes, the experience manages to be both thrilling and safe, and provides an aspect and viewpoint that is quite incredible once you’ve gotten over any initial nerves from being so high up.

It’s an extensive course that will see you flying from tree to tree and station to station, and throughout the journey you’ll be presented with interpretive commentary detailing the forest’s environment and the types of local wildlife that can be found within.

The journey includes sections of cableway that span between 15 and 400 metres, bridging one station to the next, and while that might seem precarious to some, safety is always the highest priority with all harnesses and other protective gear some of the best on offer.

Zip lines on the tour can also be conducted in tandem for skittish customers or younger children, and there’s simply something fun about soaring through the air with a friend or family member that’s hard to match. Each part of the tour has its own special charm, whether it’s a unique viewpoint of a certain part of the forest or one of the longer runs that allow you to kick up the zip to maximum speed (should you so choose) or take it as gentle and safely as you like.

It’s a professional and enjoyable treetop tour that does its best to focus on conservation and preserving the environment, as well as passing along these principles to visitors who join in.

In all, it’s a professional and enjoyable treetop tour that does its best to focus on conservation and preserving the environment, as well as passing along these principles to visitors who join in.

The Hollybank Treetops Adventure zip line tour takes roughly 3 hours to complete, and there’s also an optional ground-based Segway experience (2 hours in length) that can provide a pleasant forest adventure for those who aren’t too keen to explore the treetops.

These quirky contraptions will take you gliding above the ground along a track that allows you to explore the innards of the forest without tiring out the legs, and are remarkably stable despite their initial appearance.

Located approximately 20 minutes drive from launceston just off Lilydale Road, Hollybank Treetops Adventure makes for a unique and entertaining ecological experience that manages to be both fun and educational at the same time.

It’s Australia’s longest zip line adventure and thus well worth trying even if you’re afraid of heights.

The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS - Valleybrook Wine on Wheels Tours

5. Valleybrook Wine on Wheels Tours

Location: 7 Brougham St, Launceston, Tasmania

Wine and wine tasting is likely to be a key focus of many who choose Launceston as their Aussie travel destination, yet wanting to get the most out of multiple samples of the good stuff can be a dangerous proposition when you’re having to monitor your alcohol intake in preparation to drive after it’s all over.

Wine tours aim to remove this responsibility and allow you to simply indulge in all the wine types you’re interested in – and there are few who do this better than local operator Valleybrook Wine on Wheels Tours.

Customisation and personalisation are the name of the game here, with the company’s guides always going the extra mile to ensure that your particular palate is catered for.

Tours are thus conducted with their itineraries orientated around your personal preference – if you’re a fan of reds over whites, for example, they’ll realign the tour and choose 4 different wineries from the selection of over 20 in the Tamar Valley region that best suit your tastes.

Wineries on the board to choose from run the gamut from small, family-run offerings all the way up to larger, nationally-renowned producers and the company’s guides have established, friendly relationships with the majority of winery operators.

Customisation and personalisation are the name of the game here, with the company’s guides always going the extra mile to ensure that your particular palate is catered for.

Wine tours are an inherently social experience, and the social lubricant of wine goes a long way to encouraging discussion between both the guides and other fellow travellers with you on your tour. It’s not only enjoyable in itself; you’ll likely meet some interesting people along the way.

If you’re looking for one of the best overall days out that will give you a nice balance between sightseeing, acquiring local knowledge and history, and – of course – sampling a host of tastebud-tingling delights – then Valleybrook Wine Tours offer a range of great all-round packages (full day and half-day) that also happen to be solid value for money.

The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS - Launceston City Park

6. Launceston City Park

Location: 45-55 Tamar St, Launceston, Tasmania

This tranquil and beautiful oasis right in the heart of Launceston city is very unique in its diversity of offerings that provides plenty to see and do all for the best possible price – FREE.

The Launceston City Park is a wonderful example of a botanic feature done right, and a fine feather in the cap of the city’s development that features something that nearly everyone can appreciate and enjoy.

It all starts with the towering European Oak trees that adorn its insides, many of which are very old and yet still in remarkably good condition, and extends to its many beautiful flower enclosures, monuments and more that can be found throughout.

The spectacular floral displays that can be found within many of the park’s plant houses are impressive in their colours, with hydrangeas, orchids and much more being just some of the “stars” of this vibrant show.

The Launceston City Park is especially pleasant in the Autumn and Spring season due to the tableau of colours on display, and the deciduous trees with the dappling of yellows and reds both on the branches and dotting the ground make for a wonderful environment.

The park is also surrounded by a number of charming old homes that help add a touch of an “antique” atmosphere to the surroundings and make taking a stroll down one of its trails akin to stepping back in time. Bodies of water are also integrated organically throughout, and there are several ponds to be found where ducks can be seen paddling and even hand-fed if you’ve brought along some bread to crumble which kids will no doubt enjoy.

The Launceston City Park is a wonderful example of a botanic feature done right, and a fine feather in the cap of the city’s development that features something that nearly everyone can appreciate and enjoy.

n fact, the park does a very good overall job of catering to children in general, with a surprisingly well-equipped dedicated playground area at one end. The playground contains flying foxes and swings on top of more typical equipment, and is a great way to let the little ones burn off energy while you kick back and relax amongst the pleasant surrounds.

Kids – and adults, for that matter – will also likely be enamoured with one of the park’s true surprises: its enclosure of Japanese Macaque monkeys, a true rarity as far as city parks go. These cheeky creatures can be found in glassed display that is viewable each day between the hours of 8:30am – 4:30pm, and are something of an attraction in themselves . There’s even a miniature train that takes visitors on a pleasant little ride around the perimeter of the park!

Other quirky features – such as an oversized chessboard, various monuments and a large and picturesque Victorian-style fountain – add to the ambience, and with expansive grounds that include a large public BBQ area, it’s possible to spend a whole day in Launceston just in the park.

For a wonderful little retreat that’s as easily walkable as driveable from most points of the city centre, be sure to spend an hour or several in the City Park during your time in Launceston.

The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS - Tamar River Cruise

7. Tamar River Cruise

Location: Home Point Parade, Launceston, Tasmania

The Tamar River is the lifeblood that keeps the Launceston region pumping, and there are few better ways to explore its impressive scenery than with a cruise directly on top of its waters.

Local operator Tamar River Cruises provides a range of scenic trips up and down the Tamar of varying lengths ranging from purely scenic morning and afternoon cruises to fully-fledged 4 hour lunch offerings and even a special mini-cruise that lasts for roughly 50 minutes and heads directly into the region’s iconic Cataract Gorge.

Cruises here reflect the greater attitude of Launceston and surrounds themselves, with a relaxed, meandering route that offers plenty of time to kick back, take it easy and soak in all the local landscape and architecture such as rolling fields, churches, bridges and more.

Regardless of what cruise itinerary you choose to take, you’ll get a solid dose of informative commentary about the history of Launceston and its local natural and man-made landmarks, all delivered with wit and character by the vessel’s experienced skipper.

The course up and down the river comes with some stunning scenery, particularly as you approach the Cataract Gorge section, with rocky outcroppings and walls along with some glass-perfect water that reflects the surrounding nature like a mirror.

Cruises here reflect the greater attitude of Launceston and its surrounds, with a relaxed, meandering route that offers plenty of time to kick back, take it easy and soak in all the local landscape and architecture.

In addition, during your cruise be sure to keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife; eagles can often be found swooping in and out of the air looking for a catch, while seals and even dolphins can be spotted in the waters if you’re particularly lucky! In all, it’s a great way to get a different perspective on the region’s many visual delights than from the road.

In terms of extras during your cruise, the morning and afternoon cruise offers a mixture of muffins, biscuits, fruit cake and fresh baskets of fruit for your enjoyment.

The extended lunch cruise offers both of the above on its longer route, as well as a tasty light lunch and the chance to taste some local beers.

Each of these options comes at a different price point as well, which allows for a greater deal of flexibility as far as budgets go; if you’re just after a “taster” of the scenery, then the introductory Cataract Gorge-only option can be had for a standard price of $33 for adults and $15 for kids, which is more than reasonable.

In all, this is one of the ideal ways to first “get your feet wet” when you arrive to Launceston, providing a great introduction to the area all aboard a comfortable, clean and well-equipped vessel that’s both friendly and fun.

The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS - The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania

8. The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania

Location: 86 Cimitiere St, Launceston, Tasmania

Located on the northern side of Launceston City, the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is a must-visit for rev-heads and historical enthusiasts alike, featuring over 100 years’ worth of automotive styling and technological advances.

It’s rare for such a small city to be host to such an expansive (and expensive) exhibit, but the Museum includes an impressive array of vehicles featuring some truly prestige manufacturer labels from throughout the years.

The likes of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin and Jaguar from years past and present can all be seen here, and all vehicles on display are lovingly kept in immaculate condition by the array of volunteers who are responsible for its upkeep.

The Automobile Museum is comprised of one main, fixed gallery section, and another that features regularly rotating displays of vehicles throughout the year that aim to cover all the major countries who have contributed to motoring advances throughout history.

From British sportsters to sleek French icons to some of Australia’s most recognisable four-wheelers, the display constantly changes – which ensures that, even if you’ve been here before and enjoyed your time, it’s worth going again.

Each of the vehicles is excellently curated via signage, while the passionate staff can answer any questions you may have about the vehicle and its role in history. Newer exotics are also featured here, and it’s this blend of the old and new that helps keep things fresh.

The Museum includes an impressive array of vehicles featuring some of the world’s truly prestige manufacturer labels, and the likes of Rolls Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin and Jaguar from years past and present can all be seen here.

The Museum’s upper level is also host to a large number of motorcycles that round out its offerings, which for the size is very impressive.

It’s also quite interesting to see the “translated prices” of each car and motorbike from their period into modern day value, which puts a lot of things into perspective in terms of how mass production has impacted the cost of vehicles in today’s age.

There’s also a well-equipped and reasonably-priced gift shop at the Museum that provides a cavalcade of memorabilia in the form of scale models, magazines and more from the era that will no doubt delight the motoring enthusiast, making for a great keepsake from your visit.

The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania sits just across the road from the Launceston City Park (featured below on this list – combining the two is a great way to spend a morning or afternoon) and offers plenty of free off-street parking outside.

With a reasonable price of admission ($12.75 per adult, with all proceeds going towards the maintenance of the facility and its vehicles), you don’t have to be obsessed by cars to enjoy your time spent at this charming and unique Launceston attraction.

The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS - Josef Chromy Cellar Door

9. Josef Chromy Cellar Door

Location: 370 Relbia Road, Relbia, Tasmania

The Launceston and greater Tamar Valley region has a renowned reputation for stellar wine and raw food production, and there are few better examples of this in action than Josef Chromy Wines in the suburb of Relbia, around 15 minute drive from Launceston city.

A modern and sophisticated winery nestled in the Launceston region’s countryside, Josef Chromy sets itself apart from other similar offerings with its classy atmosphere, great service and immaculately-kept grounds all being contributing factors.

However what truly sets the cellar door apart is its world-class wines – you seldom find wineries of this quality elsewhere in Australia, let along in a relatively isolated part of Tasmania, yet their wide range and array of delectable tastes make Josef Chromy a true standout in this regard.

The winery sits in a beautiful location (and boasts a sizeable vineyard, with an overall area of over 150 acres), and with magnificent, sweeping views across this part of the Tamar complete with lake, mountain and vineyard alike forming a vibrant panorama that makes the mere act of sitting back, relaxing and enjoying a drop to drink an experience in itself.

The wines on offer, of course, play a large role in this – Pinot Noir, Rieslings and Pinot Gris all feature prominently here.

The winery sits in a beautiful location with magnificent, sweeping views across this part of the Tamar complete with lake, mountain and vineyard alike forming a vibrant panorama.

In conjunction with the old-style country exterior of the building and the attentive and helpful attitudes of the staff, and you’ve got a combined food and wine experience that is immensely satisfying at Josef Chromy Wines.

In terms of food, fine dining is the name of the game here, with all meals prepared with great care and creativity done with a difference; you’ll likely come across something you’ve never tried before, or at least a variation on more common dishes with an extra added personality thrown in.

The winery’s restaurant is a quality venue with efficient and well-trained staff with standout service a point of pride – everything from the canapes to the larger gourmet options are highly enjoyable, with the Pork Belly and pasture-fed Black Angus eye fillet being particular standouts on the menu.

While a combined dining and wine experience can be a bit on the pricey side, the old adage of “getting what you pay for” rings especially true here, and the sheer quality of Josef Chromy Wines’ offerings shines through in every aspect, making it well worth an indulgent visit.

The Top 10 Things to do in Launceston, TAS - The City Park Radio Museum

10. The City Park Radio Museum

Location: 43 Tamar Street, Launceston, Tasmania

Sounds unusual, right? You’d be forgiven for thinking so initially, but the City Park Radio Museum is actually one of the Launceston region’s most charming attractions loved by history buffs who appreciate taking a deeper look at Australia’s development.

For a simple gold coin donation, you’ll be able to enter into a friendly and hospitable local icon with staff who are all too keen to lend a hand and provide insight into the numerous radios on hand, some of which date back to the early 1930’s.

Over 50 radios of varying makes are on display here, all tucked away in a charming little heritage building alongside Launceston’s City Park. Each radio has a story and a mini-tour provides a context for each of the radios and their relevant period of history.

Visitors are even often welcome to join the radio station’s DJ’s working live on air and have a chat that’s being broadcast to the local community!

The cottage that the museum is contained within is a slice of history in itself, dating back to over 100 years in age and an accurate reflection of the majority of buildings which populated Launceston during this era.

The City Park Radio station has been active since back in 1986 and has become something of a local fixture since that time, and takes pride in involving locals of a range of age groups and cultural backgrounds in its operation.

If you’re looking for something completely different to while away some time while meeting some truly friendly and down-to-earth Launceston locals, then be sure to allocate some time on your itinerary to drop by the City Park Radio Museum.