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Top 10 Things to Do in Launceston, TAS

Launceston is possibly Australia's most unsung travel destination and offers visitors a mountain of memorable things to do. Tick off these ten signature experiences.
Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Velo Wines. Image: Tourism Tasmania/Rob Burnett

Top Oz Tours offers a great range of Launceston tours and experiences. You can browse the options here.

Laidback Launceston (pronounced Lon-seston) — Tasmania’s second largest city and northern hub — answers to ‘Lonnie’ or even just ‘Lon’ if you’re embracing your inner millennial.

Sitting at the confluence of three rivers in the idyllic Tamar Valley and with a wealth of beautifully preserved Victorian-era architecture, there’s a lot to love about this destination. Fine food, fabulous cool climate wines, a rich history to explore, a fast-evolving cultural scene, and easy access to world-famous natural landscapes (such as Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park) are all on offer to visitors.

Ask any mainlander if they could live in Tassie and you’ll invariably hear ‘I couldn’t stand the winters’. They are certainly cold and generally pretty wet in Launceston, with maximum daytime temperatures below 10. Consider that when planning a visit mid year and pack accordingly. And remember, it’s nothing that a local pinot noir and open fire can’t fix.

Here’s a checklist of our top ten things to do in Launceston.


Launceston tours

Launceston Tours, Activities & Attractions


1. Go on a walking tour

Launceston was settled by Europeans in 1806, making it one of the oldest cities in the country. The best way to start your visit is just to wander and lose yourself in the 19th century streetscape. It’s an opportunity to literally step back in time — a fantasy only very occasionally interrupted by a 1960s shocker or modern apartment development. Lonnie enjoyed a building boom on the back of tin mining from around 1872 to the end of the century, which is evidenced in grand structures like Albert Hall (circa 1891) and the Post Office (circa 1889). It’s worth going old-school and sending a postcard just to give yourself an excuse to wander inside the latter.

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Ten of the best things to do in Launceston: Post Office. Image: Adam Ford

If you prefer to have someone show you around, book a guided walking tour with Launceston by Foot. Led by passionate locals Roz and Madi, this experience is well priced and 1.5 hours well spent. You’ll pass various points of interest across the CBD, including The Cornwall Hotel (circa 1824). Respective plans for the settlement of Melbourne by rivals John Pascoe Fawkner and John Batman are said to have been debated here.

Watch our video of ten great things to do in Launceston:

Ten Great Things to do in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, 2024 | Launceston Travel Guide

In this episode of our online travel series, we bring you tips for ten great things to do in Launceston.

2. Step back in time at Clarendon and Woolmers Estate

For more architectural eye candy, plan a day trip to the historic township of Evandale. There are two stunning period homes within easy reach of the town centre, and both are open to the public. Clarendon is a Georgian mansion that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the set of Gone with the Wind. Built by convict labour under what was known as the assignment system (which operated until 1840), the stately home is now managed by the National Trust.

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Ten of the best things to do in Launceston: Clarendon. Image: Adam Ford

A ten-minute drive west of Evandale will bring you to UNESCO World Heritage-listed Woolmers Estate. Established by Thomas Archer I in the early 1800s, it too was constructed in large part by convict hands — and for that reason, was awarded World Heritage status in 2010. It’s a fascinating colonial-era time capsule and will take you the best part of a day to explore fully. Make sure you see the glorious Rose Garden, which was modelled on the French formal garden style of the 17th century. The garden blooms in late spring and early summer.

3. Visit QVMAG

Launceston’s must-visit Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG) is the largest cultural facility in regional Australia, with no less than 1.5 million pieces in its collection. It’s split over two sites — the gallery beside Royal Park on the edge of the CBD, and the museum at Invermay (ten minutes’ walk from the city centre). The free Tiger Bus runs between the two. The gallery’s collection spans eras and genres — from Australian Impressionists such as Tom Roberts, through to contemporary names like John Olsen. Don’t miss seeing The First Tasmanians: our story exhibition, which features hundreds of examples of Aboriginal cultural practice — including a collection of shell necklaces unique to northern Tasmania.

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery. Image: Tourism Tasmania/Rob Burnett

Over at the museum, the exhibits encompass just about everything that has ever opened and shut, along with generous helpings of bugs, bones, and other biological specimens.

4. Eat out… a lot!

In 2021, Launceston was designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy — one of just over 50 cities worldwide to hold the title. And you’ll soon see why! The dining scene here is extensive, and draws on fabulous fresh produce from the Tamar Valley and incredible seafood sourced from Tasmania’s northern waters. Here are just a handful of recommendations for your dining pleasure.

Housed in an old flour mill, hatted Stillwater has set the standard for fine dining in Launceston for almost two decades. The same team set up Black Cow Bistro in the city centre — an upmarket steakhouse housed in an Art Deco-era butcher’s shop. The service is attentive and the wine list suits the menu of mostly meaty fare. The beef is dry aged, free range, grass fed, and hormone free. It’s not cheap, but worth the splash.

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Black Cow Bistro, Launceston. Image: Tourism Australiaaddock

Over by the water in the newly revitalised Seaport precinct (a former shipyard and dry dock), Mudbar Restaurant offers a sassy setting, an uber impressive wine list, and a menu of mouth-watering Modern Australian fare with an Asian twist. The term ‘paddock to plate’ is thrown around a lot these days, but Mudbar puts it into practice; a good percentage of the protein served here is reared at owner Don Cameron’s farm.

They say that good things come in small packages and with a capacity of just 20 patrons (and plenty of loyal local followers), you’ll need luck on your side to snaffle a table at Bar Two in Earls Court (off Brisbane Street). This hole-in-the-wall wine bar showcases local drops, matched with fresh oysters, gourmet pizzas, and charcuterie platters.

For casual eats, a steady stream of locals will also lead you to Bread and Butter cafe on Elizabeth Street — one of three sites across the city operated by this combined sourdough bakery and small batch butter factory. Order from the all-day food menu or take your pick from the packed cabinet of baked delights.

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Bread and Butter. Image: Tourism Tasmania/Kelly Slater

5. Stock up on good vibes at Harvest Market

Held every Saturday morning rain, hail, or shine, Lonnie’s Harvest Market brims with gourmet goodies and community pride. Signboards with feel-good messages set the tone — and wandering between the stalls, what will strike you most is the relaxed and friendly vibe. That, and how delicious everything looks! Watch the cheesemonger carving off big chunks of cheddar or marvel at the artisanal sourdough piled high. Go hungry.

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Ten of the best things to do in Launceston: Harvest Market. Image: Adam Ford

6. Stroll through City Park

Launceston is peppered with regal parks and civic gardens, including whopping City Park on the CBD’s eastern flank. It has a history dating right back to European settlement, but the site was officially designated a public park in 1863. Highlights include the macaque monkey enclosure (yes, you read that right), the John Hart Conservatory, a children’s train, and what are reputed to be the oldest wisteria vines in the country. If you’re still reeling from the random presence of the primates (as we were), here’s the backstory.

The original ten macaques were a gift from Lonnie’s sister city of Ikeda (Japan) in 1980 — but according to the Launceston Historical Society, the park actually has a long history of housing zoological exhibits. One consisted of no less than 62 thylacines (the now extinct Tasmanian tiger), which were put on public display between 1885 and 1913. The last Tasmanian tiger died in captivity in Hobart in 1936.

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
City Park, Launceston. Image: Tourism Tasmania/Rob Burnett

7. Ride across the sky in Cataract Gorge Reserve

As you stroll through City Park, it’s not hard to envisage the Victorian utopia that European settlers sought to create in their far-flung new home. That same effort is on display at expansive Cataract Gorge Reserve — a wild and woolly natural landscape just west of the CBD. A pleasure garden was successfully established beside the gorge basin — complete with a bandstand, tearoom, and prancing peacocks. Today, the gardens (and still-present peacocks!) are a stark contrast with the surrounding native bush. Take the 1970s-vintage chairlift across the basin and enjoy a walk back.

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Fly high over Cataract Gorge. Image: Tourism Tasmania/Rob Burnett

For an entirely different perspective of Cataract Gorge proper, head over to Seaport and board a river and gorge cruise with Tamar River Cruises. There are departures throughout the day on board the venerable Lady Launceston. You’ll pass under the 19th century wrought iron Kings Bridge (the original half of which was fabricated in Manchester, England), before cruising beneath the soaring gorge walls — thought to be some 65 million years old.

8. Scale the heady heights of Ben Lomond

There are plenty of scenic day trip destinations within easy reach of Lonnie, but arguably the most spectacular is Ben Lomond National Park. Situated an easy 90 minutes’ drive west of the city, Ben Lomond is the second highest mountain in Tassie and home to one of just two ski fields on the island. There’s an alpine village (open seasonally) high up on the cloud-shrouded summit plateau, and a new visitor facility at the bottom of the range — known as Ben Lomond Base. It has an onsite cafe and information centre, and is open all year round. To reach the plateau, you’ll need to drive up Jacobs Ladder — a dizzying series of switchbacks that will test the reserve of even the most confident of drivers (just keep your eyes on the road ahead and you’ll be fine). The views from the top are mind-blowing!

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Jacobs Ladder, Ben Lomond National Park. Image: Adam Ford

9. Do a Tamar Valley wine tour

Lonnie is the gateway to the esteemed, cool climate Tamar Valley wine region — best known for its pinot noirs, pinot gris, and chardonnays. Prestige Tours Tasmania offers half and full day wine tours, which visit three and six cellar doors respectively. Enjoy a guided tasting at each venue and a shared cheese platter on the half-day tour, or a grazing platter lunch on the full-day option. You’ll visit the likes of Velo Wines (which produces a sublime sparkling rose), certified organic Small Wonder Wines, and Swinging Gate Vineyard (where winemaker Doug does everything by hand).

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Tamar Valley wine region. Image: Adam Ford

10. Try a local brewed beverage

The wine industry doesn’t have everything its own way in this part of the world. Brewing is also big business — and those with a thirst for outdoor adventure and a locally crafted beer will love Du Cane Brewing in the CBD. Former mountain trekking guide/now brewer Will Horan conceived the idea for this success story on the slopes of the Du Cane Range in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. The rest, as they say, is history. Pair a tasting paddle of the brewery’s signature wares with a wood fired pizza from the onsite kitchen. And if you need tips for an upcoming trek, they’ll throw those in for free.

Need a place to stay?

Quality Hotel Colonial Launceston

While it has plenty of standard issue hotels, Launceston is also home to a swag of accommodation options with a past. Built in 1847 as a grammar school, Quality Hotel Colonial Launceston oozes old-world character and charm. Note the initials of boarders from the early years carved into the architraves in the main building. Breakfast is served daily in QC Brasserie (originally the school chapel), while Three Steps On George is an atmospheric spot to chow down in the evening. With its vaulted ceiling it feels akin to an old English pub, but is actually the former school gymnasium.

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Quality Hotel Colonial Launceston. Image: Choice Hotels
Leisure Inn Penny Royal Hotel and Apartments

Over by Kings Bridge and the entrance to Cataract Gorge, Leisure Inn Penny Royal Hotel and Apartments started life as a corn mill back in the 1800s. Today it offers a mix of heritage rooms and contemporary suites, and incorporates an onsite adventure park. Themed around the colonial era, Penny Royal Adventures features several rides and attractions — including an adrenalin-pumping cliff walk and zipline.

Ten of the best things to do in Launceston
Image: Leisure Inn Penny Royal Hotel and Apartments

The writer travelled as a guest of Choice Hotels and Stay Well Hotels.

For more travel inspiration, visit www.northerntasmania.com.au.

Browse our range of Launceston tours and experiences here.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Launceston? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Cover image: Tourism Tasmania/Rob Burnett. Additional images: Bigstock

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours & Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.

 

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  1. Hi. That’s been helpful as I’m putting together a plan for my trip in a couple months.

    1. Hi David. I’m glad you found the story useful! Lonnie is a fabulous destination. Regards, Adam Ford (Editor)

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