10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Launceston & Easy Day Trips
Graced by elegant 19th century buildings and oak-studded parks, Launceston is the second largest town in Tasmania. It lies in a picturesque spot on the island's northeast at the head of the Tamar River, a two-hour drive from Hobart. History and architecture buffs will find much to love here. Beautifully restored colonial buildings, manicured public squares, and well-tended parks infuse an air of English charm in the center of Launceston. Sightseers can explore the town's fascinating history on one of the popular heritage trails.
Nature is another big draw. A mere 15-minute stroll along the river from the town center lies beautiful Cataract Gorge with its cascades, hiking trails, and gardens. Launceston is also renowned for its bounty of high-quality produce from the nearby Tamar Valley. In the surrounding countryside, grand old mansions and estates, some of which are World Heritage sites, attest to Launceston's early prosperity and are lovely locations for day trips.
1 Cataract Gorge
Sculpted by the South Esk River, Cataract Gorge lies only 15 minutes on foot from the center of Launceston. On both sides of the steep gorge, walking trails from the 1890s skirt the cliff face providing panoramic views of the river far below. To reach the top, sightseers can hop aboard the world's longest single-span chairlift. Kings Bridge also offers excellent views. South of the river is a café and a sparkling swimming pool, while on the northern side, at Cliff Grounds, visitors can commune with colorful peacocks and friendly wallabies in the fern-fringed Victorian garden. For a glimpse of the sheer cliffs and cascades from water level, hop aboard a river cruise.
2 Heritage Walks
Launceston is renowned for the lovingly restored colonial and Victorian buildings. Sightseers can explore the city's architectural gems on one of three self-guided heritage walks. The Merchants Machinery Trail explores Launceston's milling and mining history and visits buildings such as the magnificent neoclassical Customs House of 1885, a reflection of the town's 19th-century wealth, the Batman-Fawkner Inn (c 1820), and the red brick post office with its rather mismatched tower. The Rags to Riches Trail explores the town's beautiful commercial buildings and churches. The second oldest synagogue in Australia dating from 1844 and St John's Anglican Church of 1824 are on this itinerary. The Government to Gorge Trail leads through the city's administrative hub, past the imposing neo-classical Town Hall of 1864 with its chiming clock to beautiful Cataract Gorge. Sightseers can also learn about the historical sites and the colorful characters who founded the city on the excellent hour-long guided Launceston Historic Walk.
3 City Park
Dotted with old elms and oaks on Launceston's eastern edge, City Park is home to a clutch of popular tourist attractions and pleasant picnic nooks. Sightseers can visit the Japanese macaques in a small enclosure, admire the plants in the conservatory, and browse the exhibits in the City Park Radio Museum, housed in a beautiful old heritage house. Walking paths wind around the park past the main sites - including a duck pond and the elegant Jubilee Fountain. Children will love the play area and the little train, which often chugs around the park.
Also here, Albert Hall was built for the Tasmanian International Exhibition of 1891. It's now a cultural center, used for concerts and exhibitions. At the edge of the park, Design Centre of Tasmania spotlights a collection of Tasmanian woodwork crafted predominantly from sassafras, huon pine, and myrtle. Locals and visitors come here to admire the exhibits and buy unique gifts.
- Macaque Monkey Enclosure: 8am-4pm (April-Sept), 8am-4:30pm (Oct-March)
- John Hart Conservatory: Weekdays 8:30am-4:30pm; Weekends 9am-4:30pm (April-Sept), 9am-5:30pm (Oct-March)
Location: Cimitiere and Tamar Street, Launceston
4 Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, in two different locations, is a great place to brush up on some local history and admire Australian and international art. Housed in an impressive 19th-century heritage-listed building, the art gallery on Wellington Street features ten different galleries displaying Tasmanian art from colonial days to the present, historic photos, international paintings, and decorative arts. The gallery also hosts a family art space. Its principal attraction is a splendid Chinese temple decorated with gold leaf, containing ceremonial items from mining towns in northeastern Tasmania.
The museum, on Inverness Street, occupies a railway workshop from the 1870s. Its collections trace the early convict and colonial days as well as the natural history of Tasmania. Children will love the planetarium and interactive science displays. After browsing the museum exhibits, visitors can enjoy lunch or coffee at the excellent little cafés at each location.
Hours: Open daily 10am-4pm, closed Good Friday and Christmas Day
Address: Art Gallery at Royal Park - 2 Wellington St; Museum at Inveresk - 2 Invermay Rd
5 Tamar Island Wetlands
A 10-minute drive from the center of Launceston, Tamar Island Wetlands is a haven for nature lovers - especially birders. First stop should be the interpretation center where visitors can learn about the history of the Tamar River, the wetlands ecosystems, and the resident wildlife. After browsing the displays, stroll along the boardwalks and admire the lovely views of the Tamar River with its tranquil lagoons. Black swans, great egrets, ducks, swallows, and pelicans are frequently spotted, as well as frogs and snakes (in summer). Pademelons (small marsupials) often peak out from the fringing grasslands. Photographers have a chance to snap some great photos here, and serious birders should bring their binoculars for close up views.
Admission: Free, donation suggested
Address: West Tamar Highway, Riverside, Launceston
6 National Automobile Museum of Tasmania
Car and motorbike enthusiasts can take a trip down memory lane at the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania. Opposite City Park, the museum displays an impressive collection of well-restored cars and motorcycles with four themed exhibits every year such as Jaguar, British Sporting Heritage, Rolls Royce, and Aussie icons. Rotating exhibits ensure that there is always something new to see at this popular museum.
Hours: Open daily, summer 9am-5pm, winter 10am-4pm, closed Christmas Day
Location: Corner of Willis and Cimitiere streets, Launceston
7 Prince's Square
Surrounded by elegant Georgian and Victorian buildings, 19th-century Prince's Square is one of Launceston's finest public spaces. It was once a clay pit for building bricks and later became a parade ground and place of assembly. From the mid-19th century onwards, the park was gradually developed and is now dotted with magnificent old trees, some reputedly planted by members of the Royal family. The eclectic St John's Anglican Church, built in 1824, is a distinctive landmark along the square, and the elaborate fountain came from the 1855 Paris Exhibition. Visitors can stroll around the park on the network of paths and picnic under the shade of the old oaks.
Location: St John, Elizabeth, Charles, and Frederick Streets
8 Royal Park
To the west of Launceston town center, at the point where the North and South Esk merge to form the Tamar River, Royal Park is another popular green space in the city. The park is home to the Queen Victoria Museum as well as Launceston's Cenotaph. Visitors can stroll along the boardwalk edging the river to the Cataract Gorge Reserve or hop aboard a river cruise from the nearby dock. A short walk from here, Ritchie's Mill is home to a popular gourmet restaurant spotlighting the region's fresh produce.
Address: 78 Paterson St, Launceston
9 Hollybank Treetops Adventure
At Hollybank Treetops, about a 15-minute drive northeast from the center of Launceston, thrill seekers can glide through the forest canopy between "Cloud Stations" on a three-hour zip line adventure. Those who are scared of heights can opt for the two-hour Segway tour, which winds along bush trails through old and new-growth eucalyptus forests. Wet weather gear is available for misty or rainy days, and twilight zip line tours are also offered.
Hours: Open daily, 9am-5pm, closed Christmas Day
Admission: $120 for zip line tour, $100 for Segway tour
Address: 66 Hollybank Rd, Underwood
10 The Old Umbrella Shop
The Old Umbrella Shop, a fine 1860s building, has remained almost unchanged since the end of the 19th century. It now belongs to the National Trust and contains an umbrella museum and a souvenir shop. Friendly local volunteers provide a wealth of information on the history of the shop as well as Launceston's tourist attractions.
Address: 60 George St, Launceston
Day Trips from Launceston
Brickendon House and Woolmers Estate
About 18 km southwest of Launceston, Brickendon House and the adjacent Woolmer's Estate are two of Tasmania's oldest convict-built farms and are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. William Archer, the state's first Tasmanian-born architect, settled at Brickendon in 1824 with his family, and his descendents still operate the farm today. Visitors can stroll around the lovely gardens dotted with old mulberry trees and fragrant flowers, explore some of the convict-built farm structures, and learn about the history of this prominent Tasmanian clan. The nearby Woolmer's Estate was settled by Thomas Archer in 1817. When in bloom, the National Rose Garden here is beautiful. Both properties have a clutch of cozy farm cottages available for overnight stays.
- Hours: Open Tues-Sun 9:30am-5pm (Oct-mid May), 9:30am-4pm (mid May-Sept), closed Christmas Day; animal feedings start at 10:15 am
- Admission: Adults $12.50, child $5, concession $11.50, family $38
- Address: 236 Wellington St, Longford
- Hours: Open daily 11am-3pm, closed Christmas Day and Good Friday
- Admission: Guided tours - adult $20, child $7, family $45
- Location: Woolmer's Lane, Longford
A 15-minute drive from Launceston, Entally House is one of the oldest mansions owned by the National Trust. It was built around 1820 by Thomas Reibey whose mother was transported to New South Wales as a convict at the age of 13 and eventually became a successful businesswoman in Sydney. Thomas Reibey's son became prime minister of Tasmania in 1866. Guests can tour the beautiful grounds and gardens as well as the elegant home, with its Regency interior and valuable collection of silver. Also on site is a coach house, stables, chapel, farmyard, and Australia's oldest conservatory. After a tour, visitors can enjoy the highly rated Devonshire tea served here.
Hours: Open daily 10am-4pm; closed June 1-Aug 31, Christmas Day, Boxing Day (26 December), New Years Day, Good Friday, and ANZAC Day
Admission: Adults $10, pensioners or students $8, family $25
Address: 782 Meander Valley Rd, Hadspen
Ben Lomond National Park
Less than a two hour drive east from Launceston, Ben Lomond National Park lures large numbers of hikers and nature lovers and is the most popular winter sports area in Tasmania. A steep road, with many bends leads up to the summit plateau with its mountain huts. During the winter sports season, an alpine village operates on the slopes of 1,572 m Legges Tor, Tasmania's second highest mountain. Six lifts glide up the slopes for downhill skiing. Striking features of Ben Lomond National Park are the dolerite columns, carved out by ice age glaciers and dissected by frost. In spring and summer, wildflowers dot the moorland.
Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre
Formerly the Grubb Shaft Museum, the Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre traces the history of the Tamar Valley and its mining heritage. One of the most popular exhibits is the poignant Mine Rescue Exhibition, which recalls the heroic rescue of the miners who were trapped for two weeks in the Beaconsfield Mine, 950 m below ground level, during a rockfall in 2006. The Holographic Mine Experience transports visitors to the subterranean world of tunnels and caves. The museum is also packed with child-friendly exhibits. Kids can push buttons and pull levers, pan for gold, play an old pedal organ, and clamber through tunnels.
Hours: Open daily, 9:30am-4:30pm, closed Good Friday and Christmas Day
Admission: Adult $12, child $4, concession $10, family $30
Location: West Street, Beaconsfield
About 8 km south from the center of Launceston, Franklin House is a grand Georgian home built by convicts in 1838 for wealthy businessman Britton Jones. After changing hands a few times, the house spent decades as a private school for boys before the National Trust acquired the property. Today guests can admire the beautifully restored home with its lavish use of Australian red cedar, antique musical instruments, and period furniture. After a tour, take a leisurely stroll around the well-tended gardens, and pop into the tearoom for a snack.
Hours: Open Mon-Sat 9am-4pm (April-Sept); Mon-Sat 9am-5pm, Sun noon- 4pm (Oct-Mar); closed Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day & Good Friday
Admission: Adults $10, concession $8, children under 18 free
Address: 413 Hobart Rd, Youngtown