Packed with charming buildings and blessed with a vibrant food and wine scene, it’s not hard to find plenty of top things to do in Launceston. It’s fabulous to visit this region in summer, but winter in Tasmania, or The Off Season, as they call it, offers secret surprises like nowhere else.
Eat, Play, Stay – Things to do in Launceston
Surrounded by a deep food bowl and flanked by wineries, Launceston offers a surprising but addictive mix of heritage and adventure. The second biggest city in Tasmania, the town’s food culture extends out into the surrounding regions. I love the architecture here as it’s so different from my hometown’s Queensland timber and tin look. Expect fireplaces, stone buildings, moody, misty mornings and clear blue skies.
Compared to the rest of Australia, Tasmania gets cold, really cold. That makes winter a special season and the locals know how to make the most of it. From winter feasts under the stars, wildlife spotting at twilight, foraging for local produce or meditative ceramic classes are some of the quirky offerings you’ll find in Tasmania during the cooler months of May to September.
You can fly directly to Launceston or start your trip in Hobart, and drive around two and a half hours (200 km) to reach Launceston. Here’s your to-do list when you get there.
Below: Cataract Gorge Reserve PHOTO Emilie Ristevski
Enjoying a prime steak at Black Cow Bistro, Launceston. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Where to eat
Settle in for an intimate, chef-led feast at Launceston’s Stelo at Pierre’s serving up five courses jammed with local produce. Don’t get too comfy though, you’ll be whisked into the humming kitchen for a personal tour before the night is through.
For a taste of Tasmania’s premium beef cuts, Black Cow Bistro makes a former butcher’s shop a carnivore’s must-stop. Positioned on the edge of the River Tamar, the award-winning Stillwater Restaurant in the old flour mill serves up dishes that will drag your eyes away from the view. Grain of the Silos, aptly named after the quartet of former silos now converted into a hotel, serves fresh seasonal produce that doesn’t even have a chance to hit the markets.
When the weather cools, head to Evandale. There’s no better place than a seat in front of one of the Clarendon Arms Hotel’s roaring fireplaces eating a Tasmanian curried scallop pie. Evandale has a weekly Sunday Market (8 am to 1.30 pm) and The National Penny Farthing Championships race through the streets every February.
Photos below: Outside the Clarendon Arms; Ready for lunch inside the pub. Photos: Kerry Heaney
Photos above: Outside the Clarendon Arms; Ready for lunch inside the pub. Photos: Kerry Heaney
When the weather cools, there’s no better place than a seat in front of one of the Clarendon Arms Hotel’s roaring fireplaces eating a Tasmanian curried scallop pie. Evandale has a weekly Sunday Market (8 am to 1.30 pm) and The National Penny Farthing Championships race through the streets every February.
The Village Store, Evandale Tasmania. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Was it too much wine last night, or did you just step out of Dr Who’s Tardis and back 100 years? Walking down the Georgian village high street at Evandale, about 18 km south of Launceston, it is easy to get lost in history. Stuffed full of must-have handmade soaps, artisan honey, wool clothing and old-fashioned sweets displayed in the style of an 1840s general store, The Village Store is a must-visit.
Harvest Market Launceston.
Shop at Harvest Market
Unlike many farmer’s markets, Harvest Market Launceston starts at a very respectable time of 8.30 am. This means you don’t need to be an early riser to get the best farm gate produce here. Do skip breakfast and plan to eat at the market. The range of edibles, such as Afghan bolanis, coconut panko-crumbed mushrooms, and Korean pancakes, is way too tempting. Held in Cimitiere Street in the heart of Launceston, the market has an average of 50 stalls that rotate according to seasonal produce. Stock up on sauces and salts, try local cider and wine and take home a taste of Tasmania. For me, this is one of my favourite things to do in Launceston.
Kerry Heaney checks out the suspension bridge at Cataract Gorge.
Where to play
Put something very different on your holiday list with these truly Tasmanian experiences.
Explore a cave
In winter, Tasmania’s caves come alive with water. Wild Cave Tours offers subterranean explorations at Mole Creek, where you can gaze into mirror-still pools and feel the mist of underground waterfalls pouring over the rocks. If you like caves, put Hastings Thermal Springs and Cave at the other end of Tasmania on your list too. You can bathe in the thermal springs – amazing!
Smell the lavender
Get lost in intoxicating aromas at a Bridestowe Lavender Estate fragrance workshop (and maybe even find your true calling?). Soak up the history of the Nabowla estate, then roll up your sleeves and get creative.
Do you love truffles? On the forested outskirts of Deloraine, Truffles of Tasmania and The Truffle Farm Tasmania host hunting tours, where you can really get your hands dirty, unearthing aromatic truffles with the help of faithful hounds.
Above – Geoff McLean, Wallaby Walkabout Tours, at Cataract Gorge
Walk Cataract Gorge
Just 15 minutes stroll from Launceston’s city heart lies the wilderness of Cataract Gorge. There is a walking trail, the world’s longest single-span chairlift (no swinging), a suspension bridge (no jumping), a swimming pool (diving allowed) and a café where peacocks fan their iridescent blue feathers while you relax over a coffee. Drink in the region’s history and Aboriginal history with Geoff McLean’s Wallaby Walkabout Tours. Geoff takes visitors on a two-hour track wander to discover bush foods with tastings. Thankfully, that doesn’t extend to the fat white witchetty grub he keeps for display purposes only. Symbolic ochre hand-painting with Aboriginal symbols and a moment’s silence to commune with the wilderness finish Geoff’s tour.
Loira Vines, Tamar Valley. Cabbage Tree Hill Wines, near Beaconsfield. Photo: Kerry Heaney
Where to taste wine
Launceston is a starting point to explore Tasmania’s oldest wine-growing area, the Tamar Valley, which produces premium cool climate wines. There’s no shortage of stops on the Tamar Valley Wine Route, where you travel short distances on smooth country roads to find wineries located between lavender plantations, strawberry farms and orchards. Follow the West Tamar Highway (A7) past the Tamar Island Wetlands Centre, which is a great bird-watching locale.
Highlights include the cellar door at tiny boutique vineyard Loira Vines where Adrian Carruthers creates six wine varieties plus craft cider. You can also sniff, taste and sharpen your senses over a blind cider tasting in the cosy back cellar at Brady’s Lookout Cider in the West Tamar. Then upskill and create your own ‘Méthode Traditionelle’ cider to take home.
Don a jacket and boots to wander among the vines further north at Westella Vineyard and Cellar. You’ll learn how wine is shaped by the seasons, then taste these influences over a fireside flight of pinot noir. Bliss!
Tasting platter at Cabbage Tree Wines. Photo: Kerry Heaney
At Cabbage Tree Hill Wines on the outskirts of Beaconsfield, lunch could be a gourmet platter of fresh local produce paired with their award-winning wine. Say hello to their flock of Baby Doll Southdown sheep that range through the vineyard to create biodiversity.
Don’t want to drink and drive? Settle into a luxury glamping experience at Swinging Gate Vineyard.
Above – Stillwater Seven room Photo: Kerry Heaney
Top Launceston Stays
You will need three days at least to complete my top things to do in Launceston, so I suggest you find somewhere to stay.
Launceston’s iconic 1830s flour mill on the edge of the River Tamar has long been home to the award-winning Stillwater restaurant. Now you can sleep at the mill in seven carefully crafted rooms nestled into the bones of the mill at Stillwater Seven. Each one of the luxuriously appointed rooms has stunning waterfront views. Still, the little touches like freshly baked house bread, house-made butter, and warm popcorn lift this experience even higher. The pantry bar is one of the most extensively stocked I have enjoyed. It is full of premium Tasmanian produce. There are even more treats in the guest lounge. Inside, it’s dark and moody, with plenty of rustic exposed beams. This is cosy décor that perfectly showcases the expansive views outside. Breakfast in Stillwater below is included, but you still need to book. I absolutely enjoyed staying at Stillwater Seven, and it easily makes my list of top things to do in Launceston.
Peppers Silo Hotel
I’ve also enjoyed staying at Peppers Silo Hotel, which has a dog ambassador. Archie is a black lab who resides in reception and greets everyone when they check-in. It’s great to get a doggie fix when travelling, as I miss my best friend.
Domescapes at Swinging Gate Vineyard
Just out of Launceston, glamping at Domescapes at Swinging Gate Vineyard on the Tamar Valley Wine Route is another great option.
While you’re in Deloraine, rediscover romance among misty mountains and heritage charm. Renew your nuptial vows during a cosy stay at Blakes Manor (they’ve got all the details covered).
Low Head Pilot Station
On the north coast, Low Head Pilot Station is a beacon of warmth among wild winter seas. Pick from a range of cottage accommodation and be treated to a grazing platter and dinner for two, before following a parade of little penguins along the rocky shoreline.
Sawyers Bay Shacks
Looking for solitude and sanctuary? Head offshore to Flinders Island for a week at Sawyers Bay Shacks. After all your adventuring, rest and re-energise on this private patch of beachfront, curled up by the fire with a good book. They’ll even throw in a hire car for when you’re ready to see the sites.
You’ll find more amazing places to stay in Tasmania here.
Disclaimer: Eat drink and be Kerry travelled as the guest of Tourism Tasmania.
Below: Popcorn and fresh bread in the pantry minibar, Stillwater Seven. Photo: Kerry Heaney