Let’s lay it on the line - Launceston probably isn’t at the top of many Melburnians’ list to rush off to. It’s a picturesque and historic city with plenty to offer, but because it doesn’t have many high-profile tourist attractions, it does tend to get overlooked. But with so many of us pouring into Hobart for MONA these days, it’s definitely worth you extending your stay by a couple of days to make the short trip up north to Tasmania’s second city.One thing to remember - while walking through the city, be sure to look up. Launceston is a pastiche of architectural styles – from Georgian to Art Deco – that somehow all work together, along with the defunct factories that stand as remnants of the city’s past as a major industrial centre of Tasmania.
There’s also the greater Tamar Valley to explore, abounding in some of the best produce – particularly wine – that Tasmania has to offer.
Next time you’re thinking of heading to the island, here’s how you could spend a couple of days in Lonnie before you head back to the mainland.
Built into an old mill from the 1830s, Stillwater is the white-tableclothed stalwart of traditional fine dining in Launceston. Fitted out with dainty lights and rustic, timber crossbeams, the interior is warm and comfortable. The drinks list is the size of a novella, so be sure to ask sommelier James for his guidance. Whether you order a la carte or the six-course degustation, there are plenty of theatrics to come in the form of foams, mousses, smears and even beetroot paper. It’s an experience in itself, although at these prices, most likely a one-off. Also see their sister restaurant, The Black Cow, for phenomenal Tasmanian beef.
(03) 6331 4153
The Northern Club
There’s something dark and intimate about The Northern Club. Maybe the fact that it used to be a gentleman’s club has something to do with the subtle, seedy undertone. Whatever it is, dinner at The Northern Club is an unexpected and underrated gem in Launceston. Go for the five-course tasting menu and enjoy dish after impressive dish of creative cooking that truly lets the ingredients shine. Finish off with a Tasmanian whisky and feel a little seedy yourself – all for tradition’s sake, of course.
(03) 6331 3568
This vegetarian cafe hosts live music on the weekends, and does a pretty mean breakfast in the daylight hours. The spacious three-room cafe is fitted out with wall murals, retro vinyl chairs in mustard and lime green, and kitsch wall clocks. The menu is enormous and has plenty of vegan and gluten-free options too. And if you like it so much, why don’t you stay there? There are two fully equipped serviced apartments upstairs for short or long term rental.
(03) 6331 4299
Blue Cafe Bar
Sitting in the old pay office in the Inveresk Railyards, Blue Cafe doesn't look like much from the outside, but is one of the most popular breakfast tickets in town. The produce used is Tassie's finest, and the coffee is pretty decent. Remember - breakfast finishes at 11am, so no sleeping in.
(03) 6334 3133
Running every Saturday from 8.30am to 12.30pm, The Harvest Market is a hub for Tasmanian growers and producers to bring their tasty goods fresh from the farm/dairy/Nanna’s kitchen and sell them direct to you, the hungry consumer. There’s a lot going on in a relatively small space – bundles of organic veggies, honey, jams, fresh milk, quark and cheese, ciders, baked goods. If you can smell fried cheese, you’re in the right spot. Follow your nose to the Elgaar dairy stall and order a brie, apple, honey and truffle butter toastie. Eat it right there on the spot and forget your own name.
0417 352 780
You’ll have to work off some of this eating at some point, so why not just walk to the Gorge – it’s only 15 minutes from the city centre. Cataract Gorge is the Big Kahuna of Launceston tourism, and it’s not hard to see why. The vast, rocky cliff faces and sprawling bushland is spectacular. Hop on the chairlift (one of the world’s longest), which moves at an ominously slow pace, teetering slowly across the surging waters below. Once you get to the other side, pick your route depending on whether you’re after a serene amble or full-on hike, and look out for peacocks and wallabies along the way.
You might have thought the locals were joking about the monkeys in City Park. They’re not. The park is home to a Japanese Macaque monkey enclosure, a gift from Launceston’s sister city, Ikeda in Japan. It’s a surreal to watch baby monkeys clambering over each other in northern Tasmania, and it’s a serious way to spend a full hour without realising it. Once you shake yourself out of your monkey-watching trance, take a walk through the tranquil, manicured lawns of the Park and zone out among the peaceful scenery.
Goaty Hill Wines
Owned by two married couples originally from Melbourne, Goaty Hill Wines is just a 40 minute drive out of town, accessible along either the East or West Tamar Highway up near Beaconsfield. They have a short but impressive list of whites and one pinot, and the chatty staff members are thrilled to talk you through the wines as you go. There are no goats here unfortunately, just two very friendly roaming dogs (watch for them before you drive away).
1300 819 997
Josef Chromy Wines
A formidable, gleaming trophy is the first thing to greet you at this slick cellar door in Relbia, just a 10 minute drive south of Launceston. They won the International Trophy for Best Chardonnay in 2011, which now goes for $120 a bottle. If you’re after something a little less extravagant, get a spot in the restaurant that overlooks the sprawling vineyard, order a board of Tasmanian cheeses and a glass of pinot and enjoy some of Tassie’s best.
(03) 6335 8700
Two Four Two Boutique Apartments
Right in the centre of town, Two By Four offers four different boutique apartments along with two-bedroom townhouses, with options for couples and families. The attention to detail is fantastic, from the magazines and travel literature on the table, to the regional breakfast provisions in the fridge, and even the Gaggia coffee machine on the kitchen bench. With furnishings by contemporary furniture designer Alan Livermore, you’ll feel at home here pretty quickly.
(03) 6331 9242
Broadsheet’s trip to Launceston was made possible by Discover Tasmania.