The Thirsty Travellers absolutely loved our laid-back weekend in Launceston.
While it’s only home to 100,000 people, it’s the hub for half of Tasmania, so it has a thriving commercial centre, a gorgeous city park (containing a Japanese Macaque monkey enclosure, of all things) and is nestled on a riverbank in the shadow of the magnificent Cataract Gorge.
The atmospheric commercial centre sprawls out over many blocks, as there’s no local Westfield enticing people into a shopping mall. That gets a big tick from The Thirsty Travellers. We love a thriving shopping streetscape.
As we were exploring the town, DJ noticed lots of people disappearing down an alley and talked me into following them. It turned out they were heading for a place called Yorktown Square, where a monthly wine and food fair was unfolding.
Normally the night market is on the last Friday of the month, but since that’s Australia Day we lucked into it a week early.
There was a huge palm tree in the centre of the square, surrounded by craft beer stalls, Goaty Hill wines and various food trucks selling everything from oysters to pulled pork burgers. We settled ourselves down with a few plastic glasses of wine and did some people watching until I looked up and saw the most remarkable sunset glowing above our heads.
DJ adores a good sunset and immediately dashed off to try and get the ultimate shot. He bolted back a few minutes later, grabbed me, told me to skull my wine and hustled me out to the cab rank to go sunset chasing.
Our cab driver was very old, very slow and quite perturbed by the idea of chasing sunsets, so he took waaaaaay too long to get us to the riverfront and we missed the best of the golden bliss, though DJ got a pretty fabulous shot out of the front window of the cab.
The next day we ambled off to the Tamar Valley to check out the monotremes at the Platypus House. We loved it there, though we felt a bit sad about the little beasties being in captivity.
However, it was amazing to watch the platypuses dive and swim. We then moved on to the echidna room, where the spiky creatures wandered around sniffing our toes and clambering onto their keeper for food. I am officially in love with echidnas – they are adorable. Who’d have thought animals covered in spikes could be so cute?
Afterwards, we set off in search of lunch. The Tamar Valley isn’t like other wine regions where there are cellar door restaurants everywhere hawking their menus. It was quite the way between some wineries and food stops were thin on the ground. We eventually drove in to Piper’s Brook, which had a burger truck in the front yard.
I was a bit freaked by the prices of the wine there. While the Ninth Island range was do-able – the lady behind the counter described it as their “cafe” brand – the Piper’s Brook rose was $50 a bottle! For rose!
We grabbed a glass of Ninth Island sparkling rose and a straight rose – about $17 for the pair – to have with our burger and steak sanga and settled down at an outdoor table to enjoy them and the surrounding views.
It turned out we chose well – the sparkling had just won a Gold medal the day before at the Tasmanian Wine Show. It was very delish.
Then we headed off to find a berry farm for dessert. We tracked down Hillside Farm, where I ordered my first-ever blackberry ice cream, then we wandered up and down the field checking out the berries in situ. I’ve never actually seen raspberries and blackberries on the bush, so I was quite fascinated.
Don’t tell anyone, but DJ stole two raspberries off the bush – against the express orders on the sign – for us to try. Yum.
Oh, and the blackberry ice cream was fabulous. I’d go back to Launceston just to get another one of those purple soft serves.
Then it was back to the city for a cruise up Cataract Gorge.
What we didn’t realise when we booked the “Cataract Gorge cruise” is that you can’t actually cruise up more than the first bit of Cataract Gorge, so I’m not sure I’d recommend the $30+ price tag, though its always lovely to be on the water and fun to see all the local kids diving off the sides of the Gorge into the water on that unusually hot Lonnie day.
When we got back off the boat, we jumped into the car and drove to the top of the Gorge to do some exploring on foot and see it properly.
The carpark was full of magnificent strutting peacocks, which kept us occupied with our cameras for 10 minutes, then we stumbled across a little wallaby in a garden bed. Oooooh exciting!
Cataract Gorge itself was wonderful. I was transfixed by the gardens and the man-made swimming pool in the centre and the dam and the rocky cliffs and the wildlife and the fabulous houses perched above it. Can you imagine living with that view?
(I’ve also since discovered they don’t have pantry months in Tassie, well at least not according to my local Facebook group, so those houses suddenly seem even more appealing.)
We loved our brief visit there.
Then it was off to a local pub for a pint – beer for DJ and cider for me – while we argued over where to go for dinner.
We ended up in a scruffy Vietnamese place, though we’d been given lots of ritzy recommendations by friends. But I was feeling a bit angsty about my single mum budget – it turns out even the most modest restaurants in Tassie are super expensive. Mains were running to around $25+ at the scruffy Vietnamese place.
The food wasn’t too bad … and then we noticed another fabulous sunset unfolding out the window. We had our rental car this time, but we still didn’t get to the river front quite in time to get the perfect shot.
Damn and blast it!
And then it was time to pack up for our trip home the next morning.
I thoroughly recommend Launceston, there are so many cool things we didn’t get a chance to do. A friend told me the penguins at Low Head are a must, we didn’t make to House of Arras’ cellar door, I’d have liked to see some of the surrounding towns such as Devonport … the list goes on.
Hopefully we will return sometime soon.