Discover the best attractions around Launceston and find fun things to do in northwest Tasmania. When you’ve explored the impressive Cataract Gorge and sampled the delicious local produce it’s time to venture further west to the UNESCO world heritage Cradle Mountain National Park, to quaint Stanley and the wilderness of the Tarkine.
- How to get to Launceston
- 15 Things you’ll love to do around Launceston & Northwest Tasmania
- 1. Catch the Spirit of Tasmania
- 2. Around Launceston
- 3. Bushwalk in Cataract Gorge
- 4. Enjoy art & culture at QVMAG
- 5. Meet the Local Wildlife around Launceston
- 6. Enjoy a Tamar Valley Wine Tour
- 7. Visit Bridestowe Lavender Farm
- 8. See little Fairy Penguins
- 9. Treat Yourself to breakfast at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm
- 10. Discover Caves, Devils & Waterfalls
- 11. Explore Cradle Mountain National Park
- 12. Relax on Idyllic Boat Harbour Beach
- 13. Climb the Nut in Stanley
- 14. Journey to The Edge of the World
- 15. Explore the Tarkine Drive
- Travel Essentials
How to get to Launceston
If you take the ferry across from mainland Australia you’ll leave from Melbourne and arrive on the north coast of Tasmania. It’s a fun way to travel and very scenic as you arrive in pretty Devonport. Just an hour’s drive from the ferry port is Launceston where you’ll find history, art and culture. In this lovely regional city, there’s a lively café scene and world-class food and wine to enjoy.
You can fly directly into Launceston and hire a car at the airport or catch the ferry and take your car across with you.
Driving is the most flexible way to get around Tasmania but if don’t want to drive, don’t worry! Tasmania is well connected by buses and there’s a selection of tours that provide transport.
Below is my list of 15 fun things to do in and around Launceston and in northwest Tasmania.
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15 Things you’ll love to do around Launceston & Northwest Tasmania
1. Catch the Spirit of Tasmania
Make the trip to Tasmania an adventure by catching the ferry across to Devonport on the north coast of Tasmania. It’s a novel & fun way to start your journey. You can sail during the day or at night on The Spirit of Tasmania. Relax with a good book in one of the many sitting, eating and bar areas aboard the ship or sleep comfortably in a cabin and arrive refreshed and ready for your holiday. There’s even a movie theatre on board for entertainment.
The Spirit of Tasmania sails from Melbourne and takes about 9 hours to cross the Bass Strait from mainland Australia. I took my car with me and I enjoyed the night crossing better than the day sailing. I booked a shared cabin and slept comfortably through the night but my day crossing was more problematic. The ferry was delayed by several hours and I found the trip very long and exhausting. Seas were calm on both my trips but it can get quite rough in the Bass Strait.
If you need to stay near the ferry in Devonport there are some good options:
Where to stay near Devonport / Ulverstone
Budget: Discovery Parks Devonport
Mid Range: The Lighthouse Hotel Ulverstone – free parking & onsite restaurant
Luxury: Views Forever Devonport
2. Around Launceston
Launceston is the perfect place to base yourself while you explore Tasmania’s north. It’s one of Australia’s oldest cities and is known for its charming Georgian and Victorian architecture. With well-preserved heritage buildings and tree-lined streets, Launceston is a pleasant place to stay. The city lies beside the Tamar Valley, one of Tasmania’s major wine-growing areas. Launceston is known for its great food and wine and has a good selection of restaurants and cafes to enjoy.
Where to Stay in Launceston
Mid Range: Kurrajong House B&B
Luxury: Hotel Verge Launceston
3. Bushwalk in Cataract Gorge
One of the best things to do in Launceston is to spend an afternoon at Cataract Gorge. You can escape straight into the gorge from the centre of town, and be surrounded by bush. There’s a pretty picnic area with a pool and dramatic scenery along the South Esk River. A walking trail leads to a suspension bridge over the river and a couple of impressive lookout points. You can walk across the gorge or ride on the chairlift for arresting views across Cataract Gorge and beyond. On the other side of the gorge, there’s a restaurant with resident peacocks roaming in a pretty garden. You could happily spend several hours exploring this lovely spot.
4. Enjoy art & culture at QVMAG
Launceston has Australia’s largest regional museum, the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery (QVMAG). Collections include Australian colonial art, decorative arts and design, Tasmanian history and natural science.
The museum includes an 1870’s railway workshop, an interactive science centre, a planetarium and artefacts from Australia’s oldest merchant shipwreck.
The Art Gallery is small but there are some interesting exhibits and the location by the river at Royal Park is a plus. I enjoyed a collection of theatrical masks & costumes and a historical exhibit explaining the story of the local indigenous people.
The museum and art gallery are in different buildings on separate sites. The Art Gallery is at Royal Park and the Museum is at Inveresk and they’re just a few minutes apart by car. If you’re not driving it’s a 15-minute walk along a lovely river path or there’s a free Tiger bus.
Entry to QVMAG is FREE.
5. Meet the Local Wildlife around Launceston
What better place to introduce yourself to the local wildlife around Launceston than at Tasmania Zoo, home to Australia’s largest collection of native and exotic animals. I was absolutely delighted to see a Tasmanian Devil for the first time and animal encounters are a fun way to meet some of the zoo’s inhabitants such as Tasmanian Devils, wombat, snakes, limas and meerkats, even a Cheetah or a red panda. Learn all about the animal you choose and have your photo taken as a souvenir.
Tasmania Zoo is located 18 kilometres from Launceston in the picturesque Tamar Valley.
Wings Wildlife Park is another great place to meet the local wildlife around Launceston, as it specialises in native Tasmanian animals. You can pat a koala, a devil, a kangaroo or a wombat. Wings Wildlife Park is around 2 hours drive from Launceston, 23 kilometres south of Ulverstone and offers accommodation onsite.
6. Enjoy a Tamar Valley Wine Tour
Enjoy a tipple & a scenic drive around Launceston with beautiful vineyards, orchards and river vistas.
The lovely Tamar Valley follows the Tamar River for 60 kilometres from Launceston to the north coast and is one of Tasmania’s prime wine growing regions producing 40% of Tasmania’s premium quality wines.
As you drive through the pretty Tamar Valley you’ll pass vineyards and wineries with open cellar doors. Stop off wherever you like to sample the local wines and other produce. You can take a tour of the Josef Chromy winery and choose from more than 30 vineyards to visit including Swinging Gate, Goaty Hill, Tamar Ridge and the Holm Oak Vineyard.
Along the way, there are lots of lovely places to stop and enjoy the lovely scenery. Brady Lookout has magical views across the Tamar Valley and it’s on the road to Launceston.
7. Visit Bridestowe Lavender Farm
Around Launceston, the charming and picturesque Bridestowe Lavender Farm is a popular day trip. At the farm, curved rows of French lavender stretch for acres and the purple flowers fields are truly lovely to behold (not to mention the heavenly scent). You can join a farm tour, wander through the fields, eat at the café and buy sweet-smelling souvenirs at the shop.
Summer is the best time to visit Bridestowe when the lavender flowers are in full bloom, from December to February. The drive from Launceston takes around 45 minutes and on the way you’ll pass through the attractive town of Lilydale, nestling beneath Mount Arthur. There are pretty waterfalls and bushwalks to enjoy nearby.
If you don’t have your own transport, there’s a shuttle bus from Launceston in December – January and private tours are available at other times.
8. See little Fairy Penguins
Watching Fairy Penguins swim ashore and waddle up the beach to their nests is an absolutely delightful thing to do around Launceston and there are penguins nesting all along the coast in northwest Tasmania.
Lillico Beach near Devonport is a great place to see the little penguins. Burnie, Stanley and Penguin also have colonies nesting on their shores.
Head to a penguin viewing platform at dusk and wear every bit of warm clothing you’ve brought as it gets cold at night. Penguin season is from September to March but in April, I caught the tail end of the season. I saw a few little penguins still in their nests although most of the colony had swum out to sea for the winter.
9. Treat Yourself to breakfast at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm
Also around Launceston, you can stock up on fresh berries at the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm, YUM! There’s an inviting onsite cafe that opens at 7 AM (closes 5 PM) so you can start the day early with a delicious raspberry themed breakfast. It’s a great place to stop off on the way to (or from) Cradle Mountain.
I loved the bustling atmosphere, the warm open fire and the raspberry cappuccino, not to mention the large juicy berries. But when I was there the car park was overflowing with fancy sports cars straight off the Spirit of Tasmania and the restaurant was packed with Porsche drivers heading to Cradle Mountain (Lol! I was amusingly out of place in my little Mazda 2).
10. Discover Caves, Devils & Waterfalls
In the upper Mersey Valley in central north Tasmania, there are limestone caves to explore at Mole Creek, about an hours drive from Launceston. Beneath the ground is a fragile cave system with underground rivers and spectacular formations. Nearby is the Trowunna Wildlife Park, home to Tasmanian Devils. The impressive Alum Cliffs Gorge lookout, Westmoreland Falls and Liffey Falls are also nearby.
The area is known for its honey production and Mole Creek is the last petrol stop before the Cradle Mountain National Park.
There are some good accommodation options in the small town of Deloraine, about 20 minutes away from Mole Creek. Deloraine is just a10 minutes drive from the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm and on the way to Cradle Mountain.
Where to Stay in Deloraine
Budget: The Deloraine Hotel
Mid Range: The Empire Hotel.
Luxury: The Chapel
11. Explore Cradle Mountain National Park
Enjoy a special few days in northwest Tasmania on Cradle Mountain. The spectacular wilderness in Cradle Mountain National Park is UNESCO World Heritage-listed, and there are many walking trails to choose from for all abilities and levels of fitness. You’ll have to leave your car in the car park at the National Park Centre and take a shuttle bus to the start of your walk.
There was snow on the mountains and heavy rain when I was there in April. Unfortunately, there was so much cloud I didn’t actually see Cradle Mountain and I found myself climbing through the clouds to Marion’s Lookout. But I did enjoy the moody atmosphere at Dove Lake. The rivers were full of fresh rain and snowmelt and Knyvet Falls was powering down. I saw wild wombats near Ronny Creek and the Fagus was starting to turn to autumn colours. While the weather was not ideal I still had a memorable experience on Cradle Mountain.
** My advice** Rug up, take waterproof, warm clothes and thermal underwear.
There are endangered Tasmanian Devils at Devils@cradle sanctuary near the entrance to the National Park. Spotted tail and eastern quolls also live here. Visit throughout the day or see the mysterious and secretive Devils on an after-dark feeding tour.
You can visit Cradle Mountain on a day trip from Launceston but you’ll probably want to stay longer to explore this spectacular National Park. If you’re driving it will take you about 2.5 hours on the winding mountain roads.
Where to Stay on Cradle Mountain
Budget: Discovery Parks Cradle Mountain – Camping, cabins and dormitory beds available
Luxury: Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge
12. Relax on Idyllic Boat Harbour Beach
Boat Harbour Beach, on the coast of northwest Tasmania, is perhaps the prettiest little beach in the world. It was voted number 8 according to the owner of the cafe beside the beach. It’s a lovely place to relax and the perfect spot for a holiday.
Boat Harbour Beach is an enchanting stop on the drive west along the coast and it’s about 2 hours away from Launceston. I called in for a coffee, an ice cream and a swim in the turquoise waters.
13. Climb the Nut in Stanley
Stanley is another lovely spot on the coast of northwest Tasmania. The quaint heritage village of Stanley nestles beneath a huge rocky outcrop known as The Nut and it’s about 2.5 hours away from Launceston by car.
There are pretty beaches to enjoy in Stanley, and a scenic drive around the cliff tops with exhilarating coastal views. The walking path to the top of the Nut is very steep and quite challenging with pademelons hopping around beside the track, and when you reach the top there’s a 2-kilometre walking trail with stunning views. An easier way to the top of the Nut is to ride the chair lift.
At dusk, head down to the viewing platform near the beach to watch the Fairy Penguins swim ashore and clamber over the sand to their nests.
Stanley is a charming place to visit and a great place to base yourself while you explore the Rocky Cape National Park and the Tarkine wilderness further west.
Where to Stay in Stanley
Budget: Stanley Cabin & Tourist Park
Luxury: Noah’s Luxury Bed & Breakfast
14. Journey to The Edge of the World
Discover breathtaking wilderness on Tasmania’s west coast at Arthur River and in the Tarkine region. It takes about an hour to drive from Stanley to the mouth of the Arthur River where there’s an isolated fishing village called Arthur River. Huge waves crash against the shore and it’s easy to see why the lookout point is called the Edge of the World. The waves are quite mesmerizing to watch and there’s wild white water as far as the eye can see. The coastline is strewn with driftwood and the relentless surf is stained brown with river water. I loved walking along the untamed beaches near the lookout.
To find the Edge of the World Lookout, follow the road across the river over a one-lane wooden bridge.
Arthur River cruises are a popular way to see the riverside rainforests further upstream and they leave from the town wharf near the bridge.
15. Explore the Tarkine Drive
Continue on the scenic Tarkine Drive to find breathtaking wilderness with walks, lookouts, picnic spots and aboriginal heritage sites to explore. The area is remote and isolated so stock up on food, water and fuel before you go. I was relieved to find petrol at the Redpa General store (along with farm fresh eggs and a hot coffee)
#2. I always use World Nomad Travel Insurance so I can concentrate on enjoying my trip without worrying about something going wrong.
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