Is Launceston or Hobart better?

Is Hobart or Launceston Better for a Holiday?

Is Hobart or Launceston better for a holiday in Tasmania, Australia? Well, both cities have charming heritage buildings, picturesque landscapes, great food and award-winning wine. You can visit either Hobart or Launceston and be within an hour or two of breathtaking wilderness areas with stunning National Parks, walking trails, and beautiful beaches. But which is better for a holiday in Tasmania?

Launceston has the stunning Cataract Gorge and the Tamar Valley, Tasmania’s premiere wine-tasting region on the doorstep. And it’s easy to access Cradle Mountain and the ferry to mainland Australia from Launceston. But Hobart has art, culture and history at the MONA Gallery, and the Salamanca Market, and is closer to Port Arthur, the Tasman Peninsula and Mount Field National Park.

This article compares the two cities and looks at the similarities and differences to help you decide where to base yourself in Tasmania.

I’ve travelled solo around Australia and I have enjoyed several trips to Tasmania. I can recommend Tasmania’s two largest cities as safe and interesting destinations but whether Hobart or Launceston is better for your holiday is a matter of personal preference.

Is Launceston or Hobart better?
Hobart Waterfront at sunrise

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Is Launceston or Hobart better?

Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and although it’s the largest of the two cities it’s still comparatively small. In fact, Hobart is the smallest capital city in Australia with a population of over 250,000 people. Picturesque and charming, Hobart nestles beneath Mount Wellington. It has a thriving art scene, with world-class museums, historical sites and delicious, locally produced food and wine.

On the other hand, Launceston is regarded as the most liveable regional city in Australia. Elegant and charming, Launceston has a small-town feel. It’s Tasmania’s second-largest city with a population of more than 66,000. Launceston also has beautiful heritage buildings and a world-class food and wine scene with dramatic and beautiful landscapes nearby at Cataract Gorge and the Tamar Valley.

Hobart has the feel of a city while Launceston is more like a small town. Without a car, I would choose Hobart as there’s more to see and do in the city and there are lots of day trips to attractions further away.

When I was driving on a road trip around Tasmania I found myself passing through Launceston. While I stopped to enjoy the sights and stocked up on food and petrol I found myself moving on to enjoy the nearby attractions like the Tamar Valley, fairly penguins on the coast and the stunning wilderness of Cradle Mountain.

Hobart vs Launceston: The Pros & Cons

Hobart Pros – Reasons to VisitLaunceston Pros – Reasons to Visit
Capital of TasmaniaRegional City
More expensiveSlightly cheaper to visit
Located in the south of TasmaniaLocated in the north of Tasmania
International AirportRegional Airport for domestic flights
Convict history – Hobart Waterfront, Salamanca Place, Battery Point, Female Factory & Cascades BreweryClose to Ferry to mainland Australia in Devonport
Australia’s second-oldest cityOne of Australia’s oldest cities
Heritage architectureHeritage architecture
Thriving art scene: MONA, TMAGQVMAG  
Coastal city on the Derwent RiverInland city on the North Esk, South Esk& Tamar Rivers
Close to wineries in the Coal River Valley, the Derwent River Valley and the Huon VallyClose to the Tamar Valley, Tasmania’s premier wine-producing region
Salamanca MarketHarvest Market
Closer to Mount Field & Russel Falls, Port Arthur & the Tasman PeninsulaCloser to Cradle Mountain & Bay of Fires
Festivals: Taste of Summer, Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, New Year’s Eve Fireworks, Dark MOFO,Festivals: Effervescence Wine Festival, Launceston Festivale, Beerfest
Close to beaches An hour from the beach
Closer to whale watching and sealsCloser to Fairly Penguin colonies
Closer to Bruny Island & Maria IslandLaunceston is slightly warmer than Hobart in summer.
View of a deep valley with river and trees in Cataract Gorge Launceston
Cataract Gorge Launceston
Hobart Cons – Reasons not to goLaunceston Cons – Reasons not to go
Capital city – with more people & trafficSmall Regional city – fewer people & less traffic
Further away if you’re arriving by ferryBetter flight options to Hobart
Too far from Cradle Mountain, Stanley & the TarkineToo Far from Port Arthur & the Tasman Peninsula, Bruny Island & Mount Field National Park
Map created with Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android

Launceston vs Hobart: Location

Hobart is located on the southern side of Tasmania beneath Mount Wellington on the banks of the Derwent River. Hobart is the closest city to Antarctica and the southernmost tip of Australia. Hobart is near Bruny Island, Mount Field National Park, and the Huon Valley, and is just 90 minutes from the Tasman Peninsula, and the UNESCO World Heritage Port Arthur Historic Site.

Launceston is 3 hours (200 kilometres) from Hobart on the northern side of the island at the place where the North Esk, the South Esk and the Tamar Rivers meet. Launceston sits beside the beautiful Cataract Gorge and the Tamar Valley, Tasmania’s premier wine-growing region. It’s around 2 hours away from the UNESCO World Heritage wilderness of Cradle Mountain.

Of the two cities, Launceston is closest to mainland Australia and just an hour away from Devonport where the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry docks. While you can fly into Hobart or Launceston, Hobart has an International Airport with a greater choice of flights. Hobart is also a coastal city with easy access to beaches and National Parks.

Winner: Hobart

Ruins of a church in Port Arthur in Tasmania
Port Arthur in Tasmania

TIP: Visit Port Arthur on a day trip from Hobart. Explore the Port Arthur Historical Site, a compelling and dramatic reminder of Australia’s convict past and see the main sights of Tasman National Park.

Launceston vs Hobart: History

Hobart is Australia’s second oldest city after Sydney and was founded in 1803. Between 1803 and 1825, more than 70,000 British convicts were sent to Hobart and the town began as a penal colony and a defensive post to protect the new settlement.

Hobart is a busy harbour city with a rich maritime history. At the centre of the Old Town is the Port of Hobart, a fine deepwater harbour used for whaling and fishing. Today, Hobart’s waterfront is a picturesque and historic part of the city and is still centred around the fishing industry at Victoria Dock and Constitution Dock.  

Evidence of Hobart’s colonial beginnings can easily be found in the Old Town with restored heritage buildings, laneways and convict-built areas at the Waterfront, Salamanca Place, Battery Point and in the UNESCO World Heritage sites at the Female Factory and the Cascades Brewery.

Around 1806, on the northern side of Tasmania, Launceston was founded a few years after Hobart. Launceston is one of Australia’s oldest cities and has many charming heritage buildings from the Victorian and Georgian eras. Originally an agricultural city, Launceston was also used as a whaling port in the 1830s but by the 1840’s there was a rapid decline in the number of whales.

The discovery of gold and tin led to a financial boom and Launceston grew from a small town into an urban centre and was the second town in Tasmania to become a city in the late 1880’s.

Of the two cities, Hobart has the most colourful history and the most interesting historical sites to visit.

Winner: Hobart

Visiting MONA is one of many fun things to do in Hobart Tasmania
MONA Hobart

Hobart or Launceston for Art & culture

Choose either Hobart or Launceston and you’ll find art and culture with museums and galleries to visit and festivals held throughout the year.

Hobart is the home of Tasmania’s most famous art gallery, MONA Museum of Old & New Art. Located in a scenic spot on the banks of the Derwent River, David Walsh’s eccentric Art Gallery showcases controversial modern works that art lovers will not want to miss.

In addition, Hobart has many other galleries and museums such as the Tasmanian Museum and Gallery (TMAG), the Maritime Museum and Mawson’s Replica Museum to name a few. In Launceston, you can visit the Queen Victoria Museum and Gallery (QVMAG), the National Automobile Museum, and the Tramway Museum.

Hobart is also the home of the famous Salamanca Market held every Saturday morning. It’s a favourite event for visitors to Hobart and popular for souvenir shopping. At the Salamanca Market, you’ll find arts and crafts, local produce, and street food as well as music and other entertainment. Shopping at the Salamanca Market is a highlight of a visit to Hobart.  

In Launceston, the Saturday morning Harvest Market sells fresh local produce with artisan bread, dairy, handcrafted beer, mead cider and spirits.

In the battle Hobart vs Launceston, Hobart is a clear winner for Art and culture. As the larger of the two cities, Hobart has a wider selection of Art Galleries, museums and events.

Winner:  Hobart

Hobart Waterfront at sunrise
Hobart Waterfront at sunrise

Hobart or Launceston for Festivals

Festivals are held across Tasmania throughout the year, and you can visit either Hobart or Launceston for music art and food festivals. One of the biggest events is the Dark MOFO art and music festival in Hobart. It’s held in midwinter in June at the MONA gallery and throughout the city and lasts for 2 weeks.

Also in Hobart, there’s the Chamber Music Festival in October and Tasmania’s Taste of Summer, an event that showcases delicious local food and award-winning wine along with music and other entertainment. It’s held midsummer at Battery Point in Hobart and coincides with the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and New Year’s Eve Fireworks at the Hobart Waterfront.

Launceston also hosts festivals throughout the year such as the Effervescence Wine Festival in November, the Launceston Beerfest at New Year, the Launceston Festivale, a summer event and the Australian Music Theatre Festival in May. Launceston also shares the popular MonaFoma Festival with Hobart.

While you can visit either Hobart or Launceston for food, wine and music festivals, Hobart has some of the biggest and best festivals in Tasmania, but Launceston comes a close second.

Winner: Hobart

The Salamanca Market, one of the most fun things to do in Hobart in Hobart
The Salamanca Market in Hobart

Launceston vs Hobart: Attractions & things to do

It’s easy to spend several days in Hobart and find lots of things to do. In Hobart the top attractions are

  • The Hobart Waterfront, where it’s fun to eat fish and chips and watch the world go by on the Hobart Waterfront.
  • Salamanca Place – shop at the galleries and boutiques in restored heritage buildings
  • Salamanca Market – shop for gifts and souvenirs on a Saturday morning
  • Battery Point, Hobart’s oldest suburb. Stroll past rows of restored Georgian Cottages and heritage buildings.
  • MONA Museum of Old & New Art. Catch the Ferry from the Hobart Waterfront to MONA and cruise along the scenic Derwent River to be wowed and shocked by the controversial exhibits in the MONA Art Gallery.
  • The Female Factory
  • The Cascades Brewery
  • Tasmanian Museum and Gallery (TMAG)
  • Hobart Botanical Garden

Some popular day trips from Hobart are:

  • Mount Wellington for scenic views of Hobart and bushwalking trails
  • Port Arthur Historic Site and the dramatic scenery of the Tasman Peninsula  
  • Historic Richmond – a quaint heritage town near Hobart.
  • Bruny Island Wilderness Cruise – Join a wilderness cruise along Bruny Island’s rugged coastline in search of regional wildlife and explore the island after the cruise.
  • Wine tasting in the Derwent River Valley, the Coal River Valley, and the Huon Valley
  • Mount Field National Park and Russel Falls
  • Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary – see endangered Tasmanian Devils at feeding time
  • Salmon Ponds

TIP: You can visit stunning Wineglass Bay and Freycinet National Park on a day trip from Hobart. Embark on a series of scenic walks and take in stunning views. Enjoy a gourmet lunch and sample premium East Coast wines.

sweeping views of Wineglass Bay Tasmania
Wineglass Bay Tasmania

Launceston has many fun activities on offer as well. The top attractions in Launceston are:

  • Cataract Gorge for the chairlift, bushwalking and swimming
  • Cruise to Cataract Gorge from Launceston
  • Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG)
  • Tasmania Zoo

Some popular day trips from Launceston are:

  • Wine tasting in the Tamar Valley
  • Bridestowe Lavander Farm
  • Christmas Hills Raspberry farm
  • Fairy Penguin viewing at Lillico Beach Devonport
  • Wings Wildlife Park
  • Trowunna Wildlife Park
  • Mole Creek Caves
  • Cradle Mountain National Park

TIP: You can visit the stunning Cradle Mountain National Park on a day trip from Launceston. Get back to nature, go for walks in the temperate rainforest, enjoy lunch at the historic Waldheim Chalet, and more.

Cradle Mountain Tasmania
Cradle Mountain Tasmania – Photo by Laura Smetsers Unsplash

Launceston or Hobart for Nature Lovers

Nature lovers can visit either Hobart or Launceston, enjoy picturesque scenery and find National Parks and World Heritage wilderness areas nearby. Launceston is a good base to explore the northern parts of Tasmania while Hobart is better for exploring the south. Allow 2 weeks for a classic road trip around Tasmania to explore the whole island.

In Hobart, Mount Wellington offers a scenic lookout and hiking trails and Bruny Island has coastal trails. Nature lovers will enjoy spectacular Russel Falls in the Mount Field National Park and hiking on Hartz Mountain. The dramatic coastal scenery of the Tasman National Park and the epic Three Capes Track are easy to access from Hobart. Maria Island can also be seen on a day trip from Hobart.

For those hoping to see the Southern Aurora, Hobart is closest to the best vantage points such as the South Arm Peninsula, Mount Nelson and Mount Wellington.  Seven Mile Beach, Howrah Beach and Rosny Hill are other places to see the southern lights in Hobart.

But Launceston is closer to The UNESCO World Heritage wilderness of Cradle Mountain where you can see glacier-carved crater lakes, pounding waterfalls and wombats in their natural habitat. On the coast near Launceston,  Fairy Penguins waddle ashore at Lillico Beach, Penguin and Stanely, all within a couple of hours from Launceston.

Launceston is also closer to the stunning Bay of Fires, St Helens and the Great Eastern Drive, one of Australia’s most scenic coastal roads on the beautiful east coast of Tasmania. Gorgeous Wineglass Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula on the east coast are a similar distance from either Launceston or Hobart. Strahan and the Wild Rivers National Park on Tasmania’s west coast are also a similar distance from both cities.  

While Launceston is overflowing with destinations for nature lovers, Hobart has the edge.

Winner: Hobart

a paved stretch of the 3 Capes walk in Tasmania with cliffs in the distance
3 Capes hike in Tasmania

Hobart or Launceston for Beaches

Tasmania is blessed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and you can find lovely beaches near either Hobart or Launceston. Kingston Beach in Hobart is one of the best swimming beaches in Hobart and is just a 15-minute drive from the city centre. Long Beach, Sandy Bay and Nutgrove are other popular beaches on the Derwent River in Hobart.

Launceston, on the other hand, is around an hour’s drive from the coast and the spectacular beaches at Devonport, Penguin, Burnie, Stanley and all along the north coast. Idyllic Boat Harbour Beach, one of the best beaches in the world, is a couple of hours north-west of Launceston.

But Hobart’s coastal location makes it a better beach destination than inland Launceston.

Winner: Hobart

road trip itinerary Binalong Bay
Binalong Bay

Hobart vs Launceston for Skiing

Tasmania has two main ski fields, Mount Mawson and Ben Lamond. The Mount Mawson ski fields are in the Mount Field National Park, a couple of hours’ drive from Hobart.

Launceston is closer to Ben Lamond National Park, Tasmania’s main ski resort. It takes around an hour to get to Ben Lamond from Launceston and there are more facilities available here than at Mount Mawson where there are no facilities or equipment hire.

Winner: Launceston

Hobart or Launceston for Food and Wine lovers

Food and wine lovers will find plenty to draw them to both Launceston and Hobart.

The Tamar Valley near Launceston is Tasmania’s largest wine region and produces around 40% of Tasmania’s wines. There are many wineries to visit with open cellar doors in the Tamar Valley. At the Holme Oak Winery, you’ll find award-winning pinot noir and Chardonnay and the Josef Chromy Winery is best known for sparkling wine and serves exquisite food.

Launceston and northern Tasmania are also known for fresh produce like berries, and flowers. The Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm near Launceston and the Bridestowe Lavander Farm are both popular places to visit near Launceston.

Near Hobart, in the Derwent River wine region, the Moorilla Estate has an open cellar door and offers tours of the winery. The Coal River Valley is another popular wine destination near Hobart that produces exceptional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. And the Huon Valley also produces fine wines not far from Hobart.  

Beer, gin and whiskey are made near Hobart at the Cascades Brewery, Lark Distillery and Hellfire Bluff Distillery.

Hobart is also known for its fresh seafood, oysters, scallops and salmon. A foodie tour to Bruny Island is the perfect way to sample the fresh local produce including oysters, artisan cheese, chocolate, fudge and fresh berries.

The Taste of Tasmania Food & Wine Festival is held in Hobart, but Launceston hosts the Effervescence Wine Festival and the popular Harvest Market every Saturday morning.

On a Launceston or Hobart holiday, you’ll find excellent food and wine but Launceston’s proximity to the Tamar Valley, Tasmania’s premier wine-growing region gives it the edge. 

Winner: Launceston

picturesque river views of the Tamar Valley Tasmania
Tamar Valley near Launceston, Tasmania

Hobart or Launceston: Weather

Is the weather better in Launceston or Hobart? Tasmania’s location on the southernmost tip of Australia means that the weather tends to be cooler than on mainland Australia in either Launceston or Hobart. The weather in both cities is cold in winter and the warmer summer months from December to February are the most popular times to visit.

Launceston is slightly warmer than Hobart during summer but can be foggy, frosty and cold in winter.

Hobart has a mild, temperate climate. Cool summer breezes cause slightly cooler weather in Hobart than Launceston in Summer, with temperatures ranging from 20°C to 30°C in both cities. In winter strong southerly winds from the Tasman Sea keep the extreme frosts away from Hobart.

Winner: Hobart

around Launceston the Spirit of Tasmania ferry docked at Devonport
The Spirit of Tasmania ferry in Devonport

Hobart vs Launceston: Arriving & Getting Around

While you’ll have few problems getting to either Hobart or Launceston, Hobart is a larger city and the main transport hub in Tasmania. Hobart has an International Airport that accommodates overseas flights and you can catch a taxi or take the Skybus from the airport to the city centre.

Launceston has a regional airport that caters only for domestic flights from Australia’s major cities. But Launceston is only an hour from Devonport and the Spirit of Tasmania car ferry that departs daily for mainland Australia. So, Launceston is the closest of the two cities for those arriving by ferry.

Both cities are walkable, and you’ll have no problems getting around either Launceston or Hobart on foot or by bus.  

But the cheapest and fastest way to get to Tasmania is to fly so Hobart wins again.

Winner: Hobart

TIP: Hobart’s hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus is an easy way to see the city for a tour of Hobart’s best attractions. Use your 24-hour ticket to hop on and off at any of the 20 stops at your own pace.

Hobart vs Launceston for Accommodation

Choose either Hobart or Launceston for a holiday and you’ll find a good choice of accommodation for all budgets.

Where to stay in Hobart

Here are my suggestions for the best places to stay in Hobart:

Budget: If you’re after a dorm bed, the Montacute Bunkhouse gets great reviews.

Mid Range: The Shipwrights Arms is a quaint old pub located on historic Battery Point. It’s just a short walk from Salamanca Place and Hobart’s waterfront and has a welcoming atmosphere and free onsite parking. I enjoyed staying here and the onsite pub and restaurant were very convenient.

I also liked the Edinburgh Gallery B&B. This property has a friendly owner and oozes character. It’s centrally located on Macquarie St. Hobart and the walk down the hill to the waterfront takes about 10-15 minutes. I stayed in a lovely light, bright room with a private bathroom on the main level of the old house. But beware, the cheaper rooms are in the basement, 3 flights of stairs away from the shared bathroom.

Upper Mid Range: The Moss Hotel is surrounded by historic buildings, restaurants and cafes and has a superb location in Salamanca Place.

Luxury: The Henry Jones Art Hotel is a funky five-star hotel on Hobart’s waterfront that gets exceptional reviews. Located inside the renovated” Old Jam Factory”, the location is perfect, just a short walk from the MONA ferry, Salamanca Place and Battery Point. The rooms are spacious and full of contemporary art.

One of best hotels in Tasmania, the Old Colony inn
The Old Colony Inn, New Norfolk near Hobart, Tasmania

Where to Stay in Launceston

Here are some suggestions for where to stay in Launceston.

Budget: Big 4 Launceston Holiday Park has campsites and cabins.

If you’re looking for a bunk bed in a friendly hostel try the  Launceston Backpackers

Mid-RangeKurrajong House B&B gets exceptional reviews for its location, service and facilities.

Luxury: Hotel Verge Launceston offers new, comfortable accommodation in a superb location convenient to the city and market.

While you can find good hotels in either Hobart or Launceston, Hobart has a wider range of accommodations and has a great choice of heritage, quirky and quaint places to stay.

Winner:  Hobart

Final Thoughts – Is Hobart or Launceston better?

You can choose either Launceston or Hobart for a holiday and find a city brimming with charm and character and a wide range of things to do. The location on either side of Tasmania makes both cities attractive destinations for exploring the different parts of the island.

But my vote is for Hobart. It’s the largest of the two cities and has a better choice of cultural activities, museums and art galleries. Hobart is also the main transport hub in Tasmania and there’s a wide range of accommodation and transport links around the island, Australia and overseas.

Launceston’s proximity to the lovely Tamar Valley, the ferry port in Devonport and Cradle Mountain National Park are drawcards but they’re all outside the city and are easier to access with a car.

But Hobart has a wealth of history, art and culture at MONA and TMAG, the waterfront and the famous Salamanca Place. Hobart is also close to beautiful beaches, historic Richmond the Port Arthur Historic Site, the Tasman Peninsula, Bruny and Maria Islands.

Whether Launceston or Hobart is better for a vacation is a matter of personal preference. Whether you want to base yourself, on the north or south side of the island, and what activities and National Parks you want to see may be the deciders.

But overall Hobart has more to offer visitors than Launceston. The winner in this comparison Hobart vs Launceston, is Hobart, the capital of Tasmania.

Beaches on either side of the neck at Bruny Island
The Truganini Lookout Point at The Neck on Bruny Island


Is Launceston or Hobart cheaper?

Hobart is a capital city and food accommodation, and transport is slightly more expensive than Launceston, a regional city on the north of Tasmania.

Is it better to fly into Hobart or Launceston?

It’s better to fly into Hobart rather than Launceston for more choice and cheaper flights. Hobart is an international airport, and it’s where you’ll arrive if you’re travelling from overseas whereas Launceston is a regional airport with domestic flights to cities around Australia.

What is the most beautiful village in Tasmania?

The most beautiful village in Tasmania is Richmond. The quaint heritage village has rows of restored Georgian cottages, a convict-built bridge and a heritage gaol. Richmond is a delightful village to visit in Tasmania.
Stanley is another pretty historic village nestled beneath “The Nut”, a large rocky outcrop on Tasmania’s northeast coast.

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