Launceston: overview

After surviving two days back at work (two very long days!), I thought this would be a good time to reminisce about my trip to Launceston. Also, I suppose I should write about it all before work life and normality make me forget the details.

In the three days that I was there (or technically two and a half days), I feel like I explored quite a lot, but also feel like there’s a lot left to be discovered in Launceston and the surrounding area. There seemed to be a sense of tranquility and calm about the place, yet, at the same time, there was something very exhilarating about being there. 

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Cataract Gorge (this photo was taken near the start of one of the hiking trails)

The accommodation I stayed in while I was there was perfectly placed between the city centre and Cataract Gorge – within walking distance of both. Cataract Gorge is pretty amazing, and I reckon I spent at least a good hour making my way along the hiking trails, stopping now and then for photos. I didn’t cover the full distance, but definitely intend to go back and spend more time there.

On the second day of my trip, I spent most of the day exploring the town itself. After a leisurely breakfast, I decided to go for a stroll along the river. There’s a good walking track along the Tamar River that covers quite a considerable distance. As you walk, you can look over the river at the houses on the other side:

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Launceston actually really reminded me of Queenstown (NZ), but a lot less tourist-y. I think all the mountains, the cold winter, and the welcoming feel about the place are what did it. And while it felt like the vast majority of people in Queenstown were tourists, there was something more homely (?) about Launceston. I suppose that was a lot to do with the type/style of buildings and homes in the respective towns. There were a lot of these lovely terrace houses around Launceston:

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(Sorry about the photo quality, but I actually felt kind of awkward about photographing people’s homes, so just took it quickly and moved on…)

Side note: If you look closely at the photo, you’ll notice the sign indicating the parking restrictions for that street. There are parking restrictions all over the place – I don’t think I ever came across a street or carpark that allowed free parking. If you visit Launceston and intend to drive around town, make sure you have plenty of coins to buy parking tickets. Otherwise, you can be like me and stay somewhere within walking distance, and just walk everywhere.

I also really liked how there were a lot of memorials and parks around the place. After my walk along the river, I walked through the streets, having a general idea of where I was headed, but primarily guided by curiosity rather than by a map. I ended up at City Park, which is beautiful even in the middle of winter. There’s also a free macaque exhibit there. I thought that was a bit random, but there is a story behind it (I did read the information plaque but just forgot what it said!)

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Within the greenhouse in City Park

Eventually, I ended up in Brisbane Street (part of me appreciates that there’s a street in Launceston that shares the name of my hometown). Knowing my love of books, my local friend had suggested a visit to Petrarch’s Book Shop on this street. This was definitely a good suggestion because (1) the staff are pleasant and knowledgeable (I overheard them giving recommendations to other customers), and (2) I always feel at home in a good book shop.

There are a lot of other shops along Brisbane Street, and what I suppose is the main shopping area is in this vicinity. Plenty of restaurants and cafes around here too, but I think I’ll write about the food & drink in a separate post.

My friend was out of town on this particular day, so I thought I’d take the chance to go for a drive out of town too. The map on my phone told me that it was only about an hour’s drive up to Low Head, a small town at the mouth of the Tamar River, so I headed off there later in the day with the intention of watching the sun set out over Bass Strait. The drive was a cinch, and I’m surprised the radio never lost reception on my way up there. Definitely worth it for this:

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On my final day in Launceston, I stumbled upon the library (which seemed to be new or recently renovated) and managed to find the Queen Victoria Art Gallery. It’s not a huge collection compared to galleries in larger cities, but I ended up spending quite a decent amount of time there. I honestly don’t know a whole lot about art, and some of the abstract stuff is a bit beyond my comprehension, but there were a lot of stunning landscape paintings/drawings.

Later in the afternoon, after thoroughly exhausting myself with so much walking, I settled on a bench in Prince’s Park to enjoy the sunshine and the book that I’d brought with me but had hardly had a chance to read. My friend joined me in the park later on, and we chatted a bit before I had to go to the airport. Perhaps it was my attachment to this friend that predisposed me to form an attachment to Launceston, but I reckon there is an undeniable charm about the place.

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