Abseil into a gorge in Launceston, hop aboard a sailing boat in Devonport and sample Burnie's historic past as you travel through Tasmania's north.
By Jennifer Ennion
With the wild Bass Strait on their doorstep and rivers meandering past cafés and coffee shops, it's no surprise life revolves around the water in Launceston, Devonport and Burnie. But there is more to Tasmania's northern cities than secluded beaches, tranquil waterways and coastal views. The region also has a strong industrial identity and a wealth of wineries, offering travellers an ideal blend of nature, culture and history.
- Photograph the views from the top of Cataract Gorge
- See little penguins returning to their burrows at Lillico Beach
- Sail up the Mersey River in Devenport
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Top things to do in and around Launceston
Wander the streets of Launceston
Launceston is a small but cosmopolitan city set on the mouth of a river, with an appreciation for excellent produce and fine food. Wander its quaint streets to shop for antiques and sample home-baked goods at the many cafés. Try dinner at a restaurant such as Stillwater, Mud Bar and Restaurant or Black Cow Bistro.
Check out Cataract Gorge Reserve
A 20 minute stroll from Launceston city centre will lead you to Cataract Gorge Reserve, a natural formation on the South Esk River. Once you've ridden the chairlift to the top of the gorge, you'll find that there's plenty to do. Cross the suspension bridge, go for a self-guided walk and admire the resident peacocks, abseil down the gorge walls, and take your camera with you to capture the views.
Taste the wines of the Tamar
Within 20 minutes of leaving the city of Launceston you can find yourself in the Tamar Valley, a wine region known for its excellent chardonnay, riesling and pinot noir. Designate a driver and journey along The Tamar Valley Wine Route to sample the region's finest drops. Starting just south of Launceston, the 170 kilometre (106 mile) circuit takes in 32 wineries as it winds through countryside to Pipers Brook, in the north, and George Town, in the west.
Meet the penguins
Keep your eyes peeled for little penguins along the pebbly shore of Lillico Beach, a coastal reserve 10 minutes west of Devonport. The little penguin is the world's smallest species of penguin. The best place to watch the reserve's colony is from the timber viewing platform. Time your visit for dusk, when the penguins are returning from fishing in the ocean to their beach burrows. This is a free activity, and Tasmania Parks and Wildlife rangers are on site during breeding season, from September to May, and during summer, from mid December to mid February.
Sail the Mersey River
Soak up the salty breeze off Devonport's Mersey River as you sail aboard a historic cray fishing ketch, headed for Bass Strait. The Julie Burgess, built in Launceston in 1936, has been lovingly restored by a team of volunteers and you can join them on a two hour sailing trip every Sunday and Wednesday, dependent on volunteer crew numbers and weather conditions. Book through Bass Strait Maritime Centre, not far from the riverfront. There, you can learn more about the Julie Burgess and northern Tasmania's seafaring history.
Pick up a paper souvenir
A seaside city with a proud industrial culture, Burnie offers visitors more than fish and chips on the beach, though that's a must-do. Be sure to call into Creative Paper Tasmania, a boutique paper factory where you can pick up handmade, eco-friendly stationary. You can also join a hands-on paper making tour.
Visit a lavender farm
Tasmania's north is known for its selection of lavender fields with rows of native purple flowers that appear during the summer months. A 40 minute drive from Launceston will take you to the breathtaking Bridestowe Lavender Estate, or you can combine a trip to the Tamar Valley with a visit to Lavender House.
Sleep in a historic homestead
Quamby Estate, located just 20 minutes from Launceston city and airport, is one of Tasmania’s most prestigious and historically important properties. Built between 1828 and 1838, Quamby was once the home of a premier of Tasmania and is now a suitably grand luxury lodge with ten lovingly restored guest rooms. The picture-book grounds boast a tennis court, tree-lined laneway and an impeccably maintained golf course lined with trees more than 100 years old. The fairways have magnificent views to the Ben Lomond Ranges in the east and the Great Western Tiers to the south. Enjoy sumptuous meals prepared with fresh Tasmanian produce accompanied by local Tamar Valley wines and use the homestead as your base for touring Launceston and the north.
How to get there
The city of Launceston is located in Tasmania's north, 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the state's capital, Hobart. Direct flights into Launceston Airport are available from Sydney, Melbourne, or Brisbane.
Devonport and Burnie are between one and two hours drive north-west of Launceston. The Spirit of Tasmania ferries passengers from Melbourne to Devonport daily.