The question on your lips may be “Is Launceston worth visiting?” and our response is a solid “YES”.
Tasmania’s second largest city has recently asserted itself as an epicurean destination, with UNESCO naming Launceston a City of Gastronomy under its Creative Cities Network. So even if you don’t consider yourself a “city traveller”, we encourage you to spend a day in Launceston, eating your way through gastronomic delights or simply using the city as a base for day trips from Launceston.
Have a read of our guide and you’ll discover what to do in Launceston Tasmania.
LAUNCESTON | TASMANIA’S GASTRONOMIC DESTINATION
WHERE TO EAT
The award-winning and highly lauded Stillwater Restaurant perches delicately on the edge of the River Tamar.
The menus change with the seasons, with the chefs guided by the fresh ingredients grown and supplied by local producers. The accompanying drinks menu leaves diners spoilt for choice. There are options to sample wines from around the State but the majority is supplied by local vignerons (meaning that you can note down some nearby wineries to visit the next day).
During our visit, we were fortunate to experience the Spring Evening Menu. Starting with a crispy skin Scottsdale pork belly entree, we then selected mains of Tasmanian wallaby and slow-cooked Clover Country lamb rump alongside the most divine roasted pumpkin side dish, before finishing with a miso custard dessert featuring bitter caramel and yuzu ice cream.
We’re glad to say that our dining experience at Stillwater was most enjoyable. Service is impeccable and the calibre of the cooking does the local suppliers justice. The fine dining restaurant has many tables laid out for two so be sure to book in advance and with luck, you’ll get a window seat with a river view as we did.
Stelo at Pierre’s
Recommended by the lovely owner of Stoney Rise vineyard, a night of Italian carbs was thoroughly enjoyed after a day of tickling our taste buds with the fruits of Tamar Valley vineyards.
We were lucky to nab a last minute reservation at the corridor restaurant, the walls lined with black leather bench seats and citrus fruits paintings hanging above. We selected the Cape Grim Beef Ragu Pappardelle with Pesto & Grana Padano and Stelo Gnocchi with Pumpkin Sauce, Gorgonzola, Pine Nut & Pangrattato.
At times, the service was unfortunately slow. We had to request our sourdough focaccia after watching several other diners being served theirs without request. The option to order our Tiramisu dessert also took a while. For the overall price, it’s a shame that service lacked some finesse at times, but this meal was certainly some of the best Italian food that either of us had eaten in a long, long time.
Bread & Butter
Bread + Butter is a Launceston institution, a unique amalgamation of a small batch butter factory (Tasmanian Butter Company), wholesale/retail bakery, onsite eatery and coffee bar.
The space is industrial, the high roof making way for natural light to shine light on the artwork hanging on the main black brick wall. Single O Coffee is the main supplier, but we did spy coffee beans on sale from Floozy Coffee, Proud Mary, Market Lane and Small Batch. Other than coffee memorabilia, Bread + Butter also sells artisanal cheese, wine and goods.
We sampled two of the sweet pastries (cinnamon and pear danish) although we would have happily devoured another. Full breakfast and lunch options are also available and it goes without saying that each menu item is likely to feature its famous naturally leavened bread. Heaven.
WHERE TO DRINK
Off Center Coffee
Good Vibes + Great Coffee.
In all honesty, we received both. This unassuming coffee shop on Kingsway occupies an amazing light-filled space with simple bench seats, round tables, thriving indoor plants and geometric art on the wall.
Off Center Coffee serves beans supplied by Tasmanian coffee roasters, Hutch Coffee, alongside some light menu options including Sandys Sourdough toasties, sandwiches, crumpets and banana bread.
Amelia Coffee Co
This delightful coffee bar maintains that it’s all about happiness in a cup – and we like the sound of that.
Amelia Coffee Co concentrates on specialty coffee, and does so thanks to beans supplied by local coffee roasters, Ritual Coffee and Provenance Coffee. The custom espresso blend is regularly available however, it’s the single origin coffees and filter blends that get the team excited.
The coffee bar doesn’t have a kitchen but receives a daily delivery of sweet treats which you can pair with your cup of liquid gold. Alternatively, you’re welcome to bring your own lunch to pair with one of their coffees if you can nab a seat inside. The wooden panelled space can sit about 12 people between the high top benches and the communal table in the middle.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
Go hiking around Cataract Gorge
For those who prefer to be amongst nature, Cataract Gorge is the breath of fresh air you seek. Featuring playgrounds, a swimming pool, restaurant, beautiful walks and a chairlift, it’s easy to understand how locals can spend a whole day here enjoying a picnic and frolicking in the sunshine.
Walk across the suspension bridge which hangs over the gorge and keep an eye out for the resident peacocks and wallabies that call this nature reserve home.
Tour James Boag Brewery
Laying claim as the home of Tasmania’s Finest Beer, the James Boag Brewery has been producing beer with pure Tasmanian water and outstanding local ingredients since 1881.
The original brewery remains on the banks of the Esk River and welcomes visitors to tour the facilities and enjoy a tasting over 90 minutes. Tours can be booked online.
Visit Harvest Launceston Community Farmers’ Markets
Every Saturday morning (8.30am – 12.30pm), the Cimitiere Street public car park converts into a convivial farmers’ market showcasing Tasmanian produce and food items.
Purchase a takeaway coffee and bakery item and perch on one of the wooden seats to enjoy the live music once you’ve browsed the market stalls.
Wine Hopping across the Tamar Valley
The Tamar Valley wine region is arguably the best known in Tasmania and Launceston provides an ideal base for tasting some of the best drops.
Its cool climate means that the region is best for producing Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir so if you like these varieties, start marking your Google map with some local vineyards.
Here are some ideas to plan a day trip hopping across some of the best Tamar Valley wineries and vineyards near Launceston.
Day Trip to Bridestowe Lavender Estate
The magnificent plantation in Nabowla is now a target for Instagrammers and is approximately 45 minutes drive from Launceston.
Spanning over 260 acres, Bridestowe is the world’s largest privately-owned lavender farm and grows true French lavender, Lavandula angustifolia, the only lavender variety suitable for use in perfume and cooking.
The lavender is in full bloom for only about 3 weeks so your visit needs to be timed accordingly if you’re chasing that perfect image amongst the purple fields. December & January is peak season and the estate charges $20 per person entry fee.
On our 2 week road trip around Tasmania, we visited at the end of November so were unfortunately a few weeks too early to see the lavender rows in full bloom. Visitors are welcome to wander the lavender fields, dine at the charming cafe (we sampled lavender and honey ice cream and the lavender scones) and buy plenty of lavender products in the souvenir shop.
WHERE TO STAY
Change Overnight Hotel
When you book a stay at Change Overnight Hotel, you are giving back to a one of nine worthy causes and thus, you very well may have a better night’s sleep.
Australia’s first social enterprise hotel, this 18-room hotel in Launceston is located on York Street in a converted warehouse. The reception-less hotel removes all the frills (no restaurant/bar, gym or pool) but retains the necessities and modern comforts (air conditioning, kitchen, Wi-Fi). For those happy with a comfortable, centrally-located stay, this Launceston accommodation is a highly recommended option.