Soft adventure and big thrills in Launceston
Launceston provides plenty of opportunity for adventures of the family variety. ELISA ELWIN enjoys an active and exhilarating multi-gen break in the Apple Isle’s #1 northern city.
Once lingering in the shadows of the Apple Isle’s capital, Hobart, the northern city of Launceston is now emerging as a vibrant Tasmanian tourist destination in its own right as ELISA ELWIN discovered on a multi-gen long weekend holiday to ‘Lonnie’.
Fantastic restaurants, beautiful natural spaces and an easily-walkable city centre are just some of Launceston’s big pluses, but we had also come to experience its latest family-friendly soft adventure thrills at the newly-opened Penny Royal Adventures and Underwood Park’s Trees Adventure. With three generations - from grandpa to 8-year-old - we were ready to see what Launceston had to offer for both young and old.
Tasmanian bushranger tales at Penny Royal Adventures
After a Friday morning arrival from Sydney we settled into our accommodation for the next two nights at the Leisure Inn Penny Royal Hotel & Apartments, a heritage property that is just a short walk from Launceston’s CBD. Over lunch on the outdoor terrace of the Wine Bar and Restaurant we mapped out our afternoona at Penny Royal Adventures - a brandb new fun park that was officially opened in March 2016. Developed by Josef Chromy of Tasmanian wine fame, the park isi packed with soft adventure thrills and familyf activities that include rock climbing, cliffc rope walks and a few unexpected encounters.e While the younger ones immediately kitted out in climbing gear to tackle the challenging heights of the rope course, the restr of us watched from the more sedate comfortc of the café. Next, it was all-in forf all-ages gold fossicking in the Gold and Gemstone Mine (yes, there is real gold!),g followed by a sail around the lake on the wartime Sandpiper 10 (complete with exploding cannons), and an exploration of the Barefoot Sensation Adventure Trail.
But we saved the best for last, with the barge, or “dark ride” immersing us in the tale of Tasmanian bushranger, Matthew Brady. Animatronics combine with dramatic lighting to create a nerve-inducing experience that climaxed with a thrilling finale when (spoiler alert!) live actors had us all jumping out of our skins.
As soon as the ride was over the fearless among us were up for another turn!
After such an adrenalin-pumping afternoon, it was nice to be within a stone’s throw of our accommodation to freshen up before dinner at Hallam’s Waterfront seafood restaurant, located on Launceston’s Tamar yacht basin. Here we were treated to delicious abalone and Tasmanian Atlantic salmon, and an upmarket delight of fish and chips.
...cultural, natural and culinary offerings are drawing a different breed of traveller ...
Flying through the forest on a full stomach
With more adventure on the menu for Saturday, we started the day bright and early with breakfast at the Harvest Market. This community event is completely dedicated to Tasmanian produce, with food and wine makers from across the island coming together at the Cimitiere Street car park to showcase their gourmet goods. It was wonderful to see the creativity of the Tasmanian artisans and sample first-hand what the fresh air and fertile soils of the “Apple Isle” can produce.
There was an (almost) unanimous call for more rope action, so we prepared to relive our Penny Royal Adventures – this time among the treetops of Hollybank Forest. Just a short drive out of Launceston, the forest canopy hides a series of ‘cloud stations’, connected by exhilarating zip lines and ropes courses, with levels to suit all ages. The birds-eye view of Hollybank’s old and new growth forests was spectacular.
A stroll through Launceston’s beautiful City Park brought us back to earth, as we meandered through the lush, tropical conservatory and watched ducks flap about on the pond and got up close with Japanese macaques at the park’s enclosure.
From Tasmanian Tigers to Tamar Valley Wines
From outdoor to indoor, education and fun awaited us at the museum, which forms part of the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. The displays are spread over two heritage buildings (as well as a separate
planetarium) and there’s a free Tiger Bus to whisk you between the venues. We wandered around the former 19th century railway workshop of the museum and discovered so much more about Tassie, including the mysterious Tasmanian tiger (claimed by some to still be in existence on the island.)
It’s no secret that Tasmania makes some outstanding wines, and although this was a family holiday, we weren’t going to miss out on sampling some of the best. With that in mind, we made the 10-minute drive south to the gorgeous Josef Chromy Winery and Restaurant. Boasting a stunning setting within the sprawling vineyards and a menu that draws on locallysourced, seasonal produce, it’s no wonder it has been twice-voted Launceston’s Most Outstanding Visitor Experience. Needless to say, the food was delicious and the wine even more so.
Natural pools, playgrounds and peacocks
On our final day in Launceston we headed first to the famous Cataract Gorge - a spectacular area just a short 15-minute stroll from the city centre. It’s home to natural swimming pools, playgrounds for the kids and even a few resident peacocks, but it was a ride on the world’s longest single-span chairlift over the gorge that really left us in awe.
After breakfast at the Basin Cafe near the start of the chairlift, we glided above the park, taking in the views across the South Esk River, before disembarking at the Cliff Grounds. With a suspension bridge and lookouts along the way, the trail meandered along the river and through stone archways, eventually emerging at our destination - the Duck Reach Power Station Interpretation Centre. This former hydro electricity station now draws curious tourists to delve into what was once one of Tasmania’s most important industries during a period when man tried to tame this wild island.
The changing face of Tasmania’s tourism
When we flew out from Launceston, back to the “mainland”, I remembered the days when Tasmania was just a remote island outpost where few but seasoned trekkers ventured. Today its cultural, natural and culinary offerings are drawing a different breed of traveller, and Launceston’s newly opened soft adventure sights were a firm reminder that families of all ages (and fitness levels) will also find their thrills. Destination Launceston Leisure Inn Penny Royal Hotel & Apartments Penny Royal Wine Bar and Restaurant Treetop Adventures Harvest Market City Park QVMAG Museum Josef Chromy Cataract Gorge
“Animatronics combine with dramatic lighting to create a nerve-inducing experience that climaxed with a thrilling finale …”
Penny Royal Adventures 1 Bridge Road, Launceston Purchase individual adventures (such as the Penny Royal Dark Ride, gold fossicking or a trip on the Sandpiper) or just opt for an Adventure Pass that includes a range of Cliff and Park activities.
Previous page: Carys ready for rock climbing Opposite page clockwise: CliffWalk at Penny Royal Entrance Penny Royal Tree Adventures Rock climbing at Penny Royal