Easy streets

Tas­ma­nia’s sec­ond city has a lot go­ing for it, in­clud­ing her­itage ar­chi­tec­ture, nat­u­ral beauty and prime po­si­tion in a food bowl. Lo­cal Hi­lary Bur­den shows us around laid-back “Lon­nie”. Photography by Adam Gib­son.

QantasLink Sprit - - Launceston -

In Launce­s­ton, you can be chat­ting to a farmer who grows le­mon­grass and Asian greens at a car-park mar­ket in the morn­ing and watch­ing Hawthorn play an AFL match just around the cor­ner in the af­ter­noon. It’s that kind of town. One of Aus­tralia’s old­est cities, Launce­s­ton is easy to get around and, be­cause it’s lo­cated amid a food bowl and has the fer­tile Tamar Val­ley wine re­gion at its back door, you can eat and drink like a king along the way.

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It helps to ac­quaint your­self with the city’s main ar­eas. First, the restau­rants and bars of Sea­port Ma­rina and the river­side board­walk that snakes its way to Kings Bridge and the start of mag­nif­i­cent Cataract Gorge Re­serve (launce­s­ton cataract­gorge.com.au). Then the CBD, which en­com­passes Launce­s­ton’s re­tail heart with its land­mark Myer build­ing (one of the city’s tallest and, some say, least at­trac­tive), plus the busy Bris­bane Street and Quad­rant malls. And, fi­nally, the In­veresk Precinct, home to Univer­sity of Tas­ma­nia Sta­dium – Hawthorn Foot­ball Club’s home ground in Tassie – and the Queen Victoria Mu­seum and Art Gallery (QVMAG; qvmag.tas.gov.au). Nearby, in Royal Park, is a sec­ond QVMAG lo­ca­tion, where the Gallery of the First Tas­ma­ni­ans com­mem­o­rat­ing the his­tory and cul­ture of Tas­ma­nia’s Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple will open in July.

Three CBD streets to mark on your map are Charles, Ge­orge and St John. Locals have long called the south­ern stretch of Charles Street the “Paris end” for its al­fresco din­ing op­tions – Elaia (elaia.com.au) is a long­stand­ing favourite. Now Ge­orge Street is step­ping up the so­phis­ti­ca­tion with bou­tiques such as Cloth (03 6331 7778) and KiKa & Co. (0433 667 008), along with cool cafés. Try Sweet­brew (03 6333 0443) and Bry­her (bry­her­food.com), where you can sip Launce­s­ton Break­fast tea or Lost Pip­pin perry (pear cider). Browse Den bou­tique (den­bou­tique. com) for hand­made gifts and visit the Red Cross store for up­scale vin­tage. Vin­nies is good for a rum­mage, while Mis­sion on Ge­orge is well stocked with retro kitchen­ware.

Launce­s­ton is cel­e­brated for its her­itage ar­chi­tec­ture and strolling the length of St John Street will show you why – from the iron lace­work of Dorset Terrace, built in 1888, to the Ital­ianate Town Hall (its col­umns are yarn-bombed dur­ing com­mu­nity fes­ti­vals) and the grandeur of Cus­tom House.

Syd­ney chefs Tet­suya Wakuda and Dan Hong have been spot­ted shop­ping at the Har­vest com­mu­nity farm­ers’ mar­ket (har­vest­mar­ket.org.au), held each Satur­day morn­ing in the Cim­i­tiere Street car park. Seek out An­to­nia and Joe Gretschmann from El­gaar Farm and try their or­ganic milk with the cream on top. Be sure to grab an almond crois­sant from Sandy’s Sour­dough or a Korean hot­teok (pan­cake) from Seoul Food.

Launce­s­ton loves its bi­cyles al­most as much as its fresh veg. It’s the home town of Tour de France rider Richie Porte and host of the Launce­s­ton Cy­cling Fes­ti­val (launce­s­ton­cy­clingfes­ti­val.org) each Novem­ber. For city bike hire, Ian Fer­rier at Moun­tain Bike Tas­ma­nia (moun­tain bike­tas­ma­nia.com.au) will drop off and pick up bi­cy­cles at your ho­tel. If you only have an hour or two, take the rel­a­tively flat In­veresk Trail to Her­itage For­est and back. The Launce­s­ton City Cy­cling Map will get you started (tbug.org.au). For a longer, steeper chal­lenge, head for the moun­tain-bik­ing trails in the Treval­lyn Na­ture Re­cre­ation Area (tassi­etrails.org).

For young fam­i­lies, Penny Royal (pen­ny­roy­al­launce­s­ton.com.au) is a re­cently ren­o­vated theme park cel­e­brat­ing the era of con­victs and bushrangers with en­ter­tain­ment such as rope bridges, climb­ing walls and barge rides through dark tun­nels.

Close to Penny Royal is the start of the Cataract Gorge walk. Head­ing west from Kings Bridge, it skirts along cliffhug­ging tracks and is sur­rounded by na­tive bush and ex­otic trees. It ends at a nat­u­ral swim­ming hole, the First Basin, and a man-made swim­ming pool – a pop­u­lar sum­mer spot for locals. If you have a head for heights, walk across the sus­pen­sion bridge – par­tic­u­larly in­vig­o­rat­ing af­ter heavy rain­fall when the river thun­ders through the gorge.

Back in the CBD, on its eastern edge, have a pic­nic un­der the cen­tu­ry­old oak, elm and gi­ant se­quoia trees in his­toric City Park. First, pick up a ham­per or pack your own pic­nic bas­ket with the help of Alps & Amici Food­store & Kitchen (alp­san­dam­ici.com.au) in East Launce­s­ton.

Tas­ma­nia has a rep­u­ta­tion for fine fur­ni­ture crafted from in­dige­nous tim­bers such as black­heart sas­safras and Huon pine and some of the finest ex­am­ples are on dis­play at the De­sign Tas­ma­nia gallery (de­sign­tas­ma­nia.com.au), on the western edge of City Park. The ad­join­ing shop stocks de­signer pieces rang­ing from ce­ram­ics and jewellery (keep an eye out for shell neck­laces by lo­cal Abo­rig­i­nal artist Lola Greeno) to fur­ni­ture and kitchen­ware. It’s also home to Spot­ted Quoll (spot­tedquoll.com.au), a con­cept store de­voted to eth­i­cal all-Tas­ma­nian fash­ion and home­wares. You might want to cosy up to a re­cy­cled merino blan­ket or try on a dress made from bam­boo or re­cy­cled linen.

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$ There are food vans parked on East Launce­s­ton’s “eat street” (High Street, at St Ge­orges Square) year-round but they’re par­tic­u­larly pop­u­lar on sum­mer evenings. Try the lamb, spinach and fetta go­zleme from Turk­ish Tukka or the veg­e­tar­ian and ve­gan op­tions sold from Wan­der­lust’s charm­ing 1960s so­lar-pow­ered car­a­van.

Wed­nes­days and Fri­days are the busiest nights at Saint John Craft Beer Bar (sain­tjohn­craft­beer.com.au) on St John Street. BYO food for lunch; from 5pm, choose cooked-to-or­der street food from the bar’s own van (our picks are the car­rot and beer pako­ras and the late-night lamb burger). $$ The renowned Still­wa­ter (still­wa­ter. com.au) restau­rant and café is great at any time of the day but es­pe­cially so at break­fast, its win­dows flung open to the river while you watch the sun climb. It can be dif­fi­cult to de­cide be­tween the Green Bowl (eggs, kale, av­o­cado, quinoa, sprouts and beet­root) or the Red Bowl (chorizo, eggs, chilli con carne and potato). If you’re in need of a kick-starter, the Spicy Bloody Mary with Hartshorn Dis­tillery’s Sheep Whey Vodka is the go.

Earthy Eats (earth­yeats.com.au) is an airy juice bar, café and green­gro­cer in the CBD. Sit at chunky sas­safras ta­bles be­side large open win­dows and boxes

planted with flag irises. Menu items vary but might in­clude a quinoa har­vest bowl or grass-fed Tas­ma­nian beef brisket with basil, fetta, chick­peas and tahini.

Ros­silli Cafe (112-114 Ge­orge Street) is a Lit­tle Italy-style busi­ness serv­ing good cof­fee and black­board spe­cials. A jug of le­mon­ade – home­made us­ing Dad’s lemons – is on the counter.

In the coun­try town of Longford, a 20-minute drive south of Launce­s­ton, you’ll find a lit­tle piece of Paris at Hu­bert & Dan (hu­ber­tand­dan.com.au), where owner-chef Danielle Le­fran­cois fuses con­tem­po­rary French din­ing with Tas­ma­nian pro­vin­cial fare. This is the kind of place where you’re likely to spot the lo­cal berry-grower drop­ping in with their lat­est de­liv­ery. It’s open for break­fast and lunch from Tues­day to Fri­day and din­ner on Thurs­days only. $$$ At the newly re­vamped Tim­bre Kitchen at Vélo Wines (velowines.com. au) in West Tamar, about 15 min­utes north-west of Launce­s­ton, chef Matt Adams knows how to play with fire and flavour. Cooked in the wood-fired oven are sig­na­ture dishes such as the whole Wicked brie, served – just as it’s about to burst – with toasted soda bread and his Granny Jean’s pick­les. Share food is en­cour­aged, although some dishes you’ll want to keep to your­self, such as the miso semifreddo with brown-but­ter crumb and honey.

Black Cow Bistro (black­cow­bistro. com.au) in Launce­s­ton is a fine-din­ing stalwart serv­ing lo­cal pas­ture-fed beef in an Art Deco build­ing that was once a butcher’s shop.

Watch the sun set over the river at an­other en­dur­ing favourite, Mud­bar Restau­rant (mud­baran­drestau­rant.com) at Sea­port Ma­rina, where an Asian twist to mod­ern Tas­ma­nian fare pro­duces dishes such as miso-glazed lamb ribs with pick­led Viet­namese slaw and wasabi aïoli.

Newer to the scene, Geron­imo Aper­i­tivo Bar & Restau­rant (geron­imo restau­rant.com.au) is a cos­mopoli­tan hotspot for apéri­tifs and a snack menu that’s de­signed to share. Go lo­cal with a glass of De­lamere Vine­yards sparkling paired with oys­ters from St He­lens on the north-east coast.

Th­ese are the places to stay...

$ In In­veresk, the back­packer-friendly Art­house Hos­tel (art­house­hos­tel.com.au) is a car­bon-neu­tral es­tab­lish­ment that feels like a wel­com­ing old coun­try ho­tel for weary trav­ellers.

Fam­ily-owned Big4 Launce­s­ton Hol­i­day Park (big4.com.au), not far from the “Wel­come to Launce­s­ton” sign, is un­der new own­er­ship. The City View Vil­las and Bud­get Cab­ins have new or up­dated ameni­ties and fur­ther up­grades to the park’s fa­cil­i­ties are in the pipe­line. $$ A her­itage prop­erty, Auld­ing­ton ho­tel (auld­ing­ton.com.au) is a for­mer con­vent re­cently con­verted into bou­tique ac­com­mo­da­tion. The peace­ful gardens are a bonus; pick your own lemon for a gin and tonic to sip on your pri­vate Juliet bal­cony in your City View Room.

If you stay at Pep­pers Sea­port Ho­tel (pep­pers.com.au), at the con­flu­ence of the North Esk and Tamar rivers, re­quest a Lux­ury Ma­rina View Suite or River View suite or stu­dio to best en­joy both sun­set and wa­ter views.

Twofourtwo Bou­tique Apart­ments (twofourtwo.com.au) on Charles Street has el­e­gant in­te­ri­ors and thought­ful touches, such as home­made bis­cuits, cour­tesy of owner Pam von Stieglitz.

Stu­dio Ecoco (qan­tas.com/stay) is a stylish two-bed­room loft apart­ment in an 1880s her­itage-listed prop­erty three blocks from the CBD. The open fire­place in this Airbnb en­cour­ages a win­ter stay, as does the free­stand­ing bath with views over the rooftops. $$$ For ru­ral bliss on the edge of town, At Woodridge Farm (at­woodridge­farm. com.au) is on three hectares of farm­land in Rel­bia. Pick your own ve­g­ies, col­lect freshly laid eggs and feed the sheep while stay­ing in farm­house lux­ury.

Hather­ley Bir­rell Col­lec­tion (hather­ley. com.au), a grand 1830s man­sion on the Reg­is­ter of the Na­tional Es­tate, has been given an art-led makeover by hus­ban­dand-wife de­sign team Jack and Re­becca Bir­rell. Stay in a gue­stroom in the main house (La Pe­tite Cham­bre Matisse fea­tures a colour litho­graph by the man him­self) or a gar­den pavil­ion with an out­door stone bath and leafy views.

(From top) Tra­verse the rope bridges on Penny Royal’s thrilling cliff walk; Sweet­brew café on Ge­orge Street is lo­cated in an old coach­way

(From top) Tim­bre Kitchen’s Matt Adams; the chef’s dev­illed eggs and wood-fired chicken with chunky salsa verde; river­side din­ing at Still­wa­ter

(From top) The Mag­no­lia Gar­den Pavil­ion at Hather­ley Bir­rell Col­lec­tion; the Auld­ing­ton ho­tel’s City View Room fea­tures a Juliet bal­cony

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