Cataract Gorge Cruises

Traversing Cataract Gorge Cruises
Cataract Gorge Cruises
Cataract Gorge Cruises © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

After visiting Cataract Gorge last week and seeing the Lady Launceston cruising between the towering rock formations, I knew what I wanted to do this week! Fifty-minute Cataract Gorge Cruises depart Home Point several times each day and I highly recommend doing a cruise if you haven’t already. You’ll visit a small portion of kanamaluka (Tamar River), North Esk River and mangana lienta (South Esk River).

Seaport
Seaport © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Your first sight is the picturesque Seaport. Did you know that the marina at Seaport was built for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and was originally located in Rushcutter’s Bay before retiring to Launceston? I didn’t! The yachts make for some great photos; our captain was also full of information about the surrounding buildings.

Silo Hotel under construction
Silo Hotel under construction © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As a local, I was thrilled to be able to see up close the new hotel being built inside the old grain silos. This imposing structure has been part of Launceston’s cityscape from 1960 and stands at 35 metres high. Hobart refurbished their grain silos some 15 year ago and I have been hanging out for someone in Launceston to do the same. Our captain says that the hotel will be ready for visitors in 18 months. Start saving for a trip to Launceston!

Ponrabbel II, Kings Wharf
Ponrabbel II, Kings Wharf © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Near the silos, Kings Wharf is an intriguing place. What at first appears to be a depository of utterly unloved ships and vehicles is in fact rich in history. The rusted shell of the Ponrabbel II, which dredged the Tamar River for about 40 years, is berthed here. The shiplift has had some rather famous boats built or repaired on it, including some of Victoria’s ferries.

Royal Park
Royal Park © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

After Kings Wharf, it’s time for the best part of your Cataract Gorge Cruises journey: sailing through The Gorge! On your way, you’ll have stunning views of Trevallyn’s stately Georgian and Victorian homes. You’ll also sail past local vessels as well as local landmarks: Royal Park, Ritchie’s Mill and the Penny Royal Complex with its distinctive blue stone quarry. Finally, you’ll sail underneath the West Tamar Highway and Kings Bridge. From here, you see the two bridges that form Kings Bridge more distinctly, as well as catching glimpses of the gatekeeper’s cottage (now leased to artists and musicians).

Abseiler
Abseiler © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Sailing up the South Esk River was stunning. Above us, the rock formations towered. An abseiler descended one of the many registered routes. Metal spikes projected from the rock, showing the path of the wooden aqueduct that used to carry Launceston’s water supply. Beside us, lines of foam ringed the rocks, signalling a recent rush of water. The Gorge floods regularly; the 2016 floods in Northern Tasmania were particularly momentous. You’ll also learn about the history of The Gorge, including the one penny fare that visitors paid to the family who gentrified the area (so that they could recoup some of the cost). The area is also very significant for Tasmanian Aborigines as a source of food, culture and spirituality.

Foam
Foam © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Getting There

Kyeema
Kyeema © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Cataract Gorge Cruises depart from Home Point, which is at the western end of Launceston’s Seaport. Paid parking is available at the Seaport or at Royal Park. Alternatively, walk approximately 15-minutes from the CBD. In winter, cruises depart at 11:30am, 12:30pm and 1:30pm. In the other three seasons, cruises operate on the hour from 9:30am, with the last cruise departing at 4:30pm.

Cost

Cataract Gorge and Kings Bridge
Cataract Gorge and Kings Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At $29 per adult, this cruise was a good deal! You’ll pay $12 per child, $25 per concession and $70 per family. In summer, I recommend booking in advance with Cataract Gorge Cruises if you have a preferred departure time. The rivers are generally very calm (except when in flood, in which case you won’t be out there!) but you are exposed to the elements. Wear warm clothes and make sure that you have sun protection (sunscreen and hats are available for purchase from the booking office). I enjoyed learning a little bit more about Launceston’s history and seeing a different view of Launceston’s riverside sights.

Staying in Launceston for a while? Read about my visit to the Cataract Gorge Reserve (on foot) and my journeys in Tasmania’s nearby north and midlands.

Cataract Gorge Reserve

Traversing Cataract Gorge Reserve
Cataract Gorge Reserve
Cataract Gorge Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Launceston’s Cataract Gorge Reserve  (“The Gorge” to locals) is a unique place. Carved out by the mangana lienta (South Esk River), the gorge is a stunning, dolerite landscape. The south side of the river is a dry forest and is accessible via the Zig Zag Track (for hikers only). The north side resembles a rainforest and has a sealed path. The Gorge is a popular area for walking, picnics, swimming (in summer) and spending time with family and friends.

Walkway
Walkway © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

We parked at Kings Bridge and walked on the sealed path to the Cliff Grounds. This walk is very picturesque. You first encounter the bridge, an entryway and then a house that seems to cling to the cliff. Artists in residence live here. Along the pathway, there are many sights to see, including native flora, rapids and a hut made by two local gentlemen in the mid-1900s. It is a peaceful walk. You can also take a short cruise up the river.

Wallabies
Wallabies © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As we entered the Cliff Grounds, we saw three wallabies. They are beautiful creatures and were very tame. Please do not feed them processed food as doing this can cause lumpy jaw. I highly recommend that you read Parks and Wildlife’s information on interacting with wild animals. It is just as satisfying to take a photograph from a distance. These wallabies were very good posers!

Cliff Grounds
Cliff Grounds © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Cliff Grounds were “beautified” by locals in the late 1800s. They built pathways and the gorgeous Victorian structures that are dotted about The Gorge, including the rotunda. This now contains information about the history of the Gorge and Cliff Grounds. Near the rotunda, you’ll find the path to the Gorge Scenic Chairlift. This boasts the longest span in the world! I’ll have to ride it next time I visit but ran out of time today.

Peacock
Peacock © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There are several species of trees to admire, including approximately seventy native species. There are also seventy species of native birds to admire. Although they are introduced species, there is something wonderful about walking beneath towering maples, oaks and elms. There are also plenty of peacocks to entertain you (I grew up with peacocks so I’m not so fond of them!). I spotted three peacocks on the roof of the restaurant when we left the Cliff Grounds. The Gorge Restaurant is open daily from 9am and a kiosk is also open during the day.

Bridge
Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

From the Cliff Grounds, head downhill, following signs for The Basin Walk. This will lead you across a small footbridge (with no rails) from which you can admire the rapids, the First Basin and the suspension bridge. It’s a short walk from here to the Basin Cafe, above which is the other end of the chairlift. The Cafe has an excellent view. It is situated above an amenities block, which is designed to cater for summer swimmers.

First Basin
First Basin © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

In summer, you’ll find lovely clean water in the pool and life guards to boot. Locals also swim in the First Basin, but this is not recommended due to the submerged rocks and the depth. It is about 20 metres deep, although I have been told that the bottom hasn’t yet been located… I was brave enough to get in on a hot day some years ago, albeit with a pool noddle for safety!

Alexandra Suspension Bridge
Alexandra Suspension Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

From the Basin Cafe, walk towards the suspension bridge, along an unsealed path. Built in 1940, the Alexandra Suspension Bridge is very elegant and the views up and down river from it are stunning. Some people (including me!) will swing the bridge from side to side as they walk across it. If you don’t like heights, wait until you’re the only one around before crossing. A short distance from the bridge, climb the set of stairs leading up to a viewing platform. Again, the view is wonderful.

Getting There

Cataract Gorge Reserve
Cataract Gorge Reserve © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Cataract Gorge Reserve is about a 15 – 30 minute walk from Launceston’s CBD. Paid parking (or free street parking if you are prepared to walk a little further) is available just off Basin Road in West Launceston. Limited free parking is available near the Cliff Grounds (Trevallyn) and limited paid parking is available near Kings Bridge.

Cost

Cataract Gorge Cruises
Cataract Gorge Cruises © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

It does not cost anything to explore Cataract Gorge Reserve or to swim in the pool (when it is open in summer). You can also use the public barbecues, picnic areas, amenities and playground equipment for free. We brought a picnic lunch with us. Alternatively, purchase lunch from the Basin Cafe or book a table in The Gorge Restaurant. Cataract Gorge Reserve is a very special place. Enjoy your visit!

Want more ideas about what else to do nearby? Read about my experience Cataract Gorge Cruises and my adventures in Tassie’s north and midlands.

Harvest Lauceston

Traversing Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Harvest Launceston is a gem. The Ancient Mariner tries to make his forays north coincide with a Saturday morning so that he can visit the market. Why? In the words of Lionel Bart, “food, glorious food!” In addition to eating and purchasing beautiful food, you’ll also meet friendly producers, soak up the atmosphere (and weather!) and be a hop, skip and a jump away from some fantastic shops, City Park and Albert Hall.

Steve's Vegies
Steve’s Vegies © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My favourite thing about Harvest Launceston is the people. There are many local producers who participate in the market. They are proud of their produce and are on-hand to answer any questions you might have. Best of all, buying groceries becomes a social exchange and not a drudgery performed under neon lights in a giant concrete box! If you’re a local, it’s also highly likely that you’ll run into someone that you know. The market is a great place to catch up with friends.

Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Another thing that I love about Harvest Launceston is its seasonality. The amount and variety of producers at the market changes over the year. For example, in summer, you’ll find lots of people selling lovely Tasmanian berries. Easter, Christmas and Harvest Launceston’s birthday are special events. Foods like asparagus and avocado are available (and snapped up!) at specific times of the year. In winter, the market slows down a bit but it’s still very much worth visiting.

Mount Direction Olives
Mount Direction Olives © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll find some fantastically unusual goodies at Harvest Launceston. Did you know that olive oil is best served vacuum-packed? Ask the lovely people at Coronea Grove Olives why. Can olives be a dessert? Yes, and a highly moreish one at that! Try the jarred dessert olives from Mount Direction Olives. Finally, ask Wild Spore why some of their oyster mushrooms are pink.

Coronea Grove Olives
Coronea Grove Olives © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll also find gorgeously fresh staples. Buy seasonal veggies from Steve’s Veggies, Pink Lady apples from Lees Orchard, and a large variety of fish from George Town Seafoods. I also really enjoy beef jerky (trust me, it’s good!) from Kooee! and roasted hazelnuts from Hazelbrae (you can read about my visit to their farm at nearby Hagley here). I have food allergies but there are also lovely bread and butter options too, such as the Tasmanian Butter Co. and Sandy’s Sourdough. There was a queue building at Sandy’s when I arrived at 8:20am!

Tasmanian Butter Co.
Tasmanian Butter Co. © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Harvest Launceston is a communal enterprise. Take a seat on furniture designed and built by UTAS Architecture students. Should you need to use it, there is even a custom built, community-funded shipping container toilet! If you’re offered an advertising pamphlet on your way in, take it. It’s for a local event, which is probably worth going to. The market also showcases local musical talent.

Getting There

Breakfast
Breakfast © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Harvest Launceston takes place in a carpark bordered by Cameron, Tamar and Cimitiere Streets. There is ample street parking nearby and a small portion of parking spaces at the Cameron Street entry to the market. For free parking, park beside the North Esk River or City Park and walk in. The market starts at 8:30am (buying starts when the bell rings) and ends at 12:30pm. Make sure that you’re there nice and early if you are after something specific as some producers do sell out.

Cost

Harvest Launceston
Harvest Launceston © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is no cost to enter Harvest Launceston. Make sure that you have cash though. Some stalls are cash only and others have EFTPOS facilities. As well as delicious food and drink, you can also purchase Harvest Launceston shopping bags and so on if you wish. If you’re pinching pennies, wander around, say hello to the producers and sample their wares. They know that you, like the Ancient Mariner, will be back to buy next time.

For more of my adventures in Tasmania’s north, click here.

Queen Victoria Museum

Traversing the Traverse Way
Queen Victoria Museum
Queen Victoria Museum © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

After visiting the small but brilliant Launceston Tramway Museum, I walked virtually next door to visit a much larger museum: the Queen Victoria Museum. This is known, along with its art gallery, as the QVMAG but the art gallery is on a separate site and I didn’t visit it today. One of my relatives in Hobart says that this is the best museum in the state. I must confess that this was my first time viewing the main collection. I am impressed!

 

One of the best things about the Queen Victoria Museum is its location. The museum sits on the banks of the North Esk River and incorporates Launceston’s former railway workshop. The Blacksmith’s shop has been left seemingly as it was when it was closed, with a walkway added to preserve the site and sound effects played to transport you back to the workshop’s heyday. It is both interesting and eerie! Nearby sheds were used by painters, carpenters and so on. My favourite part is the Traverse Way, of course!

The Blacksmith Shop
The Blacksmith Shop © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Nearby the disused industrial sheds is an exhibition space. Currently, you can view Scott Gelston’s Steel Vignettes. These works are stunning! It beggars belief how he and his camera withstood the heat of the forge to produce some of the photographs. Printed on aluminium, the photographs glow like the metal they depict. The exhibitions in this space change regularly so check the QVMAG website to see what’s on when you visit.

Perception Tunnel
Perception Tunnel © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Locals love one aspect of the QVMAG dearly: The Phenomena Factory. This area contains several indoor and outdoor scientific exhibits that are highly interactive and a great deal of fun! Learn about viscosity by pumping air into tubes of liquid. Walk, in a straight line if you can, through the rotating perception tunnel. Transport tennis balls using Archimedes’ screw. Outside, there are whisper dishes, a bridge to build and a weight to move. It doesn’t matter what your age is, you’ll love it! It’s difficult to walk away from the area!

Dinosaurs!
Dinosaurs! © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

When you do manage to leave the Phenomena Factory, you’ll find a well-curated and beautifully displayed collection of artefacts. When we were there, the displays appeared to follow the design principle of less is more, to great effect. Don’t miss the exhibits in the main foyer too, such as the giant wasp’s nest. The model is not quite life-sized, according to a museum attendant, but it is very impressive none-the-less!

Preservation Ale
Preservation Ale © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Inside the main exhibition space of the Queen Victoria Museum, you’ll find a lot of treasures. Look out for the giant wombat-like dinosaur that you can touch, an exhibit on the extinct Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) with a touchable synthetic pelt and, of course, a very famous beer bottle. If you haven’t heard about Tasmania’s new Preservation Ale, birthed from the wreck of the Sydney Cove, you’d better head over to the museum and see for yourself what all the fuss is about.

Memorial Wall
Memorial Wall © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Upstairs, the exhibition space showcases Tasmania’s involvement in the Great War. It looks at many facets of the war. The most compelling parts of the exhibition are, of course, the personal stories of local families. The soundscape (not recommended for those who have served) is quite moving and the collection of banners made to welcome the soldiers home is intriguing. I enjoyed reading the list of applications for exemptions from duty, particularly the magistrate’s responses!

Getting There

Launceston Railway Workshop
Launceston Railway Workshop © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You can find the museum part of the QVMAG about a fifteen-minute walk from Launceston’s CBD at the Inveresk precinct. You can park at the precinct for $3 per day. We spent about an hour and a half at the museum itself but there are other things to do at the Inveresk precinct. The museum is open from 10am – 4pm every day (except for Good Friday and Christmas Day).

Cost

Entry to the museum is free! How fabulous! This means you might have a few dollars spare for a cuppa in the carriage at the Railway Café, some Tasmanian goodies from the well-stocked Museum Gift Shop or a visit the museum’s planetarium. It is such an interesting place that you might not have time for all that though! Enjoy your visit!

To read more about my journeys in northern Tasmania, click here.

Launceston Tramway Museum

Traversing the Tramway
Launceston Tramway Museum © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

What do you do on a day when rain is imminent? Easy! You visit the museum. But which one? There are many museums of varying sizes and specialties in Tasmania. I visited two museums this weekend: one of our smallest and one of our biggest. Happily for me, they are actually almost next door to one another at the Inveresk Precinct: The Launceston Tramway Museum and the Queen Victoria Museum.

Imagine a world gone by. A world where your transport options include walking, riding a horse, driving (if you’re lucky), or catching a bus, train or tram. Like several Australian cities, Launceston had its own tram network and you can learn all about it at the tiny, fantastic Launceston Tramway Museum.

Two Trams
Two Trams © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Inside the museum, you can explore the interior of two very different trams, both of which tell the story of Launceston’s trams. You can see the glory of the restored Tram 8. It is a fine piece of craftsmanship, carefully built from local timbers such as Huon pine and blackwood. Sit inside it and imagine yourself back to the early- to mid-1900s. Behind it sits the dilapidated Tram 25. Inside this tram, you’ll learn how some of the trams have spent their retirement. They have been converted into summer houses, shacks or sheds, used as dining booths in restaurants or even turned, temporarily, into a clinic. Tram 25 was most famously a chook shed and is displayed to reflect this part of its history.

Launceston Tramway Museum
Launceston Tramway Museum © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The rest of the museum is dedicated to the stories of the twenty-nine trams. This is a great read for locals; I’ve dined in two of the trams. You can also view displays about the lives of the conductors and about why trams have curved roofs (and how this design was improved over time). Children will be happily entertained in the children’s tram (a purpose-built area). The best is yet to come though!

Your entry to the Launceston Tramway Museum includes a ride on the last of the trams: Tram 29. Beautifully restored, this tram leaves from outside the museum approximately every 45 minutes and takes you on a short journey up the line to the roundhouse (ironically, this can no longer be used as a roundhouse due to the low roof design) and then back down the line to the station (now a State Government building). Note that this grand old tram is a showpiece and it is not the same as riding the tourist tram in Melbourne! This is a whole new experience entirely.

Tram 29
Tram 29 © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Getting There

Station © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

It is easy to find the Inveresk Precinct as the QVMAG is located here too. It is about a fifteen-minute walk from Launceston’s CBD or you can park at the precinct for $3 per day. We spent about three hours at the precinct visiting the two museums and a café. Once you’re at the precinct, look for the tram tracks and follow them to Blue Café. It’s a lovely place for a cuppa and they cater well for food allergies too. Next door to the café, in two sheds, is the Launceston Tramway Museum. They open from 10am – 4pm every day except Sunday and public holidays and the tram runs from Wednesday to Saturday (by prior arrangement, it can also run on the Monday and Tuesday for groups).

Cost

Tram 29 Interior
Tram 29 Interior © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Entry to the museum costs $5 per adult, $4.50 per senior, $2 per child and children under 6-years-old are free! The cost includes entry to the museum and a short ride on Tram 29. What a bargain! Next time you’re in Launceston, particularly if rain is forecast, enjoy a visit to the Launceston Tramway Museum and a journey on a finely crafted tram.

To read more about my journeys in northern Tasmania, click here.

Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships

Penny Farthing, Ingelside Bakery
Solomon Cottage, Evandale
Solomon Cottage © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Each February, Evandale, a small, historic town in Tasmania’s north, comes alive with the sights and sounds of yesteryear. A lady in a straw sun-hat plays honky-tonk on an antique piano, accompanied by a washboard player. A couple stroll down the street in their turn-of-the-century Sunday-best. A bearded gentleman wearing breeches sits astride a penny farthing and you’d best get out of his way!

Penny Farthing Relay
Penny Farthing Relay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Visiting the Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships is a must if you are in Tasmania in mid-February. The penny farthing is a bicycle that looks like a penny attached to a farthing, hence its name. These bikes are historic, rare and are very difficult to ride. They are also very difficult to stop so be mindful of where you walk.

Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships
National Penny Farthing Championships © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Watching people ride penny farthings might not seem like everyone’s cup of tea, but I promise that you’ll enjoy the day! The skill of the riders is phenomenal, particularly the children! Your “must watch” list includes the slow race, which rewards the slowest rider… a mean feat on a penny farthing! The obstacle course, which has riders run to their bikes, carry them (some over their heads!), push them and finally ride them, is a sight to behold. Most importantly, barrack for Tasmania! This year, we won the penny farthing relay, despite stiff competition from mainland states. For a good laugh, listen carefully to the commentator, who paid out just about everyone, in his own delightfully jovial way.  The day goes from 10am to 4pm.

Jarryd Roughead
Jarryd Roughead © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Aside from the penny farthing races, there are other events at the Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships. My favourites are the period costume parade and a charity race event involving a sprint leg, a (regular) bicycle leg and a wheelbarrow push! This year, the team from Hawthorn Football Club won but the other teams weren’t far behind!

The Rag Dolls, Evandale
The Rag Dolls © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Evandale Fair provides plenty of entertainment, food and market-stalls away from the track. You’ll find penny farthing souvenirs, handmade wares (including dog treats), Tasmanian goods (this year, there was a stall of lovely thick merino socks!) and plenty of local food vans. There’s a plethora of entertainment for the kids, including a jumping castle and face painting. One of my favourite things to do is to sit and listen to the country music band and watch the locals dancing and singing along (I may have been singing too!).

Statue, Evandale
Penny Farthing Statue © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Evandale itself is a picturesque town and has some must-see buildings (such as the water tower) and must-visit stores (look out for the historic cash register). If you’re feeling peckish, the Ingelside Bakery Cafe has a beautiful rose-filled courtyard area and tasty food, including gluten and dairy free options. For art lovers, local galleries house excellent artworks year-round. The prestigious Glover Prize art exhibition is also held in Falls Park pavilion on the March long weekend each year.

Getting There

Evandale is about a 20 minute drive from Launceston (2 minutes from Launceston Airport). Parking is easy if you arrive at 10am but becomes increasingly difficult throughout the day. My tip is to arrive on time as there are not-to-be-missed events that take place early on in the day (such as the slow race). If you need to arrive later in the day, you’ll have to walk quite a distance from your car to the main entrance (the start of Logan Road, opposite Solomon Cottage).

Cost

This year, the cost was $12 per adult for entry to the Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships and children were free. This is money well spent, in my opinion! You should also bring some cash with you for food, market goodies and to tip the buskers. If you’ve forgotten to do this beforehand, there is an ATM at 5 Russel Street.

Relay Preparation, National Penny Farthing Championships
Penny Farthing Relay Preparation © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

If you didn’t make it to the Evandale Village Fair and National Penny Farthing Championships today, don’t worry! You can see the penny farthings on the road tomorrow (Sunday) as they race 20 miles from Evandale towards Perth and then back through Evandale to Clarendon Homestead. And if you’re reading this post too late even for the 20 mile race, there’s always next year! Put it in your diary.

To read about other places that I’ve visited in northern Tasmania, click here or in the Midlands, click here.