This is my 50th post about a Tasmanian experience or place. I spent a long time contemplating where to go, what to do, but all these plans were laid to waste when, unexpectedly, a friend introduced me to his favourite place in Launceston.
The best thing about living in Tasmania is when you find gems: a person you’ve never met, food you’ve never tasted, a place you’ve never seen. This week, I visited Corra Linn for the first time. Although I’d heard plenty about it (as a favourite spot with locals for a summer swim), I had no idea how spectacular it would be.
The entry to Corra Linn is unobtrusive. Park in a gravel area to the side of the road. Climb over the roadside barrier. Find the part of the fence where the barbed wire is rolled over and climb over the fence. Mind the broken bottles and the cow pats. Now comes the best part: look up.
Corra Linn is a gorge on the North Esk River. Towering cliffs guard a waterhole, patches of sand, rapids and rock falls. My friend tells me that one of the rock falls had occurred very recently due to ice expanding inside the rock. The area would certainly be a geologist’s paradise! I’m sure that rock climbers enjoy it too. The gorge is a magnificent contrast to the surrounding paddocks.
In winter, Corra Linn is a beautiful spot to sit and contemplate. I’m told that it’s a great place for swimming in summer, however, take care as there are submerged and falling rocks. Ownership of Corra Linn has been unclear in the past and therefore the area is not well maintained. There are no safety barriers or signs and the gorge has not been developed. It is a wild place, worth the visit just for its natural beauty.
The gorge is about 15 minutes’ drive from Launceston or Evandale. Your navigation system may have alternate spelling (Corra Lynn). Note that Corra Linn Distillery is actually a good 15 minutes’ drive away so don’t use this as a reference point! Instead, search for 292 Blessington Road, St Leonards.
Entry to Corra Linn is free but at your own risk. Enjoy the beauty of wild Tasmania!
Staying in the area for a while? Read more about my adventures in Tasmania’s north and midlands.
The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is an unexpected gem. Filled with an ever-changing display of privately owned special interest vehicles, there is sure to be something to catch your eye. This weekend, entry is free and there is a display of vehicles outside. Yesterday, this included a vintage firetruck. Today, bike rides are on offer! Inside the museum, the delights continued.
Have you ever seen a Bond car in person? I have! Although it may not have been the best Bond movie, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service did feature a stunning car. Until October 2017, you can see this car, complete with guns in the glove-box, at the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania. The display also features other “movie stars”, including Herbie, a yellow Superbug and a Sunbeam Alpine Drophead identical to the one driven by Grace Kelly in To Catch a Thief.
The museum’s penultimate exhibit is a rather humble 1974 Holden Monaro GTS. As you look into the car, imagine sitting there, the front dangling approximately 60 metres above the River Derwent. Why? Because that’s exactly what happened to the owner, Frank Manley, and his wife on the night of 5 January 1975. After the Lake Illawarra hit the Tasman Bridge, theirs was one of two cars left hanging over the edge of the broken bridge. Being able to see this car in person is a privilege.
The mezzanine floor of the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania was a treat for me. On this floor, you’ll find vintage motorbikes. I grew up visiting my Pop’s garage, which contained a Norton, a Douglas, a Triumph and a Scott with a manually operated horn (my favourite!). There are plenty of other bikes on display, including a rather stunning Scout. Downstairs, there’s also a 1915 Douglas and a mini Honda.
Other exhibits include a sky-blue Thunderbird, several Jaguars, a Locomobile and a 1928 A Model Ford “Lizzie”. The Ford belonged to Tasmanian pioneer Fred Smithies O. B. E. Famous for his adventuring and photography, this car has seen some of the best of Tasmania. It is fantastic to have Tasmanian treasures on display alongside other vintage vehicles.
The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is a ten-minute walk from Launceston’s CBD, directly opposite Launceston’s City Park on Cimitiere Street. Parking is available on the street or in the adjacent car-park (fees apply). The museum is open from 9am – 5pm (10am – 4pm in winter) everyday except Christmas Day.
Visit on the annual Community Awareness Weekend (the last weekend in August) for free entry and an additional display of special interest vehicles. Usually, prices are $14 per adult, $11 per senior and $7.50 per child (under 16). For $35, you can purchase an annual pass. This is a good deal for those who would like to return to see the new exhibits every three months. Although small, the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is well-curated, showcasing important pieces of our motor-vehicle history.
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).
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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).
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.