STYLISH. WELL-CRAFTED. SPIRITED.
Road-tripping in Launceston and northern Tasmania.
Pair Launceston's vibrant food scene and dramatic gorge with Tamar Valley wines and adventures in the hinterland.
Some of the freshest air on the planet blows across the Northern Forage, a drive journey that spans northern Tasmania. Inhale deeply on beaches tucked behind quiet coastal towns and across the fertile hinterland. As you follow your food from paddock to plate (or glass), you’ll find the farmers and makers on hand to add stories to the flavours.
Tamar Valley Wine Trail
North of Launceston, this trail loops past more than 30 cellar doors and bucolic scenery. The east bank is the sparkling side, literally, with the “méthode Tasmanoise” of Jansz Wine Room among sparkling winemakers including Clover Hill Wines, Pipers Brook Vineyard and Delamere Vineyards.
On the west bank, swing by the new cellar door at Stoney Rise Wine Company, and follow a quiet backroad to Swinging Gate Vineyard for relaxed tastings, a session at its day spa and glamping among the vines in Domescapes Tasmania's luxe eco-domes.
Little Blue Lake
Jason Charles Hill
Gaze at the vivid aqua-coloured waters of Little Blue Lake, nestled in the far north east just metres off the road between Derby and Gladstone. A relic of the region’s tin mining days, the lake formed in an old mine hole and the striking colour of the water comes from minerals in the lakebed, so swimming isn’t recommended – instead, snap some photos and enjoy the view.
Kane Naaraat and Pinkbike.com
Feel the flow of Blue Derby, the exceptional network of mountain bike trails around the former tin-mining town of Derby. Or turn a ride into a journey along the North East Rail Trail out of Scottsdale. No bike? No problem. Hire one from Vertigo MTB, or simply embrace extremes at the Floating Sauna Lake Derby. Warm up in the wood-fired sauna, then brace for a lake plunge.
Tee off at Barnbougle
On the rolling coastline of a potato farm near the seaside village of Bridport, the neighbouring links courses at Barnbougle – The Dunes and Lost Farm – are rated among Australia's top five golf courses. Raise a glass at its dune-top restaurant, clubhouse or bar – or in Spa 180, where a session in the vitality spa includes a glass of Tassie sparkling wine and Bass Strait views.
Hot air ballooning
See the north from a different perspective - a bird's eye view - with Hot Air Balloon Tasmania. Let the prevailing wind carry you over Launceston the Tamar Valley and the Meander Valley.
Head off-grid in style with Unique Charters, which operates helicopter trips with a food and wine focus across northern Tasmania. Picnic on uninhabited Swan Island, hop between old country pubs, or arrive in style for tastings at a trio of vineyards. "It's a unique blend of Tasmanian wilderness and some of the world's best produce, with the best views of all - from the air," says Unique Charters' co-owner Peter Barron.
On your bike
Discover some of Launceston's best cycleways with On Your Bike’s “ride the river” tour; combine cycling and tasting at Josef Chromy Wines' vineyard; or let the cycling be an excuse to further indulge on a tour that includes lunch at Stillwater and beer and bites at the James Boag Brewery Bar.
Survey Launceston's past and present on a guided walking tour of the city or Cataract Gorge. Go Walk Tas has teamed up with historians to unearth the city's early tales, while Wallaby Walkabout Tours sees Tasmanian Aboriginal historian Geoff McLean weaving colonial stories and Tasmanian Aboriginal cultural connections. Both companies run tours of the city and the gorge.
The dazzling purple rows at Bridestowe Lavender Estate, the world's largest privately owned lavender farm, are one of Tasmania's most photogenic scenes. Wander among the rows, try the cafe's lavender scones and ice-cream, and browse the shop. The lavender typically flowers from December to early February, but the estate is open year-round.
Could Launceston have a better natural setting than Cataract Gorge, splitting the hills at the city's edge? Wander between its narrow walls to find the old Duck Reach Power Station. Head out of town to hike through cool temperate rainforest to the base of Liffey Falls, one of the state's prettiest waterfalls. Or climb to a vast view atop Quamby Bluff, the northernmost peak in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Art and design
Find inspiration at the edge of Launceston's City Park, where five galleries of exquisitely designed furniture and crafts at Design Tasmania showcase the island’s creative talent. The wood collection featuring native Tasmanian timbers is a highlight. The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, the nation’s largest regional museum, holds important collections of art, history and natural sciences, and oversees a packed program of permanent and temporary exhibitions.
What’s the difference between river rafting and sledding? "Being in a raft is like being in an armchair, but on a sled you're only centimetres from the river,” says Meander Wilderness Experiences owner Daniel Wickham. Navigate boulders and drift into gentle rapids on the Meander River. Lie back and watch the bush float past, then glide into a rapid and hold on.
"Being in a raft is like being in an armchair, but on a sled you're only centimetres from the river.” Daniel Wickham, Meander Wilderness Experiences
Eat and drink
Launceston does a fine line in seasonal regional dining, led by the likes of provenance pioneer Stillwater, best-in-show Black Cow Bistro, Cataract on Paterson and Geronimo Aperitivo Bar and Restaurant. They've been joined by Rupert & Hound serving sustainable seafood at the water's edge in Seaport, and Apricus with family-friendly dining among the farm animals.
Hand-picked Tasmanian, Australian and international wines make the list at wine bar Havilah, teamed with a sustainable-produce menu featuring charcuterie and cheese. On Sundays the wine bar transforms into a cellar door for Two Tonne Tasmania and Havilah wines, made by bar owner and Tamar winemaker Ricky Evans. By contrast, intimate Bar Two features a menu of wines and produce sourced entirely from Tasmania.
Launceston’s craft-beer pioneer Saint John Craft Beer continues to pour up to 14 beers on tap and more than 170 bottled beers. Nostalgia is on high rotation at the city's new Arcade Bar, where the '80s theme runs to arcade games, including an original 1978 Space Invaders machine, and a bar made from cassette tapes.
The north's thriving food and wine scene extends well beyond Launceston. There's modern dining in World Heritage-listed surrounds at Homage Restaurant at Woolmers Estate. Eat among the vines at Timbre, at Velo Wines, or at Josef Chromy Wines' highly regarded restaurant. Or order a picnic pack on weekends to enjoy in the vineyard’s gardens. BYO rug.
Hotel Verge Launceston
An industrial luxe ambience created by local architect Cumulus Studio in brick, glass, timber and concrete echoes the precinct's early industrial heritage. The 86-room Hotel Verge is next door to Launceston’s community Harvest Market, open on Saturdays, and local produce dominates menus at the hotel’s restaurant, Diverge.
River Cabins Derby
A home away from home never feels better than after a day of mountain biking. Three Scandi-inspired, light-filled cabins overlooking the Ringarooma River and close to Derby's mountain bike trails have high ceilings, well-equipped kitchens and deckside barbecues (and bike storage and cleaning space, of course). The two lofts are great for couples, and the two-bedroom Ringarooma has a fire pit for post-ride decompression.
The Granary, Cressy
In a peaceful setting near the village of Cressy, this convict-built stone Granary has been transformed into stylish self-contained accommodation sleeping up to six. Pick fruit from the orchard, and stroll the formal and cottage gardens flanked by oaks and a hazelnut grove. "We're in the most spectacular position," says owner Fiona Moses. "Whichever angle you look from The Granary, there's the most beautiful view, whether it be mountains or the river."
Low Head Beach House
Sand-dune minimalism is a thing at Low Head Beach House, where floor-to-ceiling windows frame uninterrupted views of Lagoon Beach and historic Low Head Pilot Station at the mouth of the Tamar River. Pre-order produce, including local seafood and Tamar Valley wines, or request a take-over by a private chef. The house sleeps six in three ensuite king bedrooms.
Stillwater Seven, Launceston
Settle into one of seven stylish rooms at Stillwater Seven, with the bonus proximity of destination restaurant Stillwater downstairs. River views, massive old beams and local design work dominate the rooms, set in a restored 1830s flour mill. Wake to the prospect of good coffee and textbook eggs Benedict just a few steps away.
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