Did you know that Launceston is my hometown? I moved there from Hong Kong in the 80s when I was 6 years old and it’s changed a lot in the 30 years since I left (to move to Brisbane and then Melbourne).
Thanks to Penny Royal Adventures I took Lady AB and Baby 2.0 on a Launceston weekend away, to explore all that’s new and old in Launceston and to reminisce about my childhood!
Launceston is easily accessible from Melbourne via a 45-minute flight or overnight on the Spirit of Tasmania. We had a great time on our mini-break and I can’t wait to return to the Apple Isle to explore more of it with my family.
Here are my top 10 things to do in Launceston with children.
Things to do in Launceston
1. Penny Royal
Penny Royal is a tourist attraction which harks back to Tasmania’s convict past as well as providing adrenalin thrills.
When I was growing up in was a little bit kitsch and daggy and then it fell into disrepair. In 2014 it was bought and renovated by JAC Group headed up by Josef Chromy OAM and is now a fun attraction for families.
You can do most of the activities at Penny Royal in a half-day or a day, depending on what the weather is like and whether you’re up for some of the more high-intensity adventures such as Cliff Adventures and rock-climbing.
Penny Royal, 1 Bridge Road, Launceston
2. Cataract Gorge
Cataract Gorge is the number 1 tourist attraction in Launceston. The gorge is Launceston’s natural playground, with a swimming pool, small playground, walking trails, suspension bridge and the world’s longest single span chairlift.
I recommend taking a one-way trip on the chairlift and then walking back via the suspension bridge. I can’t believe after 30 years it’s still secured by just a bar across your lap! Dangle your feet over the South Esk River and keep your shoes on!
Cataract Gorge , Basin Road, Launceston
3. Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
The Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery is a museum of art, history and natural sciences spanning over two locations; the Art Gallery at Kings Park and the Museum at Inveresk. We visit the latter and I’m impressed by how family-friendly this small regional museum is.
It turns very cold and rainy on the weekend so QVMAG is the perfect destination for a couple of hours. Entry is free.
We gawp at the dinosaurs inside the Tasmanian Natural Science and History displays….
….check out the old trains….
…and spend most of our time in the hands-on area which is set up with a touring exhibition of Alice’s Wonderland (which was previously at Scienceworks).
There is also a children’s play area which has picture books and toys more suitable for under 5s. Note the planetarium is not open on Sundays.
Museum: 2 Invermay Road, Launceston
Art Gallery: 2 Wellington Street, Launceston
4. Reader recommendations:
- We are not able to visit Launceston Tramway Museum as it’s closed on Sundays, but it looks good.
- Centrally-located City Park is famous for its Japanese Macaque Monkey enclosure. There is also a playground and a miniature train.
- Grindelwald is a fake Swiss village just outside of Launceston. I remember being taken to Grindelwald for Sunday lunch as a child and eating schnitzel. You can also stay there overnight for an ultra-kitsch experience!
I consider visiting Tasmania Zoo but am put off by the Tripadvisor reviews and the cost.
Where to eat in Launceston
5. Penny Royal
We enjoy breakfast by the lagoon with a vegetarian breakfast of poached egg on an Asian herb salad with tamarind dressing and chilli jam ($15) and fluffy pancakes with banana, cinnamon, maple syrup and ice cream ($15).
Don’t forget to try one of the ice creams made with fresh Tasmanian berries at the Ice Creamery Cafe!
Launceston’s high-end restaurant Stillwater is probably not a suitable place to take children for dinner. But for breakfast, it’s a more reasonably priced option. We enjoy eggs and waffles while looking out onto the misty Tamar River.
The restaurant itself iis beautiful too, with a Nordic-fishing feel to the low ceilings and exposed wooden beams.
Stillwater, 2 Bridge Rd, Launceston, +61(0)3 6331 4153
7. Hallam’s Waterfront Restaurant
Hallam’s specialises in seafood in a nautical-themed dining room overlooking the Tamar River.
The children share the tempura fish and chips ($36) while I have the chimichurri tiger prawns, braised black beans, black rice, fresh ricotta, oregano + pickled jalapenos ($38). It’s not cheap but the food is excellent and the surroundings are stunning. And there’s not a ‘fisherman’s basket’ in sight!
And for something sweet to finish – vanilla bean crème brûlée with pistachio cake and rosewater syrup ($16).
8. Reader recommendations:
- Inside Cafe is reputed to serve Launceston’s best cafe food and coffee in a warehouse space.
- Sweetbrew Espresso
- Cafe Mondello
Where to stay in Launceston
9. Mantra Charles Hotel
The former Launceston General Hospital is now the Mantra Charles Hotel, part of the Mantra accommodation group.
There are still a few signs of its former life – super wide corridors, wide doorways and accessible shower stalls.
For families, I recommend 2 bedrooms interconnecting or 2 bedroom family interconnecting, both of which are double rooms with a shared entryway and a single large entry door. Depending on the age of your children you can choose to close the door to your room/their room or leave all the doors open so they’re within earshot. Beds can be configured into a king size bed or split into two singles.
Each room is very spacious, with its own bathroom, mini kitchenette, tea and coffee, TV, European balcony and split system heating/cooling.
The Charles Restaurant provides room service and fees apply for wifi.
Mantra Charles Hotel, 287 Charles Street, Launceston (03) 6337 4100
10. Red Feather Inn
On a previous trip to Launceston, we stay with Lady AB at the Red Feather Inn. I used to go to the Red Feather Inn with my family when it was just a country pub with a fireplace, but now it’s been transformed into a stylish cooking school, restaurant and accommodation.
Since our visit, you can no longer stay with a child under 16 years within the inn itself, but children are welcome in the Watchhouse and Murfetts cottages.
The restaurant is open to guests and the public on Friday and Saturday nights by reservation and to groups on request at other times. Monday – Thursday the restaurant only caters for guests.
Red Feather Inn, 42 Main Street, Hadspen +61 3 6393 6506
- Public transport is pretty patchy in Launceston so even for a short visit I find that it’s better to hire a car than to rely on taxis, as the cost can mount up.
- Launceston still shuts down somewhat on Sundays. I suggest that you have a plan on what you want to do and where you want to eat so you’re not disappointed when places are closed.
- The airport is located just 15km from the city of Launceston.
- To the extent possible try not to buy a ticket for the last flight out of Launceston on a Sunday! And before you leave for the airport check that your flight time hasn’t been delayed. Every time I have tried to fly out of Launceston (or Hobart) on a Sunday night along with all the other weekend trippers the planes have been delayed or cancelled. Both airports are very small and there is nothing to do there!
- Jetstar, Virgin Australia and Qantaslink all operate frequent direct services between Launceston and Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney.
- Spirit of Tasmania ferry takes about 10 hours.
- From May to November the twin ships do one sailing each a day, leaving Devonport and Melbourne in the evening and arriving at their respective destinations early morning. December to April the ships sail twice daily.
- Metro is Launceston’s major city and suburban public transport provider. See the Metro timetable here.