Launceston, the second-largest city in Tasmania, is often overshadowed by the state's cool capital Hobart. But with the MONA FOMA summer festival switching from the south to the north of the state, and the arrival of a benchmark new hotel, things are looking up.
TrueBlue Magazine - April/May 2019
Words by: Winsor Dobbin
Launceston is the gateway to the Tamar Valley Wine Route, the longest established wine trail on the island state, and home to several natural attractions, including Cataract Gorge, which boasts the longest single-span chairlift in the world.
The city hosts many historic buildings in Federation, Victorian and Georgian styles, and sits at the junction of the North Esk and South Esk rivers, which combine to become the Tamar.
Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, which was established in 1891, is the largest museum located outside a capital city in Australia
Held every Saturday morning, the bustling Harvest Market is regarded as the best farmers’ market in the state, and attracts vendors from all over the north of Tasmania.
1. Peppers Silo
The opening of Peppers Silo Hotel in 2018 provided a boost to Launceston’s tourism industry. Originally erected in 1960, the Kings Wharf grain silos were left unused for decades. The redeveloped site is now a nine-storey hotel featuring 108 guest rooms, including 52 inside the barrels of the former silos. Amenities on-site include a gym, day spa, child-minding facilities, hairdressing salon, function centre and private dining rooms.
2. Peppers Seaport The upscale Peppers Seaport Hotel on the opposite bank of the Tamar is under the same ownership, and has long been regarded as the best address in town.
3. Balmoral on York
Among the best of Launceston’s mid-range hotels is Balmoral on York, just a little out of town and up a hill, but with excellent hospitality and free, fast WiFi.
4. Upmarket & Grand
Other choices include centrally situated Hotel Grand Chancellor, the upmarket Mantra Charles Hotel and the Mercure.
5. Homely & Self-Catering
For those who like to self-cater, TwoFourTwo’s apartments are a short walk to the Charles Street cafe precinct, the CBD and local galleries.
6. Bed & Breakfast
There are myriad B&Bs and cottages on offer. Hillview House is a standout, with budget ’capsule’ accommodation at Pod Inn in the heart of Launceston CBD.
There are several top-notch restaurants, with two standouts both under the same management. Fine diner Stillwater, overlooking the Tamar River, is a long-time favourite, while red meat fans will enjoy the range of Tasmanian beef cuts at the Black Cow Bistro downtown.
2. Grain of the Silos
A newcomer challenging that hierarchy is Grain of the Silos Restaurant at Peppers Silo Hotel, which boasts celebrity chef Massimo Mele as consultant and delivers paddock-to-plate eating. Head chef Peter Twitchett showcases Robbins Island beef as well as local wasabi, black truffles, hazelnuts and the humble Tasmanian potato.
3. Popular Haunts
Other popular dining spots include the Italian-accented Novaro’s, Mudbar Restaurant and Brisbane Street Bistro.
4. Get Food Fast
For lovers of quality fast food, Launceston has the original – and still the best – Burger Got Soul, while Pickled Evenings is a standout Indian eatery. Me Wah is a long-standing Chinese favourite with a good wine list, while the best winery dining can be found at Josef Chromy Wines at Relbia, where local flavours can be enjoyed along with spectacular views.
1. Best of the Tamar
The major appeal of the Tamar Valley Wine Route is the fact that many of the wineries are family-owned, so you will usually be served at the cellar door by someone intimately involved with the wines. Visitors can sample Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir, while Tasmanian sparkling wines are widely considered to be second only to those from Champagne.
2. Winery Trails
Vélo Wines at Legana, the closest cellar door to downtown Launceston, is about a 15-minute drive from the city. While you’re there, pop into the winery’s café, Timbre Kitchen. Josef Chromy Wines – just down the road from Launceston Airport – Pipers Brook/Kreglinger, Bay of Fires/House of Arras, Dalrymple and Tamar Ridge are key cellar doors, while smaller operations include Holyman/Stoney Rise, Delamere, Holm Oak, Moores Hill, Winter Brook, Grey Sands, Sinapius and Goaty Hill.
3. Express of Exeter
A wide range of local drops can also be sampled at the recently opened Tamar Valley Wine Centre in the hamlet of Exeter.
4. Boag’s Brewery Bash
In town, the James Boag Brewery offers both tastings and brewery tours, and has a beer garden in which visitors can sample Wild Rivers Lager – the first new Boag’s brew in a decade.
5. Quality Craft Beer
Geronimo Aperitivo Bar & Restaurant also shines a light on local beverages, along with boutique beer destination Saint John Craft Beer Bar.
6. Tasmanian Wines Only
Launceston’s latest standout bar is Bar Two – a hole-in-the-wall that serves a range of Tasmanian wines, gins and fresh produce. The ’Two’ stands for Tasmanian Wines Only. It offers platters and finger food and wines from boutique producers.
7. Coffee Hit
Top coffee hangouts include hip breakfast hot spot Bryher Cafe, Sweetbrew and Coffee Republic, all of which have firm local followings.
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