Half a day in Launceston, Tasmania (Basically Cataract Gorge)

Aaron/ August 30, 2019/ Oceania/ 0 comments

A little city in Tasmania that I nearly passed up upon, and only by chance that I ended up discovering a little bit of this charming city. Many old buildings, few people, and one beautiful gorge.

How I ended up here

The original plan was to spend just a night at Launceston, complete the Overland Track then head straight to Hobart. However due to an oversight in planning there wasn’t transport to Hobart from the end on the day I completed the Overland Track. So back to Launceston, and another half a day to explore before the afternoon bus to Hobart.

A little walk in Launceston (en route to Cataract Gorge)

With just a couple of hours in the morning we decided to check out Cataract Gorge. Couple of interesting sights along the way! First, heading north along Margret Street. The Church of the Apostles, over a century old (1864), is unmissable, with its tall tower and spire.

Church of the Apostles.
Church of the Apostles.

Turning left at Brisbane St, a looming windmill comes into view. There are a couple of old structures in the surrounding area such as an old tram stop, giving the area quaint vibes. There’s also an old sweets shop, Gourlay’s Sweets Factory, in those grounds.

Windmill.
Windmill.

Cutting through the carpark and heading further northwest towards the river, yet another imposing structure just ahead, this time a 1830s flour mill. Today it’s an acclaimed restaurant (Stillwater) and hotel.

Stillwater.
Stillwater.

Finally, going under the highway and passing Penny Royal Wine Bar and Restaurant, is King’s Bridge. The bridge straddles the end of Cataract Gorge and the start of the trail is on the far side (north bank). The beautiful King’s Bridge itself is an attraction and was built in 1867.

Cataract Gorge, from King's Bridge.
Cataract Gorge, from King’s Bridge.

Cataract Gorge Reserve

So here, just 15 minutes from central Launceston, is something unlike anything you’d expect in a city, a beautiful river gorge. The path in was built in 1890s, and starts from the King’s Bridge going all the way in to First Basin. It’s a lovely hour long walk along the gorge to First Basin, and from there you can choose to exit or continue deeper into the gorge. Here are some photos along the way!

Plaque commemorating the construction of the Cataract Gorge path.
Plaque commemorating the construction of the Cataract Gorge path.
King's Bridge.
King’s Bridge. Cataract Gorge.
Across the river. Cataract Gorge.
Across the river.
Some distance down, looking back at King's Bridge. Cataract Gorge.
Some distance down, looking back at King’s Bridge.
Further in, where the gorge widens. Cataract Gorge.
Further in, where the gorge widens.
Looking back towards the narrower section. Cataract Gorge.
Looking back towards the narrower section.
Approaching First Basin. Cataract Gorge.
Approaching First Basin.

At the bend of the river there’s a beautiful garden with interesting plants and trees, pretty pavilions and roaming peacocks.

Victorian garden next to the gorge. Cataract Gorge.
Victorian garden next to the gorge.

This kind of shelters can be found along the path, and are of quite a unique construction, concrete made to look like the surrounding trees. The technique was done by hand in the 1920s/30s.

Faux Bois (false wood) shelters. Cataract Gorge.
Faux Bois (false wood) shelters.

A sharp contrast on the other side of First Basin – a carefully maintained lawn and swimming pool seemingly in the middle of the raw forests. The chairlift there takes people across First Basin up the hill.

An inviting lawn and swimming pool across the river. Cataract Gorge.
An inviting lawn and swimming pool across the river.

To cross over to the other side of First Basin there’s a suspension bridge.

Suspension bridge across Cataract Gorge. Cataract Gorge.
Suspension bridge across Cataract Gorge.

After the bridge, the trail on the right goes further up the gorge, while the left leads to the chairlift and also out of Cataract Gorge Reserve.

Deeper into the gorge. Cataract Gorge.
Deeper into the gorge.
On the way out, more green views. Cataract Gorge.
On the way out, more green views.

Following the path to the left from the bridge, you’ll pass the lawn and swimming pool before reaching the other exit of Cataract Gorge, just by the chairlift station and the carpark.

Lawn and swimming pool at Cataract Gorge.
Lawn and swimming pool at Cataract Gorge.

Back to the city center

From the Gorge Scenic Chairlift station, head towards the carpark along Basin Road, then left on to Upper York Street. Along the way you’d get views overlooking the city of Launceston, and at the bottom of the hill York Street will bring you straight through town. We were a bit behind schedule and had to forgo lunch to catch our Redline Bus to Hobart. Coming up, adventures from Hobart!

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