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Launceston, Australia: Tasmania's Northern City
Generally speaking, the Australian state of Tasmania is thought of as a wild, untamed, vast island that sits alone off the coast of the country. Much of this is because of the state's history, as it was originally a penal settlement that was created by the British Empire in the early 1800s. The city of Launceston is a major part of that history, while being one of the island's more refined locations.
While visitors to Launceston will find elements of the untamed wilderness for which Tasmania is known, they will also quickly realised that this small city near the island's northern coast is very progressive, as it was the first Australian city to have underground sewers and use hydroelectricity, while being a popular place for visitors.
Cataract Gorge and Tamar Island
One of the more popular destinations in Launceston is Cataract Gorge, a large park that is just outside of the city's centre. Once at this park, there is a suspension bridge, walking paths, gardens, playgrounds, a chairlift, and a café on-site for guests to explore. It is possible to swim in the gorge, although the water is often cold, and a lucky few have been able to see kangaroos and wallabies in their natural habitat.
Only ten minutes from the hotels of downtown Launceston sits Tamar Island, a wetlands reserve that is home to numerous species of birds, including ducks, swallows, pelicans, and black swans, and other wildlife, like snakes, frogs, and pademelons. Admission to this park is by donation and there is a visitor's centre that provides information on the area as a whole and its inhabitants.
History and Museums
There is a great deal of history present in Launceston, starting with the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. This is the largest museum that is located outside of a capital in the entire country and has two different sites. Other historic buildings located in the city include the Launceston Tramway Museum and A.W. Birchhall & Sons bookstore, which is the oldest in the entire country. The National Motor Museum remains an attraction in Launceston, as it features restored cars and motorbikes from bygone eras.
There are some historic houses in the city that are still standing, as well. These buildings include Franklin House, Entally House, Macquarie House, and Clarendon House. Visitors also often enjoy the Old Umbrella Shop, which sits in a building that was erected in the 1860s and hasn't been changed since that period. The building now acts as a visitor's centre, souvenir shop, and umbrella museum.
Cruise the River or Tour the City
Taking a river cruise allows visitors to see many of Launceston's top attractions from a different perspective. These tours often last for a half day and go past sites like Cataract Gorge, Tamar Island, the Batman Bridge, Tamar Valley, and into the city's riverfront area. For those who don't have time to see everything that this city has to offer on foot, a cruise is the next best thing.
Walking tours of Launceston are also available. These heritage walks often explore the city's mining history and take visitors on the Merchants Machinery Trail. Ghost tours can be found in the city, too, as some believe that Launceston's older buildings could be haunted. Ask at the hotel about these tours because some are self-guided, while others come with an experienced guide.
Parks and Squares
City Park, on the east side of Launceston, Tasmania, is truly a sight to behold and is something that most visitors to the city want to check out, due to its beauty, size, and proximity to the area's hotels. The park features interesting architecture, a conservatory, an enclosure with macaque monkeys, a duck pond, and the Jubilee Fountain. There is even a small train that chugs through the park, in addition to a children's playground.
Prince's Square is another top attraction in Launceston that is famous because of the elegant fountain that acts as its centrepiece. In addition, a number of Victorian and Georgian buildings can be found in the area, there is an Anglican church that was built in the early 1800s and is well worth a visit.
Royal Park is in a quieter area that is just west of downtown Launceston, TAS. Once at this park, visitors can stroll along the boardwalk or sample some local cuisine. Many river cruises leave from this park and there is always a hotel within walking distance, as well.
Like most of Tasmania, those who live in Launceston love sports. Australian rules football (“Aussie Rules” to the locals) and cricket are the most popular. The city doesn't have any professional teams, although Australian Football League teams have played a few games each season at Aurora Stadium, which holds 20,000 people and is the largest in the state. In fact, the state has an agreement with Hawthorne Football Club to play four games there every season and many of these games will be played in Launceston. Hotels tend to fill up quickly when a major event is held at the stadium.
Soccer is also popular in Launceston and, much like with Australian rules football, professional games have been played in the city, despite Launceston not having its own team. Launceston does have two clubs in the Northern Championship league, Launceston United and Northern Rangers, while Launceston City and Riverside Olympic play in the city's suburbs.