Launceston, Tasmania

Settled by Europeans in March 1806, Launceston is one of Australia's oldest cities and is home to many historic buildings. Like many Australian places, it was named after a town in the United Kingdom – in this case, Launceston, Cornwall. It's population is about 100,000.

The Cataract Gorge is Launceston's largest tourist attraction and it is home to the longest single span chairlift in the world, stretching 300 metres across the gorge. We dutifully visited it, taking advantage of the chair lift to do so. Launceston has many parks throughout the city including City Park, in the city centre.

We wended our way slowly from Port Sorell to Launceston, via York Town - where the first attempt to establish a British presence in Tasmania took place in 1804. It was a "bustling village" only until 1808, when it was abandoned.

Next stop was the Platypus House - we decided that we were just not going to see a platypus in the wild, so this was the only way to see one. The attraction consists of just 4 Platypus and 3 Echindas - echinda look like hedgehogs, but are in fact marsupials. The visit was quite well done, a guide shows you around and you see the platypus swimming in large tanks. Then you see the echindas at close range. .En passant I should add that we had a really nice real raspberry ice cream here.

Lunch at Goaty Hill. The owner is enthusiastic and keen to let you taste all his wines. We very much enjoyed chatting to him about wine, and enjoyed our lunch platter overlooking the vineyard. This, to me, was what a trip to a vineyard should be about.

Time for a visit to the Beaconsfield Mining Museum after lunch. The Beaconsfield Mine collapse occurred on 25 April 2006. Of the seventeen people who were in the mine at the time, fourteen escaped immediately following the collapse, one was killed and the remaining two were found alive using a remote-controlled device. These two miners were rescued on 9 May 2006, two weeks after being trapped nearly a kilometre below the surface. The museum details the events of this disaster and rescue very well.

So on to Launceston. Our home was Quest Apartments, Launceston. We stayed in a one bedroom apartment for three nights, and were very pleased with our choice. The reception staff were both cheerful and helpful, you can tell from that remark that we have been places where this does not apply. There is parking available over the road at a reasonable five dollars a day (3.30 pm to 10 am) - the spaces were a bit tight, and parking did have its moments. The apartment is well kitted out with most things including a washing machine and tumble drier The location is bang in the centre of town, with lots of good restaurants within easy walking distance. Good value for money, and I would recommend it to anyone staying in Launceston

Novaros Restaurant, Launceston. They really do serve good food here. I thought that it was good value, even at 100 dollars a head. Inevitably food at this quality will cost you more, the pertinent question is "does it offer good value for money" and in my opinion it did. It was all very good, and Chris's crime brûlée was exceptional. The only weak thing we had was my Irish coffee -luke warm and without proper thick cream. But I could forgive that as the rest of the meal was so good. Certainly highly recommended. You do need to book here, as it is a very small restaurant - there are two sittings -6 to 6.30 or 8 to 8.30

Our exploration of Launceston consisted of a long walk round the city centre, followed by a trip in the chair lift up to see the Gorge. I am ashamed to see that I enjoyed a Devon Cream Tea at the cafe there.

Next day we did a long loop north from Launceston, taking in some of the northern beaches, George Town and Pipers Brook Vineyard.

Pipers Brook Vineyard. We had lunch here -their platter and a couple of glasses of wine. Pipers Brook is larger and more " commercial " than the other vineyards we visited, so you don't get that personal service. But the food was good and the staff very pleasant.
It is a lovely drive through their substantial vineyards to reach the main facility. My one criticism was that the surroundings for eating lunch were not as agreeable as they might have been. There was a choice of eating inside, which looked pretty uninspiring. Or the small outside courtyard where we ate. But with such magnificent vineyards around, they really should be serving lunch in a setting where patrons can enjoy the view. Beware of groups, this is how they make their money. It is the luck of the draw if you get tangled with a group.

Saturday is Farmers Market Day in Launceston - a real market with no tourist souvenirs. All 40 stalls sell local food produce - fruit, meat, vegetables, a couple of coffee shops, and for some unknown reason a Scottish busker playing the bagpipes

Westbury is a classic Georgian village, surrounded by hedgerows and with old English charm. It used to be a major stopping point between Hobart and the North West. However, despite becoming the largest military community in Tasmania, the town failed to grow beyond a small population of convicts and free settlers. Its delightful streetscape contains stately inns, churches, homesteads, shops and public buildings restored to their former glory. Many now trade as antique shops and galleries showing the work of local artists and photographers. Beside the village green is the White House BAkery, where they bake on the original, wood-fired oven.

On to Woolmers Estate near Longford. Woolmers was continuously occupied by the Thomas Archer family from circa 1817 to 1994 and is acknowledged as one of the best examples of 19th century rural settlements in Australia. The array of extant buildings on Woolmers including family houses, workers' cottages, former chapel, blacksmith's shop, stables, bakehouse, pump house, gardener's cottage etc. provides an insight into the social structure of a colonial pastoral estate. In addition to the architectural heritage, the site contains a wide range of collections acquired by the family over 180 years, providing an insight into six generations of one family. The original house was convict built, then a later, more up-market extension was added, but the original building was retained. The place has been maintained as it was when the last of the family died, and is like walking through a time warp. The estate was also, for reasons we could not fathom, home to the "National Rose Garden".

And our last stop was at Evandale, a classified historic town, with many of its buildings remaining largely in their original condition. I bought a book on the nurses in Greece during WW2 in a store (above) that was also a time warp. The owner let me take the photo, but did not want to appear in it!

On to Swansea

Australia 2013/2014