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A Launceston Getaway

Writing and Photography by Kate Butler, originally published on Roam With Kate.

Posted: March 28, 2016

A few weeks back myself and Yasmin were granted the rare luxury of two days off… TOGETHER. This miracle required action, so without haste, we chose a new location to explore and booked ourselves into a hostel.

We packed weekend bags and plenty of car snacks for Yas (she gets cranky without a constant supply of food to occupy her). I updated my ever-growing Spotify road trip playlist and by 8am we were smugly waving sayonara to Strahan.

Our destination? Launceston. Tasmania’s second largest city, a leisurely 3.45 hour drive away. As well as constant toilet breaks (we like to stay hydrated whilst driving), there were plenty of unplanned stops along the way, to marvel at the mountains and lakes which dominate the West Coast.

We opted to take the more scenic route, cutting through Cradle Mountain national park in a series of twists, bends and stomach flips. As we climbed ever higher, we found ourselves blanketed by misty, white clouds, reducing visibility to just a few feet ahead at times and were confronted by the familiar smell of the recent bushfires.

Back out the other side and the scenery changed once more, to craggy mountains ranges, rolling hills, quaint, quirky towns, farms, deep greens and even a little sunshine peeking through from time to time.

Later down the road we dropped in to Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm for a sweet treat and a little break from the drive. Being unashamedly English, we couldn’t help ordering scones and clotted cream with some of their deliciously fresh raspberry jam. I also thought that it would be fun to branch out and try a raspberry latte, but this was a step too far.

A short while later we checked into our accommodation for the next two nights, Arthouse Hostel; circa 1888, creepy as hell and most definitely haunted by the ghosts of Launceston’s past.

We ‘treated’ ourselves to a private room – consisting of one double bed. Sleeping together doesn’t really phase us these days, almost 17 months into our trip we have shared most things.

That evening we splashed out at Cataract on Paterson restaurant. We were in our element, indulging on lethal cocktails, the best steak we have ever tasted and ogling the beardy barman.

We rolled into bed, exhausted by the long day and proceeded to have the worst sleep in months. It turned out, we had both become a little too used to our sleeping arrangements back in Strahan. We are spoilt with our own rooms and double beds, so the combination of Yasmin’s deep snoring and my irritable wriggling did not go down well.

Nevertheless, we were up early and after a short walk across the river into the city and a bloody good coffee with some banana bread at Sweetbrew, our grumpiness subsided.

It was then on to Cataract Gorge. The river gorge is just a 15 minute walk from the city centre and one of the region’s top tourist attractions. I can see why; I was in awe. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting much. The word ‘gorge’ never particularly conjures images of beauty in my mind, but this was simply gorge-ous. The sun was warm but the air cool, making it the perfect temperature for ambling, it was a wonderfully quiet weekday morning and for once, we were in no rush whatsoever.

We took the King’s Bridge Cataract Walk pathway and moseyed along the riverbank, stopping frequently to appreciate the interesting rock formations, wildlife and tranquil sounds of the water.

We eventually reached the basin, a haven with manicured gardens, a café and peacocks roaming around freely. We crossed the water and hopped onto the chair lift, to give ourselves a different perspective of the gorge – and because when you are presented with the option to ride along in a chair lift, you never decline, obviously.

We stopped for a cup of tea at the café, I tried to touch a few peacocks and then we slowly headed back along the path we had come and into the city once more. Another thing I loved about the gorge was how accessible it is from the heart of Launceston, making it a perfect escape for anyone residing in the hustle and bustle, craving a dose of Tasmania’s stunning wilderness. It was almost like stepping through a portal.

Post lunch, we stuck our heads into City Park after word on the grapevine informed us that there would be some monkey’s there. Again, I didn’t expect much. I envisaged a few sad cages and a couple of bored, sleeping primates. I was proved wrong again. The enclosure was large, interesting and filled with macaques. Big ones, teeny weeny ones, angry ones, horny ones… we spent a good half an hour watching them play, fight, groom, jump around and sexually harass one other. All that was missing was a comfy chair and a big ol’ tub of popcorn.

For our final evening in Launceston, we headed to the Prickly Cactus for my favourite cuisine: MEXICAN! Nachos and margaritas galore.

Although our visit was incredibly brief and work was ever looming in the back of our minds, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Launceston. Like all the other cities I have visited in Tassie, it felt a lot more like a large town. I loved the old buildings and historical feel, it is a nice place to just amble around and there are plenty of spots for good food and coffee.

The following morning, we checked out early and hit Coles supermarket to stock up on essentials. Our drive home was filled with laughs, music and sunshine.

We even had time for a last minute detour to a little seaside town called Penguin, where we contently sat on a bench overlooking a gorgeous little beach with a takeaway coffee and muffin.

Since our trip, it has been back to 50+ hour work weeks. Tourist season is in full swing here in Strahan and visitors come by the bus load – literally. But time is flying, our bank accounts are looking beautifully healthy and more adventures await us very, very soon.

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