Find out here the absolute best things to do in Launceston with Kids. The guide includes the top tourist attractions in Launceston and the surrounding area.
What I loved about Launceston was that even though it has been transported into the current century with new infrastructure and features, it still embraces its 19th-century history, which contributes to the cities charm.
Launceston is known to many as the gateway to the picturesque Tamar Valley wine region, and being Tasmania’s second-largest city, there is no shortage of things to do in or around the riverside city.
In this article, I share places every family should experience on a trip to Launceston, along with suggestions on places to stay and dining options. Continue reading for all the details.
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Featured Image – Gatekeepers Cottage and Kings Bridge © Tourism Tasmania & Sean Fennessy
Post was updated in July 2020
- Things to Do in Launceston For Families
- 1. City Park
- 2. Cataract Gorge
- 3. Launceston Heritage Walks
- 4. Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
- 5. Tamar Island Wetlands Walk
- 6. Hollybank Wilderness Adventures
- 7. Beauty Point
- How Much Time Do you Need in Launceston?
- How to Get to Launceston
- Where to Eat in Launceston
- Where to Stay in Launceston with Kids
- Day Trips from Launceston
Things to Do in Launceston For Families
Note: Launceston and the surrounding area is are big on traveller experiences, and many of them are free. For all other attractions, I have included in this guide links to all the top-rated tours and things to do through Experience Oz, Viator, and GetYourGuide, to save you time and money.
1. City Park
If you are searching for what to do in Launceston with kids, it is highly likely that City Park will pop up in the results, and for a good reason!
Launceston has many delightful parks and gardens that attract visitors due to their open spaces and shady picnic areas. The magnificence of City Park also rests in the other tourist attractions that are scattered around the lush green parklands.
City Park is graced with giant oaks and surrounded by Georgian streetscapes that ooze old-world charm. Wander the pathways around the park, stopping to visit the Japanese macaques, the seasonal collection of blooms in the conservatory, and the children’s play area. Read more information on each below.
Macaque Monkey Enclosure
City Park has a long history of exhibiting animals with Japanese macaques (also known as snow monkeys) calling the park home since 1980. The monkeys were presented to Launceston by their Japanese sister-city Ikeda, and their enclosure is designed to reflect the range of habitats that the monkeys would encounter in the wild. City Parks’ free enclosure is a brilliant place for travellers to view these curious and intellectual animals that are sadly diminishing in the wild.
Wander the Conservatory
The John Hart Conservatory is filled with a beautiful collection of seasonal annuals for everyone to enjoy. Stroll through the conservatory or take a seat and enjoy the hundreds of plants beautifully displayed. The conservatory is a wonderful space to enjoy peace and relaxation. The historic building was erected in 1932 and refurbished in 2010 as a joint project between Launceston City Council and the Federal Government through the regional local community infrastructure program.
Launceston For Kids
Two enduring favourites for children in City Park are riding Lonnie, the loco train, and playing on the playground, which also has a train theme. Lonnie, the loco will take your family on a little journey around the park for a small fee. The playground located in the park is one of the best I have come across for toddlers, with swings, slides, bridges, and climbing ladders.
Practical Information: If you are visiting City Park for more than a picnic under the trees, the monkey enclosure, conservatory, and mini train tour all have an opening and closing times.
The John Hart Conservatory is open weekdays from 8.30 am-4.30 pm and weekends from 9.00 am-4.30 pm (April-September), and 9.00 am-5.30 pm (October-March).
The Macaque Monkey Enclosure is open from 8.00am-4.00pm (April-September) and 8.00am-4.30pm (October-March).
Lonnie, the loco, operates on most days from outside the conservatory.
2. Cataract Gorge
One of the best things to see in Launceston is Cataract Gorge. Three factors make this one of the top places to see in Launceston, and they are the location, entry cost, and features. Cataract Gorge is only 15 minutes from Launceston city, making it easily accessible for any travellers visiting the area. Cataract Gorge has free entry and is home to many walking and hiking trails, picturesque scenery, colourful gardens, a variety of wildlife, and the world’s longest single-span chairlift.
Williams Collins, of the brig Lady Nelson, first observed the area in 1804 and wrote: “the beauty of the scene is probably not surpassed in the world.”
Tip: If you would like to experience the gorge from the water, choose a scenic river cruise. If you are short on time, this morning cruise will allow you to appreciate the area without taking up the whole day.
Cataract Gorge Walks and Hiking Trails
There are many walking trails around Cataract Gorge, with some of those being suitable for strollers. Cataract walk is an easy sealed path that hugs the giant cliff face following the South Esk River down towards the magnificent Kings Bridge, which dates back to 1864. Keep a lookout in the water below as you may be lucky enough to see seals sunbaking on the rocks and frolicking in the water.
Another walk not to be missed is over the 1940 Alexandra suspension bridge. It was constructed across the South Esk River to connect the two sides and overlooks the First Basin, free swimming pool, and surrounding bushland.
On the south side of the river is the full-size swimming pool surrounded by sprawling lawns. A popular picnic spot for locals and visitors as the free swimming pool is the perfect place to enjoy a refreshing dip.
Cataract Gorge Cafe
The Basin Café is on the West Launceston side of the Cataract Gorge Reserve, near the main station chairlift. They are open daily from 8.00 am and serve breakfast, lunch, morning and afternoon tea. This is also where you will find the souvenir shop and a kiosk, selling light snacks, drinks, ice creams, and confectionery.
On the opposite side in the cliff grounds reserve is where you will find The Gorge Restaurant, which showcases Tasmania’s finest produce. For something a little lighter, the nearby kiosk has a variety of food and drinks on offer. There is lovely outdoor seating where you can watch the famed resident peacocks roaming in the gardens. Alternatively, select a takeaway and sit in the grassed area close by surrounded by beautiful pastel hydrangea flowers in every colour of the rainbow.
Cataract Gorge Chairlift
If you prefer not to walk from one side of First Basin to the other or if you want to see Cataract Gorge from another perspective, the gorge scenic chairlift is the perfect option. The chairlift span is 308 metres making it the world’s longest and gives you a birds-eye view of the Gorge, Alexandra suspension bridge, river, and bushland.
An adult must accompany children under eight years.
The alternative to the chairlift, if you want to cross to either side of the river, is the First Basin loop, an easy part-sealed walk taking you underneath the chairlift.
Practical Information: There are two parking spots for Cataract Gorge, but the largest and the one that has the most convenient access to facilities is off Basin Road.
3. Launceston Heritage Walks
The best way to absorb Launceston’s history and experience its historical charisma is by taking a self-guided walking tour. Beautifully restored colonial and Victorian buildings with impress architecture buffs as you explore the city on one or all three heritage trails.
Ranging from 500 metres to 5 kilometres in length, witness up close one of Australia’s most intact cityscapes.
The Merchants Machinery trail explores the industrial heart of Launceston and leads you back in time when brewing, milling, and mining were the central focus of the Launceston economy. Along this walk, you can detour to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery and City Park.
Rags to Riches focuses on commercial buildings, like Old Bank that was built in 1884-5 and churches, with one of the oldest surviving synagogue’s in Australia found on this trail, dating back to 1844.
The Government to Gorge trail wanders through the administrative heart of Launceston city and is the path to follow if you wish to walk out to Cataract Gorge.
4. Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery
Discover local history, colonial and contemporary art and natural sciences within the largest regional museum in Australia. Located in two locations, only a 20-minute walk apart, the art gallery housed in a 19th-century heritage-listed building on Wellington Street features paintings, ceramics, textiles, and furniture.
Learn the story and history of the first Tasmanian’s and witness the exclusive contents of a Chinese temple that was donated from mining towns in North-East Tasmania.
A railway workshop from the 1870s can be found within the museum on Invermay Road and signifies the importance of Tasmania’s railway system. Step back in time as you witness displays with bushranger artefacts, dinosaurs, animals, and transportation.
For those adorning space fans and scientists, they’ll love the interactive science centre, astronomy exhibit, and planetarium section.
Practical Information: Entry into QVMAG is free, except for the Planetarium, where fees apply.
5. Tamar Island Wetlands Walk
A short 10-minute drive north of Launceston will have you exploring a unique ecosystem that is bursting with plant and animal life. Stop in at the interpretation centre where you can learn about the fascinating ecosystem, made up of islands, mudflats, and lagoons.
Wander along the stroller-friendly boardwalk that weaves its way over footbridges and through tall grasses for 1.5 kilometres (one way) to Tamar Island. The environment provides a natural habitat for a variety of frogs, fish, mammals, and is home to a diverse bird population.
As many as 60 species of birds have been identified in this area, including ducks, pelicans, black swans, and even the occasional white-bellied sea eagle. The Tamar Island Wetlands is a photographer’s gold-mine at dawn and dusk.
Practical Information: Entry to the Tamar Island wetlands is by donation, as this helps with the upkeep of the area.
6. Hollybank Wilderness Adventures
For heart-pumping action, strap in and glide through the treetops at Hollybank Wilderness Adventures. Around a 20 minute drive from Launceston, there are many adventurous activities to choose from, including Segway tours and mountain biking.
Climb up to 25 metres above the forest floor on a treetops adventure where you will cross wobbly bridges and balance on nets and ropes. There are several courses allowing everyone from the age of 4 years and older a chance to test their mental and physical strength, all while having fun.
For a unique experience, fly at 50 metres above the bluegum forest on Tasmania’s longest zipline. Six zip lines totalling close to one kilometre will see you travelling from tree to tree, giving you a birds-eye perspective over the valley below. Children as young as three years of age can fly tandem with an adult in a double harness.
Tip: Don’t miss out on this popular northern Tasmania experience. Book in advance here to enjoy Launceston’s forest on a canopy tour.
7. Beauty Point
The landscape through the Tamar Valley area as you make the 45-minute journey to Beauty Point is one of the most picturesque around Tasmania. It is also where you will find more Launceston attractions that shouldn’t be missed.
Stop 1: Seahorse World and The Southern Ocean Aquarium
Have you ever been close enough to a seahorse to hold it in your hands?
Seahorse World is dedicated to seahorse breeding, education, and conservation. It is one of the very few seahorse farms that are registered to export seahorses and sell them to countries all around the world.
When you arrive, take the 45-minute guided tour, which explains in details all about the seahorse, and their breeding cycles. As the establishment is a working seahorse farm, you will go behind the scenes and witness the seahorse in all stages of their life.
The final room on tour is the Southern Ocean aquarium, where you will see many of the sea creatures that live in the Tasmanian waters. Learn about giant cuttlefish that change colour to suit their surroundings. See a Tasmanian giant crab and lobster up close and, of course, hold a seahorse and starfish with your own hands.
Practical Information: Seahorse World is open every day, with the only exception being Christmas Day, where they are closed.
Tours depart regularly from 9.30 am– 4.00 pm (4.30 pm in peak times or if booked) from December to April. Tours depart on the hour from 10.00 am to 3.00 pm (4.00 pm tours may be conducted if booked in advance) from May to November.
Tip: Seahorse World is a popular attraction in Tasmania. You can buy tickets here for an entry into the centre, including a guided tour.
Seahorse World and Platypus House rank in the top two things to do in Beauty Point, Tasmania.
Stop 2: Platypus House
Tasmanian platypuses and echidnas are unique and cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. After purchasing tickets, you will watch a 15-minute video on the platypus, after which you are guided into the platypus ponds area to watch them swim and play in their enclosures. During this time, the guide shares the biology and interesting facts on both the platypus and echidnas.
I must admit the highlight of Platypus House was the echidnas. At the end of the tour, you are taken into the echidna gardens, where the three echidnas are given dinner (literally) at your feet.
Practical Information: Platypus world is open every day from 9.30 am-4.30 pm (November to April) and from 10.00 am-3.30 pm (May to October). The only exception being Christmas Day, where they are closed.
Seahorse World is right beside Platypus Place, making it an easy walk and convenient to visit both in one day. Both attractions are known as two of the top things to do in Launceston for families.
Money-Saving Tip: If you are travelling to Beauty Point, you will likely want to see both attractions, as we did.Purchase a Tasmania Flexi Attractions multi-pass here, which allows you to choose three experiences to visit around Tasmania, with 3-months flexibility.
How Much Time Do you Need in Launceston?
As you can see from the list above, there are lots of activities and attractions to fill multiple days in Launceston. If you don’t have the luxury of time, choose the places that interest you the most, and save this itinerary for next time.
The above mentioned day trips of Beauty Point and Hollybank Wilderness Adventures are some of the most popular as you can easily visit these places, plus include other activities within your day. If you plan on staying more than three days in the Launceston area, the are other popular places to visit, which are full-day trips would be Cradle Mountain and Wineglass Bay at Freycinet National Park.
You May Also Like: The Ultimate Guide to Travelling Tasmania with Kids
How to Get to Launceston
Located 240 km’s south of the Australian mainland, Tasmania is separated by the famous Bass Strait, meaning the only way to access the state is via plane or boat.
FLY – The major airlines Virgin Australia, Jetstar, and Qantas offer regular flights into Launceston from all major airports. If you are travelling from northern states, you may be lucky to score a direct flight, but it is not uncommon to have at least one connecting stop on the trip. Flying is certainly the quicker option to reach the state of Tasmania; however, if you are wanting a different experience or require your vehicle, then the Spirit of Tasmania is the other alternative.
BOAT – The shallow and exposed Bass Strait is well known for its ‘unruly weather’ where the sea can be large and the currents irregular. The Spirit of Tasmania is a 28,000-tonne ferry that sails between Melbourne and Devonport (approx. a little over an hour from Launceston). There are many different fare types as 500 vehicles can be accommodated on the vessel along with accommodation as you can choose to sail by night. Find out more about this travel option with kids here.
If you are in Launceston and will need to hire a car, you can compare the top car rental companies with Rentalcars.com
Where to Eat in Launceston
One of our recommendations for a fabulous lunch would be at Cuccina Cafe in Launceston, 60 Margaret Street, Launceston..
From the outside, you may not realise this is a café, but that may be how the locals like it, keeping it all to themselves. It’s not a large Café, but this added to its atmosphere, and when we arrived just before lunch order ended, it was a hive of activity. The menu options were fabulous, with many choices on offer.
What Cuccina lacked in style, they made up for with their food. Their portion sizes were enormous, and their food was delicious. It is little wonder why they have great reviews.
Where to Stay in Launceston with Kids
There are ample hotels, apartments, and holiday rentals in Launceston, and finding the best accommodation for the family can be challenging.
I offer some options to help with your decision below.
Family Hotels in Launceston
If a motel, hotel, or self-contained apartment is your preferred style of accommodation, you can find the best deals for Launceston accommodation here.
The below are some popular suggestions for travelling with kids in Launceston
Peppers Silo | the very popular 5* hotel offers all the modern-day luxuries wrapped inside a historic building, while located within walking distance to many popular sights in Launceston.
Hotel Grand Chancellor Launceston | One of Launceston’s bestselling hotels due to its location in the city centre. Close to shopping areas, gardens, and the Queen Victoria Museum.
The Sebel Launceston | The 4* unique hotel is only a two-minute walk from the CBD and provides fully self-contained suites.
Best Western Plus Launceston | Close to restaurants and cafes, the 4.5* hotel offers comfortable accommodation in the heart of Launceston.
Family Apartments in Launceston
Another option for accommodation in Launceston is apartments. Apartments come with the bonus of multiple bedrooms, and kitchen facilities, which can be helpful if travelling with other people or children.
Find below a popular family-friendly apartment:
The Old Federal Coffee Palace | Located in the heart of Launceston, less than 1 km from Boags Brewery the apartment has two bedrooms, a full kitchen, a washing machine and two bathrooms.
Day Trips from Launceston
There are numerous day trips if you are using Launceston as a hub to explore the surrounding Tasmanian areas, including a road trip along the east coast to exploring the wild west. Some of the popular day trips are as follows:
- Bridestowe Lavender Estate
- Liffey Falls
- Wineglass Bay at Freycinet National Park
- Cradle Mountain
Tip: Day Tours to Cradle Mountain are top-rated, and tour groups are typically limited. Book in advance here so you don’t miss out!
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