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Launceston in Motion: A Van-Odyssey Through Culture, Cuisine, Nature and Camping

Updated: Dec 19, 2023

Welcome to Launceston, a picturesque town nestled in the heart of Tasmania, where history, gastronomy, culture, and natural beauty converge to create an unforgettable travel experience. From its colonial architecture to the breathtaking landscapes, Launceston offers a perfect blend of old-world charm and modern delights. Join me on a journey through this hidden gem as we uncover the captivating attractions that make Launceston a must-visit destination.

Alexandra Suspension bridge, Cataract Gorge Reserve with a women crossing it
Credit: Emilie Ristevski

Historic Charm

Launceston, Tasmania's second-largest city, boasts a history as colorful and diverse as the stunning landscapes that surround it. Founded in 1806, as a critical colonial outpost, Launceston played a pivotal role in the development of Tasmania, serving as a hub for settlers, traders, and explorers navigating the southern seas. Throughout the 19th century, Launceston flourished as a bustling port town, facilitating the transportation of goods and passengers to and from Tasmania. The city's historic architecture reflects its colonial past, with well-preserved Georgian and Victorian buildings lining the streets.

Launceston Chalmers' Chrurch built in 1859
Chalmers Chrurch - Credit: Tourism Australia

Over the years, Launceston has evolved into a vibrant cultural and economic center while retaining its distinct historical charm. Today, visitors can explore landmarks such as Franklin House and the Old Umbrella Shop, each telling tales of the town's rich past and contributing to the unique character that defines Launceston.. Wander through the streets lined with elegant Victorian and Georgian architecture, and feel the echoes of the past as you explore the city's landmarks.

Culinary Delights

Fork n Farm Homestead food grazing board
Credit: Tourism Australia

Launceston has firmly established itself as a culinary haven, boasting a diverse, and delectable food scene that celebrates the abundance of fresh, local produce Tasmania is renowned for.

The city's farmers' markets, such as the Harvest Launceston Community Farmers' Market, offer a vibrant showcase of the region's bounty. From farm-fresh fruits and vegetables to artisanal cheeses, bread, and handcrafted goodies, these markets provide a direct connection between producers and consumers, creating a culinary experience that's both authentic and flavorful. It's a great place to meet locals on a weekend too.

When it comes to dining, Launceston doesn't disappoint. The city is home to a myriad of restaurants that showcase the best of Tasmanian ingredients, often with a creative and contemporary twist.

Whether you're indulging in seafood plucked from the pristine waters surrounding the island, savoring dishes featuring the renowned Tasmanian beef, or delighting in the flavors of local cheeses and cool-climate wines, Launceston's culinary offerings are a true reflection of the region's commitment to quality and sustainability. With an ever-growing list of dining establishments, from cozy cafes to fine-dining establishments, Launceston invites food enthusiasts to embark on a gastronomic journey that is as diverse as it is delicious.

Harvest Market Launceston happening every Satursday morning in Tasmania
Launceston Harvest Market - Credit: Tourism Australia

In 2021, Launceston earned the distinguished honor of being designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, placing it among the exclusive ranks of only 36 cities worldwide bestowed with this title. This recognition, announced by UNESCO. The designation acknowledges the distinctive paddock-to-plate culture of northern Tasmania and underscores Launceston's pivotal role as the epicenter of the region's gourmet offerings. Andrew Pitt, Chair of the Creative Cities Steering Group, anticipates that the City of Gastronomy status will soon become synonymous with the identity of Launceston and northern Tasmania, both nationally and on the global stage.

Natural Wonders

Launceston's natural wonders beckon adventurers with their breathtaking beauty, and what better way to embark on a journey of discovery than in the comfort of a van? The iconic Cataract Gorge, just a stone's throw from the city center, serves as a gateway to nature's marvels. As you wind your way through the Tamar Valley in your trusty van, the lush landscapes unfurl before you like a living tapestry. Rolling hills, vineyards, and the Tamar River provide a scenic backdrop, setting the stage for an unforgettable road trip adventure.

aerial photo of Cataract Gorge looking towards Kings Bridge
Cataract Gorge

Venturing further, a campervan becomes a mobile haven for exploration as you chase the horizon to places like Freycinet National Park, Bay of Fires, and Mount William National Park. Picture parking yourself amidst the vibrant orange lichen-covered boulders of the Bay of Fires, or waking up to the sunrise casting its golden glow over the white sand beaches of Freycinet. Get yourself a front-row seat to Tasmania's natural wonders, allowing you to immerse fully in the rugged beauty of the landscapes while retaining the freedom to roam at your own pace. Whether it's the ancient rainforests, crystal-clear lakes, or coastal wonders, Launceston's natural treasures are best experienced from a driver's seat, where every twist and turn reveals a new chapter in Tasmania's scenic narrative.

Cataract Gorge Scenic Chairlift on a sunny day in launceston with two people riding it
Cataract Gorge Chairlift - Credit: Tourism Australia

Art and Culture

Launceston's arts and culture scene is a vibrant tapestry woven with creativity, history, and contemporary expression. The city proudly showcases its cultural richness through institutions like the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. Nestled within historic precincts, the museum unfolds Tasmania's narrative through a diverse array of exhibits, from indigenous art to colonial artifacts, providing visitors with a captivating journey through the island's cultural evolution. Launceston's commitment to fostering artistic talent extends beyond museums, with a burgeoning community of local galleries and studios. These spaces serve as incubators for creativity, where artists push boundaries, and contribute to the dynamic cultural landscape of the city.

Junction Arts Festival happening every spring in Launceston
Junction Arts Festival - Credit: Lusy Productions

Beyond traditional art forms, Launceston's cultural flair is also evident in its festivals and events that celebrate the spirit of the community. In spring, the Junction Arts Festival, for instance, transforms the city into a vibrant stage, showcasing performances that range from cutting-edge theater to contemporary dance. The city's commitment to cultural inclusivity is a testament to its forward-thinking ethos, inviting both locals and visitors to partake in a cultural odyssey that transcends time and tradition. Launceston, with its blend of historical appreciation and contemporary expression, beckons art enthusiasts to explore a world where every brushstroke and every performance contributes to the rich tapestry of Tasmania's cultural identity.

Outdoor Adventures

Hollybank Treetop Adventure near Launceston
Credit: Tourism Australia

For those with a penchant for adrenaline, Launceston's Hollybank Treetops Adventure takes outdoor activities to new heights. Ziplining through the forest canopy, participants experience an exhilarating journey that combines the rush of adventure with the breathtaking scenery of the Tamar Valley. Additionally, hot air balloon rides provide a unique perspective, allowing adventurers to soar above the city and its picturesque surroundings.

Hot Air Balloon Tasmania, near Launceston
Credit: Tourism Australia

Whether it's navigating the scenic trails, zipping through the treetops, or floating gracefully above, Launceston's outdoor activities promise an immersive experience that showcases the region's natural wonders in all their awe-inspiring glory.

Getting around, the smart way

Embarking on a van-driven exploration of Launceston offers a dynamic and flexible journey, seamlessly combining the city's must-do experiences. From the historic charm of Franklin House and the Old Umbrella Shop to the vibrant arts and culture scene at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, a van serves as the perfect mode of transportation, allowing you to effortlessly navigate between these diverse cultural gems. The van not only provides convenience but becomes a mobile haven for gastronomic adventures, ferrying you to the local farmers' markets and esteemed restaurants that showcase Tasmania's freshest produce.

"Our favorite van to explore Launceston is lutruwita"

As you venture into Launceston's natural wonders, the van transforms into a gateway to scenic landscapes, offering a front-row seat to the picturesque Tamar Valley, the iconic Cataract Gorge, and the untamed beauty of Freycinet National Park. Whether chasing sunrises on the Bay of Fires or embracing the adrenaline rush of outdoor activities at Hollybank Treetops Adventure, the van emerges as a versatile companion, turning each twist and turn of the journey into an opportunity for discovery and delight. In Launceston, a van isn't just a vehicle; it's the key to unlocking the city's multifaceted treasures, ensuring that every aspect of your adventure is as seamless and unforgettable as the destination itself.

Launceston, with its blend of history, culinary delights, natural wonders, and cultural treasures, is a destination that captures the hearts of all who visit. Whether you're strolling through the historic streets, savoring local flavors, or exploring the great outdoors, Launceston invites you to embark on a journey of discovery. Pack your bags and prepare to be enchanted by the allure of this Tasmanian gem.

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