When people consider a short break or holiday adventure for two to three days, many would consider the destination to be within a three-hour car journey. So imagine having a short break in a large city and your holiday was less than a two-hour flight away. Recently my family of four flew Sydney to Launceston for a driving holiday of Tasmania. We spent two nights in Launceston and I realised it is possible to have an enjoyable weekend escape to Launceston (or Launnie, as the locals call it) and surrounding areas and be back in Sydney for work and return the kiddies to school.
On the Saturday morning, we flew into Launceston Airport. We had pre-arranged and paid for our hire car so we just had to collect the car and drive to our accommodation. Many car hire companies give discounts to those who are members of the NRMA or other motoring associations. We drove 15 minutes north of Launceston to a wonderful place called Grindelwald, in the wine growing district of the Tamar Valley. Our Stayz
accommodation had been pre-booked and paid. When we arrived, we were astonished at the size of the residence. In the downstairs area, there was an open plan kitchen and dining room with an adjacent TV room plus three bedrooms, one with an ensuite and a separate bathroom. Upstairs was a large parents retreat which included a main bedroom with an ensuite and a comfy living area. This fabulous place would be our base for two nights. The accommodation was $204 per night which was great value for a family to have space, chill out in front of the TV and discover the delights of Northern Tasmania.
We had the afternoon to explore the surrounding area and drove 20 minutes to Cataract Gorge
. We wandered the stunning gardens where peacocks reside and rock wallabies were discovered among the lush scenery.
We strolled along the suspension bridge, first built in 1904, around a track that led to the chairlift, which is the longest single span chairlift (308 metres) in the world.
My daughter and I plonked onto two chairs and whoosh, off we set higher and higher. It was a fit of stupidity on my part as I have an aversion to anything that my legs dangle over, particularly when there is a long drop into the water coursing beneath. My daughter spoke gently to me, attempting to calm her anxious parent while I tried to recall all those prenatal breathing classes that seemed a lifetime ago. As I hung tightly to the metal pole across my stomach, I steadily lowered my eyes from heavenward and began to appreciate the spectacular view crossing the gorge. To truly absorb this panorama, set aside at least 90 minutes to wander and enjoy Cataract Gorge.
The next day we drove to the Swiss Village at Grindelwald, just around the corner from our place. The Swiss-style village built in the 1980's, was a dream of Roelf Voss, who styled the village on towns he visited in Switzerland. There is Swiss-style accommodation located within this village. The village has a variety of shops including a gift shop, a chocolate cafe and bakery plus a bistro for breakfast, lunch or dinner. There is a golf course and a big jumping pillow plus a huge assortment of other activities. The picturesque lake is relaxing to watch the ducks and swans enjoy paddling in the water. There is no charge for visitors who drop in for the day. Check their website
for more details.
After the Swiss village, we drove 15 minutes north to Beaconsfield to visit the Mine and Heritage Centre
. This museum should not be overlooked when visiting Northern Tasmania, which recreates the tense fourteen days of the mine rescue ten years ago. It is an interactive experience detailing the remarkable story of the rescue of miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb. The museum has a large outdoor area exhibiting machinery used by miners in past times and the remains of the Beaconsfield mine before it was closed. Allow at least 90 minutes to visit this memorial to human bravery and resilience.
After Beaconsfield, we drove 10 minutes north to Beauty Point to view Australia's most unique mammal, the platypus. We visited Platypus House
late in the afternoon and were fortunate that our 3 pm tour, the last one for the day, consisted of only seven of us, compared to 15 visitors on the previous tour. We viewed the platypus through glass and watched in awe as they glided through the water, hid under logs then unexpectedly popped out in another part of their pool. There were smiles all round at these delightful creatures.
From one egg-laying mammal to the next, we were greeted in another room by three extremely cute echidnas. Our tour guide suggested we sit on the floor and three small plates of food were laid on the ground. The echidnas' swift tongues lapped up the food, then they swaggered towards us, sniffing around before lumbering back to the hollow in the log where the three of them settled in together. This 45-minute tour was an experience we will always remember. Next door to Platypus House is Seahorse World
which tourists can also visit.
From Beauty Point, we drove 10 minutes further north to Low Head
to visit the oldest continuously operated pilot station in Australia and the Low Head lighthouse, an area that dates back to 1805. It was windy and cold but well worth getting out of the car to look out over the spectacular and choppy seas of Bass Strait. Each evening there are penguin tours
from Low Head and you may just see the cute Fairy Penguins emerge from the sea.
From Low Head, we drove 40 minutes back to Launceston for our restaurant booking that night. It was an anniversary so we chose carefully for a special dinner. Larceny Restaurant
in the Clarion Hotel City Park Grand was superb in every way. Our dinner was extraordinary and the service was impeccable. We leisurely drove through Launceston at night admiring the landmarks lit up. Launceston possesses some beautiful historic buildings. The Town Hall, the Post Office, St. John's Church, Macquarie House and more. There is so much more to do in Launceston such as a guided tour of the James Boag's Brewery, visit the vineyards of the Tamar Valley, enjoy the beautiful scenic drives in the area. It was surprising that we could see so much in such a short time. Consider Launnie as your next short stay driving holiday.