7 weekend adventures: Launceston

By Aaron Smith 8 November 2013
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Your ultimate guide to getting outdoors in Tasmania.

1. Ben Lomond National Park
Distance from Launceston: 60 min / 60 km / SE
Activity: Skiing, rockclimbing, mountain biking, hiking
The Drawcard: This park not only boasts the state’s second highest point, Legges Tor, but it’s also an adventure-sports haven. There’s great rockclimbing, mountain biking, alpine treks as well as cross-country and downhill skiing. However, the downhill slopes are more a family affair than hardcore powder cutting. As Tassie’s major ski resort, it will cater for the needs of the most discerning ski bunny with the alpine village located at the base of the lift. The snow season kicks off in July and runs until the end of September. Remember the wheel chains to drive up the hairpin bends known as Jacobs Ladder.
Fuel stop: The Black Cow Bistro in Evandale is a good spot to stop and have a graze.

2. Bay of Fires
Distance from Launceston: 2 hr 10 min / 159 km / E
Activity: Diving/snorkelling
The Drawcard: The Bay of Fires was rated in 2009 by travel publications as the most beautiful beach in the world. With its 29 km of white sand, orange lichen-encrusted granite boulders and azure waters – it’s hard to argue, and really why would you bother. If you can muster up the energy to get out of the hammock, snorkelling and diving can be found here. The granite boulders have created some amazing tunnels and swim-throughs. There are also kelp forests, sponges, sea dragons, crayfish, abalone and pods of dolphins. Get here between October and November and maybe you’ll even spot a migrating humpback whale.
Fuelstop: Tank up at the award-winning Angasi Bistro in nearby Binalong Bay.

3. Hillwood
Distance from Launceston: 30 min / 28.5 km / NW
Activity: Rockclimbing
The Drawcard: There’s literally hundreds of world-class rockclimbing sites less than two hours drive out of Launceston, and for those in the know Hillwood is one of the best. On 25 different crags there’s 145 bolted routes graded from 15 to 28. However as the site is on private property, newbies to the area must call Gerry Narkowicz on 0428 505 259 before tackling any of the climbs.
Fuelstop: Sitting in the heart of the Tamar Valley wine route, why not take the slow road home. The nearby Leaning Church Winery puts on a good, reasonably priced, spread.

4. North Esk River – White Hills to Corra Linn
Distance from Launceston: 20 min / 14 km / SE
Activity: Canoeing, whitewater rafting
The Drawcard: There are several good runs on the Esk River, but this is a nice quickie close to Launceston. Despite the low 10 m/km gradient, this 6 km run will still give a good adrenaline fix for intermediate paddlers. Graded at 3–4, it will take 1–3 hours depending on water levels – they are highest in winter (so bring a wettie). Horseshoe Falls in the gorge is a fun 2 m drop that’s followed by a chunky stopper. Jump in at White Hills; there’s a short road down to the North Esk from the Blessington Road (C401). Jump out about a kilometre past the Corra Linn Bridge.
Fuelstop: From Corra Linn, it’s a 15-minute drive to your pick of pitstops in Launceston.

5. Cataract Gorge Reserve
Distance from Launceston: 6 min / 2 km / W
Activity: Abseiling, rockclimbing
The Drawcard: As Tasmania’s most concentrated rockclimbing and abseiling location with more than 850 climbing routes, Cataract Gorge is unique in being only 15 minutes walk from the city centre. There are stacks of crack and face climbes on good quality dolerite, although most of them are short climbs. Park at the Penny Royal, then head up the Zig-Zag Track – it starts at the south side of Kings Bridge.
Fuelstop: There’s plenty to choose from in Launceston, but try the Dockside Cafe and Wine Bar, which is in the scenic Old Launceston Seaport.

6. Mole Creek Karst National Park
Distance from Launceston: 1 hr / 74 km / W
Activity: Caving
The Drawcard: To get off the concrete causeway of Mole Creek’s tourist caves and into more wild (sub) terrain, you really need a professional guide, or go with the local caving club. There are more than 300 known caves and sinkholes in the park and they tend to be wet and cold (5–10°C). With many typical karst features like gorges, underground streams and springs, expect to be wading, climbing and wedging yourself through tight spaces. Bring thermals, good boots, hardhat and a torch. The caving routes are rated easy to moderate.
Fuelstop: The Empire Hotel in Deloraine does good pub grub as well as a great Thai menu.

7. Narawntapu National Park (formerly the Asbestos Range National Park)
Distance from Launceston: 1hr / 59 km / NW
Activity: Bushwalking
The Drawcard: With beaches, dunes, lagoons, wetlands and a series of small islands in and round the various inlets, this is a great spot for bird watching and fishing. There are camp sites, a horse-riding trail and a spot to water ski, and various day walks ranging from 2–9 hours. For a great view try the Point Vision Track, a 6–8 hour circuit that skirts Mt Asbestos to a 370 m summit.
Fuelstop: There are no shops in the park, so stock up at the Jubilee Bakery in Beaconsfield.