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One of our favourite ways of discovering a new area is via tips from the locals.
Our behind the scenery campaign visit to Tasmania was all about finding the hidden spots the locals love.
There is only so much a guidebook can tell you, and usually, they are handy pieces of information on the must see attractions, which is great.
But, we love to dig a little deeper to get to the heart of a place.
Where are the locals going and why?
Recently we had a fabulous 4 day trip to Launceston and the surrounding region.
We had a couple of well-known places planned to visit, but the rest we were leaving to suggestions by the locals – which we know to be the best way to discover Tasmania.
Besides getting great tips, this is also a fantastic way to learn more about the local culture.
It’s a great delay to have and one of the reasons we fell in love with Tasmania – the people are so bloody nice! And they excel at local tips.
Here are the places to visit in Launceston as suggested by the locals:
The Cataract Gorge
We arrived in Launceston and went straight to the Cataract Gorge – a must see destination. (We’ll have a separate post for you on the Cataract coming soon). For this post though we want to focus on the other places to visit suggested by the locals.
Firstly, we want to introduce you to Michael and his wife, Sarah.
We were finishing up a delicious breakfast at the Basin Cafe and ready to do a gorge walk when we started chatting to this friendly couple. They have been living in Tasmania for a few years and had the following amazing tips:
The Tamar Island Wetlands Walk
Our friend Christina also recommended this quiet reserve only 10 minutes drive north of Launceston. We knew 7:30 am would be the perfect way to start the morning with a 3km return walk through the wetlands to Tamar Island.
It’s best to arrive at dawn or dusk when barely another soul can be seen. A boardwalk extends over swamps and crosses the river to two islets and then Tamar Island.
There is an abundance of bird life swooping amongst the reeds towering above your head; perched on the wooden bridges, flying off one by one as you approach; and playing in the rivers.
Josef Chromy Vineyard
“Without a doubt the best winery in Launceston” Michael cried. “The views are spectacular and the food and wine world-class.”
He was not wrong.
Josef Chromy Wines began in 2007 and in that short time it has amassed over 14 trophies and 170 medals which makes it one of the most successful launches in the history of the Tasmanian wine industry.
It also has gorgeous views over the lake and vineyards appreciated from either the outside deck of the restaurant, or from behind the full-length glass windows. I also really loved the wrap around verandah next to the gardens where you can have bar snacks or a glass of their finest.
The restaurant menu is intended to showcase the local Tasmanian produce. Our risotto with squid ink and salmon fish cakes washed down with a smooth pinot noir did just that.
The restaurant is smart and contemporary. It is a little on the pricey side, but if you are looking for an experience that is a little classier Chromy’s would be the place to go. They frequently have jazz on the lawn days as well.
The cellar door is located in the estates original 1880s homestead, surrounded by an expanse of established landscaped gardens making it an idyllic place to while away the hours.
Getting There: Josef Chromy Wines is located at 370 Relbia Road, Relbia, 10 minutes south of Launceston, not far from the airport.
We could not make the Sunday morning markets in Evandale – the home run event – but Michael and his wife’s enthusiasm for this “Best town in Launceston” convinced us to at least pass through for coffee and cake.
You arrive in Evandale and feel as if the clock has been wound back 100 years.
Evandale is a National Trust classified Georgian village. It’s unspoiled heritage buildings make it a popular place for tourists. Clarendon House, just outside of the village, is said to be one of Australia’s greatest Georgian houses.
We devoured a gluten-free rhubarb crumble at the Ingleside licensed bakery cafe located inside the old Council chambers built in 1867. There is a pretty courtyard bursting with flowers or, in the winter, a cozy roaring fire.
I wish we had more time to enjoy a cold beverage in the beer garden of the historic Clarendon Hotel. Next time!
Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe
When we asked our facebook fans prior to leaving for tips on things to see and do, quite a few of them recommended the Raspberry Farm Cafe and said we must go there. So we did and gorged ourselves on chocolate and raspberry mud cake, lemon tarts and scones.
Craig dared to try a raspberry latte and I had a refreshing raspberry and mint iced tea.
The stone and timber café overlooks lush green lawns running down to a lake filled with water lilies. The garden features native trees and a herb garden overlooking the raspberry canes in the distance.
Don’t forget to grab a choc dipped raspberry on your way out – they melt in your mouth, finished with a silky hit of raspberry.
Tips Discovered in the Tamar Valley
We were staying our first night in the Tamar Valley at Rosevears Retreat.
The Tamar Valley is a wine region only 10 minutes drive north of Launceston and is known (secretly) to be one of the best wine regions in Australia. The cool climate is perfect for producing high quality elegant wines.
Exploring the Tamar Valley was definitely the highlight of our Tasmanian trip.
Our guide book told us The Ninth Island Winery had extraordinary views, and as it was the first winery we came to on the drive out from Launceston we decided to pull in.
Meeting Jeremy from the Ninth Island Winery
The guidebook was not wrong about the achingly beautiful views. The vineyard caught a cool breeze from the river; exactly what we needed on this rare hot day. The breeze also cools down the grapes helping to percol their sweetness.
It was perfect for wine tasting and for a lively conversation with Jeremy, our wine connoisseur. He loves to make up words like percol, and give strange palate cleansing tips such as put a grape in your tea or coffee and then eat it once the drink has finished for a taste explosion.
As you can tell Jeremy was great fun.
He brought us a range of wines to taste from Ninth Island and Pipers Brook, a winery further north owned by the same people. Jeremy helped us to distinguish the taste differences and why they were like that. After much discussion, we decided to purchase a bottle of the pinot gris to bring home.
Jeremy convinced us – despite being full – that the Ilk Cafe down the road had to be our next stop for a bite to eat.
“One of the best cafes in the region,” he declared. “The chef, Sam has moved with the times and creates amazing dishes.”
Ilk Cafe and Gallery
OMG. The best bruschetta ever!
We would never have stopped at the Ilk Cafe if it wasn’t for Jeremy.
The waitress, Stephanie, was friendly and accommodating and when we told her Jeremy had sent us, she grinned broadly and said, “He’s my husband!”
The bruschetta, topped with roasted capsicum, pine nuts, grilled halloumi and smoked ocean trout was an explosion of flavours – very modern, healthy and made from fresh local produce.
The small cafe sits opposite the river on Rosevears Drive. You can sit outside and soak up the views or enjoy the homely interior.
It was time for more wine so of course we asked Stephanie for more tips. She sent us to her favourite winery just down the road, Moores Hill.
We arrived to Moores Hill before closing time with minutes to spare for tasting. I’m so glad we could fit it in with the lovely owner, Fiona.
Originally from Adelaide, Fiona and Lance, her wine-making husband, decided to relocate to Tassie to produce excellent slow growing wines.
The winemakers believe in small batch winemaking as a way of maximising complexity in the wines, allowing the vineyard to fully express itself.
You can see the expression in their signature label, commissioned by an artist.
I also tasted it in their lightly oaked Chardonnay. It’s brought me back to my long lost love. It’s creamy, lemony taste gave it a fresh uniqueness that rolled and soothed the taste buds.
We took a bottle of that one home to enjoy from the verandah of our eco-retreat cabin, along with Tasmanian cheese, olives, dips and eggplant balls.
Oh, and the cows singing in the fields just behind the vines added to the Tamar Valley serenity.
Fiona gave us the remainder of the bottle to their dessert Riesling to take home. Just enough for two glasses to wash the chocolate down with.
She also gave us a couple of hot tips for the following day as we were leaving. We of course had to follow them.
Press play to hear why Fiona thinks you should visit Tasmania:
Saturday Harvest Market, Launceston
We find it difficult to resist a good farmer’s market.
It’s a great way to eat well, help the local economy, and save money. This was a small one in the car park on Cimitiere St in the centre of the city.
The produce was fresh, local and cheap. Blueberries were the market superstars, with buckets overflowing from every second stall. We devoured some raw energy chocolate balls from the Vegan stall and tried wallaby for the first time. It is delicate and delicious.
And guess who we saw wandering around the markets – Fiona! We were quickly becoming locals.
Fresh Cafe, Launceston
Fiona also recommended Fresh as a great cafe for vegetarian fare. The markets made us hungry so we headed to Fresh on Charles St for breakfast.
Fresh has grown since its opening in 1999. From a five table cafe to now including a restaurant, sundeck, and bar & entertainment venue.
It’s the place all cafe bummers, musicians and writers aspire to be seen in.
It checks off the terms cool, retro, bohemian and funky, a place most typically found on Degraves St in Melbourne.
Craig went for the full veggie breakfast and I had a baked egg with chilli beans. Hearty and delicious and bursting with flavour.
John Temple Gallery
We were driving through the historic towns of the Great Western Tier on the way to Sheffield when our Tourism Tasmania guide sent us a text.
“In Westbury is the John Temple Gallery. Feel free to stop there, he is one of the best photographers in Tasmania.”
We decided to stop in the gallery situated in this historical English village.
The John Temple Gallery is a brochure for Tasmania. Come here and your list of must see places will have a growth explosion. John’s panoramic photos showcase the stunning natural landscape of the state with a couple of other global landscape stunners like Monument Valley thrown in.
I was embarrassed to be wearing our camera around my neck. I just hoped he didn’t want to look at my portfolio of overexposed shots.
John shoots on slide film, without filters, and doesn’t even take many photos.
“I just wait until the lighting is right.”
He told us digital has about another 20 years before it can ever compete with slide film. Wow!
Again our planned itinerary was cut short as we chose to continue our interesting chat with John. He told us more about his life as a photographer and the local area.
As we stood chatting an unassuming lady got out of her ordinary looking 4WD and walked into the local butchers across the road.
“See that lady there. She was the person who developed the Frequent Flyer concept.”
“Oh yes. There are some fascinating people around here.”
I was not surprised.
In less than 24 hours we had already met a diverse bunch of locals. They certainly made our first Tassie experience so enriching.
Which one of these places in Launceston would you love to visit?
Do you love to travel via tips from locals–what’s been your best experience?
Disclaimer: We travelled to Tasmania as part of Tourism Tasmania’s Behind the Scenery Campaign.