Upsteam of the First Basin is the Alexandra Suspension Bridge. If you are feeling a little adventurous, cross the Gorge on what is known locally as "the swinging bridge"! This masterful piece of 19th century engineering was opened in 1904. It was washed away by the Great Flood of 1929 but restored a few years later. The bridge was named after Queen Alexandra, consort to King Edward VII. Crossing it will provide you with fine views on both sides of the gorge. From near the bridge, you can make your way up to either the Alexandra Lookout or the Cataract Lookout for a birdeye's view.
For those still keen to walk on, it is possible to continue on walking tracks to reach the Second Basin further up in the gorge, as well as Duck Reach. 45 minutes each way. (Duck Reach is the site of the first municipal hydroelectric power station in Australia and had provided power from 1895 to 1955)
I did not do this section.
J Boag and Son has been brewing on the banks of the Esk River since 1881. Since then, the technology and equipment has changed - gleaming stainless steel dominates now - but the pride and craftsmanship has remained the same as it was 100 years ago.
During a tour of this independent brewery you will see all the processes that produce the amber liquid and have the opportunity to taste the beers that constantly win gold at the Australian International Beer Awards & you can have a Free taste at the end of the tour.
Tours of one and a half hours duration are conducted at 9.00am 11.00am 2.00pm Monday to Thursday and 9.00am and 11.00am Friday. Adults $16, Concession & Children $12. Bookings are essential. The maximum number of people on the tour is 14. Due to steep stairs the tour is not recommended for people with walking aids. Fully enclosed footwear must be worn on the tour. Children under 10 years of age are not permitted on the tour.
If you are ever in Launceston, try to catch a night tour of Low Head Peninsula for the Fairy Penguin Sightings Tour (during 2001, this was A$35). Just fantastic! Compared to Philip Island (Melbourne) and its mass commercialism, this is very scaled back, rough edge affair. You actually follow the guide as they themselves follow the penguins back to their burrows. No barriers, no side lamps along the trail and you only have your own tour group as companions. (Guides used red lamps, which do not hurt the eyes of the penguins) At one point as you climbed up a little hilllet, you may get (if the skies are clear) a sea of stars above your head, and just off the little corner of the peninsula, a lighthouse sweeping its ray across the bay. Pretty romantic spot too! Come ready packed for the cold, as it can really get chilly. Doubt it's an experience anyone would forget.
My mom and I quite enjoyed the lovely views of Cataract Gorge that we saw while riding the chairlift over the gorge. It opens every day at 9am (except Christmas) and costs $7.50 per adult for a return trip. The photo on my main Launceston page is a view from the chairlift. It might be a bit scary for any afraid of heights, but was a great trip for us!
A history of the lift from their website:
'In 1972, a magnificent chairlift was built spanning the huge natural basin filled by the surging waters of the South Esk River. The chairlift is unique as it contains in its length, the longest single chairlift span in the world, some 308 metres and the views gained from the ride across are completely breathtaking. The chairlift covers some 457 metres. The central span of 308 metres is believed to be the longest single chairlift span in the world. Seating is designed for complete safety and includes a safety bar which can be operated by either the passenger or attendant. The slow speed of the chairlift enables passengers to appreciate fully and photograph the spectacular views of this ancient rock gorge..."
The chairlift connecting the two sides of the Gorge is the longest single span in the world. We were ther in winter so there wasnt much of a view and the chairlift was not in operation.
If chairlifts aren't your style, you can opt for the suspension bridge, pausing in the middle to watch the rapids and take a picture.
The bridge marks the end of the Tamar River and the start of the South Esk River running through Cataract Gorge.
Kings Bridge was floated into place in 1867. It is a timber structure with typically 1940's white railing, and a steel girder railway bridge on a higher level.
From here, it is just a simply walk across the bridge to enter Cataract Gorge.
Entry into the reserve is free.
Opened 7 days a week.
Starting from Kings Bridge, if you choose to take the Cataract Walk first (one of the 2 main walks in and out of the reserve on either side of the gorge), it will lead you into the First Basin, which is filled with water from the South Esk River. This northern trail is the easier of the 2 trails. (It took local residents 8 years to hack the path through the cliffs) This walk will take you about 30 minutes.
Along the journey, you will enjoy great stunning views of the high-rising cliffs. The very first thing you will come across will be the Caretaker's Cottage (see attached photo). There are pavilions along the way if you want to take a rest.
The First Basin is the first place you can take a plunge into the water but be-warned: It can be very cold. Most folks will go to the concrete pools instead but that have not stopped kids and adolescents from cannon-balling into the waters below!
This is where most folks will end up in - the pool! I was in the Gorge on a Sunday. The city itself was as dead as a catacomb and wham! we ran into the entire populace of Launceston here.
The landscape around the Basin features picnic spots, a restaurant, cafes, souvenir shops and surprise, surprise, peacocks!! I thought I was dreaming to see them here in the Gorge.
There is a carpark here as well for folks who do not wish to enter the reserve via walking. It has been advised that you could enter the carpark from the city by following York Street, Hillside Crescent, Broughham Street and then Basin Road. Parking fees apply.
There is a Chair lift here which crosses the basin in about 6 minutes. Imagine yourself walking on air for A$5 adults (circa 2001) There is also a concrete causeway for crossing the river. It's closed during flooding.
This is the other track in-and-out of the reserve. This southern trail has some steep climbs as it passes along the top of the cliffs and so is the more difficult of the 2. The journey takes 60-90 minutes to complete but you are handsomely rewarded with great views of the city of Launceston as well as that of the Tamar River.
I bet a lot of you didn't know that we had the town of Grindelwald in Tasmania, Australia.
The pretty village of Grindelwald was established in the 1980s as a unique residential development.
All houses were built in Swiss style, with wide eaves, flowerboxes, window shutters and balconies, nice gardens, lawns, lakes and views of the Tamar Valley.
The Swiss-themed Tamar Valley Resort and Grand Chateau Hotel have accommodation.
We wandered around the lovely shopping arcade where there was craft and gift shops, I found some different gifts here to take home.
We had a good lunch at the cafe, there is a bakery or you could eat at the lakeside Alpenrose restaurant and lounge bar.
Grindelwald is a 15-minute drive north of Launceston, and we thought a very beautiful place, in a beautiful setting, all kept spick & span!
I do have to qualify this tip... I myself did not do this "Things to Do". I am pretty much afraid of heights (open air ones), so the most I can do is report what Sarah and her mother did!
The Cataract Gorge Chairlift is the longest single span chairlift in the world, spanning 308m, a little over 900 ft. The lift offers a wonderful view of the Gorge, Suspension Bridge, and the Esk River.
I wish I could tell you about how beautiful the span actually is... but for more information, email Sarah!
This place is a world first, one of my top ‘must sees’ for Tasmania. Viewing is by tour only (no cameras allowed).
You get to see thousands upon thousands of seahorses in various stages of development - from minute 1 cm strands of only a few days old, to half grown.
There are 35 different species of Seahorse worldwide, with 15 found in Australia. They can grow up to 30 cms in length.
We saw several different kinds. My favourite ones were the highly attractive weedy sea dragon and the Barbour’s seahorses (the latter are from the Phillipines). Barbour’s seahorses over several months can change colour to adapt to their surroundings - I saw bright red ones, orange, and yellow, all in the same tank.
Grindelwald is a small stylised swiss village and 4 star conference and motel resort centre. It’s one of my VERY favourite places in Tasmania (you can see from my travelogue) though it’s not to everyone’s liking (some think it’s too touristy or kitsch)
Of course I’d prefer to see the real Switzerland again, but I can’t travel so far away right now, so I settled happily for the atmosphere and happiness that this small town always gives me, and the memories it brings to mind of Europe.
There’s a large conference centre with all swiss mountain style 2 storey wooden Chalets sourrounding it, a nice lake, a golf course and mini golf, beautifully glassed in indoor pool and spa, Bakery with some swiss treats, souvenir shop and a couple of other little swiss shops.
Opposite the resort are residential swiss houses and also spaced out further in the countryside.
(Town planning dictates that every house in Grindelwald must be Swiss style. I believe it was originally designed by a swiss developer)
Heading up the Tamar Valley, about 18ks, you reach the tiny town of Rosevears.
North of the Rosevears Tavern is the signposted road to Brady's lookout.
The Rocky outcrop was used by the Bushranger "Matthew Brady" to pick out his victims on the road below. It has beautiful views of the River Tamar, Picnic facilities and toilets.
A MUST STOP!
Heading further on our drive up the Tamar Valley, we come to Beaconsfield, which is located 40ks from Launceston. This is a gold mining town, gold was discovered in 1969. In 1881 it was regarded as the richest town in Tasmania. At its peak 53 companies worked the goldmines. The last mine closed in 1914, but with advanced technology, in the 1990's mining began again. On display here is an old shop, with old products in it, and a miners cottage. Beaconsfield has become quite well known today, because of the 3 miners being trapped underground in 2006. Two survived, and one died. It took 9 days of hard work to free them.