When most people think of Tasmania, instantly they think Hobart. But not to be forgotten is Launceston. A city in the north of Tasmania, Australia at the junction of the North Esk and South Esk rivers where they become the Tamar River. It is the only inland city in Tasmania. Settled by Europeans in March 1806, Launceston is one of Australia’s oldest cities and is home to many historic buildings. Like many Australian places, it was named after a town in the United Kingdom – in this case,Launceston, Cornwall. Launceston has also been home to several firsts such as the first use of anaesthetic in the Southern Hemisphere, the first Australian city to have underground sewers and the first Australian city to be lit by hydroelectricity.
A must see tourist attraction while visiting Launceston is Boags Brewery. Founded in 1883 by James Boag and his son, also named James. James Boag I arrived in Australia with his wife, Janet, and their four children in 1853. After three months in the Victorian goldfields, they came to Tasmania. After he and his son James Boag II left the Cornwall Brewery in 1878, James II went into partnership with John Glenwright at the Cataract Brewery an James I became the licensee of the All Year Round Hotel. In 1881, the Esk Brewery was established on the banks of the North Esk River in Launceston by Charles Stammers Button. John Fawns died, and James Boag III was born. In 1883, James I and his son took over the Esk Brewery. J. Boag & Son was officially formed in 1883, as the partnership between James Boag I and his son, to operate the brewery. The company’s initial output was seven hogsheads of beer weekly. The name ‘Esk Brewery’ was retained, although ‘Boag’s Brewery’ became a frequent reference.
In 1887, James Boag II began management of the company on the retirement of his father. A new malthouse was built and weekly production had increased to more than 500 hogsheads, with the brewery employing a 30 members of staff. In 1898, J. Boag & Son purchased the Cornwall Brewery and amalgamated it with the Esk Brewery; James Boag I died in 1890. James Boag II died in 1919 and was succeeded by James Boag III who had been training at Tooth and Co.’s brewery in Sydney.
In 1924, James Boag III retired temporarily from the company, and returned in 1930 as Managing Director, a position he held until his death in 1944. His obituary in the Examiner reported: “Having been closely connected with business and sporting activities, Mr Boag was known and respected by a wide circle of friends. At the time of his death, he was Managing Director of J. Boag & Son Limited and a Director of Tasmanian Breweries Pty Limited.
George Boag, James III’s second son, took over James’ seat on the Board; he was the last Boag working in the business, retiring in 1976 after the death of his wife.
Tours are held at the Brewery 7 days a week, and are a real insight in to the production of one of Australia’s favourite beers.
Another wonderful attraction that Launceston has to offer is Cataract Gorge found at the lower section of the South Esk River and only approximately 1.5 km from the city centre,
The earliest known European visitor to the site was William Collins, who discovered its entrance in 1804. A pathway, known as the King’s Bridge-Cataract Walk, and originally built by volunteers in the 1890s, runs along the north bank of the Cataract Gorge, and is a popular tourist destination. The original toll house at which pedestrians had to pay to enter the walk can still be seen near King’s Bridge on the northern edge of the gorge.
A chairlift is the longest single-span chairlift in the world, with the longest span being 308 m. The chairlift, built in 1972, has a total span of 457 m. Before the Trevallyn Dam was built upstream in the 1950s, flood waters could rise up as high as 12 metres. In the past, there was a power station at Duck Reach, about 2.5 kilometres from a suspension bridge which was built in 1940. It was washed away in the floods of 1929, rebuilt and then decommissioned when the Trevallyn Dam was finished in 1955. The building is now an interpretive museum.
The First Basin on the southern side features a swimming pool, chairlift, two cafés, a funicular railway and an open area surrounded by bushland. At the bottom of the funicular railways is a small cottage which contains photographs and paintings of the basin and downriver Gorge. The basin itself has created many of myths about its depth: some locals say it is a bottomless pit; a volcanic plug; or that a submarine sent in to find its bottom during the 1960s ran out cable before accomplishing this feat. Measurements in 2011 found the maximum depth is 19 metres.
The northern side, named the Cliff Grounds, is a landscaped Victorian garden containing ferns and exotic plants. It is now provided with facilities for visitors. Further upstream is the historic Duck Reach Power Station, now an Interpretation Centre. The Launceston City Council originally commissioned the Power Station in 1893, making it the largest hydro-electric scheme of its day. By 1895 it was lighting the city.
Other activities include boat cruise through the accessible section of river, cable hang gliding experience that soars for 200 metres from a cliff top and rock climbing. Prior to the development of the Trevallyn Dam there were two lesser basins upstream of the “First Basin”. At the lower end of the gorge, the South Esk spills into the Tamar River going under King’s Bridge and another more modern bridge on the way. The King’s Bridge was the only bridge leading north out of the city for nearly 100 years.
Another spot worth a visit while in Launceston is Josef Chromy Wines. The Cellar Door, Vineyard and Winery is located at Relbia, a fifteen minute drive south of Launceston. The Cellar Door is located in the estates original 1880s homestead, surrounded by an expanse of established landscaped gardens. On arrival the open log fire welcomes you and the views from the surrounding vineyards and lakes provide an idyllic location to relax and enjoy our variety of estate grown wines.
Josef Chromy OAM has been instrumental to the Tasmanian food and wine industry, having owned and developed some of Tasmania’s leading wineries including Rochecombe (now Bay of Fires), Jansz, Heemskerk and Tamar Ridge.
Make sure if you visit Launceston you take some time out at Seaport to relax, and watch the sunset over the water just like we did! A perfect end to a lovely stay in the North of Tasmania.
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