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  • Shelley Dark

#9. Best of Launceston

Booking an AirBNB somewhere in an unfamiliar city is always a bit of a gamble isn't it? Will the park next door be a drug dealers' paradise? Will the back garden be mozzie heaven?

We won the lottery in Launceston. River Edge Cottage at 5 Park Street is practically on the Tamar River, ten minutes walk from the CBD and Cataract Gorge.

These are the tiles in the porch. It's a cute basic 3-bedroom 2-bathroom solid little cottage with black Japan floors and a mainly white rather austere decor. Good basic equipment and a small deck at the back make it very liveable - it's not the Ritz but the position is gold.

This is the rather smart neighbour, the only other house in the street, along with the Tamar yacht club and a restaurant.

It's only steps away from the new boardwalk - part of the world-wide movement to reclaim the waterways - it goes from Cataract Gorge on the western side of the Tamar River for a kilometre or so on the eastern side.

It ends just before Peppers new Silo Hotel, but a gravel path continues. I strolled around for a sticky beak but found the public space interiors a little cold and uninviting.

The marina at the old sea port with yachts of all sizes - this little wooden yacht with brass portholes took my heart - don't you love it? If I weren't an ocean-hating cowardly non-sailor I think I'd sail around the world in it, single-handedly.

Cataract Gorge is an amazing natural phenomenon and public space.

With a private house perched near the entry.

And what a dramatic landscape with cliffs on both sides. Can you see the couple sitting on a rock up there, waving from the other side? The walkway over there is rougher, steeper and far more challenging.

It's a kilometre or so up to a restaurant perched on the side, where the water opens up into a big basin.

photo courtesy The Examiner

Since we left, FOMA (the arts festival associated with MONA) has put up this huge inflatable artwork by Amanda Parer on the basin. She's a Launceston artist who has exhibited world wide.

A couple of peacocks live here, punctuating the still morning air with their mournful cries.

This wallaby was so quiet, I'm guessing it must be petted by restaurant staff.

Also five minutes walk from River Edge Cottage is Stillwater, a favourite restaurant for breakfast lunch and dinner. We had a rather nice pea risotto there...

Don't miss Alps and Amici either - great for lunch in the restaurant part (here the roasted cauliflower salad), and groceries, fruit and veggies, wine and cheese, pre-prepared meals.

Other restaurants: Hallams seafood was crowded each time we passed but we didn't try it, and Mud Bar down at Seaport was also recommended (you can walk along the boardwalk).

Launceston is a city of well-preserved elegant Georgian and Victorian architecture and a little Art Deco, all only ten minutes walk from our cottage as well. Click on the first image above, and it will bring up a slide show.

Let me tell you a few other things we enjoyed during our week in Launceston:

This one sadly you can't reproduce - a very happy lunch with the most generous couple - an entrepreneurial Instagram friend and her architect husband, at a stunning isolated home overlooking the ocean.

The organic garden was amazing!

Productive and beautiful both.

The house of ageing silver wood, magically accented by pink rendered walls.

The perfume of lavender filling the air....

Aren't dill flowers so decorative?

Another must-see in Launceston is City Park - there's a small area of formal garden.

With an ornate fountain.

And a children's drinking fountain made in Scotland in the late 1800's.

At the entrance is the delightful caretaker's cottage (now a music museum). There's also a greenhouse of weeping begonias and a macaque enclosure. Generations of Launceston children have fond memories of watching their antics.

Design Tasmania is next door, staging exhibitions of original Tasmanian woodworkers and craftspeople, with a well-stocked shop too. This is the place to buy one-of-a-kind original pieces.

Don't miss the QVMAG (Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery), in two locations. This is an early John Olsen.

T H Preston Esq by C W Lambert 1909.

I loved the art gallery on Royal Park with its early Australian artists: John Glover, Tom Roberts among many, and an exhibition about the first people. The other venue at Invermay has cars, dinosaurs, science, planetarium etc.

It's all in the eyes, isn't it? Thomas Bock, Portrait of Grace Lord c 1844.

The modern artist on show was Mandy Hunnaford.

​I loved her work, slightly reminiscent of Margaret Preston.

Lovely light in one corner of the gallery.

Dobell's Cow by John Kelly 1992

At the height of Tasmania's 'Black War' with the aboriginal people, the colony's Surveyor General designed a board to communicate visually with the indigenous people the official desire for peace and harmony. You can see a reassurance that while a black person would be hung for killing a white, any white man killing an indigenous person would receive the same treatment. Many of these were made, probably painted by convict labour. Only 5 remain. It's a poignant reminder of failure.

​Bridestowe is an hour or so out of Launceston and we were lucky enough to be here for lavender flowering time. Despite a suspicion that it would be a crass tourist experience, we were blown away. We arrived before opening and didn't do the tour.

The man who greeted me was warm and welcoming despite our early arrival. 'Go anywhere, photograph anything,' he said. 'Just be careful of tractors and farm stuff.'

While you're at Bridestowe, just for fun continue on to see the two golf courses at Bridport created by entrepreneur and golfing tragic Richard Sattler.