Cataract Gorge, Launceston

Image courtesy of Luke Webber (on flickr)

Tasmania’s riverside city in the north may be known for its food, wine, coffee, and rich cultural heritage, but it’s just as well-loved for its proximity to some of the state’s most beautiful slices of wilderness.

You don’t even need to leave Launceston to start your wilderness adventures, with the stunning Cataract Gorge just a few minutes walk from the city centre. There are plenty of opportunities to go a little further with a tour or by hiring a vehicle, and within a couple of hours drive there are all kinds of Tasmanian wilderness adventures on offer.

Side note: If you’re looking for Launceston accommodation, there are obviously heaps of options but there’s only one I’ve stayed at – The Sebel Launceston. I can tell you from experience that their spa suites are just what the doctor ordered after a day of adventure.

There are so many adventurous activities around Launceston that the place deserves a bucket list of its own, so that’s what I decided to create. These are the best outdoor adventures within a couple of hours of Launceston…

Rock climb Cataract Gorge

There aren’t too many places where you can go rock climbing within a few minutes of the city, but the stunning Cataract Gorge is one. Mountain Bike & Rock Climbing Tasmania offers either a half-day or full-day tour, where they’ll first train you on a short abseil before you’ll take on your first top-rope climb. The tour will finish combining both of your new skills, abseiling into the gorge and then climbing back out. All of this takes place at some of Cataract Gorge’s most beautiful buttresses. There’s no better way to explore Launceston’s number one tourist attraction.

Need to know

You can book your half or full-day tour online through Mountain Bike & Rock Climbing Tasmania.

A qualified guide and all gear are included in the tour price. Lunch is provided on the full-day tour.

“River Sled” the Meander Valley

Meander River Sledding - Launceston - Tasmania
Let’s get the obvious question out of the way – what on earth is “river sledding”? Well, you might have floated gently down a river on a cheap K-mart lilo as a kid. If you did, you’ve got the basic idea. The main difference is that with this tour you’ll be navigating grade 1 and 2 rapids on a more durable and safe floatation device (a “river sled”).

There are many ways to explore the Meander Valley, just outside Launceston, but this is undoubtedly the most exciting. Starting from the township of Meander, about 50 minutes from the city, you’ll float three kilometres downstream and take in parts of the Meander River that are otherwise inaccessible to the public. Your passionate local guides will point out the unique local flora and fauna along the way, and make sure your experience is safe and fun.

Need to know

Your river sledding experience can be booked online through Viator Travel.

This experience is suitable for ages 13+. All sledding gear is included in the tour price (including wetsuits). Just bring a towel and some warm clothes to change into.

Hike Quamby Bluff

Quamby Bluff Hike - Tasmania

Image courtesy of Phillip Marsh (flickr)

Hike through rainforest, tall eucalypts and dense myrtle forest, then rock-hop your way up the mountainside to the summit of Quamby Bluff. The reward? 360 degree views all the way to Cradle Mountain and Bass Strait on a clear day. But the varied forest types along the way and the alpine scenery at the top will be reward enough even if you’re clouded in. This six-kilometre return climb is easily doable in a day and is just over an hour from Launceston. You will need your own transport, though, as no tours are available. If you’re visiting Launceston from overseas or the mainland, hire a cheap car for the day. You’ll be glad you did.

Need to know

Length (km): 6 km
Time (hrs/min): 4-5 hours
Grade: Moderate
Style: Return
Total Ascent: approx. 500 m
Car Access: Head north-east from Launceston on National Highway 1, taking the route 1 exit towards Prospect/Devonport. After 43km, exit onto Meander Valley Road towards Deloraine. Just before Deloraine, turn left onto East Parade and continue for 7km, turning left onto Highland Lakes Road. The carpark is on your left after about 12km. The trailhead is on the opposite side of the road about 40m further.

Take on Tasmania’s only tree top ropes course

Hollybank Park tree top rope adventure - Launceston - Tasmania

Image courtesy of Hollybank Adventures

Take on treetop obstacles between 2 and 25 metres above the ground on Hollybank Wilderness Adventures treetop ropes adventure – the only one in Tasmania. You’ll swing, climb and crawl your way through four different courses, each one designed to progressively challenge you both mentally and physically. It’s worth a visit even if you’re travelling with little ones, as there’s a course suitable for ages four and up. There’s no requirement to complete all four courses, so this adventure is definitely for everyone.

Need to know

Your treetop ropes adventure can be booked online through Viator Travel.

Flat soled, closed-toe footwear such as runners or hiking boots are required. Wear comfortable, weather-appropriate clothing. Long hair must be tied back and if possible all jewellery should be removed before participating.

Mountain Bike Hollybank Reserve

If you’re keen to see more of Hollybank Reserve than the treetop ropes adventure allows (or if mountain biking is just more your thing), take on the 20 kilometres of dedicated mountain bike trails through stunning tall forests. There’s something to suit beginner, intermediate, and advanced riders and the trails intersect in order to allow a natural progression (or you can just stick to the trail that suits your comfort level). The 10 kilometre Juggernaut trail is the most difficult of the three trails and is considered one of the best in Australia. It even comes with the option of taking on two short but extreme double black diamond trails along the way.

Need to know

Entry to Hollybank Reserve is free, so if you have your own bike and transport you can make your own way there and hit the trails. If you don’t have a bike, Hollybank Wilderness Adventures offers two levels of mountain bike for hire at a reasonable price, for either 2, 4 or 8 hours.

If you’re travelling with neither a bike or a vehicle, you can book a tour online with Mountain Bike and Rock Climbing Tasmania. They’ll provide transport, a bike, and a qualified and professional guide.

Canyoning at Cradle Mountain

Everyone has the Overland Track on their bucket list, but canyoning is the lesser-known (and arguably even more fun) way to explore the World Heritage-listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Cradle Mountain Canyons runs two canyoning tours near Cradle Mountain – a half-day tour at Lost World Canyon, and a full-day at Dove Canyon. A more advanced canyoning experience at Machinery Canyon is available by request for groups of four or more.

Swim, slide, jump and abseil your way through stunning narrow river canyons, taking in sights no hiker will ever see. The half-day tour is suitable for ages 8 and up and all challenges are optional, while the full-day tour is more advanced. There’s a canyoning experience for everyone.

Need to know

The half-day Lost World Canyon and full-day Dove Canyon tours can be booked online through Viator.

The minimum age for the half-day tour is 8. For the full-day tour, it’s 15. Participants need to have a moderate level of fitness and agility. Tasmania’s weather can be unpredictable and some tours do get cancelled for safety reasons, in which case you will receive a full refund.

Disclaimer: A few of the booking links above are affiliate links. This means that if you make a booking, The Bushwalking Blog receives a small percentage (and you don’t pay a single cent more).


Have you been to Launceston? Feel like this list is missing something? Or got any questions, comments, updates or corrections? Let us know by commenting below.

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