Launceston, at the junction of the North and South Esk rivers, is Tasmania s second largest city and a major gateway to the Australian state of Tasmania. From here, the broad and picturesque Tamar River valley opens north to Bass Strait 58 km away.
Elegant historic streetscapes and century old parks and gardens sit beside revitalised areas such as Launceston Seaport with its restaurants and cafes and Inveresk where you can visit one of Australia s best regional galleries, the Queen Victoria Museum. Then there is the iconic Cataract Gorge located within walking distance of our busy CBD, a place of mystical beauty with its steep, rugged cliffs and the wonderful First Basin area.
With a population of around 70,000, the city has a strong sense of identity. It is the service centre for a much larger population spread across Northern Tasmania. Launceston is a central base for a range of tourism activities and the centre of our cool climate vineyards of the Tamar Valley. Launceston airport is one of the busiest regional airports in the country.
The city was established in 1806 and was the Island s northern military base and a trading centre for wheat and wool farmers. Over time, as their wealth grew, the city developed its grand vision. Today, Launceston is still regarded as the commercial heart of Tasmania with a vibrant economic base, it offers a relaxed lifestyle with more affordable housing prices, substantial health and hospital facilities, easy access to the mainland and the rest of the state and we are fortunate to have quality schools, restaurants and cultural facilities that make it a great place to live. Beautiful beaches are less than an hour away and in contrast Tasmania s premier ski fields are also less than an hour away too! Launceston's weather is temperate, with an average maximum of 23 degrees in January and 11.5 degrees in June. It is located 198 km or about 2.5 hours drive north of Hobart.
Launceston has a rich and vibrant history. For the past 40,000 years the Palawa people (Tasmanian Aboriginal people) lived in harmony with the land and used its abundant resources throughout Tasmania. The Palawa tribal groups who lived in the Tamar area were known as the Leterremairrener, Panninher and Tyerrernotepanner peoples. They utilised the rich resources found in the region and performed ceremonial dances and song at culturally important places such as the Cataract Gorge.
Following settlement by Lieutenant Colonel Paterson in 1806, it was called Patersonia for a short time. Paterson, the founder and first commandant, changed it to Launceston in honour of Governor Philip Gidley King whose birthplace was the Cornish township of Launceston. This was the beginning of a long association between the new Launceston and the ancient English township.
The discovery of Launceston and the Tamar Valley dates back to 1798 when Bass and Flinders were sent to explore the possibility that there existed a strait between the great continent and Van Diemen's Land. They named their landing place Port Dalrymple.
Settlement of the area began in 1804 when Lt. Col. William Paterson and his party set up camp where George Town now stands and formally took possession of Port Dalrymple. A few weeks later, the settlement was moved across the river to York Town, and a year later they finally settled in Launceston.
Launceston is noted as having one of the most intact early cityscapes in Australia. Its early Colonial and Victorian buildings give the city a wonderful historic character. The city has buildings which date back to 1824.
Paterson Barracks, built by 1830, was described at the time as the very best brick building in Van Diemen's Land. It was built as a commissariat store, designed to house foods and supplies not only for the military and government officials in the young settlement, but also free settlers assisted by the government to establish in the new land. Today it is home to the sixteenth Field Battery of the Royal Australian Artillery, and Launceston's cadet units.
The convict superintendent's house on the corner of George and William Streets still stands as a reminder to the days when it guarded over the penitentiary on this site. Once prisoners were domiciled here of a night and taken out in work gangs during the day. Portions of this site can be traced back to before 1826 when a bonded store was built on site.
The public buildings in St John Street reflect the growth of self-government in Tasmania. Completed in 1861, they have been more than mere offices for politicians. The ornamental portico was the entrance to the post office and contained within what was the telegraph office. In 1872 the first message direct from England was received taking 24 hours to transmit.
The fine Custom House, with its elegant portico and Corinthian columns, reminds us of Launceston's role in the mining boom of the 1880s. The ore from the rich tin mine at Mt Bischoff was processed in the town, plus Launceston supplied the mine fields on the west coast. Trade flourished, and the customs duties contributed to a booming Tasmanian economy.
Text: Launceston City Council
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