Launceston: Parks and Gardens

Launceston contains some of Australia's oldest parks and recreational areas. Many of these date back to the 1800s, the most notable being City Park, Princes Square, Windmill Hill, Royal Park, Lilydale Falls and the Cataract Gorge Reserve.

City Park

City Park was originally developed by the Launceston Horticultural Society and handed over to the Launceston City Council in 1863. It features many trees, structures and buildings, including the Albert Hall, dating back to the 1800s. City Park is located in the heart of Launceston. This beautiful parkland features mature trees and shrubs, a display of annual flowers, a Japanese Macaque monkey enclosure, the John Hart Conservatory, a duck pond, senses garden, monuments, chess board, historic Albert Hall, barbeque area and a children's playground.
Main entrance: Tamar Street or corner of Cimitiere and Lawrence Streets.

City Park was once called the 'People's Park', which reflects how the park has been viewed by the people of Launceston since its beginnings. It has been a place of many important exhibitions, gatherings, musicals and cultural events and public meetings. This continues today.City Park is famous for hosting Tasmania's premier food, wine and entertainment event - Festivale.

The children's playground, known as the John Hart Children’s Playground was established in 1948. In 1960 it was redeveloped to incorporate A4 an old steam engine aka the Royal Train. A4 was built in Scotland in 1891. The visit in 1920 of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, (who abdicated to marry Mrs Simpson) was her first Royal engagement. During 1927 the Duke of York, later King George VI, the Queen’s father, was her second Royal passenger. In February 1960, after being retired a few years ealuier, A4 was hauled from main line yard, across Cimitiere Street into City Park whereshe sat amongst the trees and flowers, just a stone’s throw from the railway yards that had been her home for 30 years. In 1990, A4 was removed for restoration by the Don River Railway, where it remains.

John Hart Conservatory

There has been a long history of conservatories and pavilions in City Park. The Horticultural Society’s first pavilion in 1841 took the form of a cross. It was extended in 1843 and replaced in 1873 by a pavilion designed by Peter Mills. Mills’ structure was used as the main entry and fernery for the 1891-92 Tasmanian Exhibition, but in 1910 it had succumbed to senile decay and was removed. In November 1860, a conservatory funded by the merchant Alexander McNaughton, was built containing over 500 plants, including some from McNaughton’s own conservatory. In 1931, it was decided that this conservatory should be replaced and in 1932 a new one was built at acost of £2,000 using funds donated by the late Mr John Hart.

The design was modelled on Melbourne’s Fitzroy Gardens Conservatory but embraced many improvements including elegant cement decoration by local master craftsman W G Cumming. A plaque commemorates the bequest. It contained the following plants: tuberous rooted begonias; then cinerarias, calceolarias, schizanthus and hydrangeas;then back to begonias. The Conservatory was extensively adapted in 1981 as a more permanent rainforest type display including a water feature, plant stands and a viewing platform. Gardeners reduced the number of annuals.

They might seem a little out of place – but Launceston's City Park star attractions are Japanese macaques monkeys. Housed in an enclosure that reflects the natural conditions, they follow a long tradition of displaying exotic animals in the park. It began with an exhibition of none other than that stunning beast now relegated to the world of legend and fantasy: the thylacine (more commonly known as the Tasmanian Tiger, believed to be extinct since 1936). It has also exhibited wallabies, a brown bear, deer and birds. Rhesus monkeys were exhibited here from the late 1800s until the 1970s, the present residents have made City Park their home since 1980.

Sure, they might be 8662km from their native Japan, but a troop of macaque monkeys seem right at home in Tasmania's fair northern city. Launceston has become almost synonymous with monkeys for tourists - that's how popular these red-faced beauties are - and the enclosure is most certainly an old favourite for local families.

The Macaque Monkey Enclosure is open from 8.00am - 4.00pm (April - September) and 8.00am - 4.30pm (October - March). The John Hart Conservatory is open weekdays from 8.30am - 4.30pm and weekends from 9.00am - 4.30pm (April - September) and from 9.00am - 5.30pm (October - March).

Complete Guide to City Park

Royal Park and Kings Park

Royal Park

Royal Park and Kings Park

Royal Park, originally the site of a military barracks was developed as parkland in the late 1800s and officially named Royal Park in 1912. It contains Launceston's Cenotaph and is a very popular social and tourist destination. Royal Park and Kings Park are traditional parks with a river edge boardwalk connecting the Cataract Gorge Reserve to the Inveresk Precinct, taking in Ritchie's Mill, Home Point and Seaport.

Royal Park boardwalk

The area features the Tamar River, mature trees, multi-use trails, skate park and boat ramp. It also provides access to the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery's Royal Park site and to river cruises.

Princes Square

Princes Square

Originally a clay-pit where convicts made bricks for the construction of St Johns Church, Princes Square is an extraordinary square with a colourful history. Princes Square was part of Launceston's network of planned public places, a formal and organised public space that demonstrated European sophistication, and remains an unusually intact and original 19th century town square. It was created in the image of similar British designs, its elm trees, like its name, suggested its suitability as a site of royal celebrations. Before the square was opened in 1859, the site had been used as a military parade ground before being set aside as a public reserve in 1826.

In 1853 it was where the people of Launceston celebrated the cessation of the transportation of convicts, and the Jubilee of the foundation of the Colony of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) on 10th August 1803. In 1834, Prince's Square was rumoured to have been the site of a public execution of two bushrangers. During WWII trenches were dug in the Square for air raid shelters.

When elections were first held in the 1840s, candidates were nominated in public open air locations, and in Launceston the place where the candidates presented their perspectives to the voting public was Princes Square. Temporary wooden structures were erected in Princes Square for candidates to stand on and hecklers and musicians ensured the event was a raucous one. Reverend John West, the leading figure of the movement to stop transportation, held his rallies at the Square. West presented an Australasian League flag to a Melbourne meeting held to abolish transportation. This flag was very similar to the Australian flag, and was flown proudly in Princes Square in 1952 when Launcestonians celebrated 100 years since the end of transportation.

Val d'Osne Fountain

The Val d'Osne Fountain, in the centre of the Square, was located in part to celebrate the turning on of the town's waterworks and the Federation-style lavatory block by Dowling, who instigated the fountain's acquisition. Purchased from the Paris Exhibition of 1858, the original fountain had to be changed because the locals objected to the half-naked nymph - she was replaced by a pineapple. The fountain is rare, thought to be one of the original works of its design and is a fine piece of work from one of the finest French sculptors of his era.

Cataract Gorge

Cataract Gorge is Launceston's own little piece of wilderness, a unique natural formation of sheer cliffs and cascades just 15 minutes walk from the city centre. Visitor facilities include walking and hiking trails, the world s longest single span chairlift, swimming pool, restaurant, kiosk, peacocks and wildlife, gardens, a suspension bridge, Interpretation Centre and lookouts with spectacular views. Cruise vessels ply Cataract Gorge daily.

More information

Windmill Hill Reserve

Windmill Hill Reserve

The council owned Windmill Hill Reserve is a small grassed reserve with mature shade trees, which offers views across the city centre. Windmill Hill Memorial Hall stands in the Adelaide Street corner of the Reserve. Windmill Hill was the site of the Windmill Hill Signal Station, which began operation in 1926. Location: 22-30 Adelaide St, East Launceston.

Tamar Island Wetlands

Tamar Island Wetlands

The Tamar Valley has a significant conservation area known as the Tamar Island Wetlands. This 60 ha tidal river wetland and island habitat is ideal for walks and sightseeing, offering some great photographic opportunities. The island itself is about 7 ha where there are remnants of a hut and exotic flora from earlier days of occupation. Much of the wetland has been disturbed by previous human occupation and grazing activities.

Located on the Tamar Valley wine route, just 10 minutes from the heart of Launceston, tranquillity Gardens is a welcoming place for all the family. A Japanese businessman originally built Tranquillity Gardens tea rooms as a holiday house in 1987. He was very interested in the bird life and encouraged them to nest around the property. He also had the gardens constructed, which included the building of the pond. In 2001 the property was purchased by the Griffiths family as an extension of their dairy farm. In full season the farm milks a mix of approximately 400 Friesian and Jersey cows.

Churchill Park-Heritage Forest

Heritage Forest represents a remarkable transformation: the Mowbray Swamp was once used as a tip site and is now a recreation and living environment close to the city centre. Its features include multi-use trails, picnic area, barbeque area, playground and an off-leash dog exercise area. The park has introduced vegetation featuring an arboretum of all 27 of Tasmanian's Eucalyptus species. It is situated next to the Churchill Park Sporting Complex. Launceston parkrun travels through Heritage Forest as part of the 5km loop that starts behind Aurora Stadium.

Hoblers Bridge Reserve

Hoblers Bridge Reserve

Set in native bushland and wetlands on the North Esk River with an extensive trail network providing a link between Newstead and Heritage Forest and the city. Dogs are permitted off the lead in the designated fenced off-leash area. All other areas require dogs to be on-lead. Car parking is available off Hoblers Bridge Road. Location: 37-39 Hoblers Bridge Road, Newstead.

Brickfields Reserve

Brickfields Reserve

Formerly one of many clay quarries for brickmaking found in Launceston, Brickfields Reserve is a leafy oasis on the CBD fringe. Brickfields is a traditional square park with dissecting paths leading from the corners to the centre of the reserve and is popular with the locals for picnics, relaxing and exercise. Location: Margatert Street, Frederick Street, Launceston.

Carr Villa Memorial Park

Carr Villa Memorial Park

Carr Villa Memorial Park is Launceston's major cemetery and crematorium. It occupies 50 hectares of land between Kings Meadows and Norwood in Launceston's South-East. Carr Villa Memorial Park opened on August 1, 1905, being developed on land that was previously home to a ladies school run by the Knight family who had acquired the site in the 1820s. John Doran was the first man to be interned on August 1, 1905. Later that year on December 2, Annie Scanlon was the first woman to be buried. Annie's grave is among the first rows on the left as you enter Carr Villa.

Carr Villa Water GardenCarr Villa Water Garden

In the late 1970s, level lawn sites, pools and shrubbery began to change Carr Villa's appearance to fit in with its surrounding nature reserve. A decade later, preservation of Carr Villa's heritage became important and the site's earliest graves were kept along with its new. Monumental sites became available soon after.

Machens Reserve

Machens Reserve was originally the brickfields of Machens Bricks. The company was the largest and longest operating brick manufacturing company in Tasmania. City of Launceston asked for a design that reimagined the story of Machens Bricks in what was a kilometre wide ‘void’ where the clay was excavated and is now a park. Machens bricks have a distinctive ‘frog’ that is a pressed indent with the text MACHENS stamped in the process of extracting the soft clay from the mould before it is fired. A local breed of frogs live in the park waterway and allowed the story telling to traverse time and engage the park user with both past and present storytelling. The park has sealed and unsealed paths, shade areas and public seating. Location: 7 Chifley Street, Kings Meadows.