Memories are quite an interesting phenomenon. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between true memories from your childhood and those that have formed after the many recounts from family. Before our trip to Tasmania, I was unsure about my childhood time at Launceston’s Cataract Gorge and wondered if the fleeting images, all rather whimsical, were real or created from family stories. We added a trip to our itinerary so the kids could experience the gorge and I learned that the magical memories that I have were possibly real.
Launceston’s Cataract Gorge is around 1.5 kilometres from the town centre and has been one of the cities premier tourist destinations for a couple of generations. We weren’t quite sure what to expect and decided to drive up to the Gorge Cliff Grounds car park and walk down rather than using the more popular (and much bigger) First Basin car park. The incline down towards the gorge is a little steep and you will need to keep the kids close while waking down the stairs. We then took the chairlift across to the First Basin. While this was our preferred option on our first visit, you may like to walk from Launceston and take either the easy “Cataract Walk” which follows the Gorge along its northern cliffs or the Hikers Zig Zag Track beginning at the Southern side of Kings Bridge and following the top cliff that leads to the First Basin.
This northern side is called the Cliff Grounds and is quite leafy and shady. For those of you who have read the Kid Bucket List posts that feature chairlifts, or any other attraction with height, you will know that I am terrified of them much to the glee of the rest of the family. Cataract Gorge features the world’s longest single-span chairlift which has a total span of 457 m (1,499 ft). T led us to this very thing almost as soon as we were down the stairs. I think he felt that if we did it straight off without thinking it wouldn’t be so bad. I didn’t have time to think. In seconds I was on the chair with Striker. It was a terrifying ride across the basin. I noted that Sunshine and T thought it was an amazing ride. Your kids will probably love it too. Once we reached the other side we were directed to the ticket booth to pay for the ride. Despite the ticket office suggesting we purchased return ticket, I refused and paid for the single ride over. It currently costs $12.00/$15.00 (oneway/return) for adults and $8.00/$10.00 for children.
Exploring the First Basin side was a little disappointing for the kids. I hadn’t packed swimwear or towels and one of the main features on this side is a swimming pool and an open area surrounded by bushland. It’s a great place for a BBQ or picnic. Whilst the pool offers no shade, it is sparkling clean and seemed to be quite family friendly. We didn’t stay around here long as we were concerned that the kids would talk us into letting them swim in their clothes! We headed back, by foot, to the the shady northern side where we started.
To get back to the Cliff Grounds you cross the South Esk River via a suspension bridge. It’s little bouncy and quite fun. You can look down through the gorge and watch the river run down into the basin. You may even see a wallaby or two coning down to drink. As continue along the pathway you move into a Victorian garden amongst the larger gum tress. There;s a band stand (no band playing when we visited though), a restaurant, kiosk, a pub and many peacocks.
The wildlife around the Cliff Grounds have seen many humans during their lifetime and are happy for you to give them a pat. We spent a lot of time here with the kids getting up and close to a few wallabies and peacocks.
In terms of accessibility, Cataract Gorge has a new perestrian Inclinator and main entrance. The inclinator is a mechanised people mover consisting of a glass-lined compartment, similar to a cable car, resting on twin rails set into the ground. It provides access down to the gorge for those with mobility issues.
Whilst we didn’t visit on this trip, you can go further upstream and visit the historic Duck Reach Power Station which is now an Interpretation Centre. Originally commissioned back in 1893, this Power Station was the largest hydro-electric scheme of its day and was lighting all of Launceston by 1895.
For up to date information about Launceston’s Cataract Gorge, pricing and events you may like to head to their website – www.launcestoncataractgorge.com.au.