Cataract Gorge is a popular tourist attraction and was easily the most spectacular walk in Launceston – not to mention one of the more memorable stops on our 10 day Tasmanian visit. Only about 15 minutes stroll from the city centre (or a 2 minute drive), the walk gives you the option of a full circuit – hiking up the southern bank, which has a fairly steep ascent and some lovely views – or taking the relatively flat path on the northern bank to the basin and suspension bridge and retracing your steps. Both are relatively easy and whatever your fitness level, this walk is worth the trip. (The area is also accessible by wheelchair via the inclinator.) Begin near the original Victorian toll house where pedestrians used to pay to enter the walk, near King’s Bridge on the northern edge of the gorge, pictured below. (The walk is now free.) Take the path next to the toll house for the easier, flat walk along the northern side, or hike up the opposite side of the river for the circuit, cross by way of the suspension bridge or chairlift and finish back at the toll house. The full circuit took us roughly an hour.
With the suspension bridge (pictured at top), swimming pool, chairlift, cafes, restaurant, and the Victorian gardens at the Cliff Grounds Reserve, Cataract Gorge has something for pretty much everyone. It is also a very child friendly place. The many peacocks at the Cliff Grounds Reserve were a hit with our young daughter, not to mention the other tourists, many of whom screeched with laughter or shock when approached by the inquisitive birds. One particular fellow (peacock, not tourist) was keen on showing off to anyone who walked by. His enthusiastic gyrations caused something of a stir.
The basin chairlift crossing the gorge brings to mind retro 70s postcards, and indeed it was built in 1972 and is believed to have the longest single chairlift span in the world. The ski-style chairlift covers some 457 metres, shown below. It was very popular the day we visited.
Our 19 month old daughter Sapphira was carried by Berndt in her Deuter Kids Comfort III backpack, which has already seen us through walks in Spain, Canada and New Zealand. We highly recommend structured carries like this one for toddlers over age 1. They are excellent for short or long day walks.
On this walk I wore jeans and walking shoes – not my usual bushwalking gear. However, during our time in Launceston we stopped into some hiking stores to prepare for our next major day walk. The staff at Paddy Pallin in central Launceston were very knowledgable, and helped me pick out my new hiking gaiters (pictured below at Swansea, also on our Tasmania trip) which were recommended in part because of protection from snake bite. Although no gaiters can guarantee 100% protection, they can reduce the risk considerably, and as Sea To Summit declare in their official advice on wearing gaiters to avoid snake bite, their Quagmire Canvas gaiters are some of the most densely woven and puncture resistant gaiters available. I also find them very comfortable and I have hiked through a variety of conditions wearing mine. They provide extra comfort and peace of mind in dense bush and tall grassy areas, and they came in handy on our walks at Cradle Mountain and Freycinet National Park on our Tassie trip.
Wishing you wonderful travels. Happy walking.