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City Profile : Launceston

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Launceston is the second largest city in Tasmania and the 3rd oldest city in Australia, but it still has a lot of firsts – such as being the first Australian city to have underground sewers and be lit by hydroelectricity.

 

History

The area was first explored by George Bass and Matthew Flinders in 1798 but the settlement of Launceston was not established until 1806. It was originally called Patersonia, but the settlement was renamed after Launceston in Cornwall UK, where the NSW Governor Captain was born. Launceston grew and became an export centre. Churches, schools and pubs were built, and sporting groups were established.

 

In 1871, there was a minerals boom when tin was discovered at Mount Bischoff. There was also a spurt of gold mining in 1877 and over the next 20 years, it grew substantially. By 1889, Launceston was officially a city.

 

These days, it a charming place to visit, and being so close to Tasmania’s premium wine growing region, the Tamar River Valley – it has its own culture and focus on local food and drink.

 

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Places of Interest

Cataract Gorge

Perfectly contrasted next to the city, Cataract Gorge offers a lush recreation area and swimming pool surrounded by beautiful 100 year old gardens, wallabies and peacocks, walking tracks and cafes that serve Devonshire teas.

 

 

On top of all of this, you can ride the longest single span chairlift in the world. Pay $12 one way or $15 return and see the gorge from 30 metres above.

 

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Boag’s Brewery

No visit to Launceston is complete without a tour of Boag’s Brewery. The great thing about this tour is that it ends with a cheese pairing. We never thought to pair cheese with beer but the combinations offered are outstanding.

 

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City Park

Located in the heart of the city, this beautiful and ornate park is just behind the historic Albert Hall and provides a recreation centre for the locals. Whether it’s a group training session or a relaxed yoga class, it seems City Park is a popular spot for many and was once called the People’s Park.

There is also the John Hart Conservatory, the pretty Jubilee Fountain and the Macaque Monkey House – but we didn’t see any monkeys.

 

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Tamar Valley

North of Launceston is the Tamar River Valley, Tasmania’s premium food and wine region.  We only visited three wineries because we were time-poor – we have to recommend Tamar Ridge for its great selection of sparkling wines and pinot noirs.

 

The Tamar River runs through the centre on the region and there’s only one point along the river that you can cross – Batman Bridge. It’s a nice bridge with a picnic area on the eastern side of the river.

 

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Further north is Beauty Point, where Seahorse World is located. Go on a tour and learn about the various breeds of seahorse.

 

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On the east side of the river is a free camp area at Lilydale Falls. It was fairly crowded as it’s one of the closest free camps near Launceston. We met two Aussies, Josh and Anna, and shared stories about our travels and car disasters.

 

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Food  & Drink

Amelia Espresso

We were actually looking for another cafe called Messiah but stumbled across this place and caffeinated ourselves here instead.

 

It’s a small place with only a few places to sit, but the duo behind the counter were friendly and knew what they were doing because the coffee they produced was fantastic. The coffee had a citrus tang and they are experts at frothing soy milk.

 

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Alchemy Bar & Restaurant

Always on the hunt for a bargain, we checked out Alchemy Bar for their $14 lunch menu. The joint seemed funky enough – a big bar that looks out onto the street, with a dining area out the back. The decor was eclectic and mismatched but overly bad in taste.

 

The lunch menu had a great selection – fish and chips, lamb salad, chickpea burger – we went with the chicken parmigiana and pulled beef burger. The parma was a succulent piece of chicken panko crumbed and topped with ham, cheese and sauce. It came with shoestring fries and a well dressed salad. The pulled beef burger was cheesy but could have used a bit more sauce to moisten the beef, and more pickles for extra tang, but overall it was good.  It came with well-seasoned fries too.

 

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Tour : Seahorse World

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If you’re looking for something to do that is unique and a little left of centre, then visit Seahorse World. Located on Inspection Head Wharf at Beauty Point along the Tamar River, Seahorse World offers an experience like no other.

 

The World

The facility was originally used as a research facility, but it soon adopted another purpose – to supply seahorses to pet shops and aquariums around the world for ornamental purposes. Seahorse World is currently the only Australian seahorse farm allowed to breed and export live seahorses. Some of their exported specimens are on display in the largest indoor aquarium in the world at Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

 

Apart from breeding seahorses, they are also dedicated to their conservation through education. Comprehensive and engaging tours run daily and give you the opportunity to see seahorses like you have never seen them before.

 

Sure, there are plenty of aquariums full of these little equine fish, and you get a glimpse into seahorse farming, but to actually be able to hold one was something we never thought we would get to do in our lifetime.

 

Because they are fish, they’re a little squirmy in the hand but to feel their tail wrap around your finger is adorable.

 

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You can also come face to face with a giant hermit crab and watch it pop in and out of its shell.

 

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The Seahorses

Of the 50 breeds of seahorse worldwide, 22 of them live in Australia. Seahorses are part of the syngnathid family, which also include sea dragons, pipe horses and pipe fish. Yes – seahorses are classified as fish because they have fins and gills.

 

To feed, they can’t open their mouth as their jaw is fused together. Instead, they suck food in through their snouts. They have a long fin on their back for propulsion and two pectoral fins on either side of their head for steering. Their eyes move independently, like a chameleon’s eyes, and they have the ability to change colour to match their surroundings. Oddly enough, they can transition to any colour except for blue or green – probably the two most useful colours to change to in terms of camouflage.

 

We got to see a few varieties of seahorse, including the Barbour’s Seahorse, known for the spikes that cover its whole body. This makes them less appealing for eating by predators because they’re too hard to swallow.

 

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White’s Seahorse isn’t actually white, it’s simply named after the person who discovered them. These seahorses are unique because once they have found a mate, they’re monogamous for life.

 

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The most common seahorse at Seahorse World is the Tasmanian Potbelly Seahorse, because they’re local! They can grow up to 32 cm long and vary in colour from white to brown and spotty.

 

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Potbelly seahorses get their name because the males have a big belly, perfect for storing little baby seahorses. Male pregnancy and birth is what separates seahorses from all other animals, their cousins – sea dragons and pipe fish – carry their eggs externally on their tail and underside.

 

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After the mama seahorse and papa seahorse do a little courting dance for about 8 hours, the mama seahorse tickles the papa seahorse and he gets excited and opens up his belly. She dumps her eggs in there to be fertilised, and then she does a runner. The papa seahorse then carries the fertilised eggs for around 2-4 weeks. On average, the number of babies that are born from the papa seahorse’s belly is 50-400 but the record at Seahorse World is a whopping 1116 babies!

 

Approximately 50% of baby seahorses survive in the wild, and one of their natural predators is other seahorses! Considering what seahorses eat, and how small seahorses are when they’re born, there’s no wonder that they get sucked up if there’s a hungry seahorse nearby.

 

At Seahorse World, the tiny seahorse babies are fed newly hatched brine shrimp – you might know them as “Sea Monkeys” – while the adult seahorses eat a larger variety of shrimp. The babies stay in the nursery for about a month before being moved into the primary tank with some adolescent seahorses. Here, they’re weaned off the Sea Monkeys and learn how to eat the adult food from the older seahorses.

 

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After 6 months, they’re moved to the secondary tank where they hang out with other adolescent seahorses and have fun. Once they reach 12 months of age, the seahorses are distributed all around the world to be displayed in tanks– they’re not sold to be used for Chinese medicine.

 

The consumption of dried seahorse for the treatment of impotence, wheezing, pain and labour induction has met with some controversy as there are no definitive studies that show any health benefits. As a result of this ‘medicinal’ use, some species of seahorses are now endangered.

 

The Essentials

Seahorse World is located in Shed 1A on Inspection Head Wharf at Beauty Point, and is open 7 days a week all year round, except for Christmas Day. You can contact them on 03 6383 4111 to discuss tour times and bookings.

 

Website: http://seahorseworld.com.au/

 

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