A Cataract Gorge Cruise was on our agenda during our recent trip to Launceston. The itinerary was a pretty busy one, but we’re not complaining. When the afternoon involved a flying fox at Hollybank Treetops Adventure, the idea of a relaxing morning on the Tamar River was exactly what the doctor ordered. A fabulous, adrenaline-free tonic!
Tamar River Launceston: Cataract Gorge Cruise
Luckily, we arrived at Home Point Parade a little before our 10:30am departure time, because poor Janine was rushed off her feet at the booking desk. That same day (and every day that week apparently) local tourism operators were being treated to familiarisation tours on the four-hour Batman Bridge Lunch Cruise. A great idea that: locals acting as ambassadors for other locals. There’s nothing better than a word-of-mouth recommendation in the tourism game.
After a quick chat, we were directed to our vessel for the Cataract Gorge Cruise: the 1890-style Lady Launceston, with a modern and silent electric motor. The weather on the day of our cruise was mild and sunny, but that’s an insignificant factor, really. With see-through cafe blinds, on-board heating and cushioned benches, you couldn’t be more comfortable.
North Esk River: Old Launceston Seaport
Jeremy, our Cataract Gorge Cruise skipper, made the journey very special. He had passengers engaged, adapting his commentary to suit his audience. Clearly passionate about his subject, he was well-versed in both current affairs and historical points of interest.
Diligently, Jeremy outlined safety procedures in the event of a boating mishap, even though the life-raft has never been unwrapped, let alone launched before! The only time anyone may have been in danger? When the kids were invited to steer! But they were very well supervised, Jeremy keeping one hand on the wheel, one hand on the microphone and never missing a beat during his talk.
Named the Cataract Gorge Cruise, the journey however begins with a glide into the North Esk River past the Old Launceston Seaport. Jeremy pointed out boats in the marina and places to eat at Seaport. Many of the cafes and restaurants in the waterfront precinct offer passengers a discount when showing their ticket from Tamar River Cruises.
Despite visiting Seaport many times before, there’s a totally different perspective from the water than the board-walk. Likewise, the river view of the Ritchie’s Mill complex as you pass under Kings Bridge.
Kings Wharf and Wyuna: Australian Maritime College
One section of the Tamar River I hadn’t seen from land was Kings Wharf, a fascinating port. In dock was one of the Searoad vehicle and passenger ferries from the Queenscliff to Sorrento route in Victoria. Also parked there was the ship Wyuna, a former training vessel for the Australian Maritime College in Launceston. According to the Maritime Heritage Association of Victoria, the Wyuna was said to be…
Australia’s Britannia, having been built on the Clyde in 1953 to a classic 20th century design. After 26 years with the Port Phillip Sea Pilots, Wyuna operated as a training ship for the Australian Maritime College in Launceston until 2004. She was then sold for possible use for accommodation in the Pilbara and later sold again for possible conversion to a luxury yacht. Neither venture is being progressed and Wyuna remains laid up in Launceston.
There’s nothing like a bonus, unexpected lesson; and it’s one of the reasons I love to share these attractions with my family. As we discussed with Janine before boarding, times might be tough, but locals can still appreciate their local town or region and re-discover things to do without spending a fortune or travelling too far.
Cataract Gorge Cruise: South Esk River
Of course, the most spectacular part of the Cataract Gorge Cruise is the entry into the South Esk River. The skipper has to sound the horn as he approaches Kings Bridge in case a rogue member of the Tadpole Club decides to jump into the icy waters from above. Apparently some teenagers still engage in this ancient Tasmanian tradition, albeit a dangerous hobby!
According to Jeremy, the Gorge is the most visited attraction in Tasmania, followed by Salamanca Market in Hobart, Mount Wellington (on a clear day) and Port Arthur Convict Settlement. Those stats may have changed since the introduction of MONA and could be debated by other tourism operators!
What’s not up for debate, however, is the rating of the multi-award winning Cataract Gorge Cruise. Two thumbs up, five gold stars or one Think Tasmania stamp of approval. Choose any of those, because we would strongly recommend this tour as a worthy addition to the list of things to do in Launceston.
Our Cataract Gorge Cruise included a 50-minute tour. The bookings office is at the Home Point Cruise Terminal, Home Point Parade on the board-walk from Seaport. Think Tasmania toured as guests of Tamar River Cruises.