Located in the heart of Launceston, close to the CBD, is the beautiful City Park, featuring magnificent mature shrubs and trees, many of English origin. Features of the park also include displays of annual flowers, a Japanese Macaque Monkey enclosure, the John Hart Conservatory, a duck pond, a ‘senses’ garden, monuments, the historic Albert Hall, a BBQ area, the City Park train, a children’s playground and toilets.

City Park - Launceston

Entrance: City Park, Launceston (photo by Carol Haberle)

City Park, Launceston: People’s Park

by Carol Haberle

The history of City Park started with the allocation of an allotment for the Government Cottage (now demolished) in 1807 at the base of Windmill Hill. In the 1820s, the Launceston Horticultural Society acquired the neighbouring allotment to the immediate west of the government gardens for use as a botanical garden. Originally called the People’s Park, City Park was developed as gardens by the Launceston Horticultural Society and in 1863 was handed over to the Launceston City Council.

In 1891, the Albert Hall was built on the north east corner of the park to house the Tasmanian Industrial Exhibition. The exhibition area enclosed a large corner of the park under temporary structures attached to the Albert Hall. A miniature railway was also set up within the park for a short time during the exhibition. Over the ensuing years the park has been used to hold many important exhibitions, social gatherings, musical and cultural events, public meetings and is famous as the location for Festivale, a popular annual food festival held every February… all of which continue to be held there in present day.

City Park - Monuments

Launceston City Park (photo by Carol Haberle)

Monkeys in City Park

In 1965, Launceston became sister city with Ikeda City in Japan. As a gift, Ikeda City gifted the Launceston City Council with an exhibit of Japanese Macaques. The Japanese Macaque (Macaca fuscata), is an Old World monkey species native to Japan. Sometimes known as the snow monkey because it lives in areas where snow covers the ground for months each year, no primate, with the exception of humans, is more northern-living, nor lives in a colder climate. Macaques have brown-grey fur, red faces, and short tails. The macaque can cope with temperatures as low as -20°C. Macaques mostly move on all four legs. They are semi-terrestrial, the females tend to spend more time in the trees, while the males tend to spend more time on the ground. They are also great swimmers and have been reported to swim over half a kilometre.

City Park - Japanese Macaques

Macaques: Launceston City Park (photo by Carol Haberle)

The Japanese macaque is omnivorous (eats both animal and vegetable foods). Their diet consists of over 213 species of plant including fungi and ferns, they also eat insects, invertebrates and soil. When preferred food matter is not available, macaques will dig up underground plant roots or eat soil and fish. This wonderful colony of monkeys have adapted well to life in Launceston’s City Park and bring much delight to both young and old, one can spend hours watching their antics, and are extremely popular with both locals and tourists alike.

City Park - Macaques Monkeys

Macaques: Launceston City Park (photo by Carol Haberle)

John Hart Conservatory

The John Hart Conservatory was erected by the Launceston Corporation from the John Hart Bequest in 1932 and refurbished in 2010 as a joint project between Launceston City Council and the Federal Government through the Regional Local Community Infrastructure Program. A twin copy from the same plans was also built at Parramatta Creek, just south of Latrobe. One doesn’t need to be a gardening enthusiast to enjoy a visit to the John Hart Conservatory, which outside showcases beautiful annuals, whilst inside there is always a beautiful horticultural display.

City Park - John Hart Conservatory

John Hart Conservatory: Launceston (photo by Carol Haberle)

Ride a Train

City Park is also home to the city park train, a ride around the park in Lonnie the Loco for a small fee is a thrill for many children and sightseers. Lonnie the Loco looks much like Thomas the Tank Engine, travels the paths of the park and operates most days.

City Park - Lonnie the Loco

Lonnie the Loco: City Park, Launceston (photo by Carol Haberle)

Celebrated Botanist

Monuments in the park include one, a bronze statue of Ronald Campbell Gunn (1808-1881). A botanist, Gunn arrived in Tasmania in 1830 and became Superintendent of Convicts and Police Magistrate and eventually rose to become the Deputy Commissioner for Crown Lands for the island. His interest in botany developed by his friendship with R. W. Lawrence of Launceston, also a botanist.

City Park - Trees and Shrubs

City Park, Launceston (photo by Carol Haberle)

Gunn had a passion for biology and travelled extensively collecting, recording and forwarding specimens of Tasmanian flora and fauna to the great British botanist W. J. Hooker (one of the greatest British botanists and explorers of the 19th century. Hooker was a founder of geographical botany, and Charles Darwin’s closest friend). Ronald Campbell Gunn also established a private botanic garden in Glen Dhu, Launceston. Joseph Hooker’s introduction to Flora Tasmaniae (1860) commemorates Gunn’s contribution to botany.

City Park - Robert Campbell Gunn

Monument to Robert Campbell Gunn (photo by Carol Haberle)

Fun for Everyone

Launceston City Park is designed for the enjoyment of everyone, from the youngest child to the eldest adult, and with a gently sloping network of paths it is disabled friendly and easy for those with wheelchairs and prams. With so much to see and do, a family can spend the best part of a day in Launceston’s City Park.

Access to the main entrance of City Park is via Tamar Street; or the corner of Lawrence and Cimitiere Streets.

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).

All photos strictly ©Carol Haberle, H&H Photography. You can follow Carol on Facebook at Haberle Photo Cards. Carol writes feature articles for us about all things Tasmanian. If you’d like Carol to visit you, please contact Think Tasmania.

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Map: City Park, Launceston Tasmania

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