Cataract Gorge, the Hinterland in Launceston City

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Launceston is not famous for its air quality. On the contrary. Due to its topography and the thermal inversion phenomenon the polluted air does not dissipate easily.

Which is not something unusual in most cities in the world even if they don't have a meteorological issue like Launceston.

But what is unlike other cities is the big gulp of fresh air Launceston's residents can get right near the city centre. Cataract Gorge comes to the rescue.

The South Esk River is meandering its way into the Tamar River through mighty cliffs and bush and forms the gorge and the beautiful park that cuts into the city.

Cataract Gorge and Its Walking Trails

kings bridge launceston

Kings Bridge

Pass the Kings Park, follow along the Bridge road and if you are brave and fit enough don't cross the bridge.

Take the Zig Zag trail on the left and into the gorge for some adrenalin rush climbing well above the river to see the best of it. 

 Not so brave? Go over the bridge and take the easier trail on the right. See the house in the picture above? That's where the track starts.

King's Bridge Cataract trail is the easy pathway along the northern side of the gorge that can be done very quickly if you don't know what you are looking for. But if you do then you would spend the whole day in the reserve and come back the next day for more.

path along the northern side of the gorge

Kings Bridge cataract walk

The cataract walk is a 1 km easy trail, about 15 - 30 minutes walk. Or more if you are taking plenty of pictures and stopping to admire each boulder. 

It takes you to the First Basin and the Cliff Grounds with beautiful gardens.

view towards first basin carpark

View towards First Basin, the southern part of the gorge

You can see a swimming pool across the river (it's the blue spot to the left in the image above) and the swinging suspension bridge (the white line to the right of the picture). You can't see the chairlift, the longest single span chairlift in the world, but it's there. Take a few steps uphill for a better view.
There are two ways of crossing the river to reach the First Basin car park with its swimming pool, inclinator and cafe:

  • The easy one - walk to the Cliff Grounds and take the chairlift,

  • The healthy one - continue on foot walking a partly sealed track for another kilometre under the chairlift and via the suspended bridge which will take you to the other side of the river. 

The suspension bridge makes crossing of the river really fun. It's been there since 1940 so it's a little piece of history.

When you get off the bridge you can go straight to the Basin's car park or you could venture more into the bush by following a longer (2 km) track that takes you to Duck Reach with its old power plant which is now a museum. Pop into the museum if you want to know more about the area.

Now, if you don't take the Duck Reach gravel trail and go straight to the car park you have another option to get the adrenalin rush.

Remember you avoided that option at the beginning of your Cataract Gorge walk when you took the slow pace of the King's Bridge path? You can go back to the city via the Zig Zag track winding through the cliffs. Or ride the chairlift back for an easier exit via the Cataract Walk.

panorama of cataract gorge in launceston tasmania

Cataract Gorge - How to Get There

Walk, it's just 15 minutes from the city centre. And that's why a bush is there for - to offer you an incentive to walk.

Don't feel like walking but would like to breathe some fresh air while riding the chair lift? Go by car.

There are car parks on both sides of the South Esk River: a bigger one at the First Basin and a very small one at the Cliff Grounds at the end of a snaking road. If you've been driving around the mountainous regions of Tasmania you already know that snaking roads are the norm.

You can even go close to the old power plant at Duck Reach by car.

Here are other pages full of great information about Launceston and attractions around it. To read click on the images below.

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Click on the images below to see more great info about travelling around Tassie:

Cradle Country

Cradle Mountain

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Mount Wellington

Bruny Island


East Coast Tassie


North East Tassie