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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

When I arrived in Australia, Tasmania wasn’t on my radar. The place has always fascinated me – with its devils and duck billed platypus – but I didn’t think I would make it there. Shortly before leaving Honolulu, I randomly met a Sydney based travel/food writer. Edwina is AMAZING! She met up with me in Sydney, showed me around, and gave me great recommendation for where to go and what to eat. She also let me know she’s from Tasmania and her family could host me if I’d like to visit. That was enough for me. I even decided to spend my 30th birthday in Tasmania, figuring it would be memorable to hit such a milestone in Tasmania of all places.

After a short but spectacular time in Melbourne, I arrived in Launceston. Ed’s mum and grandmother live in a big, beautiful heritage home just north of town. Robin was an amazing host and a surrogate mom for my stay with her. Grandma Patti is an extremely sharp 90 year old piece of living history. She has lived a fascinating life and I could have stayed there for weeks and just listened to her stories. For my birthday, Ed’s mum, Robin, made me Tasmanian lamb shank, picked up a bottle of local pinot, and baked a delicious orange almond birthday cake!

Launceston is the third oldest city in Australia, has an interesting history, and is loaded with beautiful examples of architecture dating as far back as the early 1800s. There isn’t a terrible amount of things to do in Launnie, but I spent a couple afternoons walking around, admiring the city center. I visited the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery, which has a respectable collection of historic and contemporary pieces housed in a beautiful setting.

The main tourist attraction in town is Cataract Gorge. The gorge is beautiful and, like much of Launceston, rich in history. The walk around the Cataract Gorge Reserve takes you to Duck Reach Power Station, which was the largest hydro-electric plant in existence when it was constructed in 1893. There are two suspension bridges that take you across the gorge and offer great views of the Tamar River.

Launceston is also a great base for a day trip to Tasmania’s number one attraction, Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. The park features one of the best walking tracks in the world, the Overland Track. Much like New Zealand’s most famous walk, the Milford Track, the Overland Track takes multiple days and it’s not advisable to go in winter, alone. I opted to go for a similar day trip to Cradle Mountain as I had done in Milford Sound, just to get a taste of what the park has to offer.

On my final day in Launnie, I got to attend an AFL game. The Hawthorne Hawks are based in Melbourne, but play 4 home games a season in Tasmania. David, My CouchSurfing host for Orford has season tickets and there happened to be a game in Launceston on the day I was supposed to go to his house. He was driving up to Launnie anyway, so I got to catch the game with him and get a ride down to Orford. The game is far closer to soccer than football and much less physical than rugby. I was happy to get an AFL game in before leaving Australia and enjoyed the experience.

Launceston was a great introduction to Tasmania. The weather was amazing for winter, the hospitality of Ed’s mum and grandma was incredible, and I had a 30th birthday I’ll never forget. It blows my mind that noticing an Australian accent while working at the Farmers’ Market back home resulted in me turning 30 in Launceston, Tasmania. What an amazing world we live in!

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