Cataract Gorge Reserve
Directions - From the centre of Launceston head west along Paterson St towards Kings Bridge. The trail head is located on the north side of the bridge, below the Cataract Gorge Reserve sign. It is only a 10 minute walk from the centre of the city so you can park your car pretty much anywhere and walk in.
The Hike - With a return to Tasmania discussed before we had even left on our last visit in October, it didn't take much convincing by Candy and Hal to get us to do the Bay of Fires. Booked in over the Easter weekend, we flew into Launceston a few days early so one of my first thoughts was were I could go hiking. Luckily Launceston is blessed with the fantastic Cataract Gorge a very short walk from the city centre so I convinced everyone that doing the longer loop on Good Friday would be a great idea. With most of the shops shut there wasn't much else to do and it would be a good way to stretch the legs before heading off to the East Coast for the four day Bay of Fires experience.
After a lovely breakfast at our hotel we decided to take the long way to the starting point along the riverfront boardwalk section because we'd only seen it in the dark the previous night at dinner. With sunny skies and still winds it was a relaxing way to explore Launceston and we saw plenty of people enjoying the good weather along the Tamar River. The start point that we used was Kings Bridge as it was the closest to our hotel and a fun position to start and end but you can elect to start at the car park for the First Basin if you like. From the riverside walk we were doing you could see Kings Bridge and where the South Esk River meets the Tamar River. After passing a beautifully restored flour mill that is now the Stillwater Hotel and Restaurant, we walked under the big highway bridge and up towards the much quieter Kings Bridge. Being the leader of the day's expedition I decided that we would walk in an anti-clockwise direction, mainly because I wanted to walk on the bridge and get some early photos looking down the gorge. This didn't turn out to be a bad idea with the morning light illuminating the other side of the gorge, something you don't get to see much of if you go in the opposite direction as the trail takes you into the forest instead of along the gorge.
After perusing the information boards underneath the impressive looking building that serves as an artist in residence complex now, we set off on the paved path (along with half of Launceston) that takes you along the river and provides excellent views of the gorge. Created by the final breakup of the Gondwana super continent, this naturally occurring fault line has been shaped by ice and flowing water over the aeons to what it is today and the result is very striking. The dolerite columns had me reminiscing about our last trip to Tasmania on the Three Capes although the effect is not quite as dramatic given they are not as tall. Spotting one of the tourist cruise boats making its way along the river provided me with an opportunity to show the scale of the gorge walls, along with mixing up the photos a bit. As we snaked our way along the various bends of the gorge we soon arrived at the first of many of the wow moments, a space looking south towards First Basin and the Alexandra Bridge. Even the views looking down at the wide series of rapids was impressive and gave you a taste of what was an excellent walking experience from start to finish.