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Launceston- possibly the friendliest city in Australia

A fantastic, cultural weekend escape in Launceston

After a big year in 2018, the Aussie House Swap administration manager and I, packed our bags and headed south to attend the 2019 Mona Foma festival in Tasmania. Being the first year held in Launceston, it was a great opportunity to check out this part of the world. I hadn’t planned on visiting Launceston any time soon. I ‘d been to Hobart a few years prior and loved it. The only reason I went to Launceston was because the festival had moved there. I knew absolutely nothing about Launceston but boy was I pleasantly surprised. It is the perfect location for a house swap holiday!

What a cool city! It felt like more of a large country town but still had so many really great places. I guess having the festival on provided extra cultural activities to do and see, but just the laid back, friendly vibe of the city itself was really appealing. We hadn’t even left the airport and we were greeted by the loveliest lady taxi driver who gave us all the ‘must see’ places, and even organised our return trip to the airport. Her business card was her name and number on a strawberry shaped Post-it-Note and I knew then that she was my kind of person!

The Mona Foma festival itself was such an enjoyable festival. There were so many diverse music acts, art installations, even espresso martinis. That’s right! A festival where you could get quality craft beer, wine, gin and tonic and even espresso martinis. Oh, and did I mention the fresh oysters? Being such a relaxed, family friendly festival, it was so much fun to wander around checking out art exhibitions and taking in some of the many amazing International music acts.

It was virtually impossible to choose a favourite act. My top three were Hanba! the Polish punk band, Bansheeland the Launceston based all girl band and Southeast Desert Metal, the metal band based in the remote community of Santa Teresa, N.T. (I am by no means a metal fan, but they were fantastic!). It was a beautiful sight to see thousands of music lovers of all ages come together, dancing, smiling, singing and appreciating live music.

Mona Foma crowd. Photo by K.Fuad

Some of the art installations around the city were open to the public and provided a huge variety of different experiences, some static and some interactive. At the local R.S.L. club there were grotesque yet strangely fascinating video installations by Australian video artist Heath Franco.  

There was also a fabulous interactive installation by Australian artist Rosie Deacon called Fashion Forest Seduction. It was a small room filled with hanging fabrics, sequins and fluffy toys, loud music, video screens, costumes and a cat walk. Visitors were encouraged to dress up in costumes and walk the catwalk. Always up for an adventure, we Aussie House Swap team members had to give it a go and we had a lot of fun.

In the artist run Sawtooth gallery, the work of Margie Livingston from the USA was featured, with her works displayed as well as a short film screening about her process. She drags a canvas behind her on a harness as she walks in different environments. Such a fascinating way to create art, we were lucky enough to see Margie and interested participants, walking through the festival grounds all with canvases scraping along the ground behind them.

Harnesses for Margie Livingston. Photo by K.Fuad

Margie Livingston artworks. Photo by K.Fuad

A trip to Launceston isn’t complete without a ride on the scenic chairlift at Cataract gorge, which is right on the edge of the city. Launceston residents are spoilt having this gorgeous place full of history so close. After our chairlift we enjoyed the Morning Meditation session by Yirinda, a musical collaboration between Fred Leone and Samuel Pankhurst in the Fairy Dell nearby. Yirinda mix experimental double bass with song to tell stories from Fred’s people, the Butchulla and Garawa tribes of north Queensland. It was such a beautiful backdrop to this complex musical collaboration. 

Aussie House Swap team enjoying Cataract gorge chair lift. Photo by K.Fuad

By our second day in Launceston we had already found our new local ‘hangouts’. Sweetbrew café in the CBD had the friendliest staff and the best coffee. Their eggs with chickpeas, sweet potato and salsa verde was possibly one of the most delicious breakfasts I have ever had!

For an evening cocktail we couldn’t go past Bakers Lane in York St. Their tapas plates were the perfect choice after a long day walking around the city and festival grounds. Their Tassie Sauvignon Blanc wasn’t too shabby either.

Bakers Lane. Photo by K.Fuad

Of course, a weekend at Mona Foma would not be complete without checking out the night time entertainment at Faux Mo, the adults only evening session of the festival. There were drag shows, cabaret performances, live bands and an open-air stage where DJ’s provided great dance music until the early hours.

Our weekend in Launceston flew by so quickly and really provided just a taste of what northern Tasmania has to offer. For a regional city we were impressed by the quality of the local food, arts and music. With amazing walks, bike tracks and wineries all not far away, I will certainly be planning a longer trip next time.

View of Cataract gorge from scenic chair lift. Photo by K.Fuad