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Travel and Accommodation

Launceston is Wotif's Aussie Town of the Year 2022

Breaking: Launceston has been named Wotif’s "Aussie Town of Year for 2022" (also written up in News.com.au and the Daily Mail), leveraging off our A UNESCO City of Gastronomy status with an abundance of wonderful sights, smells and tastes. Come for MERGA and stay for a mini-break, there will never be a better time!

This page has been put together in collaboration with our sponsors University of Tasmania, Department of Education Tasmania, Australian Association of Mathematics TeachersMathematics Association of Tasmania, Business Events Tasmania and the City of Launceston especially to help you plan a mini-break or a full getaway. If we can help with anything you want to know about the city or surrounds, please contact usor theLaunceston Visitor Information Centre.

Charles Bridge: Oscar Sloane Cheese: Nick Hanson Nick Hanson: Coffee Architecture: Nick Hanson
Image credit: (left to right) Oscar Sloane; Nick Hanson; Nick Hanson; Nick Hanson

About Tasmania (lutruwita)


Image credit: Google Maps
 

Tasmania (lutruwita) is one of the smallest of the six States (and two Territories) in Australia, located in the south-east of Australia separated by Bass Strait from Victoria. Launceston is in the north of the State and 2.5 hours drive from Hobart in the south (click image to link to map).

The larger islands of King Island and Flinders Island (renowned for their rich farmland, cuisine, golf and fishing) are located in Bass Strait, while Bruny island (renowned for cruises, fishing, oysters and beer) in the south are well worth a visit if you have time. More information is at Discover Tasmania; the Launceston Visitor Information Centre; and online.

Travel and Covid Requirements

Domestic Travelers

Travelling to Tasmania is very straight-forward from most domestic airports and via the major international airports. Daily flights (managed by Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar) operate between Launceston Airport and Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane airports, with less frequent flights (several times a week) to and from Adelaide and Perth and several smaller mainland airports. The Spirit of Tasmania Ferry which takes vehicles runs overnight and/or all day (depending on the time of year) from Melbourne to Devonport (Devonport is about 1.3 hours drive by car from Launceston). It pays to book well ahead on the Ferry in order to secure a place as it is very busy, even in winter.

Launceston Airport is just 15 minutes drive from the City which is about $45 in a taxi or $18 per person in an Airport-Hotel Shuttle Bus. The Shuttle can be reached on 04 8820 0700 and Combined Taxis are on 131 008. The airport information page also lists other taxi services. Hire cars are available from all of the major hire companies at both the airport and in town. An insight into information about the number of flights into and out of Launceston airport can be obtained from a quick look at the arrivals/departure boards. Alternatively Hobart Airport is an easy 2.5 hour drive from Launceston, and most hire companies will rent a car on a one-way hire if you want to fly into one airport and out of another. You can get an idea of the flights per day, including international flights, from the Hobart Airport flight arrivals and departures. Some common searches (click to run) are Virgin Sydney—Launceston; Virgin Melbourne—Launceston; JetStar Sydney—Launceston; JetStar Melbourne—Launceston (sorry, Qantas doesn't let me preload search variables). 

If you are travelling through Launceston airport please familiarise yourself with their guidance on Covid safety and more generally the State Government advice to travellers. If you do not wish to travel to the conference or are not able to demonstrate your vaccinated status you can register as an online delegate at the conference and join us from the comfort and safety of your own workplace/home.

 

Image credit Google Maps
Image credit: Google Maps

New Zealand Visitors

New Zealand passport holders can apply for a Visitor Visa (Class 444) on arrival into Australia (which is free), but please familiarise yourself with the guidelines on the Australian Government Travelling to Australia website, and and follow all Covid19 guidance including requirements for an International Covid19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) or a foreign vaccination certificate as part of your Covid19 Digital Passenger Declaration (which you can start up to seven days before you travel, and must complete before your departure for Australia). Once you know which State you will be arriving into please also see the relevant Australian State Guidance

International Visitors

If you are travelling to MERGA44 from further abroad (neither an Australian nor New Zealand passport) then you will need to apply for either an Electronic Travel Authority (Class 601), an eVisitor (Class 651) or a Visitor Visa (Class 600); see the IMMI Rules for Entering Australia Including Visa Types and the associated 'explore the visa options' button. The ETA 601 may be free (or cost $20 AUD) and takes a few days to process; the eVisitor 651 is free and takes 24 hours to process; and the Visitor Visa 600 costs $145 AUD and may take over a month to process. Colleagues from Singapore may apply for the ETA (https://www.australiaonlinevisas.com/types/eta-electronic-travel-authority/) and from Europe (https://immi.homeaffairs.gov.au/visas/getting-a-visa/visa-listing/evisitor-651).

Those outside the countries eligible for the ETA and eVisitor need to apply for the Visitor Visa (Class 600). If you see the Rules for Entering Australia Including Visa Types and select 'Attending a Conference or Expo' as an unpaid delegate then the processing times are shorter than for a holiday/tourist visa. An Accompanying Person who is registered with MERGA44 ($120 per person; an absolute bargain, trust me) may apply for their visa as 'Attending a Conference or Expo' also. If you require a 'Letter of Invitation' to assist with your visa application please contact [email protected].

Covid Vaccination Certificates  All international visitors including New Zealand and returning Australians need to present an International Covid19 Vaccination Certificate (ICVC) or a foreign vaccination certificate (see Australian Government Information on Travelling to Australia) as part of your Covid19 Digital Passenger Declaration (which you can start up to seven days before you travel, and must complete before your departure for Australia). Once you know which State you will be arriving into please also see the relevant Australian State Guidance

Covid Safety Advice

Mandatory Vaccination on UTAS Premises

All University of Tasmania staff, students, residents in University accommodation, consultants, contractors, volunteers, tenants and visitors must be vaccinated (or have an approved exemption) in relation to SARS-CoV-2 (Coronavirus disease or Covid) before accessing University premises, attending University operated programs or undertaking University business. Tasmania opened borders to all travellers on 26 February 2022 (see also the Tasmanian State Government's statement and the current general guidance). There is currently no provision for e.g. evidence of recent infection or daily RAT tests (or similar) as proof of eligibility to be on campus. The conference keynote addresses and some breakout sessions are being hosted at an external provider (Tramsheds Function Centre) which does not currently mandate vaccination. At least one reception and most of the breakout sessions will occur within University of Tasmania buildings therefore anyone attending must comply with UTAS policies.

Safety on MERGA44 Premises

MERGA44 is working with our venues and caterers to ensure that high standards of Covid-19 prevention are followed within the current national and state guidance. Please work with us to keep everyone safe. The density limit on venues was removed on 21 May and required mask-wearing is now limited to specific areas such as health care facilities, prisons and airports. Our policy is to under-fill rooms where possible, and mask-wearing is perfectly acceptable during the conference. Please join a session online if a room is at capacity (room capacities will be posted outside). Anyone feeling unwell should isolate if symptoms are experienced, and take a RAT or PCR test (PCR testing is on Dowling Street). Anyone testing positive for Covid-19 must isolate for a minimum of seven days and produce a negative test. Support from the Tasmanian Government's [email protected] scheme (which provides advice and can assist with, for example, pharmaceutical supplies) is available. It is recommended that anyone testing positive stay in their accommodation, however this is at the expense of the traveller. You may wish to ensure that your travel insurance will cover this cost. Further information for those who feel unwell is available on the Tasmania State Government's website

Travel Insurance

MERGA44 and the Tasmanian Government are unable to refund the cost of any unexpected disruptions to your travel plans, and we recommend that you ensure that you have travel insurance which covers you if you become unwell from Covid-19. Institutional (employer) policies may cover the cost of an extended stay if you become unwell and need to isolate (ask your departmental admin team for advice on who to speak to in your institutional HR/People and Wellbeing department). Single trip travel insurance from companies, costing as little as $80 for the week, such as Allianz or CoverMore can insure you for the cost of a hotel or the need to change travel tickets if you test positive for Covid and need to isolate for seven days. This article from Choice explains what to look out for in policies which claim to offer Covid-19 cover.

Conference Hotels and Accommodation

The recommended conference hotels are the Hotel Grand Chancellor and Peppers Silo Hotel (both within a ten minute flat walking distance of the conference venue) where bookings earn a conference rate.

Hotel Grand Chancellor Hotel Grand Chancellor lobby Hotel Grand Chancellor bedroom
Image credit: Hotel Grand Chancellor 

Hotel Grand Chancellor rates are $155 Superior Room Only and $170 Executive Room Only per night. Please quote MERGA on the online Booking Form. If you prefer to telephone then the Hotel can be reached on +61 (0)3 6334 3434 (please quote MERGA).

Peppers Silo Hotel image Peppers Silo Hotel bedroom  Peppers Silo Hotel restaurant Peppers Silo Hotel gym
Image credit: Peppers Silo Hotel

Peppers Silo Hotel rates are 15% below the best daily rate over the period 3-7 July 2022 inclusive, and bookings can be made by contacting the hotel directly via phone on +61 (0)3 6700 0600 or email [email protected] quoting MERGA44.

Image credit City of Launceston
Image credit City of Launceston maps

 

The conference hotels are within easy walking distance (on the flat) of the Inveresk campus with the walk from Peppers Silo Hotel following the river levee and the walk from the Hotel Grand Chancellor passing City Park and over the Tamar Bridge.

Other hotels and bed and breakfast venues are available without the conference discount in the city of Launceston via their websites and booking agencies.

 

Image credit City of Launceston
Image credit City of Launceston maps

About Launceston

Image credit Zachary Ferguson
Image credit Zachary Ferguson

 

 Launceston is one of the oldest cities in Australia established on the banks of the Tamar River (kanamaluka) at the confluence of the North Esk and South Esk rivers. Your Tramsheds Function Centre conference venue is located on the flat flood plain at Inveresk protected by a levee system which was tested in the 100 year flood of 2016. The levee provides a natural walking path around the river including Seaport and River Bend Park (connected by a pedestrian bridge) which host a range of excellent restaurants and bars catering for a variety of tastes. Craft beer outlets are available on St John and Elizabeth Streets, with the cafē strip further up Charles Street towards the Hospital. Museum's and Art Galleries (e.g. QVMAG, see below) share Inveresk with the conference venue and UTAS Stadium. New University buildings are being erected in Inveresk and Lawrence Street (connected by a new pedestrian bridge) to accommodate more University of Tasmania facilities closer to town.  

 

Image credit Meg Jerrard
Image credit Meg Jerrard

The city boasts excellent walking areas and parks, including Royal Park on the waterfront; City Park with the John Hart Conservatory, Macaques and Design Tasmania and Princes Square featuring a magnificent Victorian fountain delivered in error from the UK. Royal Park hosts the Queen Victoria Art Gallery (see below) and provides excellent jogging potential (towards Cataract Gorge) with an exercise equipment located at the picnic facilities/playground near Hallam's Restaurant. Inveresk is the starting point for walking or cycling in Heritage Forest.

Getting around

In addition to taxis and hiring a car (see airports above), there are other ways of seeing the sights. Uber operates in Launceston and is a cost-effective way to get about and to visit slightly out-of-town venues such as Cataract Gorge and local wineries. Ask a local conference attendee to take you on a tiki tour; Tasmanians love a good drive, and they will be only too willing to show off their state!

Tiger Bus (free city bus): The free Tiger Bus stops outside the Tramsheds Function Centre, Inveresk (the conference location) and circles the central business district, encompassing the Leisure and Aquatic Centre and other attractions. A full circuit on the Tiger Bus will orientate you to the central city and take about 30 minutes. Kids love it! 

eScooters: are being trialled in the city with Beam (purple) and Neuron (orange) companies offering pricing options. eScooters are incredibly convenient for short trips although the steeper streets like Balfour (host of the annual Balfour Burn) and Hill Streets can be a challenge! Simply download the app and follow the instructions.

Local attractions

Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (QVMAG): the Queen Victoria Museum is on-site at the conference venue and well worth an hour or two perusing the science and history of Tasmania. The Queen Victoria Art Gallery is located in Royal Park with up-to-date exhibitions and installations over three floors. Both are free to enter however a donation is appreciated.

The Launceston Tramway Museum and National Automobile Museum: Launceston had a Tram system which traversed the city to the top of High Street on the Eastern hill overlooking the city, and a long history with a love of cars. The Launceston Tramway Museum is on-site at the conference venue in Inveresk and is well worth a visit along with a ride on one of the last operating trams kept in amazing condition by enthusiasts and volunteers with support of the City of Launceston. If you like your trams you might also love the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania which is full of outstanding examples of yesteryear cars, trucks and other machinery maintained with love by the many willing volunteers and curators who spend hours preserving the historic past of the city. Located in a brand new venue opposite Peppers Silo Hotel it couldn't be closer, if you have time to browse. If you are into steam then the scenic Don River Railway is open Wed, Thurs and weekends for a 30 minute ride along the Don River in Davenport to the coast.  

Image credit Megan Baxter
Image credit Megan Baxter

 

The Cataract GorgeCataract Gorge is an outstanding local attraction recognised as a destination of choice for visitors and locals alike since Victorian times. A simple river basin and gorge in which the South Esk river meanders in the summer (next to the outdoor pool) planted with many trees and an overhead chairlift. The river can become more turbulent in winter with the floods overrunning the facilities at times. There are two restaurants in the Gorge for casual or formal dining. Please don't feed the resident peacocks or wallabies/pademelons; they are tame enough already! You can walk to Cataract Gorge via either the flat or steep paths listed in All Trails

 

Image credit Whatif
Image credit Whatif

Tamar River CruisesTamar River Cruises set off from Royal Park according to their summer and winter schedule going for short excursions to the Cataract Gorge and the longer, fully catered explorations of the river Tamar (kanamaluka).

Harvest Market: On Saturday mornings the Harvest Market takes place opposite the Hotel Grand Chancellor. Guaranteed local produce from local suppliers you can get everything from a bite to eat with coffee to preserves, clothing and Christmas presents (early, I know, but always good to get a few onboard early).

James Boags Brewery: Tours are conducted daily around James Boags Brewery where you will find a solid Tassie welcome together with a sampling of beer. 

Penny Royal Adventures: An active day for all the family rock climbing, cliff scrambling and gold panning at Penny Royal Adventures. Wash it down with wine from the Relbia Estate Cellar Door or in Brady's Tavern, all onsite at Penny Royal Adventures. 

If you have time to hire a car for the day then there is heaps to do if you follow a loop around the east and west Tamar: drive up one side and cross over the Batman Bridge (at Deviot) to the other. On the west you will find the Wetlands, Tasmania Zoo, Grindelwald Swiss Village, Rosevears, Brady's Lookout, Exeter, Beaconsfield with Miners Gold Brewery, Beauty Point with Seahorse World and Platypus House (see below). And of course, wineries. On the east the berry farms, George Town and Low Head (and beaches). Further east Bridport and the world-famous golf courses (with restaurants, of course) at Barnbougle and Lost Farm

West Tamar

Tamar Island Wetlands: If you have limited time but are seeking a little peaceful walking space, try the Tamar Island Wetlands where walks take from 20 minutes to 1.5 hours (out and return). Early mornings are extra special for observing the birdlife. Wrap up warm however, as the raised walking paths are exposed to the wind, it could be pretty chilly.

Tasmania ZooTasmania Zoo is also located in Launceston just a short drive from the city. To see Tassie Devils is a must and the local breeding program together with scientific research into healing facial tumours is helping to safeguard this endangered species endemic to Tasmania. The Zoo has an outstanding collection of native birds, marsupials and reptiles, together with some old favourites such as the meerkats, lions and monkeys. A trip to the Zoo will take a substantial part of your day and while the terrain is flat it does involve some walking. There is a cafe on site.

Rosevears Hotel: The Rosevears Hotel and bakery have recently been complemented by chalet accommodation overlooking the Tamar. The location is superb even in winter; you will be greeted with warmth and a hot meal. Only 15 minutes drive from Launceston it is the closest you will come to enjoying the luxury of the city in the country.

Grindelwald Swiss Village: The Grindelwald Swiss Village was established on the outskirts of Launceston in the 1980s as a unique residential development where all houses have been built in the Swiss style with wide eaves, flower boxes, window shutters and balconies. There are cafes, shopping, mini-golf and golf, with swimming and boating on the lakes. 

Miners Gold: Make you include a visit to Miners Gold Brewery at Beaconsfield—you can stop for a tasting, glass of beer and meal, or simply get take-away for later!

Image credit Google Maps
Image credit Google Maps

 

Wineries: There are world class wineries offering wine tastings and cellar doors, many with restaurants and outstanding views of the Tamar (kanamaluka), extending from Josef Chromy in the south to the north coast. (Click map for a link to a live map.) Josef Chromy is about a 15 minute drive and has an outstanding restaurant open for lunch and dinner together with wine tasting and cellar door. Velo, Tamar Ridge and Marion's Vineyard all have food as well as the cellar door but check their websites for details of their winter hours. 

There are also other excellent restaurants and hotels less than an hour's drive from Launceston, such as the Beauty Point Waterfront Hotel with an outstanding fish platter easily big enough for two, and a view of the marina and port at Beauty Point

Greg has been attempting to sample most of the wineries in order to make recommendations, just catch him during a break at the conference. 

 

Image credit Daniel Goh
Fishermans' basket at the Beauty Point Waterfront Hotel. Image credit: Daniel Goh

Seahorse WorldSeahorse World is a fascinating attraction where the 45 minute tour outlines the marine environment and the conservation of seahorses and seadragons at the Seahorse World farm. Fascinating fish feeding frenzies illustrate how the seahorses can be 'trained' by food. Live Seahorses are exported all over the world. Strongly recommend this attraction as something you wont see elsewhere!

Platypus House: Tours of Platypus House occur daily where you can meet the Platypuses and Echidnas (monotremes). The staff love their work caring for these unique and increasingly rare animals (there are calls for Platypuses to be classed as 'endangered'). The Echidnas will walk all over your feet. Right next to Seahorse World it is a perfect day out to take in these two local attractions.

East and North Tamar

George Town: an easy 45 minute drive from Launceston along the picturesque East Tamar Highway you reach George Town (past the historic church at Windemere and the Hillwood berry farms). You can still buy a house in George Town for around $300K but prices are rising rapidly. 

Low Head: Famous for fishing, beaches and penguin-watching with the Penguin ToursLow Head is a popular beach township on the north coast where the Tamar empties into Bass Strait. Right next door is East Bay with white sands extending as far as the eye can see. Unlike mainland beaches it will likely be deserted at that time of year. 

Further to the east from George Town, and past about seven more wineries including Sinapius, Dalrymple VineyardsJansz and Pipers Brook, you reach the seaside town of Bridport and the internationally famous Lost Farm/Barnbougle golf courses.

South of the City

The wineries in Relbia are renowned including the superb Josef Chromy winery about a 15 minute drive from Launceston. 

Evandale: Home of the annual Penny Farthing Championship (trust me, it is hysterical—these bikes have no brakes and they go like the clappers) Evandale is an historically important town just a few moments from the airport and 15 minutes from Launceston. The Clarendon Arms Hotel serves food seven days a week and often has live music on a Sunday. 

Evandale Sunday Market: The Sunday market in Evandale has everything from hot food, bread and farm-sourced veggies, pony rides, an indoor market (clothes, collectibles, antiques and jewellery) and heaps of stalls with everything from second hand tools and brik-a-brac to preserves, candles, toys and birdhouses. TripAdvisor rates the market at 4.5!

Out of season

Hillwood Berry Farm, Bridestowe Lavender Farm and Table Cape Tulip Farm: Unfortunately it is the wrong time of year for picking berries, scenting the stunning Bridestowe Lavender Farm and taking in the vista of Table Cape Tulip Farm with tulips covering the land as far as the eye can see. But please come back in spring/summer and these attractions, together with the Emu Valley Rhododendron gardens and Lalla Flower Farm, all  in the north, will take your breath away. 

Further afield

Planning a holiday? It is an excellent time to visit Tasmania (although it can get a little cold in July)! To the west of the city you will find the Bass Highway leads past the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm at Westbury, Deloraine, Ashgrove Cheese and specialist towns like Sheffield which attract artists from around the world and boast a large collection of wall murals. 

Image credit David Clode
Image credit David Clode

Image credit Donovan Simpkin
Image credit Donovan Simpkin

 

If you simply have a few days at the beginning or end of the conference you can either make Launceston your base and take day trips to the north coast via the wineries; to the east coast or northwest coast; or take a short road trip staying in local accommodation along the way. For an overnight away we have to recommend Cradle Mountain and Freycinet National Park. The scenery is breathtaking and the accommodation and hospitality is outstanding. Unfortunately they are in diametrically different directions so if you want to do both you should plan for at least four days, and remember that Cradle Mountain gets snow in the winter.

It is a mere 2.5 hour drive to Hobart, the state capital (via the Midland Highway), which hosts excellent restaurants, hotels, and entertainment, and the waterfront is truly stunning. On the way you will go through or past Campbell Town, Ross and Oatlands, towns that have a wealth of history. In Campbell Town the pavement bricks list the names and lifespans of the early settlers which makes for sober reading. The Female Factory in Ross is always open and free to enter. It takes about an hour to walk around the Female Factory (there is another, Cascades Female Factory in Hobart). 

If you have time to drive through the lakes you will encounter some wild green spaces. Remember to stop at the Great Lake Hotel for some outstanding refreshment (they have accommodation too). 

 

Image credit Meg Jerrard
Image credit Meg Jerrard

Image credit Margaret Major
Image credit Margaret Major

Image credit Christine Mendoza
Image credit Christine Mendoza

 

With ten days between Dark Mofo (see below) and MERGA44 you have the perfect amount of time to head south to the Huon Valley for a few days and return taking in a combination of the sights on the east/north east coast around Coles Bay and Freycinet National Park; Bicheno, Scamander, St Helens, White Sands and Bay of Fires; or the west/north west coast, Queenstown, Strahan, Cradle Mountain, the Tarkine with Smithton and Stanley. It is often possible to fly into one airport and out of another (depending on your airline). One-way car hire is possible and convenient, and if it is cheaper to return to the same hire location then you can take the Redline Intercity Bus to Hobart for about $44 per person (3 hours). Walking holidays are a speciality and the waterfalls are spectacular in winter. To walk in many of the parks you need a Parks Pass which can be brought online or at the Launceston Visitor Information Centre.

 

Image credit Jordan Redshaw
Image credit Jordan Renshaw

Image credit Jordan Renshaw
Image credit Jordan Renshaw

 

Hobart boasts an impressive waterfront lined with restaurants, bars and hotels. North Hobart hosts the world-famous Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Take the MONA ferry from Hobart's marina to MONA for the day, or stay onsite. MONA hosts several city-wide festivals each year, with Dark Mofo featuring a fantastic combination of musical performances, performance art and large-scale installations 15–22 June 2022 (returning after cancellation in 2020 and a limited program in 2021).

Salamanca Market takes place on a Saturday where you can indulge in hot street food and buy a wide range of clothes, jewellery and gifts such as Tasmanian wooden products (rare huon pine or blackwood salad servers can be as little as $10 a pair; I stock up for Christmas presents), wine, candles, preserves and nuts. All sourced locally. Much of the clothing is hand made (knitted or sewn) with the market having a commitment to Tasmania suppliers.

Port Arthuris of considerable historic significance to Tasmania and Australia as a whole. Booking is essential even in winter.

 

Image credit Randy Duke
Image credit Randy Duke

Image credit Keith Davey
Image credit Keith Davey

Acknowledgement

Most people who make up the proud First Nations community of lutruwita (Tasmania) are palawa or pakana—terms used interchangeably to refer to the original owners of the land to whom we show our respect; their elders past, present and future.