In 1798, European explorers Bass and Flinders sailed along the northern coast of Van Dieman’s Land, known today as Tasmania. They took a colonial sloop and proved that it was indeed an island, separated from mainland Australia by a strait (today called the Bass Strait).
Rowing up the Tamar River to where Launceston is today, their exploration laid the groundwork for some of the first European settlements in the country, and in 1806 Launceston became a township.
It’s easy to first think of Hobart or Sydney when seeking out colonial heritage in Australia, though Launceston has a rich and vibrant heritage, and one of the finest early cityscapes in the country.
Defined by Georgian buildings and Victorian gardens, Australia’s third oldest city is today a shining example of adaptive reuse; with fashion boutiques, bars, banks, and high-tech offices sitting inside colonial churches, town halls, and towers.
And as far as historic hotels? The Leisure Inn Penny Royal is a boutique, family-friendly apartment hotel, set in an 1840’s corn mill. If you’re traveling with children, check out Launceston Baby Hire so you don’t have to travel with big bulky equipment.
Stay Back in Time at Leisure Inn Penny Royal Launceston
Offering old world charm right at the mouth of Cataract Gorge, Leisure Inn Penny Royal is a heritage listed property that was originally built as a water / corn / flour mill.
Early pioneers of Van Dieman’s Land, Andrew Gatenby and his family settled here in the 1820’s, and built their homestead by hand with the help of 30 convicts; they cut the stone and saw the timber to erect a substantial mill on the Pennyroyal Creek (today known as Isis River).
Their mill served the district for 50 years, and the wealth that came meant they were able to expand their property to own seven estates by the time Andrew died in 1848.
Though this prosperity wasn’t to last, and their mill eventually fell into disrepair. The convict bricks were discovered by developer Roger Smith 130 years later, and while it would have been easy to demolish the abandoned buildings, he instead chose to relocate the whole complex.
The farmhouse, mill, and surrounding buildings were all moved 54 kilometers, and rebuilt stone by stone, and brick by brick, to where they now stand on Paterson St. Over 6,000 blocks, giant timber beams and other materials were transported, and reassembled to become a historic hotel.
A Hotel in an 1840’s Corn Mill
Leisure Inn Penny Royal is a beautiful hotel; walking through the water-mill complex past rooms named for early settlers, Colonels and Brigadiers, you truly lose sense of the century.
While hotel rooms sit inside the water-mill buildings, and an onsite restaurant allows you to dine by the original water wheel, Apartments are located just up the road, backing right up against the cliffs at mouth of Cataract Gorge.
Spread over an entire complex, the property offers a wide variety of rooms, and you can unwind in:
Room Types at Leisure Inn Penny Royal
➤ Classic Queen rooms with beautiful exposed beams and historic light fixings;
➤ Studio Queens with kitchenettes;
➤ One Bedroom Apartments with balconies overlooking the sandstone village; or
➤ Split level Two and Three Bedroom Apartments for families.
With such a huge range of room types, the hotel is perfect for short weekend escapes, family or friend gatherings or even longer stays with self-contained apartments that offer full kitchens, and all the comforts of home.
This is a comfortable, laid back property, with motel style parking on site for the apartments, and spacious, comfortable suites that feature modern touches, despite having bones from the 19th century; LCD TV, air conditioning, free Wi-Fi, tea/coffee making facilities, and plush towelling.
Winding staircases, suites inside towers, and heavy black Georgian doors define the hotel experience here; though it’s also defined by its picturesque site and privileged location.
When Smith moved the original mill in 1972, he chose to move it to the mouth of Launceston’s most visited attraction; Cataract Gorge. Still the city’s most iconic attraction, he couldn’t have chosen a better location.
Set amidst the Tamar River, Leisure Inn Penny Royal is only 10 minutes from Launceston CBD, Marina, shops, restaurants and cafes, and directly across from the hotel is access to the River Edge Trail, a paved trail with spectacular views of the Tamar River that winds its way from Cataract Gorge Reserve to the Seaport.
You can’t stay any closer to Cataract Gorge (which offers incredible natural beauty for bushwalking), and if you’ve chosen to stay in the Apartments, you can enjoy a morning cup of tea or coffee on the public outdoor patios which face the cliffs of the Gorge.
Though he didn’t stop at reconstructing the mill, Smith also had a vision for a theme park which would re-create 19 century’s Van Demiend’s Land. So guests will find Penny Royal Adventure Park onsite at the hotel.
Penny Royal Adventure Park
As Tasmania’s only theme park, Penny Royal Adventure Park continues the history of the 19th century mill, and allows you to immerse yourself in an early colonial village, with some adventure thrown into the mix!
As you wander through the village you can purchase tickets for themed boat rides through the lagoon, cliff adventures where you navigate rope bridges suspended above the Penny Royal, or take on climbing walls at the mouth of Cataract Gorge.
There’s a 20 metre cliff jump, zip lines that propel you 100 meters across the grounds, ghost tours, and live cannon firing; it’s fun for the whole family, and there is also a wine bar, ice creamery and restaurant / tavern (head over for 2 for 1 Pizza Happy Hour Fri-Sat from 5pm to 6 pm).
Historic Things to Do in Launceston
Our visit to Leisure Inn Penny Royal coincided with Wellness Month, where Leisure Inn Hotels provided walking maps of the area to every guest, and free access to the Caravan Wellness app, with programs to boost energy, immunity, fitness, sleep, nutrition, productivity, mindfulness, and positivity!
So while there was plenty for us to do, we had also been inspired by our immersive experience to dig deeper into Launceston’s early history.
One of the best ways to experience Launceston’s history is to simply walk the streets. Much of the city’s rich history is tangible in the streetscapes, and there are many fine examples of 19th and 20th century architectural styles, including Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian.
The Queen Victoria Museum is a good place to start, which is a small museum full of Tasmanian historical artefacts, and was formerly the Launceston Railway Workshops.
From here you can carve a path that takes in beautiful buildings like Albert Hall, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Quadrant Mall, St Johns Church, the Post Office, and Launceston Town Hall.
Chalmers Presbyterian Church at 134 St John St is a particularly stunning building built in 1859 as a Free Church of Scotland. It’s a white Gothic Revival building, now a communications agency, who didn’t mind us walking into their offices!
With our walking maps of Cataract Gorge in hand, we also spent time exploring Duck Reach Museum – an open air museum on the abandoned site of Duck Reach Power Station – the first publicly-owned hydro-electric power station in Australia and one of the earliest in the world.
Make a Booking
Visit leisureinnpennyroyal.com.au for more information, or check rates and book your stay.
We were guests of Leisure Inn Penny Royal for this review stay.