Cataract Gorge Reserve and First Basin Loop

A leisurely riverside walk surrounded by native flora with a panoramic lookout.

Hiking Easy

2.9 km
134 m
133 m
0-1 hrs
Low Point
15 m
High Point
105 m
Cataract Gorge Reserve and First Basin Loop Map

For a perfect day out in nature just minutes away from Launceston’s centre, head to the Cataract Gorge Reserve for a picturesque walk around the South Esk River and the First Basin. This loop walk is a combination of the Cataract Walk, the First Basin Trail, and the Zig-Zag Track. It offers an ideal blend of leisurely walking, relaxed grassy and poolside hangouts, the thrill of a chairlift ride, and fun hiking along an earth trail to a stunning lookout. It’s a perfect family-friendly option, combining an accessible walk surrounded by lush nature with the option of spending the whole day in the Reserve.


Kick off your walk on a leisurely, undulating path above and alongside the South Esk River. The calming sounds of the flowing river accompany you as you meander your way along the side of the valley surrounded by leafy bushes and trees. The walk opens up as the river widens into a still, tree-lined basin called the First Basin. Walk across the suspension bridge. As you do, you’ll notice the chairlift spanning the entire basin above you. For a bit of added fun, hop on it to see the gorge from another perspective. You can easily spend the entire day around the basin, as the idyllic riverside swimming pool, picnic tables, grassy lawns, children’s playground, and the Gorge Restaurant are all perfect reasons to relax in this hidden natural paradise.

Relaxing and walking aside, the variety of natural vegetation in the gorge is simply amazing. Over 70 species of flora in the Reserve are native to the area, as well as many different species of native wildlife, including nine bird species endemic to Tasmania. It’s a true natural haven.

Once you’ve enjoyed your break, carry on up the Zig-Zag Track, which is the fun, rocky, and slightly uphill section of the walk that leads you to a striking lookout at its summit. You’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas of rolling green hills, the bubbling South Esk River, the calm First Basin, the peaceful town of Launceston, and the Cataract Gorge unfurling in front of your eyes.




Walking along a well-kept trail that’s mostly flat. No obstacles are present.

Low Exposure

1 out of 4

The path is on completely flat land and potential injury is limited to falling over.


1 out of 4

Close to help in case of emergency.

Best time to visit

between November and April


  • Historical
  • Wild flowers
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation