Backpackers Launceston Revisited.

While staying in backpackers’ accommodation might not be the goal of most 40 something travellers, I couldn’t wait.

You see, I stayed at Launceston Backpackers when I travelled around Tasmania in 1995 for the 50th Anniversary of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. This turned out to be quite a memorable experience. The fire alarm went off in the middle of the night and while I immediately jumped out of bed, packed my bag and rushed out of the room, all the other backpackers slept through. Didn’t budge. This was before the Childers Palace, Backpackers Hostel fire on 23 June 2000 killed 15 backpackers. That said, I backpackers have short memories and I doubt they’d get up any faster.


Geoff stepping back in time with our son.

However, more importantly, my husband lived at Launceston Backpackers in it’s previous life. The backpackers’ used to be Parkside, a boarding house for country high school students to complete the last two years of schooling as country high schools finished at the end of Year 10.


The view from our room across to the park.

As expected, returning to Parkside brought back many memories and tales. This included the story of the house mistress dumbfounded by technology. She came in and asked the students if any of them knew anything about bombs. She told them there was a metal box behind the hedge which was ticking. Geoff took great delight in telling me that this was the water meter!

Parkside the building is interesting in itself. Built in 1905, it’s a grand two story Federation mansion…the kind often converted into boarding houses or broken up into flats in later life.


What I noticed straight away, was the grand staircase with its imposing wooden banister, which was just crying out for me to slide down it if it weren’t for the rather painful ornamentation which ruined your fun. The stairs would’ve been great to go bumping down as well if it weren’t a public space. You know what it’s like. There’s always a killjoy out there!


We stayed in the former house master’s room at Parkside but I did manage to photograph a few of the rooms the next morning and loved the quaint window seats. Would’ve made an ideal writer’s retreat.


Old and new…Geoff thinks this is the original piano.

Anyway, our time at Parkside, or should I say Launceston Backpackers, passed without incident and even though we might be old and gray, we’ll be back.

xx Rowena

8 thoughts on “Backpackers Launceston Revisited.

  1. Mabel Kwong

    That is hilarious to hear about the house mistress mistaking the water meter as a bomb. She must have come from a little town or perhaps really did not want to assume anything given that you never really know :”D Nice to hear it was a great time you had at Backpackers Launceston/Parkside, and you are still okay living like a backpacker. I am much younger and I can’t even bring myself to do it :”D

  2. Rowena Post author

    It was fun but did notice how it was different now that I’m no longer perceived to be part of the younger crowd.
    xx Ro

  3. AJ Clarke

    This brings back a lot of happy memories. I was also a resident of Parkside for two years, and I remember how much fun it was to live there. I was there in 1981 and 1982. I would be interested to know when your husband was there, and whether Thelma Brazendale was the Matron at that time. Regards, Adam.

  4. Rowena Post author

    Hi Adam,
    Great to hear from you. Although it’s my husband who is the Tasmanian, I get quite excited when we make contacts down there and it’s my adopted home. My husband is Geoff Newton and he came from Scottsdale and he was there from 83-84 . He can’t remember who the matron was. He’s not real good with names. He tells stories of leaving a cup of water outside on th window ledge overnght peeling off the ice in the morning and then preying on some poor soul by peeling back their doona and and throwing the cup of ice water at themand running off before they could be identified. Does that ring any bells? Geoff also boarded at the nurses residence when he went to uni.
    BTW I’ve been researching GGeoff’s Great UNcle’s WWI service history and my research expanded to include letters sent home and all sorts. It’s blown up into a huge project and I came across a Clarke somewhere. Did you have someone who served?
    Anyway, great to touch base.
    Best wishes,

  5. AJ Clarke

    Hi Rowena,
    It seems that Geoff followed along right behind me. Proving that it’s a small world, Geoff was at Scottsdale, and I grew up in Derby. I attended Winnaleah District High School, graduating in 1980. I could probably throw a few names your way, and I’m pretty sure that Geoff would have gone to school with those people. People like Mark Willis, Andrew Beattie, Maree Matthews, and David Hasdell all spring to mind instantly. I’m hoping to start a Parkside Hostel Facebook group in the next week or so, and I am happy to let you know when this is done. My aim is to have a place where former residents and staff can touch base with one another and share their memories.
    I’m a bit vague about my family history, and finding information has become difficult. My wife is the genealogist in the family. My father was an only child, and a succession of strokes over the years did have some impact on his memory. Sadly, he passed away almost one year ago to the day (2nd April), which makes me the end of the line for this branch of the Clarke family.
    Anyway, I’d best go. We freelance writers only get paid when we’re writing, so time to earn some cash. I’ll let you know when Facebook is up and running.
    Kindest Regards,

  6. Rowena Post author

    Hi Adam,
    You’re in very familiar territory. My husband’s best friend through school and uni was Jonathon Goss who also went through Parkside. I’m pretty sure he has Willis’s and Beatties and I’ll put him onto your Facebook page when it’s up and running. I found the Clarke reference without having to search for it: Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 – 1954), Tuesday 31 July 1917, page 6
    MEMORIAL SERVICE LATE LANCE-CORPORAL CYRIL CLARKE A memorial service was held on Sun day afternoon in the Lietinna Hall, in memory of the late Lance-Corporal Cyril Clarke, whose death in action was reported recently; a. large crowd assembling, the ball being full. Besides his many local friends. Nabowla was strongly represented. Members of the U.A.O.D. marched to the hall in mourning regalia, while many friends from Scottsdale and the surrounding district showed by their presence the respect and popularity in which the gallant young soldier was held. ‘The service Church of England) was very impressive. The hymns were, “‘Nearer My God to Thee.” “There is a Blessed Home,” “On the Resurrection Morning,’ and “Abide With Me.” At the conclusion the Litany. “As we Kneel and Pray.” was sung. The “Last Post” was then played by Mr. H. G. Williams, and the Dead March in “Saul” by the organist, .Mrs. E. Watts. Touching reference was made by the Rev. O. W. Wilson to tihe other Lietinna lads who had laid down their lives for the Empire and duty-Messrs. C. Smith, R. Kerr, W. Walters, W. Jessup, W. French, J. Sweeney, H Williams, and C. Clarke. The rector preached an inspiring sermon on St. Paul’s idea of “Glory,” and his words of comfort and final message of hope and confidence will linger long in the memories of those who were present.
    Best wishes, Rowena

  7. AJ Clarke

    Hi Rowena,
    I don’t think that we’re related to Cyril Clarke, but I will never rule anything out. Our family hail from NSW, and when Sharon has worked her way back through the generations, there have only been pretty small families all the way back.
    I also thought that I’d let you know that the Facebook group is now up and running. If Geoff just types Parkside Hostel in his Facebook search, he’ll be able to find us. I’ve found a few members from my years, but I’m encouraging as many former residents and staff as possible to join the group. I look at this as a way to reconnect with people, and to share a lot of happy (and possibly suppressed) memories. I’ve set it so that potential members have to answer a couple of questions in order to join. Non-members will be able to see what is happening, but only members can comment and contribute. I hope to see Geoff’s name pop up soon.
    Take care and kindest regards,

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