To many, Hobart comes as a surprise. Australia’s southernmost city it may be, but conditions here are far from dark, drizzly and wanting for amusement. Hobart receives more sunshine than Melbourne and less rainfall than every capital city bar one. Plus when it comes to things to see, do and eat, this harbour-side city is your oyster.
Or abalone, really. Tasmania provides more than 25% of the world’s supply and the Bart’s the freshest place to tuck into them (plus lobster, mussels, oysters, salmon, trout, scallops… you get the picture). Not into seafood? Try the chardonnays, pastries, cheeses or a locally-produced whisky voted the world’s best in 2014. If art’s your thing, don’t go past MONA. If history is, potter along Salamanca Place to Battery Point or check out the Maritime Museum of Tasmania. For some biking or hiking, head to Mt. Wellington. For beauty rich and rare, cruise over to Bruny Island. You really can’t make a wrong move in the Tasmanian capital.
Our Hobart tours
Things to see & do in Hobart
You descend a never-ending staircase cut into the bedrock of the Berriedale Peninsula. It’s gloomy and weird and there are no windows anywhere. Suddenly you’re face to face with a fishbowl on a lonely chair, a collection of lithographic pornos, or pictures of shoulder blades. It can only be MONA, Hobart’s epic $75m modern art museum. The Museum of Old and New Art has been labelled a “subversive adult Disneyland” (by its creator) and “the art of the exhausted, decaying civilisation” (by its critics). The museum is now drawing comparisons with London’s Tate Modern and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Not your typical Saturday arvo.
Driving through the rugged forests of the Tasman Peninsula, you’d never know that behind the eucalypts lurks one of the darkest sites in Australian history. Port Arthur was built way back in 1830 to house the new colony’s criminals, and it quickly gained a fearsome reputation. It was a brutal place back then, and the old barracks and prison buildings still echo with a kind of mournful sadness (especially on popular night-time ghost tours). Tragically, in 1996, Port Arthur also became the site of Australia’s worst ever massacre, an event that cemented the prison’s infamous reputation. It’s an important heritage stop on any Tasmania trip.
If Hobart is the crafty, foodie capital of Australia (sorry, Melbourne), then the crafty, foodie heart of Hobart is Salamanca Place. In the 70s, this area was a burgeoning artists commune, and in 1974 the locals kicked off a famous Saturday morning tradition: the Salamanca Markets. Salamanca is a great any day of the week (there are dozens of good restaurants, shops, bars and cafes along the water), but ‘Market Day’ is special: fresh organic produce, ceramics and craftwares, antiques, buskers, street food, local woodwork, books, clothes and jewellery come rain, hail or shine. Try and pick a Tasmania tour that runs over a weekend.
No Tassie tour would be complete without a pilgrimage up Mt Wellington, Hobart’s snow-cloaked, mountain neighbour. This is the city’s adventure playground, a familiar backdrop where locals head on weekends to ride and hike in temperate forests and get lost in the clouds. The sealed road was cut into the mountainside during the Great Depression, and it’s still the quickest way to get to the summit (1270m). Budding walkers should check out the Fern Glade Track (a 5-6 hour return trip to the summit) or the spectacular Organ Pipes walk. And don’t worry if the weather’s looking overcast – Mt Wellington’s peak usually pokes right through the clouds.
Hobart may be small, but it packs a flavour punch. Even mainlanders know Tasmania has some of the best produce anywhere in the country: think fresh Oysters from nearby Bruny Island, whisky from Sullivan’s Cove or leatherwood honey from the western rainforests. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to Hobart restaurants, but a first-time visitor should definitely make time for a tipple at Grape Bar & Bottle Shop and a late-night pizza stop at La Belle Pizza (open until 2:00am on Friday nights). For breakfast, our pick is Pigeon Hole café in hilly West Hobart, about a 15-minute walk from the town centre.