No doubt about it, Hobart’s future is looking rosy. Tourism is booming and the old town is humming with low vacancy rates, high real-estate prices and new-found self-confidence.
On the Waterfront
Hobart is a harbour town – a port city where the world rushes in on the tide and ebbs away again, bringing with it influences from afar and leaving the locals buzzing with a global zeitgeist. Or so the theory goes. These days Hobart’s waterfront precinct is certainly abuzz, with old pubs alongside new craft-beer bars, myriad cafes, museums, festivals, ferries, fishing boats, yachts, accommodation and a floating pier upholding fine restaurants…all of it washed with sea-salty charm and a sense of history. On a sunny afternoon, there are few more pleasant places to find yourself.
Up the Mountain
Riding high above the city is kunanyi/Mt Wellington, a craggy basalt beast seemingly made for mountain biking and bushwalking. Known as kunanyi by local Aboriginal people, and just 'the mountain' by everybody else, this 1271m-high monolith both defines the city below and shelters it. Drive to the summit in any season – you're assured of either a show-stopping view or an out-of-time, lunar, cloud-shrouded experience, wandering around between snowdrifts, lichen-dappled boulders and the stunted plants that somehow survive in these lofty skies. Finally, barrel back down to the waterfront on a mountain-bike tour like no other.
Eating & Drinking
Watery cappuccino? Lukewarm sausage roll? Maybe a deep-fried, reconstituted squid ring? Forget it: the bad old days of Hobart food and drink are long gone. The new order of service here focuses on top-quality local and seasonal produce, turned by deft chefs into marvellous restaurant, cafe and pub meals. Coffee culture is also firmly entrenched, with double-shot pick-me-ups available at every turn. And booze? Cascade Brewery leads Australian's mainstream brewing brigade, but an under-fleet of creative craft-beer breweries is also bubbling up here. And with dinner, cool-climate wines from the nearby Coal and Derwent river valleys are hard to beat.
Hobart's summer festival season is an absolute blast! For a few weeks circling around New Year's Eve, this little city goes berserk with travellers, foodies, musicians, and sailors from the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race turning the town upside down. The Taste of Tasmanian festival, highlighting local produce, is the summer centrepiece. Then, in the depths of winter, Hobart's more macabre, unhinged side comes out to play: the Dark MOFO festival shines a pale gothic light on the city's past and present, with visitors revelling in offbeat performances, feasts, bonfires, installations and plenty of good red wine.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Hobart.
Twelve kilometres north of Hobart's city centre, MONA is burrowed into the Triassic sandstone of a peninsula jutting into the Derwent River. Arrayed across three underground levels, the $75-million museum created by local philanthropist-owner David Walsh mixes ancient antiquities among contemporary artworks. It's sexy, provocative, disturbing and deeply engaging – don't miss it. To get here, catch the MONA ferry (return standard/posh $22/55) or MONA Roma shuttle bus ($22) from Hobart’s Brooke St Pier.
This picturesque row of three- and four-storey sandstone warehouses is a classic example of Australian colonial architecture. Dating back to the whaling days of the 1830s, Salamanca Pl was then the waterfront – goods were winched from the upper levels of the warehouses directly onto ships. By the mid-20th century many of the warehouses had fallen into ruin, before restorations began in the 1970s. These days Salamanca hosts myriad restaurants, cafes, bars and shops, and the unmissable Saturday Salamanca Market.
Ribbed with its striking Organ Pipes cliffs, kunanyi/Mt Wellington (1271m) towers over Hobart like a benevolent overlord. The view from the top stretches over Hobart and much of the state's south, and the slopes are laced with walking trails. Mountain bikers come for the North South Track, descending from the Springs to Glenorchy, while you can also coast down the sealed summit road on a bike with Mt Wellington Descent. The Hobart Shuttle Bus Company also runs daily two-hour tours to the summit.
Standing in startling, Gothic isolation next to the clean-running Hobart Rivulet, Australia’s oldest brewery (1824) is still pumping out superb beers. The daily one-hour tours involve plenty of history, with tastings at the end. Note that under-16s aren't permitted on the main brewery tour (take the family-friendly Beer School tour instead), and that brewery machinery might not be running if you're here on a weekend (brewers have weekends too). To get here, take bus 446, 447 or 449.
Tucked in behind Salamanca Pl, the old maritime village of Battery Point is a tight nest of lanes and 19th-century cottages. Spend an afternoon exploring: stumble up Kelly’s Steps from Salamanca Pl and wander through Princes Park, where the gun battery of the suburb's name stood, protecting Hobart Town from nautical threats both real and imagined. Spin around picturesque Arthur Circus, refuel in Hampden Rd's cafes, then ogle St George’s Anglican Church – the tower was designed by a convict architect.
This World Heritage Site was where Hobart’s female convicts were incarcerated and put to work. Around 12,500 women were transported to Tasmania, and at its height the Cascades Female Factory held 1200 women – more convicts than Port Arthur ever held at a time. You can explore the hauntingly spare yards with their interpretive installations independently, or take a guided Heritage Tour or the excellent Her Story dramatisation. To get here by public transport, take bus 446, 447 or 449.
Hobart at its most bohemian, the Elizabeth St strip in North Hobart (aka NoHo) is lined with dozens of cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs – enough to keep you coming back meal after drink after meal. Also here is the excellent art-house State Cinema, and Hobart's staunchest live-music room, the Republic Bar & Café. Must-do Hobart!
Incorporating Tasmania's oldest surviving public building, the Commissariat Store (1808), TMAG features Aboriginal and colonial relics and an excellent Antarctic and Southern Ocean display. The gallery curates a collection of Tasmanian colonial and modern art, and there are changing temporary exhibitions. Free guided tours run at 1pm and 2pm from Wednesday to Sunday, plus special themed tours at 11am; check the website to see what's on. There’s a cool courtyard cafe and shop too.
The nonprofit Salamanca Arts Centre has been here since 1977 and occupies seven Salamanca warehouses. It's home to dozens of arts organisations and individuals, including excellent shops, galleries, theatres, studios, performing-arts venues, a cheese shop, a couple of cafes and public spaces.