Hobart is a popular city break in Australia and this Hobart city guide will give you all the information you need to plan a great trip to the Tasmanian capital.
This beautiful harbourside city has a historic centre that combines with pretty residential suburbs stretching around the arms of the Derwent River on its way to join the Tasman Sea. Behind the city, majestic Mt Wellington provides a craggy backdrop, often with a tablecloth of low cloud.
Founded in 1804, Hobart’s early history is connected with the establishment of a convict colony by the British in what was initially called Van Diemen’s Land. A number of penal settlements were established and vie with anything on the mainland in their reputation for cruelty. The thousands of convict labourers transported from Britain were responsible for the construction of Hobart’s architecture, from roughly-dressed golden stone.
Hobart is also a good starting point for exploring the state of Tasmania, an island off the south coast of mainland Australia with an area of less than 70,000 kilometres and a population of only half a million people. The small size of this state makes it easy to explore and Tasmania offers a pleasing contrast of landscape and climate to the mainland.
From the stunning East Coast beaches to the World-Heritage-Listed primeval forests of the western wilderness and Cradle Mountain, Tasmania has beautiful landscapes, unique wildlife, a pristine environment, and welcoming people. Tasmania’s cool climate wines enjoy a high reputation and many wineries have cellar doors open to the public for those who like to plan wine touring vacations.
Things to do in Hobart
The sparkling harbour is the reason why there is such a strong maritime influence in Hobart. Ship’s chandlers, master mariners, trade warehouses and waterfront pubs sprang up to serve the sea-going business, including the whaling trade. Nowadays Hobart’s historic waterfront buildings have been transformed into restaurants, art galleries, and trendy bars and are a great place to wander as you explore the city.
Salamanca Place is the best example of such 19th Century marine industrial architecture. Climb up Kelly Steps from Salamanca Place to explore Battery Point, another historic district full of Georgian-era residences where the early European settlers lived. A particularly pretty street is Arthur’s Circus, where there are some very diminutive historic cottages. Also look out for the impressive Mariners Church.
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery opened in 1846 and offers a well-curated insight into the natural and social history of Tasmania. Davey St & Dunn Pl Open every day except Monday 10am – 4pm.
A Day trip from Hobart
Just up the Derwent River near Hobart and reached by road or ferry is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), funded privately by David Walsh, a poker multi-millionaire. The setting of MONA is gorgeous enough and the design by Fender Katsalidis Architects is impressive. However, it is the collection of contemporary art that is the big draw. It is sometimes controversial, always stimulating, and has been called a ‘subversive adult Disneyland’.
MONA is definitely worth visiting when in Hobart and is very popular so arrive early to avoid the queues. If you visit on a Saturday there is also the MONA Market (MoMa) on the roof, which has lovely views and a great selection of locally grown vegetables, fruit, cheeses and other produce from the surrounding Derwent Valley.
Another popular day trip from Hobart is the Tasman Peninsula, where you can tour the former convict settlement at Port Arthur and take a boat trip to see the spectacular rock formations along the coastline, where endangered birdlife make their homes.
Bruny Island is a short ferry ride from Hobart. Here you can enjoy wildlife tours, including the unusual white wallabies. Bruny Island is also becoming famous for its food scene, particularly the handmade cheeses.
Where to eat and drink in Hobart
Hobart is a popular city break destination, particularly as its reputation as a “foodie” city has grown in recent years. It is a very walkable city and the large range of eateries make the most of Tasmania’s deliciously fresh produce and wine.
Small Fry is a tiny bar at 129 Bathurst Street (0061 3 6231 1338) and has some imaginative menu as well as showing off some of Tasmania’s excellent micro-brewed beers.
Right on Salamanca Place, Smolt has a high reputation for its seafood menu (2 Salamanca Place; 00 61 3 6224 2554). Don’t miss the oysters if they are in season.
Garagistes is known for its casual grazing style of eating (103 Murray Street; 00 61 3 6231 0558) and has a very creative menu.
Try to visit Hobart during the weekend when the famous Salamanca Market fills the waterfront street with bustling shoppers enjoying the organic produce, artisanal baked goods, wine tasting and street entertainment. While in the Battery Point area stop for coffee and cake at Jackman & McRoss.
Hotels in Hobart
The Pickled Frog is a friendly hostel that used to be an inn with stables attached. The 1834 building has been turned into budget accommodation. It has a kitchen and offers free shuttle bus rides to destinations in Hobart such as Mt Wellington. Address: 281 Liverpool St,
Somerset On The Pier (Elizabeth Street Pier; 0061 3 6220 6600; somerset.com) is a great choice if you want to be right in the thick of things. With its water views and maritime atmosphere, this is a perfect base in Hobart.
A mid-range option is the 3-star Customs House Hotel, which is in a lovely 19th-century building and has a bar and restaurant attached. 1 Murray St
Islington Hotel (321 Davey Street; 0061 3 6220 2123 islingtonhotel.com) offers views of Mount Wellington, exquisite rooms and excellent value for money, in a tranquil suburban location.
For a stylish high-end option right on Salamanca Place, the Salamanca Wharf Hotel is in a brilliant location and features excellent studio and one-bedroom apartments. 17a Castray Esplanade, Battery Point
You can actually stay at the MONA site – the adjacent MONA Pavilions (655 Main Road, Berriedale; 0061 3 6277 9900; mona.net.au) has only six rooms, each inspired by Australian artists. There are exquisite dining options, views and even a heated swimming pool.
When to visit Hobart
Hobart’s mild, changeable maritime climate is often cooler and rainier than the Australian mainland with four distinct seasons. Winter temperatures can fall below freezing and it rarely climbs above 25 degrees Celsius in the summer.
Hobart city guide
For trip planning see the Discover Tasmania (discovertasmania.com.au) website for information on events, accommodation and more.
If you will be using bus transport in Hobart it may be worth purchasing a Day Rover ticket. See the metrotas.com.au website for more information on public transport in Tasmania.
By Natasha von Geldern
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