Once a drifty afterthought, Hobart is now a hip and happening pin on the map again. Why? Airfare prices dropped, a world-class art gallery hit town and an unexpected mention on Lonely Planet’s Top 10 Cities to Visit list brought international eyes and acclaim.
And so this beautiful harbour city was reborn; a destination once so easily fobbed off by Aussies became a magnet for its natural beauty, its modern frills and historic stature. Australia’s second oldest capital is cool again and the time to go is now. Spare a sneaky weekend away for a taste of what Hobart’s all about with this jam-packed 48 hour itinerary.
A string of colourful market tents and the spritely buzz of a morning crowd is always a good sign. In Hobart that picture comes alive with the added flair of historic grace at the Salamanca Market. Held from 8.30am to 3.00pm every Saturday, 300 stalls pop up around Salamanca Place brimming with fresh and gourmet produce, arts, crafts and unique buys. Lined by four-storey Georgian sandstone warehouses built in the 1830s on one side and a trail of leafy plane trees on the other, this revitalised stretch is also home to dozens of shops, galleries and eateries perfect for breakfast and a morning brew. Soak up the festive, heritage-infused ambiance before ducking over to Castray Esplanade, right next door, the final destination of the iconic Sydney to Hobart yacht race.
Delve even deeper into Hobart’s history in the heart of Battery Point, connected to Salamanca by Kelly’s Steps. One of Hobart’s oldest areas it’s a treasure trove of colonial charm. The tight enclave of streets is lined with 19th century cottages crammed amongst the grand mansions of once-wealthy sea merchants. It has remained virtually untouched since the early 1800s. Amble and admire this living museum before pulling up a stool in one of the heritage pubs of yesteryear for lunch. Otherwise, see if you can snag a table at the famed Jackman and McRoss bakery.
When MONA (Museum of Modern and Old Art) opened its doors in 2011, it drew much acclaim and worldwide attention. It’s certainly no conventional gallery. The billionaire owner, mathematician and gambling mogul David Walsh once himself referred to it as a “subversive adult Disneyland”. But while some of the works have been labelled controversial there’s no denying that MONA is a must. From the museum design itself to the works hanging on the walls, it’s meant to be thought-provoking and far from the usual museum experience, so go in with your eyes, ears and mind open.
Conveniently, MONA is perched on Tasmania’s second-oldest vineyard, Moorilla Estate, which offers a beautiful view to say the least. In the midst of vineyards on the banks of the Derwent River and with Mt Wellington rising in the distance, a knock on the cellar door is the only way to top off an afternoon of eye-opening art. Catch a winery tour and tasting at 3.30pm or do it at your own palate-pleasing pace. Beer-lovers will also be happy to hear that Moo Brewery, also located onsite, offers tasting tours at 4pm.
North Hobart is where the locals go for dinner. Trendy and tasty, it has been infiltrated by a raft of new restaurants and bars in recent years so there are many great eats to be found, from cheap and cheerful to fine-dining and fancy. If you’re looking for a late-night flick in lieu of dessert and whisky, don’t miss the stylish line-up of independent movies on show at the State Cinema.
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The only way to truly appreciate Hobart’s magnificent harbour is from the water. Luckily there are many sailing tours on offer, including half-day and full-day sea-faring departures. Help to hoist the sales or kick back and relax with a platter of gourmet produce as the stunning coastal scenery drifts by and be sure to keep those eyes peeled for dolphins, seals and other marine life.
Beer-drinker or not, Cascade Brewery is a worth a visit for many a reason and not least because it’s Australia’s oldest brewery. Established in 1832, its endearing gothic, castle-like facade sits shrouded in hop vines, beautifully manicured gardens and apple trees by the flowing waters of the Hobart Rivulet. Interestingly, it was designed by founder Peter Degraves while he was in the Old Hobart Gaol. Enjoy lunch in the restaurant or on the terrace accompanied by one of the iconic golden brews before exploring the three acres of heritage greenery. For fascinating behind-the-scenes insight, taste-testing galore and historic tales, book a spot on a 90-minute brewery tour.
A short wander from the brewery still stands the significant ruins of the Cascades Female Factory, one of only 11 World Heritage Australian Convict Sites. It offers fascinating insight into this often-overlooked element of Australian convict history as it related to women and children. Explore it on your own or with a guided tour for historical commentary and dramatic re-enactment.
Mount Wellington can be seen rising in the distance from all across the city and it comes dusted with a magical layering of snow in winter, but from the airy 1270-metre-high pinnacle the city pales in existence. Drive to the top and peer out over the lunar rockscapes, rolling mountains and arching river banks making their way up the blue River Derwent, then cast those eyes over the white feathering of urban sprawl, the glistening harbour and out to sea. It’s the perfect view to top off a perfect weekend.
For an iconic last meal, waterfront Franklin Wharf is the place to scan menus. As to be expected, fresh seafood abounds to match the shimmering Sullivan Cove views. Mures Upper Deck, OriZuru Sushi Bar and, one street back, the Mill on Morrison are all trusty favourites. If nightlife sounds appealing, head back to where the weekend started for a dose of Hobart at its most hip and happening: in atmospheric, character-laden Salamanca.
Take a day trip to Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula. Home to Australia’s most intact and evocative convict site with World Heritage listing, it’s just an hour and 20 minutes’ drive from downtown Hobart.
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