As far as Australian capital cities go, Hobart is probably not the first one that springs to mind. In fact, I would wager that the last city you would remember would be between it or Darwin. For a long time, it’s been somewhat neglected by many tourists and backpackers who visit Australia and don’t fancy the extra flight or 9-hour ferry ride to get to Australia’s Island state.
All this is changing however, and quite rapidly too. In the last year alone Tasmania saw its tourism industry explode and was actually struggling to accommodate the fleets of tourists arriving upon its pristine shores. And at the centre of all this piqued interest lies its urban jewel, Hobart. An unmistakably attractive city, nestled at the foot of Mount Wellington and surrounded on all sides either by water or rolling mountain ranges; its setting is the envy of every Australian city.
And once you enter the city itself you feel like you have entered a compact version of the cities across the Bass Strait. Cafes and restaurants dot the harbour and city streets and the CBD is a bustle with city workers and shoppers. It has its hip suburb in North Hobart offering the café and art culture of its mainland equivalents. And of course it’s crowning jewel, The MONA gallery which is slowly becoming one of the most highly respected contemporary art galleries in the world.
So it’s a small city no doubt but there’s a hell of a lot to keep you busy. We spent a few weeks there when we first got to Tasmania and several weekends there on our time off from work. For us it seemed like the perfect place for a long weekend city break so here’s our guide for a weekend in Hobart.
We’ll assume you arrived late afternoon/early evening. You’ve checked in, unpacked and want to see and feel the lifeblood of the city. Head straight for Salamanca Place, the historic quarter of the city which comes alive during the evening. This is the perfect place for soaking up the dying embers of the day’s sun with a glass of wine or craft ale in one of the many bars which are housed in the convict-built sandstone buildings.
Start the day with a stroll around the city. The CBD is small and perfectly walkable, allowing you to see the city sights on ground level. After you’ve found your bearings venture over to the world famous Salamanca Market. Graze around the market stalls, nibbling on the fresh produce on offer and stock up on souvenirs (anything lavender themed is popular!).
After your browse, stroll around the beautiful harbour and look out over the Tasman Bridge which stands proudly over Hobart’s harbour (the second deepest in the world no less). Behind the city stands Mt. Wellington (kunanyi to give it its Aboriginal name), a beautifully imposing mountain that you will be exploring later today.
For lunch, dip into Jam Packed Cafe, hidden inside the former packing warehouse at the opposite end of the harbour. Eat under the cover of the glass atrium which is shared with the swanky Henry Jones Art Hotel and is a great place to relax, whatever the weather. The building is a tasteful blend of old and new and also houses local boutiques and art galleries which are perfect for some post-lunch shopping.
Walk off your lunch with a lazy afternoon exploring the beautiful Battery Point, up the hill from Salamanca Place. The affluent neighbourhood is reminiscent of a traditional English village with cutesy cottages, white picket-fences, rose gardens and a delightful little high street. The comparison to England is no accident, the first European settlers wanted to retain their homeland’s familiarity and ensure their new home was as in keeping as the one they had left behind.
For sunset, make the trip up to the peak of kunanyi/Mt Wellington. If you have a car then it’s a hair-raising drive to the summit, but if not then you can tackle the journey on foot or bicycle. There are some companies which will drive you to the summit and then hire you a bike to ride down on, ensuring you only have to experience the fun bit! The views from the top are incredible, on a clear day you can see all of Hobart and beyond. The weather up here can get very cold though so make sure you prepare yourself accordingly.
After you’ve watched the sun melt behind the city, jump in the car and head back to Battery Point for dinner. Make sure you have reservations at popular D’Angelos, a properly traditional Italian restaurant serving up some of the best pizza and pasta around. Join the ranks of past patrons which includes the infamously hard to please Nick Cave. If he likes it, I’m sure you will too!
Start the day with a visit to Hobart’s ‘beach suburb’ Sandy Point for breakfast and coffee by the water. There’s plenty to choose from in Sandy Bay, from the relative hustle and bustle of shops, cafes and restaurants on Sandy Bay Road to the more relaxed and picturesque cafes that line the shore. After breakfast you can talk a stroll alone the promenade along the foreshore track and walk along an unsuspecting stretch of sand that looks back across to the city and Mount Wellington.
Make your way back into Hobart harbour for the 12pm departure of the MONA Roma ferry. The ferry, equipped with bar, barista and plastic sheep makes its way under the Tasman Bridge and up the Derwent River before unloading its passengers at the MONA jetty. Spend the afternoon ambling around the gallery and its surrounding grounds, brewery and vineyard. Grab lunch at the gallery cafe, the brewery bar or if you’re feeling particularly generous at the prestigious Source Restaurant.
After an afternoon spent exploring the otherworldly surroundings of MONA you can board the ferry or shuttle buses back to the city centre. Once back in the city proper, make your way to the inner suburb of North Hobart for the evening. North Hobart is the cities “hip” suburb – the answer to Melbourne’s Fitzroy or Sydney’s New Town and has plenty going for it.
Grab a curry at Anna Purna or one of the many restaurants and hotels along Elizabeth Street. Aside from the chain offerings of Nando’s and Subway there’s an array of reasonably priced meals from all over the world.
After your bellies full, make your way to the top of Elizabeth Street to the Hobart State Cinema for an evening showing. Australia does independent cinemas really well and Hobart’s is no exception. It boasts 8 screens, a rooftop cinema, an in house bar and book store. Book ahead or just take a chance on an independent release, a contemporary foreign film or an undisputed classic. Sit back with a bottled beer or glass of wine and unwind as a busy weekend in Tasmania’s capital city draws to a calming close!
So there you have it, our guide to spending a weekend away in Hobart. Of course there’s so much more to do and our guide above is just one way of navigating a few days within the city. There’s so much more to do both in the city and the surrounding area and plenty of reasons to come back and explore the rest of the island!