Hobart’s always been on the bucket list. But, when you’re freezing your earlobes off in Melbourne, the thought of going anywhere further south is about as palatable as a BBQ chicken left out in the sun for a week.
Fortunately, I now live in Sydney and this is no longer a situation. So, last month, husband Jude and I finally hopped on a plane to Hobart.
I didn’t really know what to expect, but quickly fell in love with this small, quietly confident city that punches way above its weight. A short scoot over Bass Straight and you’re in a magical land that’s so naturally beautiful it takes your breath away. There’s mountains, forests, national park and ocean for days – not to mention first-class food and booze – making Hobart the perfect respite from city life or just a great place to holiday.
These are the things we did in Hobart (and surrounds) that I loved the most:
1. A visit to Tahune Airwalk
Spending the afternoon at Tahune Airwalk in the Huon Valley – a 90-minute drive from Hobart, 30 of which is through deep pine forest – was the perfect way to start our Hobart holiday, with the hustle of Sydney life quickly draining from our limbs.
Your $18pp entry fee gives you access to three walks: a short loop through the depths of the pine forest, an airwalk that takes you above the tree tops (jelly legs a definite), and then a trek through the Tahune Forest Reserve and across a couple of swinging bridges.
2. Nature walks in Tasmania
Of course, there’s plenty of nature walks in Tasmania you can do that don’t cost a penny. In fact, there’s hundreds.
Stupidly, I left Jude in charge of finding us a nice walking trail, thinking he’d settle on the stunning Wineglass Bay or somewhere around Eaglehawk Neck. Instead, he takes us to one of Hobart’s most popular surf beaches, Clifton Beach, under the guise of a walking adventure. Argh.
Then, after a nice walk up and down the sand, looking out at grey ocean, we arrive back at the hire car to realise we (and I mean Jude) left the keys in the ignition, car unlocked. Those Hobartians might be the descendants of convicts but are thankfully brutally honest.
3. Check out MONA
You’ll either absolutely love MONA or roam around in a state of WTF. But, if you’re visiting Hobart, a couple of hours at the Museum of Old and New Art is non-negotiable. Perched on the River Derwent, the privately-funded MONA is unlike any gallery experience in Australia. It’s eccentric, whacky and provocative.
Just don’t follow my lead and go to MONA hungover. The wall of vaginas can be quite overwhelming when your stomach is in a state of fragility. So too, the poo-producing machine that re-enacts the digestive system.
The best way to get to MONA is by ferry, which departs from Brooke Street Pier and takes about 30 minutes. The MONA ferry has an on-board bar (which I ran in the opposite direction of), stools in the shape of sheep and a banging soundtrack. If you’re feeling particularly posh, you can upgrade to the Posh Pit, and enjoy unlimited canapés, drinks and table service in the VIP area.
4. Drive to the top of Mount Wellington
Mount Wellington is the fuck off mountain standing guard over Hobart like an African dictator. At 1271 metres, it gets covered in snow in winter and has it’s own weather patterns going on.
If you’re willing to brave the flimsy roads that wrap around the face of the mountain, you can drive to the summit, passing rainforest, sub-alpine flora and glacial rock formations.
Jude did the 20-minute drive while I was sleeping off my hangover, and came back with wobbly legs and stories of amazing views across Hobart, Bruny Island, the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and Southwest National Park.
The next day, he insisted I experience the terror and vistas he had. Only problem. When we got to the top, the mountain was covered in cloud and instead the view looked like this…
5. Go wine tasting
Being originally from Adelaide, I can sniff out a Clare Valley Riesling like a Lagotto Romagnolo dog sniffs out truffles, and very rarely drinks non-South Australian wine. But, when in Tasmania, you must drink the local juice and, lo and behold, I discovered I quite like, love, Tasmanian wine!
Sadly, Jude didn’t want his Hobart holiday turning into a wine jaunt, so I was only allowed to visit ONE winery – who’s the African dictator now?! After extensive research, I chose Frogmore Creek Wines in the Coal River Valley wine region, and was very happy with my choice. The cellar door is absolutely beautiful, the wines delicious and the range Tyrannosaurus-sized.
Feeling bad about nearly having the hire car stolen, Jude agreed to a second winery stop at the very-friendly Puddleduck Vineyard. Feeling so bad, he even amused me by turning our wine tasting into a cheese and wine experience. In which we were seated on the deck overlooking the duck pond. Winning at life!
6. Drink whiskey, beer and cider
Tasmania doesn’t only do great wine. It also does great cider, beer and whiskey. Beer-lovers will swoon on a brewery tour of Cascade Brewery – Australia’s oldest house of beer – before sitting down for a craft beer at Hobart Brewing Company and/or Preachers. Meanwhile, whiskey aficionados will go weak at the knees with a whiskey flight from Salamanca Whisky Bar or a visit to Lark Distillery. And anyone crazy for cider will have a lot of fun following the Tasmanian Cider Trail.
7. Charter a yacht
I hadn’t expected Hobart to be such a water city (which is kind of daft given it’s an island). But, alas, there’s water everywhere, and getting out on it, via a chartered yacht, gives you an entirely new perspective of Hobart. Highly recommend.
8. Experience Hobart’s food scene
Hobart’s food scene makes some serious noise. There’s great restaurants, impressive food trails, fresh produce and decent coffee. It’s one of the best bits about the city.
You absolutely must shake hands with Franklin – a chic dining spot that’s considered, by all the big foodie awards, Tasmania’s best restaurant. We also really enjoyed the degustation at Templo, and had the best brunch and coffee we’ve had since leaving Melbourne at Pigeon Hole.
9. Eat fish and chips at Constitution Dock
Given Hobart arguably does some of the best fish and chips in Australia, it would be rude to visit and not try the local F&C. The best way to do this is straight from one of the floating fish punts selling seafood at Constitution Dock.
Or if you want your seafood in fancier surrounds, Hobart’s historic waterfront is littered with restaurants that will happily oblige. We went to Mures Upper Deck, and ate some of the best scallops, oysters and white fish we’ve had in our lives.
10. Visit Port Arthur Historic Site
Powerful, evocative, emotional. The World Heritage-listed convict site of Port Arthur is all of the above, and a must see on any Tasmanian holiday. A 90-minute drive from Hobart, it’s the place to go if you want to imagine life as a convict in the 1800s.
11. Salamanca Market
Saturday morning in Hobart has to be spent at the Salamanca Market, scouring the 300 stalls for something to stuff into your suitcase and/or mouth. I recommend the latter being the scallop pie. There’s also music, food trucks and bean bags to lounge about on Salamanca Lawns. Warning: the markets get hectic, so if you don’t like crowds, steer clear.
Otherwise, the Farm Gate Market is also worth a wander – found on Bathurst Street every Sunday.
12. Wander around Battery Point and Salamanca Place
There’s some definite history in the formal esplanades, back alleys and cobblestone staircases of Battery Point and Salamanca Place. An old maritime village, it’s now the creative and cultural heart of Hobart. A walk around the area’s collection of rowed sandstone warehouses, 19th century cottages and Australian colonial architecture will conjure up the magic of old town Hobart.
Feel free to share any other things to do in Hobart below.