There is no city in Australia that has undergone such monumental changes over the past decade as Tasmania’s capital Hobart.
Hobart has never been more popular than now. Anyone wanting to visit at peak periods is warned to book airfares well in advance and ensure they have accommodation locked in.
Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, the city has long been a magnet for visitors who enjoy its waterfront, historic buildings and rich colonial and convict heritage. But over the past 10 years, Tasmania’s capital has been transformed, and now boasts a lively cultural scene, dozens of gourmet options and a host of festivals, several held during the previously sleepy winter season.
Thanks in part to the ‘MONA effect’, downtown Hobart is now dotted with whisky and cider bars, and funky restaurants focusing on local produce, not to mention a crop of new hotels (with several more on the way).
Museums and markets in Hobart, Tasmania
The catalyst for change was the opening in January 2011 of MONA, the controversial privately-owned Museum of Old and New Art, in the city’s northern suburbs. The brainchild of gambling multimillionaire David Walsh, MONA has changed Hobart’s image from staid to cutting edge. The $175 million complex also houses the Moorilla cellar door (and is surrounded by vines), fine dining restaurant The Source, a wine bar, a tapas eatery and the Moo Brew microbrewery.
Downtown Hobart is also home to the revamped Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum, just a two-minute walk from cafés and bars overlooking the working waterfront and its many fishing vessels.
With the surrounding regions producing artisan gourmet goods, there are several excellent markets, including the famous Salamanca Market every Saturday, the Farm Gate Market on Sundays, and the Hobart Twilight Market at Sandy Bay during summer.
Walking and biking around Hobart, Tasmania
Situated at the mouth of the Derwent River and in the foothills of kunanyi/Mount Wellington, Hobart is an easy city to explore.
Nature lovers can get off the grid with access to mountain biking trails, bush walks and wild beaches, while the downtown core combines heritage charm, green scenery and superb produce, and can easily be explored on foot. High-speed ferries depart the waterfront for a short journey up the river to MONA.
There are easy day trip destinations in the colonial town of Richmond and the wineries of the Coal River Valley, and a slightly longer excursion to Port Arthur.
If you’re eager to explore beyond the CBD, you’ll stumble across craft beer breweries, oyster farms, vineyards, beaches and mountains right next to the city. Take in the view of D’Entrecasteaux Channel from the top of Mount Nelson, then a few minutes later kick off your shoes and walk along the beach of Lower Sandy Bay.
Hobart is known for its fluctuating seasons all in one day. So whether you plan to visit in the height of summer to catch the end of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and the Taste of Tasmania food festival, or during the depths of winter to experience Dark Mofo and the Festival of Voices, be sure to pack an all-weather jacket and sunscreen.
Bars in Hobart, Tasmania
The area around Salamanca Place is peppered with casual eating and drinking spots.
Cascade Brewery on the slopes of brooding kunanyi/Mount Wellington hosts tours and tastings, while Hobart also has many traditional pubs in the British style: check out The Shipwrights Arms, New Sydney Hotel and Customs House Hotel.
Right on the waterfront, MACq01 Hotel is a hip hangout for the city’s cool kids and well-heeled visitors.
Lucinda Wine, from the team behind Dier Makr, is a wine bar with offerings that tend towards the more obscure end of the spectrum, while Kin Japanese BBQ is a hole-in-the-wall little slice of Japan, perfect for snacks and a glass or two of sake.
Restaurants in Hobart, Tasmania
When it comes to eating well, funky Franklin thrives with its offering of local produce and natural wines, while pan-Asian hotspot Suzie Luck’s is the place to go in Salamanca Square.
Welcoming bars attracting a younger crowd include tiny wine bar/retail outlet Drink Co, Institut Polaire and Rude Boy.
‘Make a booking or miss out’ dining destinations for those visiting Hobart over summer include Fico and Templo, along with eclectic Dier Makr.
At Fico, Oskar Rossi (ex-Vue de Monde), the son of renowned local artist Tom Samek, teams with his Italian partner Federica Andrisani to serve a delightful melange of intriguing dishes that have both Japanese and Italian accents. Think roasted pigeon, or perhaps squid mousse with crab and mustard leaves.
At Brooke Street Pier, visitors are blown away by the fabulous views at Aloft, an attic space with Asian fusion dishes to the fore. On the same wharf you’ll find eatery and bar The Glass House, while the Lark Distillery tasting room is just a short stroll away.
Recent arrivals to keep an eye out for include Latvian/Lithuanian accented Kavorka, 24-hour café Pilgrim’s Progress and street food concept Vigil in the new In the Hanging Garden space of the city, plus wine bar Sonny on Elizabeth Street.
Hotels and Airbnbs in Hobart, Tasmania
The hot tip in town is basing yourself overlooking the water. MACq01, the Henry Jones, Somerset on the Pier serviced apartments, Hotel Grand Chancellor and the brand-new Moss Hotel are all excellent options.
Stylish hotels such as Islington and the Henry Jones Art Hotel have been joined by affordable offerings including 1960s-inspired Alabama Hotel and funky Montacute, which is midway between a hostel and a boutique hotel.
The Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel and Ibis Styles are other good addresses, while there’s a range of bed and breakfasts, budget-conscious motels, backpackers and plenty of Airbnbs in North Hobart and Battery Point.