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It’s mid-afternoon and my exploration of Hobart has been paused while I indulge in chocolate hour, held daily at Tesoro’s modern Italian restaurant, with a tray of chocolates and a chocolate cocktail to enjoy.
Hobart is Australia’s second-oldest city having been established in 1803, 15 years after Sydney, with a seafaring past of merchants, whalers and shipwrights, and while its historic Georgian architecture and picturesque setting on the Derwent River are renowned, it’s the vibrant bar and dining scene that’s also attracting visitors from the mainland.
The best way to discover Hobart’s many attractions is to combine walking with dining stops along the way. First head to Salamanca Place, a long row of sandstone warehouses dating back to the 1830s, with bars, restaurants, and galleries. Time your visit for Saturday for the Salamanca Markets, when more than 200 stallholders offer handicrafts, hand-spun woollens and homemade chutneys, jams, cheeses, bread and pastries for sale.
From here, proceed up the steep flight of Kelly’s steps to Battery Point, to view quaint cottages, antique shops, bakeries, and cafes, many with inviting cosy wood fires. A Hobart must-try is the cheese toastie, with arguably the best found on Hampden Road.
Much of the life of Hobart centres on the water and at Constitution Dock, while the whaling boats that once docked here are long gone, you’ll find fishing boats. You can sample the catch of the day from one of the floating take away seafood stalls. Continue onto Hunter Street lined with Georgian warehouses, before looping back to Macquarie and Davey Streets to view the churches, cathedrals and grand civic buildings including the Town Hall and Customs House.
At the Maritime Museum, Hobart’s seafaring past is retold and at the History Museum, you’ll learn about the Tasmanian aboriginals that once lived here. Wander back in the evening and you’ll hear live music being played at the seafront bars.
There’s no shortage of great coffee shops in town such as Bury me Standing on Criterion Street and along Elizabeth Street in North Hobart. On Sunday, there is a farm gate farmer’s market on Melville Street. Many restaurants are small and hard to find, tucked down the end of carriageways or in arcades such as the Cat and Fiddle. Here you’ll find Korean, Japanese, Indian, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants, reflecting a diversity of Hobart’s residents with 29% born overseas.
Hobart has a convict past and to learn more about the 13,500 female convicts that were transported to Tasmania, visit the Cascades Female Factory in South Hobart, ending your visit at the Cascade Brewery that produces some of Australia’s best beer. Hobart has many pleasant walks including the 2.7 km Rivulet track that will lead you here.
Another scenic walk is the 4km Domain walk to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens passing Government House, native bushland and providing sweeping views of the Derwent River. The Botanical Gardens has a variety of gardens including a Japanese garden, conifer garden and veggie patch.
Since MONA threw open its doors in 2011, plenty of buzz has been generated by those who have visited the underground art gallery of eclectic art. You can visit by taking a scenic 30-minute journey by catamaran from Constitution Dock.
The best vantage point to view the full sweep of the city is from the top of Mount Wellington, though time your visit since it’s often shrouded in mist, and while it’s possible to hike there along bush tracks, at an elevation of 1270m, most visitors drive.
Bonorong, wineries and Richmond
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is where you’ll see Tasmanian devils and other Australian wildlife including wombats, quolls, potoroos and koalas. The sanctuary is a short drive from Hobart, nearby a wine-growing region. Tasmanian wines have a long tradition dating back to the early nineteenth century with boutique vineyards offering onsite tasting rooms. Take time to also stop for freshly grown produce straight from the farm.
Richmond is one of Tasmania’s oldest settlements, founded in the 1830s. It is Australia’s finest Georgian village with the courthouse, churches, including the oldest Catholic Church in Australia, gaol, commercial buildings, and cottages built from stone cut by convicts. Retaining much of its charm it now offers boutiques, rose gardens, antique shops, and tea houses.
Almost 80,000 convicts were transported to Tasmania. You can relive their stories at Port Arthur, a haunting, melancholy, and beautiful place. Join a guided tour, visit the museum where the stories of the crimes they committed are compellingly retold, and spend time strolling through the gardens. This is one of Australia’s most significant historic sites.
Bruny Island and the Huon Valley
For wine, fresh berries, fudge and oysters take the 45-minute drive south then the ferry across to Bruny Island, with a stop en-route in the Huon Valley for fresh apples. You can also experience the Tahune forest airwalk, the world’s longest treetop walk, or take a river cruise along the Huon River.
Getting there: Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar offer direct flights from the mainland. On arrival hop a taxi or SkyBus.
Getting around: Hobart is easy to explore on foot. Beyond the city, hire a car, or join a coach tour or boat excursion. Pennicott Journeys offer a variety of day cruises.
Where to stay: The Movenpick hotel is centrally located with contemporary decor and commanding views of Sullivan’s Cove.
Where to dine: Hobart’s dining options continue to impress reflecting the freshness and quality of the locally sourced produce and diversity of the cuisine on offer.
Where to shop: Head to the Sidewalk Tribal Gallery 19 Castray Esplanade, Battery Point, for an exotic collection of wares from India, SE Asia and Africa.
For more information, visit Hobart Travel and Information Centre.
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