Just 12 years ago, Hobart still had a reputation as a sleepy backwater. Now, as new hotels, restaurants and galleries open up, people are drawn to Tassie’s buzzing capital with plenty of things to do in Hobart.
Western settlement in the Tasmanian capital dates to 1804, making it the second-oldest city in Australia. Prior to British settlement the area was occupied by Indigenous people who now call themselves Palawa.
But not much happened in Hobart despite its stunning natural setting beneath kunanyi/Mount Wellington and on the banks of the River Derwent. It was, to be frank, just a little dull.
Then a wealthy dreamer called David Walsh opened a fantastical museum called MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). Suddenly, the historic Tasmanian capital was hip and happening.
New hotels began popping up, quirky festivals enlivened the chilly winter months, cafes, bars and restaurants opened to cater for the booming tourism industry and the world fell in love with Tasmania’s artisan wines and spirits. Now it can be hard to find a hotel room in Hobart on weekends – and tourism contributes $2.59 billion to the local economy.
Visitor figures to Hobart by mid-2023 had already exceeded pre-pandemic numbers. Here, we offer some insider tips on the best places to stay on a range of different budgets, where to eat and drink and some of the best day trip destinations.
The Salamanca bar and restaurant precinct on the waterfront is home to the iconic Salamanca Market, which is held every Saturday morning, and the Sydney-Hobart Yacht Race finishes at Constitution Dock, next to where the annual Taste of Summer gourmet festival is held.
The nearby Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens are a regular venue for concerts and events, while local produce is a feature of the many eateries in the suburbs of North Hobart and Sandy Bay, which are also home to many galleries and arts and crafts establishments.
It is de rigueur to stop for a glass of local refreshment at one of the many local pubs: the Shipwright’s Arms in Battery Point, Customs House and Tom McHugo’s are among the standouts.
On Sundays, gourmets venture to Hobart Farm Gate Market to buy fruit, vegetables and other fresh produce direct from the farmers.
And, of course, no trip to Hobart is complete with taking the MONA Roma ferry from Brooke Street Pier to the northern suburb of Berriedale to visit the landmark MONA and its many attractions, including The Source restaurant.
Where to stay
Hobart accommodation choices range from the grand, to the historic and budget.
The best address in town depends on personal taste, but contenders include recent arrival The Tasman, a Marriott Luxury Collection property, and sister establishments the Henry Jones Art Hotel and waterfront MACq01. All three are just steps away from Salamanca Markets, St David’s Park and historic Sullivan’s Cove.
The Tasman has a range of upmarket room options and is home to Peppina restaurant, helmed by renowned Tasmanian chef Massimo Mele, and craft cocktail bar Mary Mary.
MACq01, where each room is themed in honour of a famous Tasmanian, is home to The Story Bar and Evolve Spirits Bar, as well as the Old Wharf restaurant with spectacular water views.
Long-time favourite The Henry Jones is in a former jam factory that was Hobart’s oldest waterfront warehouse. Australia’s first dedicated art hotel boasts delightfully idiosyncratic rooms and the Peacock & Jones restaurant.
Other good accommodation choices include stately Islington and historic Hadley’s Orient, which has recently been refurbished, along with the boutique The Moss and the elegant Lenna of Hobart with its spectacular suites.
Impressive recent arrivals include the centrally situated Movenpick (don’t miss Chocolate Hour each afternoon) and Vibe Hobart, while super-budget travellers willing to share bathrooms are well catered for at the funky Alabama Hotel.
The reasonably priced ibis Styles on the city fringe is home to Mr Good Guy, an excellent Asian fusion eatery, while The Old Woolstore is another affordable option.
Where to eat and drink
It would be a crime to visit Hobart and not enjoy some flathead and chips, or fresh-caught scallops, from one of the fish punts – floating restaurants and fish markets.
Fish Frenzy is a go-to fast food fish and chippery, while Blue Eye chef Joff Jennings offers a more sophisticated seafood experience.
Fine but casual dining can be found at Italian accented Fico (with an exceptional wine list), Landscape and Templo, while the Lubiana family of local wine fame recently opened chic wine bar Molto on the edge of the city. Families will enjoy the casual Amici in North Hobart, while Me Wah is a local institution for stylish Cantonese food and fine wine.
Other fun places to eat and drink include Bar Wa Izakaya, Aloft, The Glass House, recently opened Moo Brew city micro bar/eatery Manky Sally’s, Suzie Luck’s and meat-centric Frank Restaurant.
Wine lovers should book a tasting at the city winery of Glaetzer-Dixon Wines, while other popular and fun local drinking dens include Sonny, Lucinda, Dier Makr and Institut Polaire.
Best day trips
Bruny Island is close to 100 kilometres long and can be almost deserted midweek, so a picnic on a beach makes it the perfect escape from city hustle and bustle. From white wallabies to quolls and pademelons, a colony of fairy penguins and all manner of birds, this is the spot to enjoy some local wildlife.
The Huon Valley, with Hastings Caves, the Tahune Airwalk and cute small towns like Geeveston, Franklin and Cygnet, is also worth a day of exploring, as are the Derwent Valley, centred on the emerging town of New Norfolk, and the Coal River Valley, with the historic town of Richmond at its heart. All are bursting with wine and cider tasting opportunities.
Head to the Tasman Peninsula to visit the historic Port Arthur site before popping into the brand-new Bream Creek Vineyard cellar door for a tasting and a platter. Port Arthur is World Heritage-listed and is regarded as the best-preserved convict era site in Australia.
Enjoyed reading about things to do in Hobart? Check out even more to explore on the Apple Isle.
Travel to Hobart from August
You will soon be able to travel to Hobart with Rex Airlines. Book your flight here.