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48 hours in Hobart: what to do, where to go

The Guardian logo The Guardian 8/06/2015 Brigid Delaney

The city and region of Hobart in southern Tasmania has a lot to offer to tourists. © Jack Atley/Bloomberg News The city and region of Hobart in southern Tasmania has a lot to offer to tourists. Call it the Mona effect if you will, but Hobart is having a long tourist moment, and Australia’s southernmost capital is more than ready.

Hobart now hosts Australia’s edgiest (and best) arts festivals, Dark Mofo and Mona Foma, has the country’s most consistently interesting and talked-about art gallery with a roster of brilliant visiting artists, and an increasing number of creative Australians are relocating from the mainland to call it home.

The music and the art are just the start of it. The Tasmanian capital today is also a magnet for gourmands, with fresh local produce as well as wine and cider making the short journey from farm to your table. It’s also – in warmer months – ideal for those who like outdoor adventures. On a recent visit I took a walk up nearby Mount Wellington, with its cool, thin air, eucalyptus trees and stunning views, and also kayaked on the Derwent river.

If you don’t feel like exerting yourself, Hobart’s lively market and restaurant scene is more than enough reason to go to there for 48 hours.

You can take the Spirit of Tasmania ferry from Melbourne, but cheap flights are available from most Australian cities.

A cab will cost you around $50 from the airport to the CBD, but if you’d prefer to save money for pinot noir, the shuttle bus will cost you considerably less.

Friday

Shoppers explore the historic Salamanca Markets where a huge range of food, clothes and local crafts are on offer. © REUTERS/Martin Passingham Shoppers explore the historic Salamanca Markets where a huge range of food, clothes and local crafts are on offer. 4pm: Pre-dinner drinks at Preachers

My favourite pub in Hobart is just up a hill and down a side street from the wharf area of Salamanca. Preachers won’t jump out at you if you’re in the main waterfront area but it is worth seeking out.

Some of the best things about this laid-back pub? In winter, board games and an open fire. In summer, an old bus parked on the lawn where you can take your drinks and feel like a subversive schoolkid, plus the fabulous front lawn with loads of places to sit in the sun.

All year round it has great burgers and the some of the best hot chips I’ve ever eaten.

But don’t fill up too much. There has been a burst of new restaurants in Hobart, and each time I’ve visited there seems to be more choice than the previous year.

7pm: Dinner

A worker inspects a Tasmanian salmon fillet at the processing plant in Dover, south of Hobart. Grilled Tasmanian salmon with nuts is a specialty here. © DAVID GRAY/Newscom/Reuters A worker inspects a Tasmanian salmon fillet at the processing plant in Dover, south of Hobart. Grilled Tasmanian salmon with nuts is a specialty here. Frank, a newish restaurant on the waterfront, does very good South American food, with a lot of the dishes designed for sharing. We started with negronis and local oysters before moving on to the heavier stuff.

The beef rump cap is great and has a nice char on it, but I also recommend the grilled Tasmanian salmon with brazil nuts, dill, coriander and mixed herb salsa, and if you’re vegetarian, the charred sweet potato, goat’s curd, muddled almonds, garlic and coriander dish.

10pm: Cocktails

If it’s a mild night, wander down the other end of the wharf to the Henry Jones Art hotel for an after-dinner drink in the exposed sandstone bar. They have a great range of cocktails plus local beers and ciders.

But if it’s after midnight, maybe turn in. Local political adviser and former journalist Alex Johnston helped the Guardian with our itinerary after we met him at a bar in Salamanca. His advice for late Friday night: cut your losses. “Hobart’s achilles heel is a lack of really good options after midnight. If you’re desperately thirsty, ask a local how to get to Mobius for a cleansing ale and maybe even a dance. It’s not pretty, but it’s fun. But I stress, the later you have dinner, the better night you’ll have.”

As for accommodation, here’s his advice: “If you’ve just won big in a poker game or inherited a fortune from an email-savvy Nigerian, you should probably stay at the Islington hotel or the Henry Jones. If those prices make your head hurt, you’ll have a perfectly nice time staying at the Salamanca Inn.”

I split my time between the Salamanca Wharf hotel and the Salamanca Inn.

When I was there last, rooms at the Salamanca Inn were, well, roomy, but slightly dated. The Salamanca Wharf hotel was much smarter, had more modern fittings and a very good cafe attached. Both are centrally located and just a short walk to the wharf so you can get a ferry to Mona without too much mucking around.

Saturday

Visitors walk past exhibits at the cutting edge Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart. © REUTERS/Matt Siegel Visitors walk past exhibits at the cutting edge Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart. 10am: Brunch and Salamanca market

A good breakfast is not hard to find in Hobart. Tricycle is cute, with yummy baked eggs, and Machine Laundry cafe at Salamanca Place has great coffee. It’s both a laundromat and a cafe (hence the name) and also looks out on to a giant chess set in the square if you fancy a game between rinse cycles.

Our local pal Alex recommends Berta and Room For A Pony, both in North Hobart, for breakfast. “However if you’re closer to the waterfront, Smolt or Machine Laundry cafe are the standout choices,” he says. “Be careful though, the Salamanca market is on every Saturday. It might be prudent to keep away if you’ve got a hangover, unless you’re really craving a bratwurst, a lamb roll or some ornamental wooden fruit. If you’ve got a car, zip five minutes up the road to South Hobart’s Ginger Brown.”

I don’t actually mind the markets, but on big weekends, such as any time Mona has a festival, it can become impossible to navigate. Otherwise it’s a treat. There’s the usual tourist tat but also some lovely jewellery, secondhand clothes, secondhand books, Australiana and some delicious local produce. As well as cheese, jams and chutneys, there are a couple of caravans selling pies. If you’re game, try the wallaby. I had the scallop pie. Yum! The morning air was so crisp that biting into it unleashed a torrent of steam. Be careful not to burn the roof of your mouth. My pie was $7 from a van called Smiths.

There are some good shops in the arcades around the market. My favourite is a cramped and marvellous secondhand bookstore called Deja Vu Books. Make sure you are not just flying in with carry-on luggage so you can take a haul back.

Also good is Fullers bookshop, which is up in the main shopping area and has a cafe inside. While there are good shops down on Salamanca, it would be a mistake to confine yourself to that precinct.

Daci & Daci sells amazing cakes, Red Parka stocks cool crafts and fun non-souvenir souvenirs, while Luxe sells posh clothes and shoes. There was a pop-up shop selling jewellery and clothes made in Hobart (now sadly gone, but keep your eyes peeled for other pop-up stores) plus half a dozen great places to have coffee including the Criterion Street Cafe and Betsey.

2.30pm: Mona (Museum of Old and New Art)

The Mona ferry, which leaves at 2:30pm on Saturdays from the wharf down at Salamanca, is an experience in itself. It’s a proper grown-up ferry, with a smart bar attached, music and cool couches, not the usual utilitarian public transport-style seats.

You could spend a whole day at Mona but two or three hours will give you a sense of the best bits. The building itself is stunning. Have a drink at the bar – and make sure you check out the Madonna room, one of my favourite exhibits at the museum, where 30 of her fans are depicted singing songs from her Immaculate Collection. 

The stunning Sidney Nolan snake mural is also a must-see.

If you want an alternate activity, I recommend a visit to the Cascade Brewery, a gorgeous 183-year-old building where you can take a brewery tour. For the more active, take a walk up Mount Wellington, which looms atmospherically over Hobart.

7pm: Fancy dinner

We dined at Garagistes, which was like Tetsuya’s in Sydney but hipper and more chilled out. Unfortunately, between my visit and this piece being published, it shut down, but I’m hoping for some very similar creative, high-end, fusion food to come up in its place.

In the mean time, our local guide Alex has some hot tips. For pre-dinner drinks he advises heading to Willing Bros in North Hobart. 

“Willing Bros was the best bar to open in Hobart in 2014 and I promise you it’ll be a good time,” says Alex. “[It has an] interesting, well-priced wine list, plenty of good beers and excellent service. You can’t go wrong. They serve some tasty morsels too, so if you’re confident of not ruining dinner you should go right ahead. Pull the pin and jump back in a cab when it’s time to go to dinner.”

Alex advises booking a couple of weeks in advance for Franklin, but be careful not to get it confused with Franks, where the Guardian ate the night before.

“Franklin is the latest venture from the perversely talented David Moyle. Here you’re going to try things you’ve probably never eaten before. Lots of seafood but not a fisherman’s basket in sight. This is refined stuff. If you dig organic wines, you’ll be right at home.”

Sunday

Sculptures of penguins are seen overlooking the Derwent River. You can take a 30-minute trip around Hobart, the majestic Derwent river and surroundings at $125. © REUTERS/Martin Passingham Sculptures of penguins are seen overlooking the Derwent River. You can take a 30-minute trip around Hobart, the majestic Derwent river and surroundings at $125. 9am: Farmers’ market

The Farm Gate market is held on Bathurst Street in Hobart’s CBD every Sunday from 8:30am-1pm and is the place to go for fresh Tassie grown-and-raised produce.

As the largest farmers’ market in Tasmania, be sure to bring a basket to stock up on pickles, relishes, jams and fresh meats such as free-range Berkshire pork as well as game and rare breed beef.

Alex reckons you can eat the best sushi in Tasmania at the market, so maybe have an early lunch. “Masaaki is normally down at Geeveston but on Sundays he comes to you. I can guarantee the wasabi will be a lot fresher than you.”

When I visited I bought Tasmanian apples picked fresh from the farm which I ate from the bag. Be sure to you line your stomach as you’ll be hitting the hard stuff before you return to the mainland.

Midday: Seaplane

Beyond the restaurant scene and galleries, Tasmania is still largely wilderness. You might not have time to explore much of it over the course of your 48 hours, but a short seaplane ride will allow you get a sense of Hobart from the air. A 30-minute trip around Hobart, the majestic Derwent river and surrounds is sufficient to get a sense of the lie of the land and costs $125.

2pm, Lark whisky distillery

I’d never been much of a whisky drinker, but in the interests of thorough journalism I thought I’d pay a visit to one of Australia’s most famous distilleries.

Located near Salamanca wharf, Lark has won many awards for its single malt whisky.

Scotsman Robbie gave us an enthusiastic lecture about the product, which he is clearly passionate about. You don’t scull whisky like you would a tequila shot, he explained, but take small sips and sort of roll it around in your mouth, letting it coat your tongue and throat.

Once I got used to the whisky’s “burn”, the warm feeling afterwards was lovely.

After two or three tastings I was ready – or maybe I wasn’t – to take a flight back to the mainland.

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