Most travel guides on Hobart mention how the city is shaped and defined by hills, bushland and water. I believe Hobart is shaped and defined by its people. I've traveled and lived in Singapore, Amsterdam, Munich, Hong Kong, New York, Istanbul, Dubai etc but there's no other city where people still say "good morning" as they past you on the street. Perhaps a smaller population of 225,000 and city lifestyle without the hustle and bustle of Sydney and Melbourne make for a friendlier place.
While the lofty heights of Mount Wellington and the sparkling estuary of the Derwent attract the visitor's eye, the charms of Hobart lie in its friendly, welcoming, trusting and sincere people. So who better to get advice on the top things to see and do in the second oldest city of Australia? The attractions of Hobart seem to revolve around its rich colonial heritage, great festivals, good food and drink, natural surrounds and waterfront. Here is the list as derived from many conversations with the good folks at the Hobart Visitor Information Centre and recommendations from locals in the shops, restaurants, market and even on the street.
Hobart is the largest and oldest city in Tasmania and walking through the city is a great way to step back in time. A local favourite is strolling through Battery Point, one of Hobart's oldest residential and most historic areas where much of the colonial era remains intact. The area traces its name back to 1818 with characteristics of a Cornish fishing village due to the mariners who resided there nearly 200 years ago.
Highlights include the Georgian whalers' cottages that surround Arthur's Circus, which was the village green of the entire suburb; Narryna Heritage Museum houses a significant collection of colonial artifacts in its impressive sandstone building; and Kelly's Steps constructed back in the 1830s out of massive sandstone blocks that connect Battery Point to Salamanca. Thanks to the residents who have helped preserve the streetscape, Battery Point continues to draw visitors who visit the shops, cafes and stay in the historic B&Bs in the area. Another local favourite is the historic walkways of Sandy Bay where remains of some original buildings dating back nearly 200 years can be found.
The Hunter Street area is probably Tasmania's most important historic archaeological resource. You are walking through the location of the first permanent European colony in Van Diemen's Land. It was from those early beginnings that the Hunter Street area evolved into Tasmania's most important port in the mid-19th century. A row of historic warehouses overlooking Fisherman's Wharf is now The Henry Jones Art Hotel.
Photo courtesy of Port Arthur Historic Site Managment Authority
You can visit the Cascades Female Factory and take a guided tour of the colonial era prison site. It is the only remaining female factory where you can see extensive underground archaeological collections. So just lace up the right pair of shoes and you're off to explore the history of Hobart.
Hobart is simply one of the great small shopping malls of the world. In addition to the pedestrian strip of the Elizabeth Street Mall, the city's shopping scene is dominated by numerous small outlets offering some of Tasmania's best artisan products.
Photo courtesy of Bett Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania
The unique blend of cultural heritage and love for the arts has created a generation of designers, artists and crafters who showcase their works in the city's many art galleries and fashion boutiques.
The rich ocean and green hinterland has also given birth to some of Australia's best produce including berries, cheeses, sausages, beer, wine, whiskey, chocolates, crayfish and the famous Tasmanian Atlantic salmon, all of which are easily available from venues like Island Markets, Tassal's The Salmon Shop and Wursthaus Kitchen.
Set against the backdrop of historic sandstone warehouses in Salamanca Place is Australia's best outdoor market. Operated by the City of Hobart every Saturday from 8.30am to 3pm, the Salamanca Market is the place to see, smell, taste and buy some of Tasmania's best produce and products.
Photo courtesy of Tourism Tasmania
A stroll through the entire length of the Market will reveal all of its treasures - You can sample handmade gourmet food like plump cherries marinated in wasabi; browse the craft stalls for quirky hand-worked ceramic, wood or glass art; bite on a crispy farm fresh apple; sip on locally made whiskey and wine; choose from crates of organic vegetables; grab a bag of crispy tempura mushrooms to accompany that bottle of craft chilli ginger beer; rummage through trash and treasures for a antique bone china teacup; and enjoy the eclectic mix of live entertainment.
Locals love to visit the Market early for a breakfast at the neighbouring cafes before taking a stroll of the stalls. You can also eat and drink your way through the Market. What started with only 12 stalls in 1972 has grown to over 300 by 2012, attracting up to 25,000 visitors every Saturday. Make sure you make a date with this iconic market that brings Hobart together.
Hobart's history is shaped by water, be it the Derwent, Storm Bay or the Southern Ocean. It is home to maritime vessels including ocean racing yachts, fishing boats and even Antarctic supply ships that ply its waterways. The Port is not only a commercial hub but an attraction for visitors and residents. You can watch the loading and unloading of cargo vessels in the morning, take a romantic stroll along the docks in the afternoon and enjoy some Tasmanian seafood in the cafes and restaurants that dot the cove.
Hobart offers a wide selection of dining establishments from the casual to the refined. Seafood is popular in Hobart, just going by the number of alfresco eateries dishing out fish, shellfish and crustaceans along the waterfront. You can find more alfresco dining along the Elizabeth Street Mall, one of Australia's most popular pedestrian malls.
Radishes, turnips, garlic purée and ajo blanco / Photo courtesy of Ethos Eat Drink
While North Hobart's restaurant strip showcases international flavours with Thai, Indian, Mexican and Italian, a quaint French-style pâtisserie run by 2 of Gordon Ramsay's former employees called 'Sweet Envy' is all the buzz. Pigeon Hole café, an old butcher shop that seats just 16 in West Hobart is popular for its home-baked pastries.
Salamanca Place is dotted with popular drinking and eating spots including Smolt, Ball & Chain Grill, Nant Whiskey and Grape Bar & Bottleshop. Just behind Salamanca in Battery Point, Jackman & McRoss Bakeries serves hearty breakfasts and lunches. The locals recommend Monty's On Montpelier, Ethos Eat Drink and Garagistes for gourmet and refined dining.
Join some of the best known events
The Taste of Tasmania / Photo courtesy of Hobart City Council
Hobart is home to some of Tasmania's best events so it makes perfect sense to plan one or two into your visit. Its annual 'The Taste of Tasmania' event transforms the city's waterfront into 8 days and nights of activities that celebrate Tasmania's produce. Hobart will come alive at night through large-scale public art, light installations, music and food during 'Dark Mofo'.
The City of Hobart Floral Shows in Spring and Autumn showcase magnificent floral displays by various horticultural societies. Over the Christmas season, you can join thousands of spectators at the annual 'Carols by Candlelight' and watch the 'Myer Hobart Christmas Pageant' along Hobart's CBD. There's simply just so much more to see and do.
Hobart is an excellent base station for taking in the beautiful surrounds. A 10 minute drive out of the city will take you to Mount Nelson. The former signal station post which relayed messages between Hobart and Port Arthur offers a scenic view of the city. 30 minutes further through alpine forest will offer extended views of the ranges in the southwest and Ben Lomond in northeast Tasmania from Mount Wellington. Port Arthur, Richmond, Zoo Doo Wildlife Park, Bruny Island, vineyards, Cascade brewery, and MONA are all within a day's trip.
The open air museum of Port Arthur is a popular attraction with visitors as the former convict settlement and one of the most significant heritage areas in Australia; Richmond is best known for its unspoilt Georgian-era landscape; Cool-climate wines like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc from cellar doors are just a 20 minute drive from the city; The historic brewery which produces Hobart's famous Cascade beers and ales is located on the foothills of Mount Wellington; Bruny Island is increasingly famous for its produce, lighthouse and eco-cruises; and Tasmania's latest attraction, MONA or Museum of Old and New Art beats London's unusual museums anytime, housing one of the most controversial art collections in the world.
Saturdays are designed for taking in the sights of Hobart. Courtesy of the Hobart City Council, a free shuttlebus connects the city centre with Salamanca and everything in between through 9 convenient stops. The HobartHopper shuttle bus runs every 10 minutes from 8.30am to 4pm in a continuous loop. Best of all, you can hop on and off the bus as many times as you like.