Aerial view of Hobart. Picture: Jarrad Seng
Aerial view of Hobart. Picture: Jarrad Seng

INSIDE INTEL: How to navigate Hobart like a local

Not so long ago this charming waterfront city of just 220,000 residents was like the land that time forgot. Hobart - and Tasmania in general - can still feel like a comforting time warp at times: a harking back to the days when drivers were courteous, kids walked themselves home from school and tomato sauce at the bakery was free.  

Hobart city. Picture: iStock
Hobart city. Picture: iStock

WHY SHOULD I GO?

Picturesque streetscapes at every turn and abundant foodie festivals make Hobart an instagrammer's paradise. For nature lovers, the Hobart Rivulet walking track is a good place to spot an echidna or platypus; and for art lovers, a ferry trip to MONA is a must. The city is also establishing itself as a bit of a gin and whisky mecca. 

CHILL OUT

With no other land mass between Tasmania and Antarctica, it can get pretty frosty when southerlies whip up. Night-time temps in winter are regularly below freezing, but despite that - or maybe because of it - tourism in winter is really gaining traction, and the city's DarkMofo festival in mid-June and the Festival of Voices in July are drawing increasingly larger crowds. Peak visitor times are over summer.

HOBART'S DARK PAST

Hobart is Australia's second-oldest city. It was founded as a penal colony in 1804 and the city's rich concentration of Georgian buildings is a haunting reminder of a town built on convict labour.

Salamanca Markets. Picture: iStock
Salamanca Markets. Picture: iStock

DON'T MISS THESE

  1. The view from kunanyi/Mt Wellington: Take a shuttle bus to the 1271m-high summit for a mindblowing panorama over Hobart, the River Derwent and down the d'Entrecasteaux Chanel to Bruny Island. Weather warning: it can get very windy and cold up top.
  2. Salamanca: this waterfont precinct centres on the row of 1830s sandstone warehouses, now home to art galleries, cafes and artist co-ops. Come here on a Saturday morning for the bustling outdoor markets.
  3. Cascade Brewery: You'll recognise the iconic image of this brewery from its beer labels. Behind the double-storey hedge is a sprawling garden with swish restaurant and bar.

 

MONA

A trip to Hobart would not be complete without a visit to this partly subterranean, privately bankrolled Museum of Old and New Art owned by local eccentric and professional gambler, David Walsh. Go by ferry, it's worth the fare

 

BOOK AHEAD FOR A TABLE

Franklin, Agrarian Kitchen, Fat Pig Farm and Aloft. You'll need a reservation to get into these big-name eateries. Book well in advance to secure a spot. And keep mind that eating out on a Monday can be a challenge as most places are closed. 

Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Picture: iStock
Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Picture: iStock

UNMISSABLE FREEBIE ACTIVITIES

  1. If you love live music, make your way to the quarry-walled courtyard of the Salamanca Arts Centre on a Friday night from 5.30pm-7.30pm. There's mulled wine and fires in winter and sangria in summer. Expect anything from gypsy swing to Latin sambas. 
  2. From sunrise to sunset, head to the Burrow at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens to throw a beanbag on the lawn and lose yourself in one of the many free books and games on offer.
  3. Known colloquially as TMAG (tee-mag), the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is Hobart's 'other' museum. Come for the always well-curated visiting exhibits as well as the permanent collection of exquisite Tasmanian colonial art.  
  4. Historic walking tours. There are a few outfits around that do it, so you can match the one that best suits your schedule.

 

HOBART BY BOAT

This nautical city is best seen by water, consider hiring a kayak route and paddling the free Clarence Kayak Trail, with wide-sweeping vistas of the city from the other side of the river.

For those who don't want to get wet, the Spirit of Hobart is a low-cost way to take a lazy cruise for little outlay.

Ice cream? Yes, please! Picture: iStock
Ice cream? Yes, please! Picture: iStock

GET ON YOUR BIKE

With much less traffic than other capital cities, Hobart is a cycling paradise. Rent a standard or electric bike from one of the plethora of operators and follow the city' cycle paths. Try the 15.6km intercity cycleway from the cenotaph out to Mona. A pit stop at Valhalla ice-cream factory at Moonah is non-negotiable.

      

PARKING IN THE CITY

Hobart has recently rolled out a swag of new parking meters across town - and the good news is they take cards! Welcome 21st century. The bad news is they're so difficult to use the council has been running three-hour-long sessions on how to operate them. Yes, three hours… Avoid the dilemma by downloading the free app EasyPark, which you can link to a card. Be warned: there's a minimum $3 charge to use a card, which is causing no lack of stress to many Hobartians.

 

LIVING INDIGENOUS CULTURE

Don't believe what you read in guide books: Tasmania's thriving Aboriginal population is alive and well. While it's true that sadly there are no full-blooded Tasmanian Aborigines still living, their  descendants have retained much of the culture and continue to be a proud presence in the city's fabric. You'll see a lot of dual-named landmarks around.

 

CONVERSATION STARTERS

Taswegians are fervently touchy about being left off the map. The latest debacle was the island's non inclusion in the Australia-shaped Arnotts Vegemite and Cheese Shapes. Other hot banes of contention are Tassie's push for a standalone AFL team; whether Hobart should build a cable car to the top of the mountain; the potential environmental effects of salmon farming; and city building height limits. 

 

QUIRKY FACTS

In a little rocky crag about 1.5 hours west of Hobart is Australia's only deciduous tree. The crinkle-leafed shrub known as Nothofagus gunii is the nation's only native plant to change leaf colour. Crowds flock to the gully annually to watch the "turning of the fagus" during the fagus festival.

Food at Salamanca Markets. Picture: iStock
Food at Salamanca Markets. Picture: iStock

FOODIE MARKETS

Thanks to its cool climate and long ripening times, Tasmanian produce is some of the best in the world. There are endless outdoor eateries to sample the wares straight from the farm gate or cray pot, especially over summer when markets spring up like mushrooms along Hobart's foreshores.

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