These days, it seems ‘Tassie’ is on the lips of travellers everywhere and there’s plenty of reasons for this. The Island State is blessed with abundant natural beauty, unique flora and fauna, and a glorious sense of isolation and accessible remoteness. It’s also renowned for its fresh produce, seafood, wine, cheese and all things gourmet. Not to mention the winding back roads lend themselves perfectly to self-drive touring – ideal for campers looking to expand their horizons to the south.
The scenic capital, Hobart, is a must-visit on any Tassie touring itinerary. Hobart’s spacious suburbs sprawl either side of the city centre, a narrow sliver of urbanisation sandwiched between the sandy banks of the Derwent River and the bulky foothills of kunyani/Mount Wellington. Keep your camera at the ready – you’ll be met with photo-worthy scenes around every corner.
Having lived in Hobart for a large portion of my life, I must profess to a certain level of bias when it comes to this pint-sized and super-friendly capital. But this also means I can share an insider’s perspective of some of the best bits to help plan your next visit!
At 1271m, kunyani/Mount Wellington dwarfs the small city – its profile prominent regardless of where you go around town. I highly recommend a trip to the pinnacle for the expansive views it offers over the city and across the blue stretches of water, the numerous bays and coves, islands, arms and peninsulas that make up this south-eastern corner of the state. Aside from the wind and the murmurs of appreciation from fellow spectators, from this height the city below appears magnificently silent and still.
To get there, take the winding, narrow mountain road up through the rainforest onto the alpine plateau (definitely leave the van behind for this one). On the way up, stop at the Springs and grab a coffee at Lost Freight – a shipping container cafe with shaded seating, adjacent the Springs car park.
This is where you’ll find many of the trackheads for the extensive network of first-rate walking and mountain biking trails that criss-cross the mountain. A little further up the road, the short but very steep walk to the Lost World is one of my personal favourites for the great views.
The cool mountain air is unbeatably fresh, and in colder weather snow is a possibility – at any time of year! Pack a warm jacket, regardless of the season. Even on a warm day in the city, the wind chill on top of the mountain can take your breath away. Avoid making the trip on cloudy or misty days, when the mountain is buried behind a screen of white and views are non-existent.
I’ll give you a hot tip, though – on a reasonably clear morning, sunrise from the pinnacle is absolutely worth getting up extra early for. Plus, you’ll likely have the place mostly to yourself as you watch the world turn from pink to orange and the lights of the city flick off as the sun creeps higher.
If you’re looking for other good vantage points around town, stop in at the Mount Nelson Signal Station for views over the city and the river mouth that can be enjoyed over breakfast or lunch from comfy beanbags at the Signal Station Brasserie. You could also pay a visit to Taroona’s historic Shot Tower where you can climb the 318 wooden steps to the gallery for 360-degree views across Storm Bay and the surrounding countryside.
MUSEUM OF OLD AND NEW ART
For you daily dose of culture, there’s no denying the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) is Hobart’s modern icon. All fanfare aside, Mona does not disappoint. The museum offers an eclectic mix of exhibitions, delivered with a side of difference, a splash of frivolity and often a healthy dose of darkness. The Mona complex has recently been extended to encompass a new wing, Pharos – home to some of James Turrell’s mind-expanding works of light and darkness, as well as an excellent new restaurant, Faro.
Mona is a 20-minute drive out of town or, alternatively, you can arrive in style by jumping aboard the MR-1 fast ferry for the 25-minute journey from Brooke Street Pier near Hobart’s centre. Upgrade to the Posh Pit if you’d like the luxury of drinks and canapés on the boat’s private deck (very civilised!).
If you’re feeling the festive vibes, consider timing your visit to Hobart around one of Mona’s popular festivals. Mona Foma is a summer arts and music festival held in January, while Dark Mofo runs over the winter solstice in June, offering a beacon of warmth in the depths of Tassie’s winter. Both are excellent and offer something for everyone.
The period between Christmas and New Year is one to pencil into the calendar, too, as you can make the most of the Taste of Tasmania festival, as well as the arrival of the Sydney to Hobart yachts.
Back in the centre of town, visit the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), with its plentiful permanent exhibitions of Tasmanian Aboriginal culture, flora and fauna, as well as a host of temporary exhibitions that keep things interesting.
Salamanca is, in many ways, the heart of Hobart’s historic waterfront precinct. This was once the rough wharf-front playground of sailors, whalers and factory workers, but those days are long gone and pleasant bars and cafes now line the footpath, perfect for brunching and lunching.
In the late afternoon, stop in at The Den for a cocktail in stylish, wood-panelled surrounds, before heading across to the wharves for some fresh seafood or a feed of scallops and chips. Finish up with a Tasmanian-made ice cream or gelato from the Van Diemens Land Creamery punt at Constitution Dock and stroll among the fishing fleet and private yachts as the sun sets behind the mountain.
For culture lovers and anyone looking to bag a Tasmanian treasure, a wander through the peaceful galleries, boutiques and specialist stores hidden in the old sandstone warehouses that line Salamanca Place is also highly recommended.
From Salamanca, take Kelly Steps up the hill for a self-guided amble around the historic Battery Point precinct. Fuel yourself with a delicious bakery treat from local institution Jackman and McRoss and grab yourself a fresh loaf for your pantry while you’re there.
If you’re in town on Saturday, Salamanca Place is transformed into a bustling marketplace for the Salamanca Market – an undeniably popular Hobart highlight with both visitors and locals for the friendly vibes, great food and a variety of local and imported arts, crafts and souvenirs.
Also worth adding to your itinerary is the Sunday Farm Gate Farmers’ Market, held in the city centre. This is the perfect place to stock your van pantry before you hit the road with seasonal fruit and veg, honey, kombucha, tea and a changing array of treats from artisan producers (if you can get your hands on one, the sourdough donuts are beyond delicious!)
Your itinerary is now looking pretty full, I know, but before you leave, pay a visit to North Hobart’s main street, which is lined with shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. You’ll find a cuisine to suit most taste buds for your evening meal and it’s also a good spot for a lazy brunch (Berta and Room for a Pony’s breakfast menus are both top notch).
North Hobart is also home to the State Cinema, which has been serving Hobart’s film lovers for over a hundred years. It’s the kind of cinema where you can grab a glass of wine and a choc top and enjoy your film as it should be enjoyed! There’s also a great little bookshop attached where you can browse while you wait for your film to begin.