Hobart is the state capital and most populous city of the Australian island state of Tasmania, reached by a short flight or overnight ferry from Melbourne. Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, Hobart is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney, and hands down the prettiest.
Snuggled into the estuary of the Derwent River, the skyline dominated by Mount Wellington standing 4,170 feet high, Hobart is one of the most colorful cities in Australia, with the small capital’s residential homes in their wild setting reminiscent of Reykjavik in Iceland. A small city, but gateway to one of the most beautiful Australian states, it is usually overlooked by visitors. Yet, Hobart is buzzing with a thriving food and art scene, has a beautiful harbor, a great market, and superlative museums. Regular festivals, palatable joie de vivre, and the surrounding beauty make Hobart a must-see stop on any Australian travel itinerary, with a few days in the Tasmanian countryside also added to the city break.
Things To Do In Hobart
Hobart is a small city but is full of things to do to keep you busy for a long weekend — at the very least — before you head off to explore the rest of Tasmania. There is one of the best art museums in Australia here, a lively market, plenty of history, great food, some magnificent suburbs with dreamy real estate to ogle, beaches, marinas, and mountains to explore. Here are some of my favorite things to do in the city.
The Museum of Old and New Art houses collections from ancient artifacts to the latest contemporary works, with a unique interactive visitor experience involving personal touch screen devices. On the outskirts of Hobart, you can easily reach the museum by dedicated ferry leaving from Hobart’s harbor several times a day. Do be prepared to spend a few hours, as there is not just lots of art, but also a wine bar and restaurants. Weekends are busy with events ranging from markets, live music and more. You can even stay on-site, see below for details.
Shop The Salamanca Market
One side of the Hobart harborside is taken over by the market every Saturday, and with some 300 stalls, there is not much you can’t get there. You’ll find fresh local produce, fabulous street food stalls, coffee and wine stalls, arts and crafts, local honey stalls, and more. Expect to spend time and money there. I bought my favorite dog dish there, a metal stand with a nodding dog’s head, and everybody who has seen it has demanded to know where I got it from. Never seen one anywhere else. So, bring a spare bag.
Walk Around Battery Point
Just on from the markets lies Battery Point, a neighborhood that started life as a maritime village and was named after the gun that graced the point jutting into the sea. Best explored on foot, the area is full of history and quaint architecture that has remained unchanged since the early 1800s, antique and book shops, and the Narrya Heritage Museum, an 1830s merchant’s house now telling the story and history of Tasmania.
Climb Mount Wellington
Mount Kunanyi (or Mount Wellington) is not only evident from everywhere in Hobart but is also the local sports ground: you can hike, bike, climb, horse ride, and bushwalk. To reach the top, you can drive, take a bus or go as part of a tour. Once you’re up there, you’ll enjoy spectacular views across Hobart, the estuary, the sea, and the surroundings.
Saunter Through The Royal Tasmania Botanical Gardens
An easy walk from the city center, if you like the idea of spending a few hours strolling in tranquil and stunningly beautiful gardens or stopping for a picnic, the Tasmania Botanical Gardens are a gorgeous place to see some native plants in a great setting. Australia’s second oldest botanical gardens, it is the only one with a subarctic plant house, recalling that Hobart is the setting-off point for Antarctic explorations.
Learn At The Tasmanian Museum And Art Gallery
This museum is an allrounder in that it shows you anything and everything to do with Tasmania and beyond. From a stuffed Tasmanian tiger, yes, tiger not devil, to the local geology, and decorative arts to photographic exhibitions, there is something to interest everybody.
See A Tasmanian Devil In Person
You can’t go to Tasmania and not see a real-life Tasmanian devil, can you? Head to the Tasmania Zoo to catch a glimpse of this rather cute and sadly endangered species that is so different from the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes example.
Welcome The Sydney To Hobart Yacht Race
This annual yacht race, setting off from Sydney on Boxing Day, crossing the Tasman Sea, and finishing in Hobart, has been ongoing since 1945 and is considered one of the most difficult races in the world due to the treacherous part of the ocean crossed. But should you be in Tasmania when the sailboats arrive, bearing in mind that the majority of yachts take around three days to cross (though the winners sometimes manage it in two), it is a spectacle like no other and well worth seeking out a good vantage point.
Go For Afternoon Tea In Richmond
The quaint town of Richmond lies a mere 17 miles north of Hobart and looks like picture-book old-world England. It not only has the oldest bridge still in use in the whole of Australia, built between 1823 and 1825, but also a high street filled with antique shops and cute cafes. There is a model village, the oldest Catholic church in Australia, and the oldest prison in Australia, but this one is no longer in use. Between the cafes offering traditional cream teas, the cutesy shops selling local produce from cheese to wine, and the art galleries, you can spend a very enjoyable afternoon here.
Best Restaurants In Hobart
For its small size, Hobart has an impressive food scene. Famous for its small and sweet Tassie oysters and other fresh seafood straight from the Southern Ocean, there is also a surprising international selection of street food and restaurants. Add the locally produced and grown foodstuffs such as honey, wine, cheese, and more, and you won’t go hungry.
On my first trip to Hobart, I went on a Gourmania Food Tour, and, while not cheap, it turned out to be a superb history walking tour with food and coffee stops along the way. Learning about Hobart, Tasmania, the cuisine, and produce could not be done in a better way. The tours are small and personal and the food good and plentiful.
When it comes to Hobart restaurants, Berta offers a wide selection of great breakfast options, from the Aussie favorite avocado toast to scrambled eggs to homemade granola and more. A comfy setting and a great start to the day.
Salamanca Market’s food and drink stands are simply superb. Who needs a restaurant when you can snack your way across a market, tasting the best of Tasmanian food there is, freshly prepared in front of you? Skip breakfast and make your trip to the market a walking brunch.
Mures Upper Deck is a superb seafood restaurant right in the old harbor, offering an a la carte menu of the famous Tasmanian oysters, fresh catches of the day, and a rather gorgeous mushroom risotto in a delightful locale. Downstairs, you’ll find Mures Lower Deck, a simpler but equally recommended fish and chip shop.
Best Hotels In Hobart
Just like the food scene, there is a surprisingly wide choice of places to stay in Hobart, from luxury to self-catering to even camping, all depending on your budget and preferences.
The Henry Jones Art Hotel is my personal favorite. It has a great location right by the harbor, a reinvented port building made into a chic hotel, which is full of art, including the hallways and rooms, a superb gallery downstairs with sadly rather expensive aboriginal art, plus a regular art market in the courtyard, and a lovely bar. You can’t go wrong with this one.
If you prefer a little extra space and the option of a kitchen, Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel, situated in an authentic old wool store, is perfect. Just steps away from the harbor and city center, it is also opposite a fun place for an easy bite, the invitingly named Hog’s Breath Café located in yet another reinvented building.
MONA Pavilions is for art and design connoisseurs. After spending all day at the MONA (see above), you can stay on-site in these highly modern and individual guest suites, some with the best views across the water. They’re not cheap, but they make any design lover’s heart beat a lot faster.
Pro Tip: Even if you are traveling domestically from Sydney or Melbourne to Hobart, remember not to have any food in your baggage or carry-on. Tasmania is extremely strict and employs rather adorable sniffer dogs at the airport who will sniff out even the most innocent apple in your bag.