Luxury Escapes Guide to Hobart

Avid travelers know the best gems are hidden, and Hobart is a treasure trove of Tasmanian produce, art and historic architecture, waiting to be unearthed.

Like a string of pearls across the city, eateries from fine dining establishments to modest roadside stalls pay homage to exquisite produce from land and sea. Thanks to Tasmania’s fertile soil, clear waters and fresh air, this island state truly has an embarrassment of riches when it comes to organic vegetables, seafood, cheeses, meats and cool-climate wines. The city is the starting point for a plethora of road trips through the cellar doors and cider houses of southern Tasmania, with just-shucked oysters on Bruny Island or cool-climate wines in the Huon Valley an easy meander away.

While the foodie scene with its trendy craft breweries and food festivals is a decidedly modern part of culture in Hobart today, it’s the city’s rich, deeply woven heritage that makes this destination so captivating. The story of the second-oldest capital in Australia is told through its architecture, from the Georgian sandstone buildings of Salamanca Place, around which sailors and whalers once milled, to the Victorian cottages of Battery Point.

The story of contemporary Hobart should undisputedly include the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), a world-class exhibit whose inception in 2011 has attracted the attention of an international audience. Drawn in by Mona's creative and controversial collection, visitors from around Australia and the world have discovered Hobart's historic charm and hip gastronomic scene that gives the most dynamic of global cities a run for their money.

Main Image: Hobart and Tasman Bridge. Image by Luke Tscharke, courtesy of Tourism Tasmania.

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Things to see and do

Eat your way around Salamanca Market

Salamanca Market is one of Australia’s finest and something of an institution. Every Saturday historic Salamanca Place comes alive with more than 300 colourful stalls and shoppers milling between. Soak up the buzzing atmosphere as you browse the fresh produce (with plentiful samples to taste as you work your way round), locally made artwork and crafts, jewellery, homewares and more.

Discover Mona, a ‘subversive adult Disneyland’

The Museum of Old and New Art was a gamechanger for Hobart and it’s not hard to see why: even if you’re not an art lover per se, you can’t help but be impressed by this world-class private collection, which ranges from evocative contemporary pieces to Egyptian mummies, and its intriguing backstory. The brainchild of native David Walsh, dubbed the ‘Tasmanian Devil’ by The New Yorker, this $110 million, subterranean cave of wonders invites visitors to ponder the meaning of more than 300 works – before enjoying a drink at the onsite Moorilla Winery.

Go bushwalking in Wellington Park

There aren’t many cities in the world that offer true wilderness in such close proximity to urbanity. Hobart’s spectacular surrounding terrain lends itself to outdoor pursuits, so it would be positively criminal not to pack a pair of hiking boots and get amongst it. The 18,000-hectare Wellington Park is just a 20-minute drive out and is home to the towering, snow-dusted Mount Wellington. You'll have the chance to spot all types of wildlife from platypuses to echidnas and possums (please keep a respectful distance) and the daily grind will feel a million miles away as you hike, bike and ride the terrain on horseback.

Go wine-tasting in the Coal River Valley en route to Richmond

Tasmania produces world-class cool-climate wines thanks to its optimum growing conditions, not dissimilar to those of the most celebrated European regions. So, when in Rome… one simply must taste the wine. Just a 20-minute drive out of the city is Coal River Valley, where award-winning wineries produce varieties such as sauvignon blanc, pinot noir and chardonnay, served alongside paddock-to-plate fare. Taste your way up to historic Richmond, being sure to stop at Frogmore Creek, one of Tasmania’s most awarded wineries, Puddleduck Vineyard – a boutique, family-owned vineyard serving premium house-made wines and platters – and Pooley Wines, whose hilltop position overlooking Richmond wouldn’t be out of place in Italy.

Immerse yourself in Hobart’s convict history

From its earliest Aboriginal inhabitants to colonisation and the influx of British convicts and drunken sailors in the 1800s, Hobart has had a checkered history. There are several sites remaining in and around the city where you can step back in time, includingthe Maritime Museum of Tasmania, Hobart Convict Penitentiary with its execution yard and gallows and Narryna merchant’s house.The most fascinating is perhaps Cascades Female Factory, a poignant reminder of this challenging slice of Hobart’s history. A one-time distillery converted into a correctional centre, the factory was the site of grueling retribution for female convicts, many forcibly extradited from Britain.

Stroll through the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens

The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens – the second-oldest botanic gardens in Australia, dating back to 1818 – is a true jewel of the city that mustn’t be missed. Around every corner of its 14 hectares, a new delight is unveiled: the largest public collection of conifers in the southern hemisphere, a fragrant herb garden, lily pad-dotted ponds, a Subantarctic Plant House and a Japanese garden. Not into nature? The Botanical Shop sells gin that’s been produced onsite.

Get lost amongst the laneways of Battery Point

The charming Battery Point, just south of Hobart’s CBD, is one of the oldest areas of Hobart and remains largely unchanged from when it was built in the 1800s. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the Victorian era as you wander the laneways between the sandstone buildings and 19th century cottages, stopping to peruse antique and bookstores en route. But even this historic suburb is not immune to Hobart’s coming-of-age. Hampden Road is home to of-the-moment eateries such as Pollen Tea Room, which may sound deceptively traditional but serves trendy vegan-inspired dishes such as house-made kimchi and coconut yoghurt and raw pad Thai with zucchini noodles.

Go to ‘Beer School’ at Cascade Brewery

Nestled at the foot of Mount Wellington is Australia’s oldest operating brewery, a mecca for beer-lovers and craft-brew hipsters. It’s safe to say that, having been founded in 1824 and crafting beer since 1832, Cascade Brewery knows a thing or two about the ambernectar. Enrolment in the brewery’s ‘Beer School’ or History and Brewery experience will unveil secrets of Cascade’s iconic recipes and the Tasmanian ingredients behind them, and of course, most importantly – a generous amount of tasting.

Discover the beauty of Richmond

Richmond, with its Georgian sandstone buildings and famous bridge dating back to 1823, is an utterly charming addition to your wine-tasting itinerary. Just a 30-minute drive out of the city, its lush rolling hills and historic architecture has a distinctly English-countryside feel. While away an afternoon perusing its boutiques, tea rooms, galleries and museums, visit the convict-era Gaol, and go strawberry-picking at Littlewood Berry farm.

Top places to eat and drink

The Glass House

You couldn’t ask for a finer location than that of The Glass House: but its flashy positioning, suspended over the waters of Sullivan’s Cove with 280° River Derwent views, is more than backed up by its menu. Locally sourced Tasmanian produce (organic vegetables, soft sheep milk cheese, Southern Ocean oysters) is given a Japanese twist at this high-end eatery, which also features a raw bar for fresh seafood prepared on-the-spot. Its dishes – think scallop with ponzu ginger and shiso, and heirloom beetroot carpaccio with hazelnut and dandelion – are complemented by a more-than-worthy drinks list of world-class local whiskies, Tasmanian wines, craft beers and classic cocktails.

Templo

If you prefer your dining establishments to have a more local feel, seek out Templo: a cosy eatery in the city’s back streets where you’ll be looking to the chalkboard for the day’s menu. Availability of produce informs what’s on offer each day – a gastronomical lucky dip where you’re guaranteed a win, every time. Crispy arancini with a melting centre, risotto with gorgonzola and hazelnuts and Sicilian apple cake are just some of the Italian-inspired dishes to savour whilst perched in the window or at the bar.

Pancho Villa

“If you cringe at the sound of tequila, we can tell you now, you’ve been doing it wrong.” Allow the Day of the Dead-inspired Pancho Villa to show you how to do tequila right— and with a menu of more than 50 varieties, you’re sure to find a shot that will tickle your fancy. Of course, it’s never advisable to drink on an empty stomach and the restaurant’s Mexican-inspired menu – with baja fish tacos, pork belly quesadilla, chilli and chorizo mussels and churros with dulce de leche – is there to break the fall.

Institut Polaire

This award-winning bar is achingly cool in more ways than one. Embracing Tasmania’s status as ‘the gateway to Antarctica’, Institut Polaire serves up cool climate wine and spirits from both international brands and emerging local talents, with an emphasis on organic and biodynamic farming and natural techniques. Sip on a signature Süd Polaire Antarctic dry martini while tucking into a grazing menu of fresh, organic local fare such as Scottsdale pork katsu and Coal River Farm triple cream brie with mustard fruits.

Fico

As one of Tasmania’s finest restaurants, the bearer of two chef hats and the winner of the AGFG Readers’ Choice 2020 – European award, you know you’re in for a treat when you visit Fico, where Tasmanian produce meets Italian tradition. Expect handmade pastas and risottos such as squid ink tortellini and green garlic risotto, homemade bread and beautiful seafood. Visit on a Sunday and the set menu will feature treasures sourced from the local farmers’ market that very morning.

Peacock and Jones

On waterfront Hunter Street, concealed in a rustic sandstone warehouse, is Peacock and Jones: an unmissable dining experience offering Tasmanian-inspired dishes created in an open kitchen. Headed up by Mark Wilson (formerly of Saffire Freycinet), the team’s passion for Tasmanian produce is evident in its ever-changing menu of dishes such as Tasmanian lamb with ratatouille and baba ganoush and French onion soufflé with Heidi Farm gruyère, which is complemented by a wine cellar of more than 60 bottles.

Society Salamanca

Cocktail, gin and whiskey-lovers will be in their element at this cosy library-inspired bar, whose sizeable spirit collection is showcased on a huge bookshelf complete with a wooden ladder (not advisable for those who have been sampling the cocktails). Tapas-style dishes and live music are the perfect complement to the premium tipples such as the Saffron Negroni and classic cocktails like the Corpse Reviver.