Insider's Guide: Trending Tasmania

Until recently, the name of Australia’s second-oldest capital city was rarely mentioned in cafe chatter anywhere in the world.

Hobart was a culturally insignificant place on the frigid side of a remote island state. Only scientists with Antarctic obsessions, walkers attracted to the bushy isle’s southern trails or budget honeymooners had ever been down there. But when the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) was born, a different type of visitor ventured to Hobart for a closer look. They found great coffee, Garagistes and a SBS ‘Gourmet Farmer’; and returned home to chat about it and inspire others. Under this intensifying spotlight, fresh new ways to eat, drink and spree sprouted and flourished, with the city gaining deliciously creative momentum.

Must-see spots

From Hobart’s waterfront, the city spreads up towards Mount Wellington like a colourful quilt of colonial history. Some suburbs, particularly Battery Point, which is immediately south of the CBD, have been as lovingly preserved as the contents of grandma’s china cabinet.

Join the dog-walking locals along its cottage-lined streets that draw an irregular grid between Kellys Steps, Arthurs Circus and Nanny Goat Lane. Here you’ll find some of the city’s oldest surviving residences, such as Lenna of Hobart, Secheron House and Narryna Heritage Museum. Battery Point Sculpture Trail leads visitors around the area’s historic waterfront, beside the River Derwent, from the 1833 sculpture at Salamanca Place to 1909 at Errol Flynn Reserve in Sandy Bay, where the cad himself was born and raised.

For something a bit more this century, head into the CBD to Pigeon Whole Bakers. Some of the best bread in Hobart comes fresh from its ovens, which have recently moved to a transparent preparation location in the old Mercury building. Emma Choraziak and Jay Patey, formerly of Pigeon Hole Cafe, are the friendly faces you’ll spot through the window into the bakery workspace, which is tucked away between the entrances to new eateries Franklin and Betsey. You can just stop for a look and not buy, but that will be difficult now that they have a new pastry chef. 

Where to eat

Stick your nose into the city’s repurposed urban spaces for some of its latest and greatest foodie offerings. In the old Mercury building,  Franklin is Peppermint Bay chef David Moyle’s latest joint adventure. His raw seafood bar menu aims to represent the lesser-known culinary treats of the sea, while the restaurant centres around slow roasting in the wood-fired oven. Don’t miss it.

Also in the CBD, Chloe Proud and Iain Todd have commandeered the old map shop in front of Etties restaurant for Providore. This brunch-time delicatessen serves up fresh made-to-order sandwiches and pay-by-weight seasonal salads. Meanwhile, in the Marine Board building on the waterfront,  Frank offers what co-owner Kif Weber describes as “our take on the grill culture of South America”. Although obviously serious about its food, there is a flamenco-dancing chicken in the women’s bathroom.

Don't leave without...

Navigating your way to Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum near the wharf where SY Aurora sailed south on Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition in 1911. The full-scale wooden replicas of the historic huts used by Mawson help transport you to the Antarctic, and the entry fee contributes to the upkeep of the real Mawson’s Huts.

Salamanca Market is an oldie but a goodie for handmade Tasmanian products, fresh seasonal produce, second-hand beauties and live local music filling the fresh morning air. Meanwhile, MONA founder David Walsh continues to proffer golden tickets upon Hobart townsfolk. Visiting MONA and being open to all that name entails - MOFO festivals, Odeon Theatre events, MoMa market in the summertime, the Posh Pit on MONA ROMA, Moorilla Winery and The Source Restaurant - goes without saying but has to be said.

Suburb spotlight

From Franklin Wharf, it’s a gradual 2.5-kilometre uphill trot to  North Hobart’s  busy little Elizabeth Street strip, book-ended by two darned good pubs -  Republic Bar & Café and  The Winston - with new kid on the block Willing Bros Wine Merchants  nearby serving cocktails and charcuterie. 

State Cinema , now more than a century old, is a few doors up from longstanding  Bett Gallery and not far from Renown Milk Bar for milkshakes and mixed lollies. Restaurants include Anatolia and  Berta. Off the drag you’ll find  Providence Cafe and Italian Pantry, which specialises in imported Italian products and has a cheese room.

Where to stay

Luxe With an outdoor bath, heated floors, a ‘pillow menu’ and illuminated moon lounge, you’ll want for nothing at Avalon City Retreat. The penthouse ‘omnipod’ apartment balances atop a 1960s office building and offers 360-degree views of the city.

Central Those interested in Hobart’s history will enjoy sleeping within the 19th-century walls of this former flour mill. Gibson’s Mill offers the choice of one-, two- or three-bedroom apartments, all with self-contained kitchen facilities. If you’d rather dine out, the waterfront rooms are only a short walk away from the city’s best restaurants and bars.

Boutique budget Behind an Art Deco facade, Alabama Hotel offers mid-city accommodation with rooms decorated by local artists. There’s also a vintage-style lounge and bar area.

Flashpackers This 193-year-old property is now Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse. It’s family owned with an open fire and communal kitchen. Most common visitor book comment: “Home away from home”.

Hidden gems

Opened in 1837, Theatre Royal is Australia’s oldest theatre still in use. Take a 45-minute tour if there’s no production running. ‘Real tennis’, one of the world’s oldest racquet sports, is still played in about 40 operational courts worldwide. One of those is Hobart’s  Real Tennis Court, built in 1875. Real tennis professional Barry Toates says you’d be unlucky not to catch regulars playing at the court on any given weeknight or weekend.

Up the road, listen out for the bells ringing from  St David’s Anglican Cathedral on Monday evenings and Sundays because it’s real people up there working the ropes. For an urban picnic with macabre ornamentation and views of Mount Wellington, find the semi-secret entrance - lined with apple blossom plants and crumbling headstones - to the repurposed Presbyterian burial ground of what is now St Andrews Park.

Living like a local

Musician, songwriter and composer Dean Stevenson moved to Hobart from Melbourne in 2000 and gigged his way to becoming a familiar face in the local music scene. Nowadays he’s composing and performing, often solo, for MONA events and is in ever-increasing demand for collaborations with local and international musicians.

Where are your favourite places to see live music in Hobart? The Republic Bar in North Hobart is still true to its mantra of live music every night all year round. They began that more than a decade ago and it’s still a great pub with a huge beer range. Rektango, in the courtyard behind Salamanca Arts Centre, is the best gig in the world as it’s a wonderful cultural melee of suits, hippies, kids and just about everyone from Hobart’s outer reaches. It’s free every Friday from 6pm to 7.30pm and there’s always a band on.

What are the best live music events Hobart has on offer? The MOFO festivals (MONA FOMA and Dark MOFO) are by far the crown jewels of new Tasmania. In fact, they connect the old Tasmania to a very new breed. Hobart has never really been about popular convention and bright lights in the way Melbourne or Sydney are. Its insulation has bred innovation and recently Tasmania has learned to celebrate that in the most wonderful way. The MOFO festivals broadcast that celebration to the world and now bring the world to us.

What’s unique about Hobart’s music scene? It’s unique in that it comes out of the corner. It does not, or cannot, be conventional. Tasmania, by its nature of distance and history, can be nothing else. And because of people’s passion for living here, it makes for a high calibre of musician that often seeks out Hobart in particular as a place to live and create. Some of the best players in the country live here then tour. That makes a super heavy music scene of talent and purpose.

Words by Elspeth Callenderr - Published in Voyeur February 2015
Quick Facts 
Population Approx 247,000
Area 1,357 km2
Time Zone GMT +10
Languages English (official)
Currency Australian dollar (AUD)
Electricity 220 – 240v 50Hz
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