It seems everyone wants a piece of the Tassie capital these days — and with good reason. A magnificent location on the Derwent River, a rich history to explore, a revitalised cultural agenda, and a sensational food and wine scene are just some of the many attractions. The city also acts as a springboard for exploring stunning natural landscapes like Bruny Island and the Tasman Peninsula.
This Hobart city guide is packed with ideas for things to see and do. Enjoy your visit.
Watch our video of ten top things to do in Hobart:
The Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) is the main cultural game in Hobart — and has been since it opened back in 2011, seemingly single-handedly turning Tasmania’s tourism fortunes around.
Despite the hype, you can’t help but be impressed by Mona. The artworks and antiquities that adorn the shadowy caverns and corridors are polarising, but that’s the point. The museum is located alongside the Derwent, eleven kilometres north of the city. The easiest way to get there is by ferry from the Mona Brooke Street Ferry Terminal.
For a close encounter with the local arts community, head for the refurbished merchant warehouses that line the once notorious Salamanca waterfront. Sailors and smugglers have long since departed and the arts community has moved in. Check out the Salamanca Arts Centre for its eclectic programme of exhibits, music and live performance at the Peacock Theatre. Lovers of fine contemporary art should also drop by the Despard Gallery in Castray Esplanade.
Hobart for history lovers
Hobart is home to an absolute wealth of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian architecture.
To get the backstory on Australia’s second oldest capital city, sign up for a historical walking tour. Hobart Historic Tours covers the waterfront precinct around Victoria and Constitution Docks, and a number of city streets leading across to Salamanca.
Once you finish at Salamanca, climb the stone Kelly Steps behind the Salamanca Arts Centre up to Battery Point. With Arthur Circus at its heart (by the way, Australia’s only residential ‘Circus’), this has to be one of the most charming neighbourhoods in the country. The Battery Point Community Association has put together a self-guided walking tour of the precinct, titled In Bobby’s Footsteps. It takes in key buildings and landmarks that now occupy the parcel of land granted to Reverend Robert ‘Bobby’ Knopwood at the turn of the 19th century. The Reverend ran into money troubles and the land was slowly sold off. Purchase a copy of the walking tour guide from the Tasmanian Travel and Information Centre in town, or retailers in Battery Point.
History buffs will also want to spend quality time at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery — not only for its collection, but also the historic buildings that are incorporated in the complex. They include Tassie’s oldest public building — the Commissariat (circa 1810), and the Bond Store — constructed in 1826. The latter was largely engulfed by the wrap-around classical revival-style Customs House built in 1902, but from the rear the original building is clearly visible.
The Museum and Art Gallery’s holdings are extensive and encompass a popular permanent exhibition dedicated to the sad demise of the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger), and a significant showing of colonial art. John Glover’s My Harvest Home, painted in 1835, is one of the gallery’s most famous pieces.
Hobart specialises in immersive heritage experiences and many visitors head out to the Port Arthur Historical Site on the Tasman Peninsula for a taste of 19th century convict life. It’s also available at the fascinating Hobart Convict Penitentiary, which is located right on the edge of the CBD. The buildings you see today are just a fraction of what once stood here. The Penitentiary, referred to by inmates as ‘the Tench’, was established in the 1830s. Later, the site would house both the Old Hobart Gaol and Supreme Court (the latter of which was used right up until 1983).
Beneath the surviving courtroom (formerly a chapel), tunnels and solitary confinement cells date back to the colonial era. The complex has a small museum and offers evening ghost tours. You’ll visit the courtroom, tunnels, cells, and what is thought to be one of only two functional gallows in Australia. This one was last used in 1946 and it’s spine chilling to see — even for a sceptic ghostbuster.
For a history lesson with a difference, check out any of Hobart’s classic 19th century pubs. They’re packed with character, not to mention memorabilia from yesteryear. Established in 1807, the Hope and Anchor Tavern on Macquarie Street lays claim to being the oldest continuously licensed pub in the country. It’s a somewhat contentious assertion, but this particular pub even has its own museum up on the second floor. It must be old!
Great places to eat in Hobart
The tucker is tops in this part of the world, and how the locals aren’t rolling down the street is anyone’s guess.
There are endless characterful cafes to patronise for breakfast or brunch. One of our favs is Jackman and McRoss on Hampden Road in Battery Point (there’s also a Jackman and McRoss in the city). Two Folk Espresso in Wellington Court offers consistently good coffee, a no fuss food menu, and a great location for people watching. Just a stone’s throw from there on Argyle Street, the pastry cabinet at Pigeon Whole Bakers is always packed with delectable flaky treats — ideal for breakfast on the run. They also do killer coffee (as the crowd always waiting by the pick-up window attests). Over in the Salamanca precinct, Tricycle has long reigned as one of the city’s best cafes.
On to lunch, and while the days of buying fresh seafood straight off the trawlers at Constitution Dock have come to an end, the next best thing is fish and chips from one of the floating seafood stands permanently moored there. The garrulous seagull population can’t be wrong.
Nearby Mures is another popular option for enjoying the catch of the day, or if you can hold out until dinner time, The Drunken Admiral on Victoria Dock serves up sensational seafood chowder. Having first opened back in the 1970s, they’ve had plenty of time to get the recipe just right.
Other memorable and just a tad more upscale dinner options include The Source at Mona (book well in advance), and Frank on the waterfront (opposite Elizabeth Street Pier) — an absolute feast for all five senses. Here, the vividly coloured interior perfectly underscores the sizzling South American-inspired shared plates. If you’re totally flummoxed by the extensive menu, relinquish control and allow the wait staff to arrange a tasting banquet. You won’t be disappointed.
Located on Elizabeth Street Pier, Asian Gourmet on the Pier draws locals and visitors alike with its favoursome food and breezy setting. The menu features dishes from across China — tender Cantonese-style chicken, for example, and mapo tofu, which has that chilli kick so loved in Sichuan. While summer is the ideal time to enjoy the waterfront views from the alfresco seating area, this is a top dining pick at any time of the year.
For pre or post-dinner drinks, head for the very cool Henry Jones Art Hotel’s IXL Long Bar. The hotel is housed in a former jam factory alongside Victoria Dock, and is packed with character. The bar often has live music and stages regular exhibitions of contemporary art.
Speaking of tipples, why not try a local drop during your stay? Tassie’s winemaking, brewing, and distilling efforts garner endless accolades on the world stage, and whatever your choice of poison Hobart has a tasting experience to match. Book a wine tour to the Coal River or Huon Valleys, or soak up the Dickensian aura of Cascade Brewery on a behind-the-scenes tour (which incudes a tasting). There’s nothing 19th century, however, about Cascade’s new look Brewery Bar. While it occupies the original Cascade Homestead, the bar has a stylish, contemporary feel and offers an impressive food menu.
Whisky lovers will feel all warm and fuzzy at the Lark Distillery cellar door on Davey Street, and at their sassy new venue — The Still. Housed in part of the old Mercury newspaper building on Argyle Street, it stocks products from every whisky distiller in the state and has a whiz-bang tasting set-up of barrels that descend from the roof.
Where to shop in Hobart
Browsing the wares at the perennial Salamanca Market is an essential part of any visit to Hobart, so time your stay to include a Saturday (the only day that the market operates).
This vast conglomeration of stalls offers a wide range of locally made home and kitchenwares, knitwear, jewellery, ceramics, paper goods, and more. The next best thing to a morning at the market is a weekday wander along Salamanca Place, which is home to a number of permanent shops selling locally manufactured clothing and homewares.
Locals live for the Farm Gate Market, which takes place on Sunday mornings on Bathurst Street in the CBD (between Elizabeth and Murray Streets). While Salamanca has a smattering of produce, it’s more about Tassie-made merchandise. Farm Gate is all about food, and as the market says: ‘If you can’t eat it, drink it, or grow it, you can’t sell it’. You’re also guaranteed that the person behind the counter is the one who grew it, made it, or cooked it!
Ways to relax in Hobart
There’s no shortage of things to do in Hobart that will leave you feeling relaxed and revitalised.
Rising 1,200 metres behind the city and often robed in fluffy cloud, kunanyi / Mount Wellington dwarfs the surrounding landscape. A trip up to the summit on a clear day yields incredible views of the city and wider region, and the easiest way to get there is on the excellent Mount Wellington Explorer Bus. There are myriad walking trails on the mountain, but if you plan to explore on foot, keep in mind that weather conditions can change rapidly (so have a plan for every eventuality).
If you’re looking for an easy and cost effective way to see more of the city and travel between attractions, purchase a ticket to ride on the city’s iconic hop on hop off bus. Commentary is provided and you can hop on and off as often (or as seldom!) as you like. The full loop takes around 90 minutes to do and is a convenient way to visit both Cascade Brewery and the cool-climate Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens — both of which are a reasonable distance from the city centre. Purchase a combined ticket up to the Mount Wellington summit and save a few dollars in the process.
That epic mountaintop vista may inspire you to hire a car and head off to explore what lies around Hobart. The historic township of Richmond in the Coal River Valley is one highlight, as is New Norfolk in the Derwent Valley. Spend your day drifting from one winery (pinot noir is the drop de jour here), antique store, and quintessential country pub to the next.
Where to stay in Hobart
Vibe Hotel Hobart
Vibe Hotel Hobart is one of those accommodation options that you really look forward to returning to after a hard day of sightseeing. Let’s start with the location. It’s excellent. Situated on Argyle Street, the hotel is literally a five-minute walk from the waterfront and Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and just steps from the Elizabeth Street Mall and heart of the CBD. There are great cafes and eateries on your doorstep, including the incredible coffee on offer at Pigeon Whole Bakers.
The lobby is warm and welcoming, beautifully styled, and comes complete with a fireplace, inviting seating, and a friendly nod from the attentive reception staff. The all-important guest rooms have a contemporary feel (with very flash lighting), comfortable king beds, and bathrooms that anyone would be proud to call their own. Opened in 2020, the hotel still has that ‘I could be the first person who ever stayed here’ feel, and the standard of presentation and cleanliness is flawless throughout the property.
They’re not overtly apparent at first, but nods to the site’s backstory begin to reveal themselves once you’ve settled in. A colonial cottage originally stood here, and convict-made bricks — complete with the makers’ embedded thumbprints — are displayed on the wall in the lounge. In the late 1930s this block was occupied by an Art Deco dance hall called The Belvedere, and it defined the city’s social scene. Note the images of the hall on the external walls, and those that have been woven into the design elements in the lobby.
The hotel’s in-house eatery and dance hall namesake pays homage to Tassie’s cornucopia of fresh foodstuffs. Belvedere serves breakfast and dinner daily, and lunch on selected days. There’s also a bar menu on offer if you get peckish in between. And don’t worry, you can burn off any indulgences in the hotel’s pool and fitness centre.
The writer travelled as a guest of TFE Hotels and Vibe Hotel Hobart.
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About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.