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Top 10 Things to Do in Hobart on a First Visit

Hobart is the ideal destination for a short break, but equally you could spend weeks getting under the skin of one of Australia’s most historic and cultural cities. Make time to tick off each of these ten signature experiences.
Ten of the best things to do in Hobart
Ten of the best things to do in Hobart: Visit Mona. Image: Alamy

When an audacious art museum opened a decade ago, Australia’s second-oldest city shook off its sleepy reputation once and for all.

The ‘Mona factor’ continues to influence Hobart’s popularity as a tourist destination, but there’s much more to the story. Also rich in colonial history, and with epic nature-based escapes right on its doorstep, deciding what to see and do around town can be a daunting task.

Here’s a checklist of our top ten things to do in Hobart on a first visit.


Hobart Tours & Experiences

Hobart Tours, Activities & Attractions


1. Do some guided time travel

Step back in time on the fascinating Grand Hobart Walk, which begins where the British established a settlement in 1804 — Sullivans Cove. Discover remnants from those early years and throughout the 19th century — from Battery Point’s picturesque stone warehouses and steep steps to the more gracious 1866 town hall. Other highlights on the three-hour guided tour include the Salamanca Place park dotted with weathered gravestones and other funereal markers from its former life as a cemetery, and the 1875 Hobart Real Tennis Club. The original, royal version of tennis is played on its Tudor-style indoor court.

Ten of the best things to do in Hobart
Ten of the best things to do in Hobart: Seek out period gems like the town hall.

2. Cruise the River Derwent

Another great way to get acquainted with the capital is by taking to the broad river running through it. There are several cruises available, including on replica 19th century tall ships — the Windeward Bound and Lady Nelson. Revel in the sound of waves on wood and wind in sails while gliding by the city’s sights. Alternatively, Hobart Historic Cruises offers short scenic joyrides on a cute vintage ferry. For a more active aquatic experience, join Roaring 40s Kayaking on a guided paddle around the waterfront. It’s easy going, and suitable for kids and complete beginners.

Ten of the best things to do in Hobart
Ten of the best things to do in Hobart: Roaring 40s Kayaking. Image: Wing Yin Ng

3. Visit Mona

Instantly putting Hobart on the international map when it opened in 2011, Mona (Museum of Old and New Art) isn’t just for art lovers. Ever-changing highlights from local multi-millionaire David Walsh’s eclectic, sometimes confronting collection stop everyone in their tracks. The monumental, architecturally daring building houses everything from ancient artefacts to contemporary installations. There are also massive outdoor sculptures, bars and restaurants (some among Tasmania’s finest), and luxe accommodation. Arrive in style on Mona’s outrageously arty ferry; a Posh Pit ticket gets you drinks, bites, private lounge access, and bragging rights.

Ten of the best things to do in Hobart
Ten of the best things to do in Hobart: Visit Mona. Image: Rémi Chauvin

Get a more local artistic perspective at the Salamanca Arts Centre, which stages exhibitions by Tasmanian creatives, live music and theatre. It’s also well worth checking out the fantastic (and free!) Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery.

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4. Shop local at the Salamanca Market

Every Saturday since 1972, the Salamanca Market has been bringing Tassie creativity and deliciousness together in Hobart’s heritage centre. Loved by locals and visitors alike, it’s an amazing outdoor parade of stallholders offering artisanal knitwear, hats, wood and metal work, leather goods, jewellery, skincare, and more. Get the stories behind your souvenirs from the makers themselves, including purveyors of local wine, beer, spirits, honey, jams, and relishes. Goodies like these make tasty reminders of your Hobart holiday weeks and months later, but be sure to also get instant satisfaction from the food stalls and vans. Treat yourself, from fresh berries to the island’s famous scallop pies.

Ten of the best things to do in Hobart
Ten of the best things to do in Hobart: Salamanca Market

5. Lose yourself in the botanical gardens

There is no lovelier spot in all of Hobart than the 14-hectare Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Highlights at Australia’s second-oldest botanic gardens include the pretty lily pond and tranquil Japanese garden — both made all the more charming by the resident ducks. Other must-visit gardens-within-the-gardens are the Sub-Antarctic plant house, French explorers’ garden, and flower-filled conservatory. Keep an eye out for heritage features like convict-built walls, elaborate iron gates, and the grand 1913 archway. Have a picnic on the lawns or indulge in lunch with views across the gardens at pleasant on-site restaurant Succulent.

Ten of the best things to do in Hobart
Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Hobart. Image: iStock

6. Enjoy epic views from Mount Wellington

Rising 1,271 metres and ever present in the background of Hobart life, kunanyi / Mount Wellington often looks forbidding but is actually amazingly accessible. Drive from the CBD to the peak in minutes for panoramic views, or try bushwalking, mountain biking, abseiling, rock climbing and even winter snow play. There are 18,000 forested hectares to explore via Wellington Park’s network of rails, and the Lost Freight shipping-container cafe half way up the mountain provides restorative coffee and snacks as needed.

Ten of the best things to do in Hobart
Take in the view from Mount Wellington. Image: Tourism Tasmania/Kathryn Leahy

Popular adventures on the mountain include the 20-minute Zig Zag lookout walk and the three-hour hike past a sheer wall of volcanic columns known as the Organ Pipes. If you’re striking out solo, remember that weather conditions can change rapidly. Always let a local know of your plans.

7. Feast on fresh fish ‘n’ chips on the waterfront

One of the capital’s signature experiences is getting tucker from the floating fish ‘n’ chip shops along Constitution Dock. Slightly fish-shaped Flippers is a consistent favourite with both Hobartians and out-of-towners. Choose from their generous menu, which includes trevalla, blue grenadier, flathead, scallops, prawns, calamari, and fish burgers. Find a seat overlooking Sullivans Cove and dive into your cardboard box of crumbed or battered treats.

Ten of the best things to do in Hobart
Hobart fishing fleet. Image: Tourism Tasmania/Kathryn Leahy

Prefer a waterfront meal that’s a little — or even a lot — more formal? From its casual lower floor to upscale upper-deck restaurant, Mures has been serving up fine seafood for decades. For even finer dining and the city’s best water views, book a coveted table at Aloft.

8. Sample the wares of a brewing legend

The early 19th-century stepped stone facade of Cascade, Australia’s oldest continuously operating brewery, is a Tasmanian icon. So, having a beer here has long been popular with visitors — but it just became an even more tempting proposition with the opening of the Brewery Bar. Located in the original Cascade homestead, natural colours and textures (predominantly stone, wood, and metal) give the space a contemporary feel. Will you relax with a tasting paddle by the open fire, or park yourself and a pint by the big windows that overlook the brewery’s famous front? The manicured garden also beckons with lots of shaded seating nooks. If you’re doing the popular brewery tour, the bar is a top spot to enjoy a beer-and-bite-to-eat afterwards.

Ten of the best things to do in Hobart
Cascade Brewery. Image: Tourism Tasmania/Kathryn Leahy

9. Serve time at ‘The Tench’

This city pretty much came into being because of crime and punishment, and the most significant remnant of that purpose is the former prison barracks that inmates called ‘The Tench’. Some 40,000 men did hard time at what’s now known as the Hobart Convict Penitentiary. Built in the early 1830s, it has 36 solitary confinement cells (that were eventually declared inhumane), underground tunnels, a chapel, courtrooms, and working gallows — all of which are creepy enough during the day, but may make you really shudder on an evening ghost tour!

Ten of the best things to do in Hobart
Hobart Convict Penitentiary. Image: National Trust Tasmania

10. Ride high and hassle free

If you’re without wheels and wanting to tick off multiple attractions around town, a 24 or 48-hour Hobart hop on hop off bus ticket is the way to go. There are stops at 20 key locations, including Brooke Street Pier (for fish ‘n’ chips, boat tours and Mona ferries), the Penitentiary, Botanical Gardens, Salamanca Place and the Cascade Brewery (so there’s no need for a designated driver!). You can even purchase an extension to the Mount Wellington summit. The regular, wheelchair-accessible buses have informative commentary in eight languages and open top decks that maximise your views of the city.

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Browse our full range of Hobart tours and experiences here. We offer a Best Price Guarantee.

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of the best things to do in Hobart? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Cover image: Samuel Shelley. Additional images: Bigstock

Patricia Maunder

About the writer

Patricia Maunder is a freelance travel writer and arts journalist, and has worked in print, radio, and digital media. Currently based in Melbourne, she considers the Canadian city of Montreal to be her ‘other’ hometown — having lived there from 2012 to 2016. Patricia has visited all but one of the continents, and Antarctica continues to beckon — as it has done since she was a child. She enjoys culturally themed journeys and nature-based adventures.

 

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