3 days in Hobart (including MONA FOMA)
In recent times, the Tasmanian capital of Hobart has undergone a quiet renaissance. From frontier maritime port to vibrant destination city, Australia’s southern most tip is now alive with innovative paddock-to-plate gastronomy, an eclectic arts scene spearheaded by David Walsh’s ground-breaking Museum of New and Old Art (Mona), and arguably some of Australia’s coolest music, arts and food festivals.
With Mofo, MONA’s internationally acclaimed Festival of Music and Art kicking off next week (18-22 January), we thought we’d share a three-day itinerary offering a perfect first taste of this energetic and creative capital city and its surrounds.
Day 1: Friday
Hobart harbour is a great place to get your bearings and start your three-day adventure. Framed by stunning scenery and overlooked by Mount Wellington, with its expansive views and hiking trails, the harbour is steeped in maritime history and is well worth exploring.
Numerous wharves lined with working crayfish boats and handsome timber yachts sprawl out across the bay. And the beautifully restored colonial sandstone warehouses surrounding the port are home to chic new hotels, cafes, restaurants, galleries and boutique shops.
Grab a coffee from one of the many great cafes in Salamanca Place and wander up to Battery Point with its narrow lanes, colonial-era cottages and intriguing, gem-filled antiques shops.
Head back down to the water to discover the Maritime Museum and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Only a stone’s throw from each other, both offer an invaluable insight into Hobart’s first settlers, Aboriginal heritage, local history and native wildlife.
With traditional pubs such as The Whaler and The Hope & Anchor – Australia’s oldest licensed pub – on most corners, it’s not hard to find somewhere for lunch and a local beer or two. And for an afternoon of beer or whiskey tasting, depending on your tipple, head up to the Cascade Brewery in South Hobart, Australia’s oldest operating brewery. Or discover the famous Lark Distillery near Salamanca Wharf, renowned for its single malt whisky.
If you’re keen to soak up the Friday night atmosphere in Salamanca Place, dinner at Smolt in Salamanca Square, with its menu of Spanish and Italian inspired dishes created with exceptional local produce, should hit the spot. A cocktail or two at the nearby Henry Jones Art Hotel will end the night nicely.
Day 2: Saturday
Saturday in Hobart is Salamanca Markets day and is not to be missed. Starting at 8.30am, the entire harbour side of Salamanca Place is transformed into a maze of market stalls selling the very best local produce Tasmania has to offer, from honey, truffles, cured meats, cheeses, artisan bread, flowers and leather goods to the most delicious food stalls serving up regional gastronomic delights.
Once you’ve had your market fix, it’s just a short walk to the MONA ferry terminal where your unique Mona adventure will begin. Opened in 2011 by Tasmanian millionaire David Walsh, Mona and its eclectic event calendar including the Mofo and Dark Mofo festivals, have played a huge role in injecting new energy and creativity into the Hobart arts and tourism scene – and it’s not hard to see why.
The MONA ferry is a memorable experience in itself, unlike any ferry you’ll have been on before, with its eccentric mix of life-sized sheep and cow sculptures on the back deck and chic leather sofas and bar down below.
As you cruise up the River Derwent and arrive at MONA, you could be forgiven for thinking you’re arriving on a James Bond movie set. The long steps up from the wharf to the entrance, past walls of rusting steel and concrete, are only a taste of what this impressively engineered building has to offer.
Once inside, having walked five stories down a metal spiral staircase encased in bare sandstone, it’s clear why Mona is now arguably one of the best art galleries in the world. David Walsh’s international collection and temporary exhibits are incredible and thought-provoking and it’s easy to lose yourself within the dark, subterranean art spaces.
When you do emerge, however, the MONA winery up on the hill offers a welcome resting spot, with an array of tasty mezze plates, glasses of delicious Moorilla wine and own label beer Moo Brew.
Day 3: Sunday
Hiring a car for one day is a great way to venture outside of Hobart, and a trip down to the historical site of Port Arthur only takes an hour and a half. Drive along the Tasman Highway, through the historic town of Sorrell, and stop at Pirates Bay on the way, home to the Tuna Club of Tasmania’s Weighing Station and an impressive natural blow hole.
A few minutes later and you arrive at Port Arthur, Tasmania’s top tourist destination and now World Heritage listed. The site itself is fascinating and an important reminder of Australia’s brutal convict history. The memorial garden for the victims of the 1996 massacre is equally as moving.
On the way back, the Bangor Wine & Oyster Shed is conveniently located off the Arthur Highway up on Jimmy’s Hill, one of Tasmania’s convict era semaphore stations. Indulge in a glass of Jimmy’s Hill Pinot Gris with possibly the freshest oysters you’ll ever have tasted.
From here, it’s another short drive back into Hobart and up to the top of Mount Wellington. At almost 1300m high, the views over Hobart, out over Bruny Island and beyond are simply stunning.