The most southern of Australia’s cities, Hobart is both the capital of Tasmania and the largest city on the island state.
While other Australian cities have grown rapidly and modernised over centuries, Hobart has maintained its colonial charm with many historic buildings, particularly around the harbour, maintained and still in use to this day.
Beyond the city, Hobart’s mix of convict history and nature make it a diverse travel destination. It is well worth exploring, either on its own or part of a much more fantastic Tasmanian road trip.
Fun Fact: Did you know that Hobart is the second oldest Australian state capital after Sydney?
Mount Wellington, also known by its indigenous name of kunanyi, is the iconic backdrop that towers over Hobart’s skyline.
From the number of lookouts around the top of Mount Wellington, you’ll have stunning views out over the city and its surrounds. And best of all, no strenuous activity required to get there, you can drive the Pinnacle Road all the way to the summit! (Well, except when it’s closed due to snow and ice)
Just keep in mind that the top of Mount Wellington is exposed to the cold, blustery winds (and all the other weather) that Hobart typically receives even in the summer so always check the weather in advance.
Pro Tip: Make sure its a clear day and head up to the top of Mount Wellington early in the morning to get in before the clouds roll in and obscure the view. Also, make sure you bring an insulated, windproof jacket, so you can check out all of the views at the top and not just those from inside the Pinnacle shelter.
Beyond the views, Mount Wellington is also home to several hiking and mountain bike trails if you want to get the heart racing. And for those experienced rock climbers The Organ Pipes is a popular climb.
Red Decker Bus
Looking for a quick and convenient way to see a lot of Hobart with little to no effort? The Red Decker Bus has you covered.
Much like what’s on offer in other cities, this open-top double-decker hop on/hop off bus tour is a really great way to get your bearings when you arrive in Hobart for the first time.
The tour route ticks off many major items and a great way to see a lot of what Hobart has to offer if you haven’t organised any other form of transport.
I would suggest doing the 24-hour ticket option to complete the full loop. Maybe stopping off at the Cascade Brewery and/or Cascades Female Factory (both of which I’ll get to later in this post) as parking there can be a pain later.
This will give you a really good feel of Hobart before exploring the rest of the city and surrounds at your own pace.
On the banks of the Derwent River, MONA is the largest privately funded museum in the southern hemisphere.
Short for Museum of Old and New Art, MONA was created by David Walsh to house his stunning collection of ancient, modern and contemporary art inside an impressive building that has been specifically designed to be a contrast of new and old and also to deceive you with how big it actually is.
On the surface, it looks like a stunning, single-story building. But once you get inside, you’ll quickly discover that the depth of the collection stretches much further than you can imagine. Part of the quirky contrasts that makes MONA what it is.
Look I can try to explain it a bit more, but its probably just best if you go and explore it for yourself.
There are two ways to get to MONA. Firstly you can drive there. But what many people tend to do is use dedicated catamaran ferry service (with premium arty, optional extras, just for good measure) that leaves from Hobart’s waterfront precinct.
Royal Tasmania Botanical Garden
Now, normally I wouldn’t go out of my way to see a Botanical Garden. Sure gardens are stunning to see, but not something I’d go to any particular effort to check out while travelling.
However, the Royal Tasmania Botanical Garden is a bit different, it’s home to Australia’s only Sub Antarctic Plant House.
This climatically-controlled misty environment is designed to mimic the ecosystem of the remote Macquarie Island. A UNESCO World Heritage Site famously home to the entire royal penguin population.
The Sub Antarctic Plant House is the only place in Australia that you will be able to experience the unique plant life created out of this harsh and hostile environment without partaking in an Antarctic exploration for yourself.
Sure, at 14 hectares the Royal Tasmania Botanical Garden has all the other things you would come to expect from a Botanical Garden as well, making it well worth a day out. But in my opinion, the unique nature of the Sub Antarctic Plant House makes it the star attraction.
Fun Fact: The Royal Tasmania Botanical Garden is also the second oldest in Australia having been established in 1818 just two years after Sydney’s.
Constitution Dock is famously known as the rallying point at the end of the annual (Boxing Day) Sydney to Hobart yacht race but its much more than that.
Home to many vessels, including personal yachts and fishing boats, you’ll quickly discover that the sheltered harbour of the Derwent River is the livelihood for Hobart.
But its the history of the dock and the Colonial and Victorian-style buildings of the old shipyards that surround it that makes it worthwhile a visit. The port has seen everything from convict transports and whaling vessels to modern superyachts.
Constitution Dock is also home to several restaurants, cafes and even a fish market. While Salamanca Market, Mawson’s Huts, Hobart Maritime Museum and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery are all with a couple of minutes walk as well.
If you happen to be in the area around the harbour on a Saturday, make sure you also check out the Salamanca Market.
The historical shipyards and collection of bars and restaurants and even an art gallery make visiting Salamanca a good idea at any time. But when the markets are on, that’s when the area really comes alive.
Known for its unique locally made products Salamanca Market is a hive of activity with vendors selling all sorts including hand-worked glass, Tasmanian timbers, clothing, bespoke jewellery, organic produce, artworks, leather goods, as well as a variety of foods, wines and spirits.
While you are there, make sure you also check out The Salamanca Arts Centre as well.
Maritime Museum of Tasmania
I’ve already mentioned the maritime history that has been so important to the creation and development of Hobart. But the best way to discover more about it is at the Maritime Museum of Tasmania.
Located right alongside Constitution Dock, the Maritime Museum of Tasmania has an extensive collection of artefact, photos and artwork detailing that seafaring heritage of the area.
Shipbuilding was once Tasmania’s biggest industries and the museum also has a dedicated exhibit to that past.
Also, keep an eye out for the May Queen which resides in Constitution Dock. Now a part of the museum’s collection, its the oldest trading vessel in Australia was originally built in 1867.
Hobart has long been the gateway to Australia’s exploration of the Antarctic, and the Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum pays special tribute to that history.
The true to life replicas built to both commemorate Sir Douglas Mawson’s Australian Antarctic Expedition from 1911-14 and raise funds to pay for the ongoing conservation of the original historic buildings at Cape Denison.
At face value, it appears to be a little expensive for what it is. Still, once you understand the original site’s conservation aspect, you can really appreciate the whole experience much more.
The Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum is well worth a visit to take a step back in time to what life was like for the pioneers of early exploration of the Antarctic.
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
If MONA is a bit too much for you or just looking for a more conventional style experience, then the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery might be a better fit.
Also located in Hobart’s historic waterfront precinct, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is the second oldest museum in Australia (sensing a bit reoccurring theme here?).
The museum houses a diverse collection of exhibits detailing a variety of aspects of Tasmanian history including Indigenous Aboriginal culture, the Tasmanian Tiger (and other unique animal and plant life to the island state), Colonial Arts and Crafts, exploration of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean as well as historical Medals and Money… To name a few.
Even if you plan to visit MONA, the two are very different experiences. It’s a great way to look at a variety of aspects of the region’s history with something to interest just about everyone.
Best of all Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is free to the public unless hosting a special temporary travelling exhibit
Cascade Brewery holds the mantle as the oldest continually used brewery in Australia. An impressive feat in a nation known for its beer consumption.
Besides sampling their beer and cider products in the onsite Brewery Bar (which is also a restaurant), Cascade Brewery also runs a couple of different site tours.
The Brewery Tour gives you a behind the scenes look at the companies own unique beer-making (and cider-making) process with a tasting at the end. While they also run a shorter Historic Tour giving you more information about the history of both the brand and the site.
If you aren’t really fussed on beer but are travelling with someone who isn’t, there is also surrounding Woodstock Gardens to explore which are interesting in their own right with views out over Hobart.
Everyone can meet up at the bar afterwards.
Cascades Female Factory
While you are in the area, why not take a look at one of the several major heritage-listed convict sites littered around Australia.
The Cascades Female Factory Historic site operated at a convict facility workhouse from 1828 until Tasmania stopped accepting British convicts in 1856.
Nowadays it’s one of the last remaining female factory correctional facilities, which has been turned into a museum where you can discover the stories of some of the 5000 female convicts and their children that were sent to the site.
I would recommend doing one of the guided tours that operate regularly throughout the day to really get a proper understanding of the history of the Cascades Female Factory site and a better picture of that moment in Australia’s history.
It’s also a good introduction to convict history if you are planning on visiting Port Arthur while you are in Hobart also.
Tasmanian Devil Unzoo
What’s a trip to Tasmania without seeing the infamous Tasmanian Devil?
There are a couple of zoos and wildlife parks around Hobart where you can see Tasmanian Devil’s in person. Still, the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo is an entirely different way of seeing these unique animals in their natural habitat.
Formally known as the Tasmanian Devil Park, the site offers some zoo-like experiences with animal feedings etc. The site’s concept is to let the animals remain bringing you into their habitats, not the other way around.
Definitely worthwhile, especially if you haven’t seen a Tasmanian Devil before.
I would include this as part of a day trip to Port Arthur, which is next on our list.
Bonus: Port Arthur
Port Arthur is famous for a number of reasons, but what it is best known for is World Heritage-listed Port Arthur Historic Site.
The best-preserved convict site in Australia, it was home to the most hardened of convicted British criminals between 1833 and 1853.
It was abandoned as a prison in 1877 and has since become one of Tasmania’s most popular tourist attractions with thousands flocking to explore the ruins.
I could tell you more about the history within the Port Arthur Historic Site, but you really need to delve into it yourself with one of the guided tours included as part of your entry fee.
The reason for listing Port Arthur as a bonus, and not just including it in the list generally is that it is best treated as a day trip out of Hobart. It’s about 2-hour drive out of the city an easily do-able in a single day. Well worthwhile.
There is more to do to Port Arthur than just the Historic Site, keep an eye out for the other convict sites on the way, especially Eaglehawk Neck.
Also make sure you also check out the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo (mentioned above), Tessellated Pavement, Remarkable Cave, Tasman Blowhole and the Tasman Arch while you are in the area and make the most of your time there.
That said, if you are really adventurous and have plenty of time in Tasmania, then it would be worth staying a couple of days in Port Arthur to explore more of the natural wonders, especially the Three Capes Track for it unique coastal rock formations like Totem Pole and Candlestick.
If you’d like to get some more information to help in planning your trip to and around Australia… I’ve got a whole series of blog posts with all sorts of tips and advice for you.
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