Tasmania is a magical place. It’s relaxed yet energetic. It’s old-fashioned yet modern.
I fell in love with Hobart when I was 19. Well, all of Tasmania to be honest. I took a 10-day tour of Tassie where I whitewater rafted down the Franklin River, I hiked Cradle Mountain, I rode a bicycle down the steep hills of Mount Wellington, and I spent New Year’s Eve on Hobart Harbour, drunk as a skunk.
That was a long time ago, but my love of Tassie remains.
It has every element I love: water, mountains, remoteness, a laid-back attitude… and very little traffic.
Hobart is unlike any other Australian city. You may as well say it is a large country town but it’s the outdoors that draws you in. The raw nature of the place is what keeps me going back. To really explore Tasmania as a whole, you need to stay in various locations around the state – it’s bigger than you think, and you need at least a month to discover its nooks and crannies – but if you want a Taste of Tassie, Hobart is a great place to start the explorations.
In Hobart, you can dine on great food, sample good local brews, and chat with locals who are just as in love with the area. No one seems unhappy to be in Tasmania. In fact, many people I spoke to had moved there from the mainland and no one – and I mean no one – regretted it. In fact, many said they wished they’d done it sooner.
Rent a car when you travel to Hobart. There’s stuff to see IN town, but there’s so much more surrounding the area.
WHERE TO GO
Around the City:
Salamanca Place and Marina Area
Hobart is a big town with an abundance of character. Its history is evident everywhere, blending subtly with modern conveniences. Salamanca brings all of that together.
Fishing trawlers gently rock back and forth on the tides, spent from their morning hauls. Ferries to MONA await passengers at the pier. Friends sit at the outside tables at the pubs, drinking pints and catching up, basking in the sunshine. Salamanca is a social occasion, so relaxed and laid back.
Salamanca Place offers artwork that is unique, showing the best of Hobart’s artisan wares. The smell of the wood pieces in Shiver Me Timbers was intoxicating. I could have spent the day in that shop. No matter where I went, I was always met by smiling, happy sales people, greeting me more as an old friend than as a customer.
My favourite shops around Salamanca:
- Platos. A great shop for some truly unusual games and fun play stuff.
- The Hobart Book Shop had so many books I wanted to buy that I could have bought started my own personal library, including the Enid Blyton Books for Adults. Lots of great books and friendly staff!
- Salamanca Wool Shop. They have both wool and wool products in the store. Beautiful stuff and the owner is one of the nicest shop owners I’ve ever met.
- Inka Gallery inspired me to start painting again. There were a few paintings in the shop I wanted to buy – but you have to have a house for that.
- As a girly girl, I loved looking through The Fairie Shop although it really is made for the little ones,
You can visit Salamanca any time of the year, but Salamanca Place is known for its Saturday markets. Here the best of the best come out to display their wares. I’ve been a vendor at markets like this, and of all the markets I’ve been to, this is by far my favourite. There are jewelry vendors, of course, but their offerings are different than anything I’ve ever seen. The artwork is the same. I bought cards from one vendor that were sketched emus in caricature, and they definitely tickled my fancy. I’ve also visited the market right before Christmas when it seemed like it doubled in size. It was AMAZING. Incredibly crowded, but there was something for everyone. A great place to do your Christmas shopping for sure.
Come and enjoy it but be prepared for massive crowds.
Click here to see what other travellers think of Salamanca Place.
I quickly came to understand the reason of why Mount Wellington is on many ‘must see’ lists. The summit is reached after 40 minutes of driving the windy, narrow road. This is not like any lookout. The view is absolutely breathtaking, which would also describe the freezing temperatures and altitude affliction at the top, even in the middle of summer. Even calling it a ‘lookout’ seems unjust. You can join a tour group and descend it on a bike – like I did in my crazy days – but it’s just as great to drive up there and enjoy the views. From the top you can see Bruny Island, Port Arthur, even down to the southern coast. If clouds roll in, grab a jacket, but don’t let it deter your visit. You may get some pretty magical photos as a result!
For more, see my post “Why Mount Wellington Is on TripAdvisor’s Must See List.“
Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA, is an interesting place but it’s not a museum I’d take kids to. Not little ones anyway. It’s more for ‘grown-ups’. It’s eye-opening, confronting, hilarious and curious.
Take the ferry from the marina area, versus driving. You’ll learn more about the area and it’s a lovely way to see Hobart. When you arrive at MONA, walk the 99 steps to the entrance and then, after showing your ticket upon entering, you will head to the bowels and work your way back up. It’s an odd way to do it, but the staff guide you downwards.
There is no guidebook for MONA. They want it to be more interactive and therefore, there’s an app that will take you through it. It’s horrible. I’m sure there is an audio guide that may be more useful. Honestly – I hated the app. I found it to be the most unhelpful tool. Instead, I would just take a walk, read the signs and take in the art and let all of the sensory factors guide you.
When you’re done with the museum, walk the grounds. There’s a great space up the top with beanbags outside under shade cloths where you can enjoy the outdoors. There are food and drink offerings as well, many that will make your mouth water with the smells and descriptions. I thought that the outdoor space would be a great place to visit even if you don’t visit the museum. It’s got the Hobartian laid-back vibe for sure.
Click here for the latest pricing and exhibit information at MONA.
But for a truly unique MONA experience, click here.
Royal Tasmania Botanical Gardens
Every time I have driven past the Royal Tasmania Botanical Gardens, I think: ‘Oh yes, I want to return and spend a day wandering through there’.
Because the first and only time I’ve been, I spent only a few hours discovering how lovely it was, and it easily could have been more. The most amazing discovery was the Japanese Gardens. Beautifully designed and oh so peaceful. For a photographer, this was a must-see, but for someone who loves nature and gardens, it’s a definite must do.
Click here and find out why other travellers love the Royal Tasmania Botanical Gardens.
South of the City:
The drive to Dover via Police Point – 1-hour drive, one way.
A winding road along the coast takes you through some spectacular wooded areas and juts you out into intimate bays of turquoise waters. It’s here you will see just how beautiful this area is if you are basing your Tasmanian trip solely around the Hobart area.
You may even imagine what living in a place, overlooking the water might seem like.
Southeast Cape/Cockle Creek – 2-hour drive, one way.
If you want an ‘end of the world’ experience, take a drive to the southernmost point of Tasmania. At least as far as you can drive. There’s a trail that will take you to the far end, but if you don’t have the time, stopping at the end of the track will give you a similar experience.
It was here that I stopped in summer, with cold, blustering winds cutting through me, that I realised how hard life must have been for the early European settlers. There’s a cemetery close by as well that you can visit – it’s tucked out of the way, off the road, but you can read about the harsh conditions and how people lost their lives.
From the end of the road, you are closer to Antarctica than you are to Cairns. A crazy thought.
Tinderbox Beach – a local’s favourite. 30-minutes from Hobart, one way.
Treat yourself to a swim, snorkel or dive in the pristine waters of Tinderbox Bay.
Tinderbox Beach is part of the Tinderbox Marine Reserve. Snorkelers will delight in following the underwater snorkel trail. If you’re lucky, you might spot one of the varieties of sea dragon common in the area. Swimmers have also sited big-bellied seahorse and a very special few have spotted an octopus. The area is well protected and safe for swimmers of all ages.
Snug Falls – 30-minutes from Hobart, one way.
It’s not the most spectacular of waterfalls that I’ve seen, but hey, it’s still a waterfall and always good to visit after a good rain. Snug Falls is tucked into a beautiful landscape and is an easy 2-hour return stroll through a canopy of gum trees on a smooth, even pathway. A variety of birds including yellow-tailed black cockatoos, the hauntingly serene cry of the Australian Magpie, and perhaps a Laughing Kookaburra will keep you company as you walk.
Kingston – 20-minutes from Hobart, one way.
An easy 20-minute drive south from Hobart, Kingston is my preferred place to replenish the lauder. Parking is easy and free (3hrs – most of Hobart is not). Most services are available and plenty of shops including a nice Woolworth’s and Coles if that is your preferred grocery store. For fresh fruit and veg, head to Margate to Merideth’s Fruit and Veg, a local favourite. The prices are competitive and the fruit I purchased from there was divine. I picked up some of the best blueberries I have ever tasted.
Margate Train – 30-minutes from Hobart, one way.
The Margate Train is a unique retail strip that utilizes train carriages from the Tasman Limited, a train that ran passengers from Hobart to Launceston until 1978, as shops. The range of retailers includes a lolly shop, arts and crafts, a pancake house, and of course, a coffee shop is on the premises as well. The Devils Brewery, a local microbrewery, offering a nice selection of beers, is a great place to watch the locals meet up with friends.
Click here to find out why this place is the #1 place to go in Margate on Trip Advisor.
Bruny Island – 45 minutes to Kettering to catch the ferry to Bruny Island
I love to explore touristy areas just as much as the next person, but I am much more inclined to be one with nature. Bruny Island definitely gives you that.
Bruny Island is beautiful. Wild and free. It gives new meaning to ‘remote’ and ‘off the grid’. It’s rustic yet stunning at every turn. If I wanted to escape the world and just hide for weeks on end – and believe me there are days, like when I’m trying to write a book for example – Bruny would be the perfect place to do that.
To get to Bruny Island, you have to catch the ferry from Kettering, which is located about 45 mins south of Hobart. Check out my Bruny Island post for more. The ferry takes about 20 minutes, but be sure you know when the last ferry leaves, otherwise you’ll be on the island for the night. In summer, the ferry schedule is amped for the tourists. Otherwise, it leaves hourly. But don’t take my word for it. CHECK the schedule!
Bruny Island is great for a DYI Food Tour.
Bruny Island is known for it’s culinary delights. Once you arrive on the island, just follow your nose… or pick up a guide before you take the ferry across. The Bruny Island House of Whiskey (probably best to visit before leaving the island vs. when you first arrive…); The Get Shucked Oyster farm, if you’re into that kind of thing; Artisan cheese, beer and the best bloody bread I’ve had in a long time at the Bruny Island Cheese and Beer Co.; Bruny Island Honey (delish!); the Bruny Island Chocolate Factory for fudge; Bruny Island Berries for scrumptious looking desserts but get there early otherwise they sell out fast; and then the multi-award winning winery, the Bruny Island Premium Wines.
For more, check out my post called “Bruny Island: Wild and Free.”
Check out why other travellers love Bruny Island here.
While I have not done this cruise, I know a number of people who have and have RAVED about it. It’s a 3-hour cruise exploring the nooks and crannies around Bruny where you’ll see seal colonies, eagles and an array of sea birds. Depending on the time of day and year, you may even see whales and dolphins.
TIP: Take the seasickness pills with you, whether you get seasick or not. From everything I’ve heard, you’ll probably need them (but still worth the adventure!)
For the latest pricing and information on the Bruny Island Cruises, click here.
Northwest of the City:
Mount Field National Park:
Mount Field is approximately an hour and a half from Hobart and if you love trails and waterfalls, this is a must do.
This National Park took my breath away. Lush and green, with trailing streams along the path. The trails meander along the creek leading to stunning Russell Falls. It’s an easy walk to the bottom of the falls. The hike to Horseshoe Falls, at the top of Russell Falls, is a little harder but definitely doable. Slow down and really admire the surroundings. It’ll quickly become your new favourite National Park too.
For more, check out my post: “Our New Favourite National Park – Mount Field NP, Tasmania“
Click here for information on accommodation and information regarding Mout Field National Park.
West of the City
Richmond – 30 minutes from Hobart.
Richmond is steeped in history and worthy of a half day visit. It is famous for the building’s Georgian architecture of approximately 50 buildings still standing, along with Australia’s oldest bridge which was built by convinces in the 1820s. Richmond is a quaint town approximately 30 minutes from Hobart.
The gaol is worth seeing as well, which was still used in the early 1900s. You can do a self-guided tour, learning about the early residents, seeing the claustrophobic cells with scratches etched in the stone walls, presumably by fingernails, also made by convicts.
Click here to find out why other travellers love Richmond.
Port Arthur and Surrounds
Port Arthur – 90 minutes from Hobart, one way
No visit is complete without going to Port Arthur. It’s a 90-minute drive from Hobart and I would say worthy of an overnight stay near the point. I suggest that because there is a great Ghost Tour, which gives you a lot more insight into the lives of the convicts and free settlers, during the early days of Port Arthur’s establishment. Do this, after you’ve done the Introductory Tour during the daylight hours, part of the entrance fee, and you it will piece together the full picture of life here. The introductory tour gives the establishment timeline and what each building represented back in the day.
And, take a wander through the memorial garden, reflecting on the massacre in 1996, which changed Australia’s gun laws forever.
It is located between the visitor’s centre and the bay.
For the latest pricing and information, click here.
White Beach – 75 minutes from Hobart, one way.
This lovely spot is where I would suggest you stay overnight or longer (see below in ‘where to stay’). White Beach is off the beaten track from the Port Arthur area and gives you some inkling into the natural beauty around this side of the peninsula. White Beach looks over the north end of Bruny Island. It’s nice for a swim, a walk or just to enjoy the quiet surroundings.
Eaglehawk Neck – 60 minutes, one way from Hobart
On the way back from Port Arthur, be sure to stop here. You can stop on the way, but I think it gives you more of an impact if you see if after Port Arthur. There are a few sights to see here.
- The dog line.
When Port Arthur was active as a convict settlement, filled with re-offending criminals, a line of tethered dogs was placed here at Eaglehawk Neck. This area is a thin strip of land, only 30 metres wide, connecting the Forester Peninsula with the Tasman Peninsula. To escape from Port Arthur, the prisoners had to come through here. The dogs were placed here to deter the convicts from going any further. The sound of the dogs, the viciousness of them, was enough to send the convicts back to Port Arthur. Some of the dogs were even placed on platforms in the peninsula itself.
- Tessellated Pavement.
Further around the bend is a place that has an interesting rock formation, known as the tessellated pavement. It’s beautiful and raw at the same time. It’s worth the stroll down to the rocks and there are also some really great rock pools down there as well.
- Tasman’s Arch, Blowhole and Devil’s Kitchen.
These are right by each other and you’ll see the turnoff on the Port Arthur side of the dog line, to reach them. Take your camera – the coastline is magnificent.
Click here for more information on the area. There are all kinds of nooks and crannies around this spot!
Things to Note When You Visit:
- When visiting Mount Wellington, make sure you have a set of winter clothes in the car with you or at least a sturdy jacket. The weather can turn very quickly, and it can be dangerously cold in winter if you are not prepared.
- If Bruny Islandis on your driving itinerary and you plan to explore the island away from the sealed roads, consider renting a 4WD. Take it from me: An Audi A1 just won’t cut it.
Where to Eat:
If you want a good toastie and coffee to get you started in the morning, Banjos has you covered. There are a few around town and in the neighbouring towns.
I read about Fish Frenzy on TripAdvisor. There is nothing like fish and chips when you’re by the water. Add a lovely greek salad and a local beer – Cascade of course – and you’ve a winning dinner. It was fresh and delicious, a place I’d definitely return to. And I have – many times now. Oh and the Malaysian Fish Cakes are amazing too!
If you want great pizza with equally amazing hospitality, check out Solo in Sandy Bay. When I walked in, no tables were available (TIP: make a reservation – it’s popular with the locals!), but there was room at the bar. Watching how this place is run was an education and watching how the owner treated his guests was delightful. True customer service is not dead here.
For a link to the website to make a reservation and to read other traveller reviews, click here.
Nestled inside a building constructed by hardened convicts, the Ball & Chain delivers succulent steaks and deliciously fresh accompaniments. The first night I went, I had appetisers with a glass of wine, since it was late after a long day of exploring. It was so good, a return was necessary for a delicious steak dinner. My mouth is watering even now as I write this remembering it!
For a link to the website to make a reservation and to read other traveller reviews, click here.
DYI Food Tour:
If you are heading south to Kettering, go a little further south and check out Peppermint Hill, Woodbridge Smokehouse and Grandewe Cheesery. They are worthy of your visit, believe me. Peppermint Hill is a beautiful restaurant by the water, where you can savour the local fare while taking in your surroundings. Only a few kilometres down the road, up a narrow road on the hill is Woodbridge Smokehouse. They take local fish, including trout and salmon, and smoke them to perfection. It’s the perfect thing to pick up for a picnic lunch by the water. And of course, the last is Grandewe Cheesery, the perfect thing to match. Completing the picnic fare are the various farm gates in the area offering local fruits, kept fresh in humungous fridges placed in alcoves just off the road.
Stay in a modern architect-designed home that is very comfortably furnished and has everything you need, including an amazing coffee maker. Every bedroom has picturesque views of the surrounding bushland and water, a built-in or walk-in robe and, most importantly, an incredibly comfortable bed to guarantee a wonderful night’s sleep.
If you want to get away and enjoy the amazing serenity of Tasmania, this is THE place to go. While still close enough to Hobart and amenities, you can truly relax and take in the beautiful views and peacefulness of Shucker’s Retreat. It’s modern, it’s comfortable and it’s … well, it’s #1 on my Top 10 Airbnbs in Australia list and I’ve stayed at quite a few while on a 10-month road trip through Australia.
Stop in Kingston for groceries (the nearby Ye Old Shoppe at the corner is a bit hit and miss) and then plan on leaving your worries behind when you arrive at Shucker’s Retreat. Watch out for the Potaroos and Wallabies on the way, after you leave the highway. But if you look carefully, you may see the echidna ambling by.
Mid-Price: The Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel, Hobart City.
The Woolstore is convenient, comfortable and central. It’s located only a few blocks from the Hobart Marina, with restaurants, shops, and grocery all nearby. The room was equipped with both a kitchenette and laundry facilities, which is fantastic for long stays. As an added bonus, a stunning view of Mount Wellington can be seen from some of the rooms.
Click here for the latest pricing and information.
Budget: Travelodge, Hobart City.
Right in the middle of the city, within walking distance of Salamanca and the Marina and loads of eateries, is the Travelodge. It is exactly as you would expect – straightforward and providing everything that is needed. A good budget option for the city.
Click here for the latest pricing and information.
Budget: Howden Seaside Cottage (20 minutes south of Hobart).
The Howden Seaside Cottage radiates charm and a spirit of whimsy. The colours used in the decor are warm and inviting. The cottage is sneakily roomy. There is ample space to cook, with everything you need for a comfortable stay provided. With the doors and windows open, you can hear the gentle lapping of the bay on the shore just across the road. The almost constant breeze rustles the needles of the gorgeous pine trees that shelter the cottage and frame a most impressive view of the channel.
A short walk down to the water leads you to the boatshed. Take the provided kayaks out for an easy paddle around the bay and keep a lookout for dolphins.
For the latest pricing and information, click here.
Budget: Wedge Bay Retreat – White Beach (10km from Port Arthur)
This is the quintessential beach house. It’s secluded, quiet and has amazing views of the water. I could have stayed for a very long time, reading, writing, dreaming… it’s an amazing spot with everything you need for a relaxing beach getaway. Even fast internet. Despite wet dreary weather during my stay, it was still memorable. In fact, it’s a place I will be thinking about for a very long time.