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Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, is Australia’s second oldest capital city. Known for its beautiful museums, Georgian and Victorian architecture, and proximity to Mt Wellington, it is also a popular base for tourists exploring the rest of the island state. There’s a lot more to see around the city than Tasmanian devils! Driving in Hobart is a breeze, with endless scenic roads and the opportunity to drive to secret beaches, wineries and mountains. You can book your Hobart car hire in advance with Enjoy Travel.
Guide to Hobart
For thousands of years, an indigenous people, the Mouheneener tribe, inhabited the southeast of Tasmania, where the city now stands. In 1803, the British set up a military camp near the River Derwent, and in 1804, shifted it to Sullivan’s Cove. This settlement evolved into modern-day Hobart. Like most of Australia, it was initially used to build penal settlements, but by the 1840s, it had become a major centre for whaling and sealing. Today Hobart is best known for its beautiful museums, weekly Salamanca Market, and Mt Wellington, which looms over the city like a protective guardian. Hobart gets its name from Lord Hobart, British Secretary of State for war and overseer of the colonies in the late eighteenth century. Most of the city's inhabitants have Anglo-Celtic roots.
From north to south, Hobart sprawls on either side of the Derwent River. Its harbour, which contains the second-deepest natural port in the world, has both commercial as well as scientific importance because it is an important base for Australian and French research operations in Antarctica. The other significant geographical feature in the city area is Mt Wellington – or, as the Aboriginal people call it, kunanyi. The mountain is not only covered in botanically salient forests but also boasts spectacular waterfalls. Mountain bike rides and hikes are regular leisure activities for Hobartians.
Being fairly close to the sea, Hobart has a mildly temperate maritime climate with four distinct seasons: summer (December to February), autumn (March to May), winter (June to August) and spring (September to November). Precipitation is concentrated in the winter, with an average rainfall of 600-1000 mm per year. The best time for tourists to visit is probably the summer since that’s when the nearby estuary beaches are warmest. Summer is also when most of the city’s annual events are held, so make sure to book your tickets in advance.
Things to do in Hobart
Visit the city’s historical district
Begin your sightseeing in Hobart with a visit to the riverside district called Battery Point. As you make your way through its narrow, winding streets, you will find row upon row of sandstone buildings built in the 1800s. Although the area has become quite posh – with a variety of guest houses, gift shops and cafes – it still retains an air of nostalgia, preserving memories of the colonial past. Battery Point gets its name from a gigantic gun – "a battery" – that was once installed as part of the city’s defences. The gun isn’t around any more, but a famous monument to admire while you’re in the vicinity is St George’s Anglican Church, designed by John Lee Archer in 1838.
Culture & museums
Head north from Battery Point to find the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, the second-oldest museum in Australia! Whether you’d prefer to see a photography exhibition on South Korean divers, a tribute to the wildlife of Tasmania, paintings that depict personal struggles, or traces of Aboriginal history, you’ll find it all here. The museum tries to be as family-friendly as possible, so if you have kids, they are guaranteed to have a great time, especially if they want to explore different theme-based collections of objects (dragons, bones, dominoes...the list goes on).
Another extremely well-known museum in the city is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). If we had to describe it in one word, we’d definitely go with ‘bizarre.’ Its primary objective, to paraphrase its founder and owner David Walsh, is to create a place that makes you wonder what art really is. On one hand, it definitely has what most people would consider art, such as paintings, sculptures and so on. But on the other hand, it also has a lot of displays that are really hard to categorize. For instance, it has a machine that simulates the human digestive system and a skeleton of a Qing dynasty house. You’ll want to spend at least a few hours trying to puzzle out what exactly you'd consider being art!
Theatre in Hobart
Feeling in the mood for a live performance or two? Scoot over to the Theatre Royal, which was built in 1834 to entertain the city’s working classes. Over its history, it has hosted a range of events, from cockfights to drinking parties to plays. Among its more recent star performers were Hugo Weaving, Laurence Olivier, Paul Mercurio and Noel Coward. Other than its proscenium section, the theatre also has rehearsal spaces, a black box and other areas for actor training. Despite several attempts to demolish it over the years, it has managed to remain operational, bearing the honour of being Australia’s oldest continually running theatre. If you plan to catch a show, make sure to book tickets well in advance.
Explore nature & scenery
Next, walk through the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, which have some of the country’s oldest and most unique plants and trees. You’ll even find specimens from subantarctic islands; these are kept in the Subantarctic Botanic Pavilion, a glasshouse-like structure that replicates high latitude- and low temperature- conditions. The garden authorities regularly host birdwatching events and walks, so if you’re feeling eager to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, you know where to go.
If you’re looking to spend some more time amidst nature, drive a short way from the city (about 30 minutes) to reach the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. Bonorong means ‘native companion’ in an ancient Aboriginal language, and you can see how effectively the sentiment of providing animals with ‘companionship’ plays out if you visit the attached Wildlife Rescue Service! This sanctuary is home to several creatures that have gone extinct in other parts of Australia, including Tasmanian devils, Forester kangaroos, Tasmanian bettongs and Eastern quolls.
Take a heritage tour
The history buff in you may be instantly drawn to the Cascades Female Factory, where female convicts were once housed and tasked with hard labour. This site is on both the Australian National Heritage List as well as the list of 11 Australian convict sites recognised by UNESCO. Take the heritage tour to explore the factory grounds and learn what life was like for women and children who were at odds with the British empire’s laws. To get a better sense of how the convicts might have felt about their situation, and how they kept faith that things would get better, join the dramatised performance tour ‘The Proud and the Punished.’ Now that’s some powerful and engaging theatre!
Go shopping at Salamanca Place
Finally, finish your trip at the Salamanca Market, held every Saturday at Salamanca Place. Much like Battery Point, many of the buildings are of sandstone, making the area a gorgeous place to stay in. The market itself offers a wide variety of things to buy, from home-grown produce to handmade artwork. If you’re up for another short drive, take the shuttle up to kunanyi/Mt Wellington to admire the flora, fauna and stunning waterfalls!
Eating out in Hobart
Tasmania is a largely self-sufficient state, and this is reflected in its cuisine, which revolves around locally grown produce. Hobart, which was once known only for its history and scenery, has changed over the last decade, and aspiring chefs have started to make their mark here. Here are some great places to try while in the city:
This local favourite gets its name from a John Olsen painting, but we think it’s doubly appropriate because it was a major starting point for Hobart’s restaurant boom! Located within the Museum of Old and New Art, The Source offers luxurious dining with a modernist aesthetic. Pretty much everything on the menu is exquisite, but do try the abalone and some of the best wine available!
Urban Greek prides itself on its Cretan dishes, selling banquets named after figures in Greek mythology: Minotaur, Hippocrates, Aristotle and Poseidon. Pick any one of these, and you will have the rare opportunity to savour fusion food that combines Greek and Tasmanian flavours. We’d recommend the charcoal octopus, Pantzari and tzatziki.
Run by an Italian couple from Naples, Fico, which means ‘fig,’ has a weekly menu consisting of different European dishes. Enjoy some Parmesan panna cotta, risotto and – if you’re lucky – kingfish with wasabi cream! The homemade sourdough is the stuff of local legends. If you’d like to try a special lunch menu, drop by on a Sunday.
The Agrarian Kitchen Eatery
About half an hour away from the Hobart city centre, The Agrarian Kitchen offers healthy food made with locally sourced ingredients. Attached to the dining area is a beautiful fireplace and a bar. The owners, Rodney Dunn and Severine Demanet, also run a farm and cooking school nearby.
Transport in Hobart
The Hobart Airport is the largest airport in Tasmania, with routes to 11 destinations (mostly inAustralia). Seven commercial airlines operate here: Air New Zealand, Jetstar, Link Airways, Qantas, QantasLink, Sharp Airlines and Virgin Australia. In addition, Skytraders has flights to the Wilkins Runway in Antarctica. The distance from the Hobart Airport to the city of Hobart is around 17 km.
Within the city, the best way to travel around is by bus or on foot. If you’re feeling energetic, you can hire a bike to shoot through the streets! On Saturdays, there are special shuttles from the city centre to the Salamanca Market.
Driving in Hobart
Most people who want to travel around the island prefer to hire cars for greater flexibility and comfort. The well-known car hire agencies in town include Hertz, Budget, and Bargain. If you're travelling with a large family or group of friends, we recommend a 7 seater vehicle. Alternatively, a Hyundai Accent is a popular option.