Straddling the Derwent River at the foot of Mt. Wellington's forested slopes, Hobart was founded as a penal settlement in 1803. It's the second-oldest city in the country after Sydney, and it certainly rivals its mainland counterpart as Australia's most beautiful state capital. Close-set colonial brick-and-sandstone shops and homes line the narrow, quiet streets, creating a genteel setting for this historic city of 215,000. Life revolves around the broad Derwent River port, one of the deepest harbors in the world. Here warehouses that once stored Hobart's major exports of fruit, wool, and corn and products from the city's former whaling fleet still stand alongside the wharf today. Hobart sparkles between Christmas and New Year's—summer Down Under—during the annual Sydney-to-Hobart yacht race. The event dominates conversations among Hobart's citizens, who descend on Constitution Dock to welcome the yachts and join in the boisterous festivities of the crews. The New Year also coincides with the Tastes of Tasmania Festival, when the dockside area comes alive with the best of Tasmanian food and wine on offer in numerous cafés, bars, and waterfront stalls. Otherwise, Hobart is a placid city whose nightlife is largely confined to excellent restaurants, jazz clubs, and the action at the Wrest Point Casino in Sandy Bay.
Constitution Dock is the perfect place for yacht-watching, as well as for gobbling fresh fish-and-chips from one of the punts (floating fish-and-chips shops) moored on the water. Ask for the daily specials, such as local blue grenadier or trevally, which cost A$7–A$12, or go for some freshly shucked oysters. The city's main restaurant areas include the docks and the streets around Salamanca Place.
Maldini Café Restaurant
Reminiscent of an Italian café in a charming country village, this popular (and occasionally cramped) spot lets you watch the parade of Salamanca Place shoppers as you dine on appetizers like antipasto or char-grilled sardines. Heartier fare includes pastas, Sicilian fish stew, and free-range-chicken breast with ricotta, basil, and lemon stuffing. Although Australian wines dominate the list, there are a few Italian labels to match the setting.
Elegant surroundings in an 1840 brick colonial home inspire classic Tasmanian cooking in Hobart's most formal dining room. The best of the island's fresh produce is well utilized in such dishes as the twice-cooked Gruyère soufflé appetizer, or the seared loin of venison with fresh horseradish, served with red cabbage salad. Leave room for the superb Tasmanian cheese plate. The wine list includes many fine Tasmanian vintages.
Ball and Chain Grill
Set in an old sandstone warehouse, this eatery is the place to go to sample delicious meat and game cooked over a charcoal fire. The huge, succulent hunks of meat here will leave even the biggest eater satisfied. Try the uniquely Australian carpetbag steak stuffed with oysterw; there's also a self-serve salad bar.
Mures Fish Centre
On the top floor of this complex at Franklin wharf, the Upper Deck section has superb indoor and alfresco views of the harbor. Try the panfried kingfish with carrot puree, confit fennel, olive, almond cream, wild rocket, star anise and vanilla butter if it's on the seasonal menu. Downstairs, Mures Lower Deck is a bistro-style alternative, where you can order, take a number, pick up your food, and eat at tables outside. Also in the complex is Mures Sushi Bar, where you can find fresh-out-of-water sushi and sashimi.
Part of the Henry Jones Art Hotel, this small restaurant offers some of Hobart's best fine dining in arty surrounds. The food isn't overshadowed by the contemporary art on the walls thanks to the focus on seasonal produce in hearty dishes like slow-cooked pork belly with braised red cabbage, pickled apple, and daikon. The wine list features selections from only the finest Tasmanian, mainland Australian, and overseas wineries.
In the bustling restaurant strip of North Hobart, this local favorite has maintained an enviable reputation for many years thanks to its consistently good-value Indian food. Tandoori, curries (take care, they can be searingly hot), and a wide selection of other Indian delicacies keep people coming back. Inexpensive lunch boxes are available. There is a second location in Salamanca Place.
Ethos Eat Drink
Operated by one of Hobart's most trusted restaurateurs, the dishes at this lively spot feature a daily-changing list of seasonal ingredients available as six-course (A$70) or eight-course (A$90) set menus. Housed in an historic building (it was formerly a stable) in the heart of the city, the dining rooms exude charm. Typical tantalizing dishes include slow-cooked duck egg with pancetta, potatoes, and breadcrubs; and roasted goat served alongside eggplant, turnips, radishes, and leeks. There's also an excellent wine list and stellar desserts, including housemade chocolates.
The Quarry Bar and Restaurant
Set on the waterfront, this buzzy place offers imaginative food alfresco or indoors; it's a lovely place to linger inside in winter thanks to the roaring fire, but it can get busy in the evening and at the height of summer. When it comes to food, local produce is jazzed up—think pickled octopus with orange, fennel, and saffron salad for starters. Happily, there's also an extensive wine list, including more than 30 local drops by the glass.
Featuring a superb range of wines from around the world, this sumptuously decorated Sandy Bay eatery rivals many of the better Chinese restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne. There is a broad menu, ranging from the spendy long-cooked dish of braised abalone cooked with Chinese mushrooms to traditional favorites, such as Me Wah's delicious steamed dumplings. The yum cha (traditional Cantonese tea service) available on weekends at lunch time is well worth the short journey from the city center.
This revolving restaurant atop one of Hobart's tallest buildings (it's also home to the city's casino) offers breathtaking views, and the food is equally rewarding. The savory smoked Tasmanian salmon appetizer is a wonderful starter; for a main course, try the braised Robbins Island Wagyu beef brisket in an eggplant purée with black sesame, white carrots, and a liquorice reduction. Meals here aren't cheap, so you might want to give the tables a try before heading up here.
One of the most exciting places to eat in Tasmania, Garagistes is leading the charge of cool new restaurants in Hobart serving up Mod Oz cuisine that utlizes the very best local producers. The three- and five-course set menus reflect the changing Tasmanian seasons—try the cacioricotta of ewe’s milk, kohlrabi, broadbeans, and lovage; or wild snapper with poached rhubarb, soured cream, and dried sea lettuce. Exquisite textures and flavors combine with a hip atmosphere to ensure a memorable dining experience.
Remi de Provence
At Tasmania's leading classic French bistro you can sample authentic classic and contemporary Provençal fare accompanied by superb wines. Add to that the elegant dining room aglow with mirrors and a lovely mural. This nicely valued bistro also has a terrific wine bar along with cave à manger where an extensive selection of cheeses, pâtés, and terrines are available. Be sure to try one of Remi's braised dishes, such as coq au vin, which are particularly popular—the twice-cooked lamb with zucchini puree and mint oil is quite good, too.
Hobart has some lovely lodgings in old, historic houses and cottages, most of which have been beautifully restored. If you're seeking more modern conveniences, there are plenty of newer hotels, too.
Although Hobart has the only true nightlife scene in Tasmania, it's extremely tame compared to what's in Melbourne and Sydney. There are few dance clubs, and evenings out tend to revolve around a bottle of excellent local wine. Consult the Friday or Saturday editions of the Mercury newspaper before heading out. This Week in Tasmania, available at most hotels, is a comprehensive guide to current stage performances and contemporary music concerts.
Grape Bar & Tapas
This popular wine and tapas bar has a wonderful shop where you can browse among 300 types of Tasmanian wines and pick up a cheese platter for an impromptu picnic. Choose to sit outside and watch the world go by or enjoy the intimate, laid-back indoor space. Wines are served in trendy Reidel O tumblers. There's live music in the evening toward the end of the week.
Officially called Tavern 42 Degrees South, this lively waterfront spot is popular for both dining and drinking—it's something of a Hobart institution. Patrons have the choice of sitting inside or out, noshing on tapas, sipping wine, and looking out over the harbor. Service can be slow, but the location more than makes up for it.
Set in a former brothel that dates back more than a century, this spacious nightclub hosts top local and international DJs as well as live bands, with music ranging from blues to rock to dance.
Wrest Point Casino
Head to the Wrest Point Hotel for to test your luck in Hobart's only—and Australia's first—casino, where you can try your hand at blackjack, American roulette, mini-baccarat, keno, mini-dice, craps, federal wheel, federal poker and poker, and Two-up. But don't expect Vegas-style glamour and razzle-dazzle associated with other Australian casinos. The table games are open from 2 pm onward.
Republic Bar and Cafe
The cool kids head to this raucous, art deco pub warmed by roaring log fires to watch nightly live music, including plenty of top Tasmanian bands.
Hotel Grand Chancellor's piano bar is a relaxing spot by the harbor where local professionals mingle alongside hotel guests. Adjoining the hotel lobby, the bar comfy chairs with waterfront views—an ideal setting for enjoying the fine cocktails, cold beers on tap, and enticing Tasmanian wines.
Cargo Bar Pizza Lounge
This beautifully furnished, relatively new bar has inviting booth-style seats toward the back, a peaceful refuge during the busy dinner hour. Note the generous wine selection, with plenty of notable beers and spirits, too, and the tasty pizzas. In winter, sit outside under a heater and catch one of the occasional live acoustic performances.
Owned by the team responsible for the similarly hip Garagistes restaurant, which is just around the corner, Sidecar is a quirky little bar with a groovy ambience to match. Serving food and drink from Wednesday to Sunday, this small but perfectly formed establishment has a modern and minimalist interior. A boutique drink list offers excellent gin and tonics.
Established in 1978 with a stock of blown glass, wooden products, pottery, and jewelry created by approximately 100 talented Tasmanian Artisans, this is one of the states's original Tasmanian-Made Galleries. The gallery also sells an excellent range of timber gifts.
Featuring the work of some of Tasmania's finest artists, this gallery is one of the gems of Salamanca Place. Inside you'll find Hobart's best wooden jewelry boxes as well as art deco jewelry and pottery, paintings, works on paper, and sculpture. The gallery also runs a number of exhibitions each year in conjunction with its sister gallery in Evandale, Northern Tasmania. Some of the exhibiting artists here have gone on to show at national and international galleries.
Wilderness Society Shop
This shop sells environmental prints, cards, calendars, diaries, wildlife posters, books, and T-shirts, all made in Australia and all supporting the Australian environment. The community-based Wilderness Society is an environmental protection organization, and all products it sells are fair-trade and eco-friendly.
Formerly the Tasmania Shop and Gallery, this retail shop and gallery specializes in high-quality products made in Tasmania, including ceramics, glass, jewelery, sculpture, and textiles. The mission here is showcase the talents of Tasmania's emerging and established artists. Located within the Salamanca Arts Centre just off Salamanca Place, the gallery represents more than 90 artisans.
Set close to the waterfront by the Henry Jones Art Hotel, Art Mob exhibits and sells a wide range of local Tasmanian Aboriginal art and crafts, including jewelry, from many communities and artists. The collection includes rare necklaces and exquisite baskets as well as fine prints and paintings by noted Aboriginal artists.
This 1834 architectural gem with portraits of composers painted on its magnificent dome stages classic and contemporary plays by Australian and international playwrights.
Federation Concert Hall
The permanent home of the acclaimed Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, this 1,100-seat tiered auditorium welcomes touring musicians and speakers and is adjacent to the Hotel Grand Chancellor. The acoustics here are excellent.
Brooke Street Pier
The busy waterfront at Brooke Street Pier is the city's key departure point for harbor cruises. Nearby Elizabeth Street Pier has trendy restaurants and bars.
Built by convicts in 1840 as a customs house, this impressive sandstone structure overlooking oak-filled park, next to Salamanca Place, did not acquire its present function until 1856.
Many of the warehouses once used by whalers from ships docking at Salamanca Place have been converted into delightful crafts shops, art galleries, and restaurants. At the boisterous Saturday market, which attracts all elements of Tasmanian society from hippies to the well-heeled, dealers in Tasmanian arts and crafts, antiques, old records, and books—and a fair bit of appalling junk—display their wares between 8:30 and 3. Keep an eye open for items made from beautiful Tasmanian timber, particularly Huon pine.
Yachts competing in the annual Sydney-to-Hobart race moor at this colorful marina dock from the end of December through the first week of January. Buildings fronting the dock are century-old reminders of Hobart's trading history. Nearby Hunter Street is the original spot where British ships anchored.
Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
The largest area of open land in Hobart, these well-tended gardens are rarely crowded and provide a welcome relief from the city. Plants from all over the world are here—more than 6,000 exotic and native species in all. The collection of Tasmania's unique native flora is especially impressive.
Narryna Heritage Museum
Exhibits in this gracious old Georgian town house, surrounded by a lovely rose-filled garden, depict the life of Tasmania's upper-class pioneers. Of particular interest are the collections of colonial furniture, clothes, paintings, and photos.
Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
About 25 km (16 miles) north of Hobart on the highway toward Launceston, this sanctuary hosts a diverse selection of Australian species—many of which have been rescued—including koalas, wombats, quolls, and the adorable Tasmanian devil.
This is Australia's oldest and most picturesque brewery, producing fine Tasmanian beers since 1824. It's a 30-minute walk from the city center, or buses leave from Franklin Square every 35 minutes from 9:15 am.
Hobart's best-preserved street is a charming collection of tiny houses and cottages in a circle around a village green on Runnymede Street, in the heart of historic Battery Point. Most of these private houses, which were built in the 1840s and 1850s, have been nicely restored.
Maritime Museum of Tasmania
The old state library building houses one of the best maritime collections in Australia, including figureheads, whaling implements, models, and photographs dating from as far back as 1804. It's a small museum though, so don't plan on spending more than an hour.
Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
In a building overlooking Constitution Dock, this art gallery is a good starting point for uncovering Tasmania's rich history. It's a great place in Hobart to learn about the island's Aboriginal culture and unique wildlife.
Penitentiary Chapel Historic Sight
Built and used during the early convict days, these buildings vividly portray Tasmania's penal, judicial, and religious heritage in their courtrooms, old cells, and underground tunnels. If you want to get spooked, come for the nighttime ghost tour (reservations necessary).
Cornelian Bay Beach
Just five minutes' drive from Hobart's city center, this safe and quiet beach lies immediately north of the Queen's Domain urban parkland. Assorted sailing boats sit offshore in Cornelian Bay, while a popular trail, the Queen's Walk, runs directly behind the beach. The Cornelian Bay trail is popular among the locals. Charming heritage-listed boathouses, picnic sites, and barbecues line the shore. The waterfront-facing Cornelian Bay Boathouse Restaurant is known for creative locally caught seafood and fresh Tasmanian produce.
Amenities: food and drink, parking (free). Best for: solitude, walking.
Seven Mile Beach
One of Tassie's favorite beaches, this long, sandy stretch of sand is less than a 20-minute drive outside of Hobart, close to the airport. It is both isolated and stunning to look at, although it can be noisy with planes taking off and landing nearby. Considered a great family beach, it's rarely crowded and is ideal for long walks along sand that's peppered with many unusual shells. The small surrounding community includes a playgrounds, golf courses, and restaurants. Seven Mile Beach Cabin and Caravan Park is set withing a beautiful park alongside the beach. There are numerous day-use areas—No. 1 has unsheltered tables and a lawn area suitable for picnicking.
Amenities: food and drink, parking (free), showers, toilets. Best for: solitude, walking, swimming.
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA)
Opened in 2011, Australia's largest privately funded museum is home to a diverse array of exhibits from Tasmanian millionaire David Walsh's private collection. The unusual collection of more than 400 often provocative pieces, including Sidney Nolan's Snake—an impressive mural made of more than 1,500 individual paintings—and Wim Delovoye's Cloaca Professional, an interesting contraption that transforms food into excrement. Each year, the museum also hosts the MOFO festival, Tasmania's largest contemporary musical festival. Sometimes compared with Bilbao's Guggenheim Museum, MONA offers an eclectic mix of antiquities and contemporary art. The unusual building itself is set into cliffs on the Berriedale peninsula, and visitors to the museum use touch-screen devices to learn about the exhibits as they wander around through. To reach MONA, it's a 15-minute drive, or you can take the MONA-ROMA minibus from Hobart. There is also the MONA fast catamaran from the Hobart waterfront.