Much has been written about Tasmania’s picturesque capital city. That’s because its wide acclaim as one of Australia’s most delightful destinations is wholeheartedly true. It's rolling pale hills that hug the Derwent River build to the pinnacle of Mt Wellington and greet you to the wilderness Isle with a wide open sky and open heart. It's the soft muted colours of a watercolour painting that unfold the story of Tasmania's settlers; tales of banishment, isolation and survival.
To understand this heritage gives you an insight into everything that Tasmania has become today. Its freedoms and creative art scene, the quaint village streets and the wild mountainous landscape are all born from every sandstone block that took shape under convict hands. It’s an Island that offers the spirited tourist no shortage of choice from its rugged western coast to serene eastern beaches, but even with a weekend in Hobart, you can experience plenty of Tasmania’s bounties. Here are our top tips to make the best of your weekend getaway in Hobart.
Stroll through Salamanca
On a Saturday morning Salamanca Market is buzzing. With Mt Wellington as the backdrop the lines of calico sheltered stalls with their locally made handicrafts and warm coffees, sit tidily below its shadow. Meandering through the piles of treasures is an easy and enchanting way to while away the morning. Tasmania is renown for it’s beautiful homespun woolens, native Huon pine carvings and spicy homegrown relishes and Salamanca is the perfect spot to pick up these collectables.
There are always circles of onlookers for the many talented buskers with guitars and fiddles and the air is festive. But what distinguishes this market from any other weekend street fare is Salamanca itself; the sandstone facades of the original dock facing buildings built in the 1800’s and eclectic mix of art studio’s, galleries, pubs and cafes make this one of the countries most adored outdoor markets.
Catch of glimpse of Richmond’s history
The historic township of Richmond was established in the 1820s with the settlement of Richmond jail at its centre and rapidly grew into what is today, a whimsical and charming colonial village. The original houses and public buildings stand like colourful dollhouses behind white picket fences and on a clear blue day its easy to imagine the uncluttered life of a century ago. It’s a personal walk through the jail and its cells, the well versed commentary creates an atmosphere that carries you back to the hardships of the families and their children incarcerated in this far outpost of the British empire.
There’s much to do in this pretty pioneering village and sampling the treats in a swish cafe or local bakery is just a start. Though it’s a world away from Hobart, Richmond is less than a 30-minute drive through the countryside.
Explore the settlement Port Arthur
Its reputation as the oldest of Australia’s convict penitentiary’s skims over Port Arthur’s broader identity as a township complete with ripening orchards, a school and a hilltop post office. You’ll need a good few hours to explore the jail, the cottage buildings and the magnificent Convicts Church where the first church bells of Australia rang out. As one of the first outposts of Britain’s convict settlement, Port Arthur’s expansive layout and beautiful colonial architecture is set around the waterways of Tasmania’s southeast peninsula.
The Isle of Man sits in the centre of the harbour and it’s a somber boat-ride to visit the mass graves. You can easily spend a full day in Port Arthur as the stories of convicts, freemen, women and children come to life. It’s a confronting experience, to say the least, especially when you visit the memorial of the 1996 massacre where sadly the legacy of suffering continues. But move beyond this and you’ll find Port Arthur to be a most fascinating, revealing and personal chapter in Australia’s early history.
Lookout from the Mountain Top
The shape of Mt Wellington is one and the same with the city of Hobart, no matter where you are its curved peaks and furrowed walls peer out across the valleys below. It’s how locals tell the weather and how tourists take in the sweeping views that stretch beyond the Derwent River. Reaching Mt Wellington is a short drive from Hobart’s CBD but as the incline rises and the forest encroaches, the snapshots between the trees of the city below are breathtaking.
Once you reach the peak and walk the short distance to the enclosed lookout, the sharp thin air will literally take your breath away. It’s hard to inhale as the cold gusts of wind circle in your lungs and at once you notice the contrast in the landscape; the plumes of hardy bushes stem from twisted trunks that are bent permanently in favour of the wind. In every season the air is fresh and the view below sparkling and I couldn’t think of a better way to take in Hobart.
Soak up the beauty of Bruny
Venturing by a quick ferry ride from Kettering, about 40km south of Hobart to Bruny Island is a spectacular way to see the coastline of Tasmania. Given that to experience this kind of rugged wilderness usually requires more time, a quick trip to Bruny is a keen way to see a little of Australia’s “natural state.” One of it’s most spectacular features is the sandy isthmus that joins what is really two islands. Bruny is the weekend getaway for many who live in Hobart and they protect its primitive wilderness by keeping life simple.
There are few cafes and the little galleries and stores are all the creative energy of the locals. The beaches are wild and clean, the air is crisp and from the Cape Bruny Lighthouse the expansive views across the Tasman Sea are as native and pristine today as for the many ships who passed her jagged coast centuries ago. I love that the many Bays have names like Storm, Cloudy and Adventure because that’s exactly what Bruny gives you.
Peek into Hobart’s arty treasures
Hobart is known for it’s free spirit. It has an original and creative art scene that partners alongside its history and heritage. From the quaint art-houses of Salamanca’s Art Centre, off-beat museums, photographic exhibitions and one of a kind galleries across the city, Tassie’s bourgeois art scene is as fearless as ever. The Museum of Old and New Art, affectionately known as MONA, is home to a controversial collection of contemporary art pieces and antiquities.
It’s a little out of Hobart, but by ferrying up the Derwent you can reach the gallery steps in 30 minutes. Adjacent to the historic village of Battery Point is Hobart’s Constitution Dock. While otherwise famous for being the rallying point and finishing line for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race, it’s also a hub of boutique hotels, restaurants and galleries. Within the Henry Jones Art Hotel in the old waterfront warehouses, you’ll experience Australia’s first dedicated art hotel and a welcoming fusion of traditional and contemporary art. I love that you can pick up a little of the quirky, clever or native anywhere you go exploring in Hobart’s art scene.
Hobart really is a breath of fresh air from Australia’s other capital cities. Maybe it’s the gentle combination of hills and water frontage or the graceful streets of colonial cottages, perhaps it’s the spirit that thrives out of such a small city or simply just the fresh air of the wilderness. It’s also a lot cooler so while you’ll always need to carry something warm, the wintery climate lends an English feel to the landscape. The splendid colours of the changing seasons make autumn and spring in Tasmania superb, but for me all of these come together making Hobart a scenic, cultured and enchanting weekend getaway.
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