Capital of Tasmania (a small island located southeast of Australia), Hobart is a port city with a warm atmosphere and colonial charm. Located on the banks of the Derwent River, with the famous Mount Wellington (1271 m) in the background, it will not fail to seduce you with its different landscapes. Established in 1804, it is the second oldest capital of Australia but also one of the most picturesque cities of the country. With more than 244,000 inhabitants today, Hobart offers visitors a real journey back in time. You will not lack ideas for outings and activities. Here is a selection of our must-haves.
History of Hobart
Formerly called Van Diemen’s Land, the city was born when 35 convicts and a dozen soldiers were sent there to create a penal colony and prevent the arrival of the French. It was under the direction of Colonel David Collins, 1st Governor of the island of Tasmania, that the foundations of the very first building of the city of Hobart were laid in 1804. This pretty town therefore once served, – like the rest of the island – as a place of “holiday” for the prisoners since it was the main penal colony of the country.
This colony soon went out of control. The food was so poor that Lieutenant Colonel Collins was forced to release prisoners to go kangaroo hunting! Other detainees escaped and became bushrangers, regularly terrifying small villages. Nevertheless, the city managed to become prosperous in the 1830s with the arrival of whalers.
When to visit Hobart?
Due to its geographical location, the climate in Hobart is much cooler than in the rest of Australia. Hobart experiences four distinct seasons, each with its own beauty and charm. The maximum average temperature is 21°C in summer and 12°C throughout the year. The winters are very cold and it is not uncommon for snow to appear.
Summer (December – February)
During the summer in Hobart, average temperatures range between 11.5 and 21°C. January and February are the driest months and the beaches are warm enough for swimming.
Fall (March – May)
Autumn has many calm and sunny days, with average temperatures between 8.9 and 17.3°C. During this season, the city is blanketed in red and yellow hues as the trees begin to change.
Winter (June – August)
In winter, the island receives southern Antarctic winds and experiences some of the coolest temperatures in Australia. Mount Wellington is dotted with snow and average daily temperatures range from 5°C to 12.3°C. Nighttime temperatures can drop by as much as 3°C.
Spring (September – November)
In spring, average temperatures range from 7.8 to 16.9°. It is the wettest time of the year (168.7 mm), even if Hobart remains the second driest capital of Australia (after Adelaide).
What to do & see in Hobart
With more than 226,000 residents today, Hobart offers visitors a real journey back in time. Here’s what you can discover if you go there ..
Formerly a village of sailors, this neighbourhood is today the historic city centre. Its colonial houses and small restaurants make it a popular place for tourists. Perched on the hill, Battery Point was also strategic observation point in case of invasion. The guns and the promontory still bear witness to past fears.
The district of Salamanca is situated between the port and Battery Point. It represents the heart of the city and its artistic centre. Many galleries, pubs and restaurants gather on this square. Every Saturday morning, the famous Salamanca Market takes place. With more than 250 stalls, you will find local crafts, gastronomy, and clothes for all budgets.
Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery
Hosted in the oldest building of the city (1808), exhibitions let you discover the colonial past of the island, the history of the Aboriginals and the Tasmanian tiger. (40 Macquarie St – free – open from 10am to 5pm)
Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden
Located on the Tasman Highway (2km from the city centre), this park has more than 6,000 plant species, a Japanese garden and a sub-Antarctic house that reproduces the climate and vegetation of Macquarie Island (half way between Tasmania and Antarctica).
The harbor of Hobart is an attraction on its own. It is an unmissable part of the discovery of the city when you know that life revolves around it. Simply go for a walk along the water’s edge, admire the boats and eat a delicious fish and chips in a relaxed atmosphere.
Here are two of the best addresses in town: Fish Frenzy (Sullivans Cove, Elizabeth Street Pier) and Mures Lower Deck (Victoria Dock, Franklin Wharf).
Cascades Female Factory Historic Site
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this former workhouse for girls and women (who nevertheless represented ¼ of the prisoners) tells the story of Australian convicts during the colonial era (25$ – open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). The women here were divided into three distinct classes and had no right to communicate with each other. Women who committed the worst offenses were forced to work up to 12 hours a day and the slightest disobedience inflicted an additional punishment. The prison is built on the indigenous lands of the Palawa community who are the aborigines of the island of Tasmania.
Located below Mount Wellington, Cascade Brewery is Australia’s oldest brewery still in operation since its founding in 1824 (open 11am-5.30pm Sunday-Tuesday and 8.30pm Wednesday-Saturday). The bar was once the home of the brewery manager. The beers here are made from Tasmanian barley and hops combined with spring water from the surrounding mountains. Do not hesitate to taste the famous Cascade Pale Ale which is the oldest continuously brewed beer in Australia (1832). The place also has a restaurant where you can taste delicious Tasmanian dishes.
Where to go out and events
Local bars & restaurants
For all exceptional events, do not hesitate to take a look at the newspaper “The Mercury” which is published every Friday.
Preachers (5 Knopwood Street): Here you have the choice between choosing a seat around the fire near the bar, going to the beer garden or even sitting on the bus parked in the garden.
Bar Wa Izakaya (216-218 Elizabeth Street): here the Tasmanian universe and that of Japan mingle. The bar specializes in sake, cocktails and beer.
Many other places are to be discovered in Salamanca Place, Elizabeth Street or Macquarie Street and Battery Point.
Between December and January, Tasmanian cuisine is celebrated at the Taste of Tasmania festival. Seafood, cheeses, fruits and vegetables, truffles and wines will delight the taste buds of food lovers! The stands are located on the port and concerts enliven the city.
In the same spirit, there is the Taste of the Huon in March in the Huon Valley.
Falls Festival: Outdoor rock, local and international artists.
Web : www.fallsfestival.com
Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race
Web : www.rolexsydneyhobart.com
Wooden Boat Festival : Every two years, odd years. Maritime heritage races and demonstrations.
Web : www.australianwoodenboatfestival.com.au
Ten Days on the Island : cultural festival every 2 years (odd year) with concerts, dance, workshops
Web : www.tendaysontheisland.com
How to get around
You can easily walk around in the city centre.
Alternatively, you can use the Metro Tasmania bus network. All information is available at the central post office and tickets are purchased on site. Fares for a trip are between $3.50 and $7.20 depending on the zone. You can also get a GreenCard ($5 for the registration fee) that you will recharge according to your use (prices between $2.80 and $5.76). In addition, thanks to the GreenCard you can switch from one service to another free of charge within 90 minutes of the first boarding.
Another option is bike rental. Some time ago, the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery offered free bike rental in return for documents to be provided (credit card, photo and identity document, etc.). Inquire directly with them to find out if this is still relevant. Otherwise you can get a rental for $30/day at Hobart Bike Hire.
You can also decide to rent a campervan. If you plan to visit the region or do a road trip in Tasmania, you can compare the offers of different rental agencies on www.motorhomerepublic.com
Where to stay in Hobart?
The two best Caravan Parks in the capital are undoubtedly: BIG4 Hobart Airport Tourist Park ($40/night pitch with electricity or $140/night/2 people in a small cabin) and Snug Beach Cabin & Caravan Park (30 or 39 $/night for a pitch with or without electricity or $109/night/2 people in a small studio).
You can compare offers and book at: Hostelworld.com
Otherwise, we recommend Narrara Backpackers (from $26 per night in a dormitory, here 8 beds, $65 per night for a single room and $79 for a double room) or Hobart Central YHA (from $23 per night in a dormitory, here 12 people or $96 for a double room).
Finally, thanks to WikiCamps, you will have access to a map where all the free camps in the area are listed. Very practical for backpackers and when we do not want to look for accommodation for hours on the net!
Discover Hobart area
Just 20 minutes from Hobart, the Georgian-style village of Richmond was once a strategic military post.
Older than the historic site of Port Arthur, you see buildings built by convicts, including the oldest Catholic church in Australia.
Don’t miss the oldest bridge in the country across the Coal River. Built by the convicts in 1823, it is probably still haunted by Georges Grover. This prisoner was in charge of watching his fellow inmates and liked to see them suffer. One morning, during a dispute with another convict, he was murdered and his body was thrown from the bridge into the river.
Port Arthur & Tasman Peninsula
The Convict Trail to the east of Hobart takes you through historic towns to Port Arthur in the south of the Tasman Peninsula.
The Tasman Peninsula
The Tasman Peninsula is a stunning area in Tasmania. It shelters the famous historical site of Port Arthur and has impressive rock formations.
Among them, Tessellated Pavement, Blowhole, Tasman Arch or Devil’s kitchen, on the road to Port Arthur, are accessible by a short walk (10min).
Along the road, there is also the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park, home to several Tassie devils. It’s possible to participate in the feeding of several animals including the Tasmanian devil! ($ 35/pers – open every day)
Port Arthur, located at the end of the Tasman Peninsula, is a historic site, for which you pay an entrance fee. You find the ruins of the penitentiary centre, chosen for its isolation, which has locked up the most dangerous criminals of the colony. As early as 1830, this site presented extremely difficult conditions of detention. Connected to the rest of the island by only a strip of land, Eaglehawk Neck, it was the perfect place to avoid prisoner escapes. Once a prisoner even tried to escape by putting on the skin of a kangaroo that he killed to deceive the guards!
Today, you can visit the ruins of the detention center. The penitentiary, a large building with beige walls was originally a flour mill that was converted into a prison. We then meet the ruins of the sinister hospital and those of the asylum (now a café).
Port Arthur will reveal to you the difficult living conditions of prisoners and the remarkable testimonies of the old prison.
Entry to the historic site is not free (ticket valid for 2 consecutive days): Pass 37 $ / pers includes access to the site with a guided tour and a boat tour from the port. You can choose activities such as the Ghost Tour (+ $ 25), Point Puer (+ $ 13).
If you want to take full advantage of the site, we advise you to take a Pass that include access to different activities (After Dark Pass for example).
You find more information about various tours on the Port Arthur website.
Mt Field National Park
This national park is particularly renowned for its beautiful mountains, rainforests, waterfalls, and wildlife. Situated only 80km north of Hobart, it is a perfect destination for a few days in nature.
At the Park Visitor Centre, you get a walking trail brochure. A short hike (20min) to Russel Falls (45m high) is accessible from the Visitor Centre.
12km south of the capital, Kingston is part of the growing suburb of Hobart. This coastal town has a shopping centre and a nice beach, Kingston Beach.
You can also visit the Australian Antarctic Division, administering the land owned by the country on the polar zone, with a gallery explaining the expeditions, the flora and fauna of the Antarctic (Free – open from Monday to Friday)
Situated South of Hobart, the Huon Valley is an area of rivers, perfectly suitable for farming. Huon River was explored in 1773 by Admiral Bruni d’Entrecasteaux and Captain Huon Kermandec, who gave their names to many sites in the region.
The main town Huonville (2,000 inhabitants) is the starting point for exploring the region and for many backpackers a promising place to look for a fruit picking job. The town was traditionally the heart of the apple industry, but farmers in the region have now diversified to growing cherries, berries, peaches …