Hobart’s history and heritage collides head on with 21st century culture.
Dinah and I have travelled the world and eaten all kinds of food in all kinds of places, but I honestly believe that the fish and chips I enjoyed in Hobart during a recent business trip were the best I have ever eaten. Strolling along the waterfront near Hobart’s famous Constitution Dock I spotted a floating seafood restaurant and take-away, Flippers Seafood. While it wasn’t a particularly cold afternoon, it wasn’t particularly warm either, so take-away fish and chips as a late lunch was particularly appealing.
I’d arrived in Hobart from Brisbane about mid-day and checked into my hotel, the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel on Macquarie Street. The hotel is ideally located near the city centre, just one block back from Hobart’s waterfront and a short walk to historic Salamanca Place. During the 1800’s and early 1900’s this area was better known for its ‘after dark’ activities and shady characters. In 1997 the woolstore was transformed into a 118 room 4-star apartment hotel, the convict-built stone walls and massive timber beams retaining the architecture of a mercantile warehouse in the style of old Hobert Town. I’d certainly recommend the Old Woolstore if you are looking for centrally located, self-contained accommodation in Hobart. Check it out at: www.oldwoolstore.com.au
I was in Hobert for a University Deans of Arts Conference hosted by the University of Tasmania (UTas). The conference was being held at a number of the university’s city campuses and my hotel was located within walking distance of every venue. Having unpacked, I thought I’d explore the immediate area and in particular, the waterfront. The conference wasn’t due to start until the following morning, so I had the afternoon and evening to myself. First stop, lunch. Flippers Seafood proved to be a winner and I and around 100 seagulls enjoyed the fish and chips very much. Continuing my walk along the waterfront past majestic tall ships and fishing trawlers, I arrived at Salamanca Place. One of the things that I love about the inner city of Hobart is that nothing is very far away, in the main within a 10 to 15-minute walk of wherever you are staying.
Down to the sea in ships
Hobart’s glorious waterfront is a focal point of the city. Fishing boats, yachts, polar research vessels and tall ships reminiscent of those used to transport convicts to what was then known as Van Diemen’s Land, all tied up at the docks. Once every year Hobart’s waterfront takes on a global focus. The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race sees the world’s best and fastest ocean racers arrive at Constitution Dock at the conclusion of their 630 nautical mile race from Sydney to Hobart. This is a spectacle and a celebration of skill, courage and determination not to be missed. See: www.rolexsydneyhobart.com
Standing on Hobart’s docks and glancing back towards the city, modern architecture blends beautifully with 18thcentury colonial stone buildings. The imposing bulk of Mount Wellington rises beyond the city centre where numerous restaurants, art galleries, museums and historic buildings beg exploration. The city really comes to life at night with a light show that sweeps across manicured lawns, gardens and parks to light up Hobart’s foreshore and city buildings. Some of Australia’s oldest pubs can be found here, still serving beer as they did to the crews of the tall ships that plied the sea routes between England and Van Diemen’s Land in the 1800’s. Step back in time and have ‘one off the wood’ at The Hope and Anchor Tavern at 65 Macquarie Street. If historic pubs are your thing, you can join a tour of Hobart’s intriguing history of watering holes through“200 alcohol-soaked years of enterprise, hardship and hilarious tales and stories”. Enjoy a drink as you learn about the city’s underbelly through stories of pubs, brothels, smugglers, traders and convicts who played a pivotal role in the murky yet fascinating history of Hobart. More details at: hobarthistorictours.com.au
The early days
A 15-minute stroll from my hotel, I discovered Salamanca Place and nearby Battery Point. My first thought was that this place reminded me a lot of the Rocks in Sydney, with rows of beautifully restored stone maritime warehouse buildings lining the waterfront and housing funky restaurants, bars, galleries, artists’ studios, cafes, craft shops and fashionable boutiques. The similarity is not unexpected as both the Rocks in Sydney and Salamanca Place in Hobart are the locations of first European colonial settlement. Enjoying a pint of bitter in the afternoon sun at the Jack Green Tavern was a simple pleasure. I rang Dinah to say hello and to suggest that Hobart and indeed Tasmania be on our ‘to-visit’ list. This is a beautiful place.
Salamanca Market is held in Salamanca Place every Saturday. Stallholders offer a variety of products from around Tasmania, including fresh fruit and vegetables, gourmet products, food, plants, clothing, jewellery, books, music, toys, gifts, souvenirs, art, craft and unique handmade items. This is an exciting place to explore. Here you can trace the early days of the colony, almost hearing the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages transversing the cobbled street around the docks, loading and unloading cargo from the ships moored nearby.
An easy walk up from Salamanca Place is Battery Point, so named after the battery of canon which were established on the headland in 1818 as part of Hobart’s coastal defences. It is one of the oldest precincts in Hobart having been settled in the earliest days of Hobart Town in the early 1800’s. Battery Point features winding streets, colonial architecture and a unique historical ambiance.
Australia’s Antarctic heritage
Directly across from Salamanca Place on the waterfront is the Australian Antarctic Division’s headquarters which houses Australia’s Antarctic research program and the University of Tasmania’s Marine and Antarctic Studies and the principal venue for our University Deans of Arts conference. If you are fortunate enough to be in Hobart at the right time, as I was, you can see the bright orange Australian Antarctic Research Vessel SYAurora Australiatied up at the wharf adjacent to the AAD headquarters. Just around the corner is Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum commemorating the achievements of the men of the 1911-14 Australian Antarctic Expedition led by Douglas Mawson. Its location in Hobart is fitting as this city is considered the gateway to the Antarctic continent for the Asia Pacific region. For more information go to: www.mawsons-huts-replica.org.au
I spent my first evening in Hobart enjoying the city by night. Walking up Macquarie Street I could hear the sounds of rock music. Not far from my hotel was the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and within the courtyard of this beautiful old stone and brick convict-built building an open-air evening concert was in progress. Actually, more of a jam session than a concert. There were dozens of people lounging around on chairs and bean bags enjoying the music. I joined them and had a fantastic evening relaxing and listening to great music. The VW Kombi food van at the entrance answered my questions about dinner. Then, back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow, our first full conference day.
A visit to MONA
Also tied up at Hobart’s waterfront is the MONA catamaran. You can’t miss it as it is painted in grey, black and white camouflage. As part of the conference agenda, on our second day we were treated to a visit to the famous Museum of Old and New Art. I andmy academic colleagues spent an amazing and unforgettable afternoon wandering the subterranean catacombs of the gallery, viewing some of the most amazing and confronting art you will find anywhere. MONA makes no apologies for the content, some of which is, well, best viewed by those with an open mind and a liberal point of view. We completed our visit with a conference dinner hosted by MONA and the University of Tasmania in their functions rooms overlooking the River Derwent. What a day. What an evening. What a place!
A great conference and the realisation that two and a half days in Hobart is simply not enough. I count myself fortunate that through my university commitments I was able to visit this beautiful city and get a taste of what to expect in Tasmania. Next time, no business – all pleasure!
Tips for the Trip
Depending on where you are travelling from, there are a number of airlines offering regular flights from mainland Australia to Hobart. Travel costsvary depending on the time of year, holiday periods, even days of the week. Tasmania and Hobart are major tourist and holiday destinations, so airlines and travel companies are constantly offering budget airfares and package deals. Do your homework to find the best deal for you.
Alternatively, you can sail to Tasmaniafrom Melbourne on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, taking your vehicle and even your caravan. The ferry crosses overnight so you can start your holiday with a mini sea voyage. The crossing takes you to Devonport on the north coast of Tasmania. Ferry timetables and costs at: www.spiritoftasmania.co.auYou can then take a Tassielink express bus service via Launceston to Hobart. Check timetables and costs at: www.tassialink.com.au Or, if you are travelling in your own vehicle, enjoy the drive south to Hobart through some of the most picturesque countryside in the world.
Summers can be hot and winters, very cold in Tasmania. Most people agree that the best times to travel are Autumn and Spring when the countryside looks its absolute best and the weather is temperate.
There are no shortage of accommodation optionsin Tasmania. The major cities have myriad hotels and motels to choose from, from ‘back-packer’ to 5-star. Additionally, you can choose to stay Air B&B. Or, for the more adventurous, hire a mobile home or caravan or bring your own.
Main picture: On the waterfront in Hobart
- The Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel in Hobart
- Convict brick, stone and timbers retained within the hotel
- Floating seafood restaurants on the waterfront
- The best fish and chips – ever
- Tall ships at berth
- Fishing trawlers define a working port
- Sheep being transported down the main street – still very much a country town
- The colonial architecture of historic Salamanca Place
- Shops, restaurants, boutiques
- And taverns
- One off the wood
- Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum
- Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery – and food kombi
- Grand colonial architecture
- Live music – and the band played on