Hobart, and Tasmania in general, is riding a wave of popularity both from abroad and internationally. With this latest influx of tourists, there has been a swathe of new hotels, restaurants, and cafes which are all are vying for the top spot on the must do Tasmania itinerary. But with all that’s new visitors shouldn’t forget the old, which brings me to the Henry Jones Art Hotel. Located in one of Hobart’s oldest buildings, the original IXL Jam Factory, the Henry Jones was transformed from a derelict shed into a designer hotel in 2004.
Hailed as an architectural masterpiece that fused history with a contemporary design and original art works, the Henry Jones Art Hotel was considered the must stay hotel in Hobart (and Australia overall) in the early 2000s. However, it has recently faced serious competition, somewhat ironically from its sister hotel across the road, MACq 01. MACq01 attracted similar attention to the Henry Jones Art Hotel when it opened in 2017 and became the new darling of Hobart’s hotel scene. In response to this hotel ‘sibling rivalry’, the Henry Jones Art Hotel has undergone a multi-million dollar upgrade that has transformed it into the place to stay in Hobart once more. We arrived at the Henry Jones Art Hotel on a very chilly July day. It was blowing a gale and felt like minus five when we pulled up at the hotel entry. As we entered the lobby, there was a warm embrace waiting for us just inside the door.
Not from an overly affectionate staff member but from the cosy heating, modern fireplaces, incredible décor, historic architecture and feature art pieces. You are literally surrounded by Hobart’s history here. Not surprisingly given its age, this atmospheric old building does have its quirks, ranging from squeaky floorboards to sometimes temperamental heating, but this is part of its character and charm. We were allocated a Deluxe Spa Harbour View Room that overlooks Hobart’s historic working waterfront and frames views of the city and a snow-capped Mount Wellington. The room was exceptionally large and also had a couch for relaxing on, perhaps with a glass of excellent Tasmanian wine.
The Henry Jones Art Hotel has just 56 individually designed rooms and suites ranging from contemporary studio lofts to the historic Henry Jones Suite. All of them have modern fixtures and furnishings that blend seamlessly with the building’s historic architecture. Along with a king-sized bed, mini bar, coffee machine, and large flat screen TV, our room also had a modern frosted glass bathroom ‘pod’ at one end with a large rain shower and deep spa bath. This was perfect for luxuriating in and warming up after a day out exploring.
Each afternoon there is an art tour of the hotel starting at 4pm which is complimentary for hotel guests. This tour explains why the hotel is such an important historical landmark and architectural masterpiece. However, you don’t need to be a guest to enjoy it as it’s not just about the hotel. One of the things we loved most was how many fascinating stories the tour included about working and living in Hobart in days gone by.
For tour guests who are not staying at the hotel, bookings are available for $15 per person (the price includes a very nice glass of Tasmanian bubbles). We almost didn’t do the tour as we were exhausted from driving all day but were so glad we did. It was one of the highlights of our stay. Our tour started in the hotel lobby in front of two feature art pieces designed especially for the hotel. These are impressive and have some secrets that our superb tour guide pointed out. I won’t spoil the surprise but you will be amazed. We spent the next hour and a half touring the hotel. This might sound like a long tour but we were captivated by priceless art from early Tasmanian settler John Glover and the fascinating history surrounding Henry Jones and the IXL Jam Factory. We also discovered why there were foreign newspapers wrapped about the beams in our room and where the find the ‘secret’ jam which remains in the hotel. After the tour we hunted around our room and found some!
So entertaining was our guide, Greg Ball (pictured above), that at the end of the tour everyone was disappointed it only went for 90 minutes. One of the best parts of the tour takes place in Landscape Restaurant & Grill, the Henry Jones’ signature dining venue cum art gallery. This restaurant houses original works by Glover plus past winners of the Glover Prize, which is the equivalent of the Archibald’s for landscape artists. Don’t miss popping in to see the Glover Prize winners in the small dining area at the back of the restaurant.
The menu at Landscape Restaurant & Grill is modern Australian and features Tasmanian produce, with a focus on seafood and steak. Our steaks were some of the best we’ve ever had and the sommelier knew his stuff, but didn’t take himself too seriously. Wine, however, was a different matter and his recommendations were well-considered and spot on. Add a charming waitress and silver service and you’ve got a superb night out. This is one of Hobart’s best restaurants and bookings are a must. We would definitely pay to dine here again on our next visit to Hobart.
There are three other dining venues at the hotel which we didn’t get the chance to try. Peacock and Jones is an intimate restaurant housed within the historic IXL building. Jam Packed Café is a casual all-day dining venue adjacent to the hotel entrance. It is located in an outdoor atrium surrounded by the factory’s historic brick walls with heaters to keep the chill away. We didn’t dine here but did get a couple of takeaway coffees which were excellent. Last is the lobby area for in-house morning breakfasts, coffee and snacks.
The other notable must-visit spot at the Henry Jones Art Hotel is the IXL Long Bar. This Hobart icon is popular with locals and tourists alike and we had no luck getting a seat here on a Friday night. Luckily, we did manage to find one in the lobby in front of a modern fireplace and could listen to the contemporary jazz trio next door in the IXL Long Bar from there. Live music is a feature at this bar and it draws a crowd. We’ve been wanting to stay at the Henry Jones since the hotel opened and it did not disappoint. There might be plenty of new hotels in Hobart these days, but this one remains one of the best thanks to its unique history, personal service and superb in-house dining options.
Disclosure: The writers stayed as guests of the Henry Jones Art Hotel and travelled with assistance from Tourism Tasmania. They would not hesitate to stay at this hotel again at their own expense.
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