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I’m relaxing on my balcony of the MACq 01 hotel and looking at the Hobart waterfront and Australia’s newest Antarctic research ship, the Nuyina, where staff are preparing to leave for their first trip.

“This is a drill! This is a drill! All crew to muster stations!”

It almost feels like I should run inside and find a life jacket myself thanks to my bird’s eye view of the action but I would much rather continue to sip my glass of Tasmanian chardonnay and enjoy the sweeping harbour vista from my room.

Looking onto the MACQ1Premium Waterfront Suites
Looking onto the MACq 01 Premium Waterfront Suites

You might think that having ships and a working harbour outside your hotel could be a downside but it’s quite the opposite. As I take in 180-degree views of greater Hobart, the historic waterfront and Mt Wellington and breathe in the sweet smell of the fresh air, it’s impossible not to smile. The hotel’s combination of innovative design and decor and a unique take on the local history make the MACq 01 hotel in Hobart one of Australia’s must stay abodes. Each room features a story and memorabilia highlighting a prominent Tasmanian and their place in history and the hotel offers complimentary unique historic tours of Hobart for guests.

MACQ1 Reception
MACq 01 Reception

Checking into MACq 01 is a little underwhelming as the front of the hotel is very understated. This has been done on purpose to replicate the old wharf warehouse that once stood at the hotel’s location. With so much history surrounding me, I almost expect to see shipwright tools and an old wharfie greeting me on arrival but the friendly well-dressed porters are far more upmarket. With bags attended too we are escorted to check-in where we are quickly and very efficiently provided with keys and given a brief outline of the facilities of the hotel. It is also at reception that we happen to meet the resident Master Storyteller, Justin Johnston, who greets us warmly and reconfirms our complimentary hotel tour (booked previously) for later that afternoon.

Artefacts and decretive elements at MACQ1
Artefacts and decorative elements at MACq 01

Taking in the reception area, I note the distinctive styling and decor that I have read about and seen in photographs, from the circular fireplace and couches to glass cabinets highlighting the First Nations’ and early settlers’ pasts with artefacts, and installations like the ceiling that resembles the kelp of the Tasmanian coast. This area is the perfect spot for a coffee, cocktail or glass of wine from the adjacent Old Wharf Restaurant which forms part of the open plan lobby.

The impressive Lobby Lounge at MACQ1
The impressive Lobby Lounge at MACq 01

Arriving at our room, the Tasmanian local featured on our door (each room has one) is Darrel Baldock who is widely regarded as Tasmania’s greatest AFL footballer. Entering the room, we’re greeted with a glass cabinet filled with memorabilia associated with our room’s highlighted Tasmanian like a worn AFL football and St Kilda scarf.  Each room has a similar cabinet filled with different items. These unique touches highlight the hotel’s clever design, storytelling theme and attention to detail.

The impressive Décor and art is a highlight of the MACQ1
The impressive decor and art is a highlight at MACq 01

Our Premium Waterfront Suite has a major wow factor due to its huge size, understated yet high-end décor, the view and (artificial) grass terrace. It is 62 sqm of pure indulgence with a super comfy king-size bed, large bathroom with a huge bathtub and adjacent rain shower, plus loads of wardrobe space. Other features include an L-shaped lounge perfect for relaxing on with a good book and a boutique mini-bar with loads of Tassie treats. However, the standout is the balcony.

The Lawn and Balcony of the Premium Waterfront Suite
The lawn and balcony of our Premium Waterfront Suite

Our Premium Waterfront Suite balcony is a sanctuary of Astroturf heaven with views and space that begs for a cocktail with friends or intimate dining with someone special. This is the spot I revel in each morning as I watch Hobart come alive as tugboats head up the Derwent River, yachts pull out of the harbour and seaplanes taxi past. On my last morning at the hotel, I even have a tall ship moored alongside as an authentic and historic farewell to cap off my stay.

The Hobart water Fount with Tail Ships and Seaplanes
Hobart waterfront with talls ships and seaplanes

It’s hard to tear myself away from the balcony but there are some fantastic bars and restaurants both at MACq 01 and a few steps away across the road at the Henry Jones Art Hotel which is part of the same hotel group and housed in the historic IXL sandstone building. Here you have the choice of fine dining at Landscape Restaurant or the contemporary Tasmanian restaurant Peacock and Jones. This hotel also has several bars including the atmospheric IXL Long Bar.

The ultra stylish Landscape Restaurant at the neighbouring Henry Jones Hotel
The ultra stylish Landscape Restaurant at the neighbouring Henry Jones Art Hotel

As for bars at MACq 01, you have the choice of drinks and views either at the Story Bar tucked away at the end of the hotel or the Evolve Spirits Bar. Both of these venues have distinctive decor and design features worth exploring from million-year-old fossils to displays of Hobart newspapers from the early days of settlement. Ask for a beverage recommendation from the charming bar staff and sit either on the balcony or a cosy corner and take in the vibe. Just be warned these places are a big hit with locals and visitors alike, so plan ahead and book a spot or you could miss out.

The Old Wharf Restaurant MACQ1
The Old Wharf Restaurant MACq 01

Dining at MACq 01 is at the Old Wharf Restaurant which focusses on predominantly classic dishes with a uniquely Tasmanian edge. With most produce sourced locally from exceptional producers, the standout is a breakfast that’s well worth the price of inclusion with the room. It’s hard to believe eggs, bacon and sausages can taste so good.

A Hunter Street Room at MACQ1
A Hunter Street Room at MACq 01

Other added features of the hotel are a free self-service laundry that has an industrial washer and dryer for guests and even includes washing powder. There is also a gym (closed due to COVID during our visit) located on Level 3. But the major highlight of a stay at MACq 01 are the Storytelling Tours that take you around Hobart and also the hotel for entertaining tales of the First Nations people and heroes and rogues of Tasmania. Book as many of these complimentary tours as you can while you’re at the hotel; you won’t be disappointed.

Master Storyteller Justin Johnston and the View Finder Hobart Tour
Master Storyteller Justin Johnston leading the Hidden Hobart: View Finder Tour

Our two night stay at MACq 01 is one of the best hotel experiences we have had in Australia. The unique design aspects, fabulous location, impressive dining, and complimentary inclusions such as the history tours combined with top notch staff came together for a truly impressive accommodation experience. We thought very hard about any possible negative aspects of the hotel and only came up with one: having to leave.

Disclosure: The writer stayed as a guest of MACq 01 and would not hesitate to return to this hotel at his own expense.

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Trevor Templeman is a photographer and writer who travels the world capturing the essence of locations through their landscape, architecture and people. His words and photographs are published in magazines, newspapers and online around the world.