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Hobart Waterfront and IXL Jam Factory

If you’re looking for things to do in Hobart in Tasmania, there’s a lot more on offer than the chance to discover just how many jumpers you can wear at once. Hobart, the charming capital of Tasmania, has been named in so many ‘Hot Lists’ it is hard to believe the place still gets cold. Mt Wellington soars 1270 m above the harbour and is frequently dusted with a layer of snow well into spring and a cosy fireplace is seldom far away in winter. Hobart may be where the action is but it offers a refreshing change from your average capital city. Rush hour traffic is virtually non-existent and the compact town centre is a pleasure to navigate on foot. Here is a guide to Hobart including practicalities such as getting from Hobart airport to the CBD plus the best Hobart things to do, the best Hobart restaurants, and the top luxury Hobart hotels for your holiday in the ‘Apple Isle’.

Hobart weather and when to visit

Hobart’s weather is full of surprises so pack a few warm clothes even if you’re visiting in summer. It has snowed on top of Mt Wellington on Christmas Day and cold snaps with winds that blow in from Antarctica can catch you by surprise if you don’t arrive prepared. That said, the weather is generally pleasant plus you get to enjoy the beauty of the four seasons here. Time your visit for autumn or spring and the beauty of the country areas just outside Hobart will take your breath away. The warmest months are December to March but it never gets overly hot with day time temperatures peaking at around 23 degrees Celsius and dropping down to the high teens in the evening. Winter minimums can get close to zero on occasion and average around 12 degrees during the day. Rain is seldom a major problem in Hobart as it is the second driest capital city in Australia.

Getting from Hobart Airport to the CBD

Hobart Airport is located 17 kilometres east of the CBD. A SkyBus service travels to and from the city but it costs about the same (or sometimes less) to catch a taxi or an Uber. Car rental desks are available at the airport and many companies also have an office in town. If you need a hire car, book early as prices rise substantially during peak travel periods when hire cars are in high demand.

Hobart things to do

You will need three to four days to get the most out of Hobart without having to rush. There are a surprising number of things to experience for such a compact city including scenic lookouts, historical tours, a world class art gallery, convict sites, and the town’s fascinating history.

Hidden Hobart: The Viewfinder Tour

Discover the best (or, some would say, the worst) of Hobart’s occasionally scandalous history on a Hidden Hobart: The Viewfinder Tour. You’ll be guided around the CBD by a Master Storyteller who will bring the city to life using captivating story telling and an old school viewfinder loaded with historic photos. Listen to the guide then look through the viewfinder to see the scene in front of you hundreds of years ago. This clever tour is one of the best in town and a steal for just $20 for 90 minutes. It’s free for guests staying at the Macq01 hotel.

Viewfinder tour in Hobart
Viewfinder tour in Hobart

Forty Spotted Gin Blending Class

Make your own bottle of bespoke gin to take home at a one hour Forty Spotted Gin Blending Class in Hobart. Forty Spotted Gin is made by Lark Distillery which also created Tasmania’s first single-malt whisky so they know their stuff when it comes to spirits. Guiding you through the process is The Gin Professor who is decked out in a lab coat and ready to educate you on all things gin. After a chat about the history of gin, it is time to get started on the blending part of the class using several beakers, small vials of infused spirits, and an eye dropper to create your perfect gin blend.

Drive to the top of Mt Wellington

Catch the bus or drive to the top of Mt Wellington for a wilderness experience just 10 minutes drive from downtown Hobart. The 21 km drive to the summit climbs from temperate rainforest to sub-alpine flora and glacial formations, ending in panoramic views of Hobart and the Tasman Peninsula.  We have visited Mt Wellington many times and love seeing its different moods. When we took the first photo below it was blowing a gale and very, very cold (even for Hobart locals). The wind was so strong that if you jumped in the air it blew you backwards. On our most recent visit, the conditions could not have been more different with warm temperatures and a picture perfect day.

Staying Warm on Mt Wellington Hobart
Staying warm inside the viewing room on Mt Wellington (that white stuff on the ground is snow)
Mt Wellington
Our most recent visit to Mt Wellington

Cascade Brewery Tour

The historic Cascade Brewery, one of Hobart’s most photographed buildings, is just five minutes from the city by car. There are several excellent and affordable Cascade Brewery Tours to choose from here. The Cascade Brewery Tour takes place on weekends and is only suitable for children aged 16 and over. If you would like to do a tour during the week or you’re travelling with under 16s, book the Cascade Historic Tour instead. All of the tours at the brewery book out extremely quickly so if you would like to do a tour you need to plan ahead and book early.

Cascade Brewery is located just outside Hobart

Visit the MONA art gallery

The cutting edge Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), which is located just out of town, has a world class reputation and is well worth a visit. The galleries are filled with wonderful (and occasionally weird) art works plus you’ll find some great dining here as well. MONA is an easy 15 minute drive from the CBD or you can catch the MONA Ferry which takes you straight to the museum’s private jetty. Opt for the onboard ‘Posh Pit’ and you can get drinks on the ferry included as well.

MONA Hobart gallery of old and new art
Museum of Old & New Art (aka MONA)

Visit the Salamanca Markets

Saturdays are a big day in Hobart as the Salamanca Markets at Salamanca Place are operating from early morning until late afternoon. What started as a few pop-up stalls has grown into half a kilometre of food trucks, locally produced fashion, art and crafts and a selection of boutique distilled spirits. Salamanca Place is also where you will find Hobart’s private art galleries and fashion boutiques plus a few eateries and pubs built inside historic bond stores from the 1800s. 

Salamanca Place on market day
Salamanca Place on market day

Visit the Old Hobart Gaol

The Old Hobart Gaol is one of Hobart’s oldest buildings and can be visited on a day tour which includes access to the court rooms plus the jail cells and tunnels underneath the chapel. You’ll also be able to experience ‘Pandemonium’, an innovative (and rather scary) multi-sensory film presentation. If you’re thinking of doing this tour with under eights, you might want to skip the movie.

IXL Jam Factory tour

Take a tour of the Henry Jones Art Hotel which used to be the IXL Jam Factory and was Hobart’s biggest employer in the early 1900s. This fascinating tour is free for hotel guests and $20 for outside visitors (including a glass of Tasmanian sparkling). You’ll gain an insight into what it was like living in Hobart in days gone by and explore the historic IXL Jam Factory building. The tour also showcases priceless landscapes by artist John Glover and modern art from emerging Tasmanian artists.

Henry Jones Hotel Art Tour
Tour the IXL Jam Factory which is now the Henry Jones Hotel Art

Hobart historic pub tour

Back in the 1830s, there was one pub for every 200 residents and every drinking den did a roaring trade. While there aren’t quite as many pubs these days, there are still plenty of historic drinking spots to explore. Pub tours visit several of them including The Hope and Anchor Tavern which opened in 1807 and was the colony’s first pub to sell ale to thirsty sailors and locals. Along with entertaining yarns about what it used to be like serving beer and drinking at Hobart’s historic pubs, you’ll be able to enjoy a pint or two yourself.

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Best Hobart apartments

Sullivans Cove Apartments

Sullivans Cove Apartments are located on the waterfront with a choice of apartments that have different room configurations. Our modern apartment had a gourmet kitchen, king bed, balcony for embracing the cold and big bathrooms with heated floors for warming up afterwards. It was very spacious and great value for money, especially during low season when we stayed. The welcome at the office around the corner where you check in is especially warm and staff are on hand to help you with anything you need throughout your stay.

Sullivans Cove Apartments
Sullivans Cove Apartments

Salamanca Inn

The friendly family-owned Salamanca Inn was one of Hobart’s first apartment hotels and is located just a few steps from Salamanca Place. Regular renovations have kept this hotel looking fresh and its small size makes it feel cosy and welcoming. Carparking is complimentary and there is a heated indoor pool if you’re travelling with kids who would like a break from ‘all the historic stuff’. Accommodation is self-contained with a shared guest laundry. Our two bedroom apartment had the living area downstairs plus a bedroom with two single beds. The main bedroom and bathroom were located upstairs. Breakfast at Birdsong Restaurant is a la carte and very, very good.

Salamanca Inn
Salamanca Inn

Best Hobart luxury hotels

Movenpick Hobart

Movenpick Hobart is home to a great hotel restaurant – Tesoro Modern Italian – and has a strong focus on food and wine. Don’t miss the ‘Chocolate Hour’ which runs from 4pm to 5pm daily and includes a plate of chocolate goodies plus a cocktail of the day which has been designed to go with chocolate. The handy central location makes it easy to get around and the spacious Queen/Queen rooms are perfect for families. Service at this hotel is some of the best you’ll find anywhere in Hobart.

Movenpick Hobart
Movenpick Hobart

Henry Jones Art Hotel

The Henry Jones Art Hotel has a unique history and a signature restaurant that’s worth staying in for. 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. The atmospheric old building does have its quirks, ranging from squeaky floorboards to sometimes temperamental heating, but this is part of its character and charm.

Henry Jones Art Hotel
Henry Jones Art Hotel

Best Hobart restaurants and cafes

Tasmania embraced the paddock-to-plate mindset long before it was trendy. Choices for dining in Hobart are exceptional, whether you want breakfast, lunch, dinner or something in between. From lively local pubs and cute cafes to high end fine dining, Hobart ticks every box. There is no need to limit yourself to the area around the waterfront either. Some of the best spots are a couple of kilometres away so do some research before you arrive or ask around when you’re in town to get the best local recommendations. Bookings are a must for most of the top restaurants.

Pigeon Whole Bakers

Pigeon Whole Bakers is located on Argyle St in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it shop front which you can look through to watch the bakers at work. Pigeon Whole almost moved me to tears. After passing on the donuts in the morning, I returned later to be heartbroken by an empty cabinet. Get there by 10am to peruse the full selection of items on offer and don’t hold back as they sell quickly.

Pigeon Whole Bakers Doughnuts
Pigeon Whole doughnuts

New Sydney Hotel

When you open the door of the New Sydney Hotel, you’re greeted with a roaring fire and the sound of a funky live blues band playing in the bar area. With hearty meals, a fantastic atmosphere and a local crowd at the bar, this place is a lovely warm hidey hole on a chilly Hobart night.

New Sydney Hotel Hobart
Slow cooked lamb served with potatoes, olives, and goats curd at the New Sydney Hotel

Jackman & McRoss Bakery, located in the historic village atmosphere of Battery Point, serves bakery treats which are made on-site. Roam the backstreets, follow the delicious aromas and hungry locals and you’re sure to find it. In downtown Hobart, The Timeless Cafe, which is housed in an attractive Georgian warehouse, is an essential stop for hungry yachties at the end of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. It is cosy inside or outside thanks to the heated atrium and serves simple breakfasts cooked to perfection. Machine Laundry Cafe in Salamanca Square serves up first-rate breakfasts, excellent coffee and clean clothes (it doubles as a rather glamorous laundrette).

Landscape Restaurant

The menu at the modern Australian focussed Landscape Restaurant & Grill at the Henry Jones Art Hotel features some of Tasmania’s most impressive produce. The steaks here are some of the best you’ll find in Hobart and the sommeliers know their stuff. Add silver service and charming waitstaff and you’ve got a superb night out. This is one of Hobart’s best restaurants and perfect for a ‘date night’ dinner. Bookings are a must, especially on weekends.

Landscape Restaurant and Art
Landscape Restaurant

Jam Packed is located next to the Henry Jones Art Hotel and serves everything from Coco Pops to an addictive open bacon sandwich with basil pesto tomatoes, avocado & house relish for breakfast. Flippers is a buzzing takeaway fish and chippie located in a prime spot on the waterfront. Tavern 42 Degrees South serves sophisticated Mod-Oz cuisine in modern surrounds and has a good wine list and a choice of heavy and lighter meals. Not even the sometimes corny menu at the Drunken Admiral Restaurant (think ‘Hook, Line & Sinker’) can overshadow the charm of this traditional pub. Smolt showcases an extensive tapas menu along with a range of mains inspired by the southern regions of Spain and Italy.

Best Hobart bars

IXL Long Bar at the Henry Jones Art Hotel is a classy watering hole with superb cocktails and a grown-up ambience. Seats can be hard to come by so have a backup plan (there’s overflow seating available in the lobby if you’re desperate). The Lower House is a hip basement bar across the road from Parliament House that’s popular with pollies and an older crowd. Phone ahead to reserve your favourite lounge or bar area for drinks. Sit back and observe at Observatory Bar, a contemporary drinking spot with a big city vibe.

Best Hobart day trips

Bruny Island day tour

Bruny Island is a beautiful place and an ideal day trip destination for travellers who want to see more of Tasmania without venturing too far from Hobart. With its thriving food culture and fascinating local history, Bruny Island proves that good things really do come in small packages. It’s just 30 minutes’ drive from Hobart, plus a 20 minute ferry ride. It’s possible to explore Bruny Island independently by taking your car on the ferry but a day trip with Bruny Island Safaris which covers Bruny Island’s ‘greatest hits’ with lunch, tastings and morning tea plus entry to Bruny Island National Park and a tour of Cape Bruny Lighthouse is a much better idea.

Climbing the stairs at Truganini Lookout
Climbing the stairs at Truganini Lookout at Bruny Island

Port Arthur Historic Site

Step back in time at the historic penal colony of Port Arthur, where more than 12,000 convicts served their time between 1830 and 1877. This open air museum is beautiful and deeply moving, and remains one of Australia’s most compelling and fascinating historic attractions. Don’t miss the guided tour which reveals many stories about the site and those who spent their time here.

Port Arthur on a rainy day
Port Arthur near Hobart

Huon Valley day trip

Tasmania’s Huon Valley has a fabulous food scene and more craft cider makers, breweries, and wineries than you can raise a glass to. Weekends bring a rolling feast of local produce markets to explore but it’s more fun to visit some of the top dining spots and sample the produce that makes this pretty valley one of Tasmania’s most popular foodies escapes. The Huon Valley is a one hour drive from Hobart so it’s easy to see plenty of it in a day. If you would like to spend a little longer, Villa Talia is where you need to stay.

Huon Valley
Franklin in the Huon Valley

Visit historic Richmond

Richmond is home to one of Australia’s most historic and most Instagrammed bridges. Bridge Street, which is the main street that runs through the centre of town, is lined with beautiful stone buildings and filled with cute antique stores, gift shops and small boutiques. There is also a great lolly shop if you’re travelling with kids. Cafes such as Coal River Farm, which has animals you can meet and pretty views of the surrounding countryside, are a great option for lunch. Richmond is less than 10 minutes from the airport making it a great stop at the beginning or end of your holiday.

Richmond Bridge classic Tasmania
Richmond Bridge on a perfect winter day

Disclosure: The writers travelled with assistance from Tourism Tasmania and have also visited Hobart at their own expense. It is one of their favourite Australian capital cities.

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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.