Things to Do in Hobart
A moving reminder of Australia’s harrowing history, the former convict settlement of Port Arthur was a key part of often brutal convict discipline within the colonial system. Today, the Port Arthur historic site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Tasmania’s most visited tourist attraction, with museums and memorials devoted to telling the area’s history.
Situated on Bruny Island in Tasmania, the Cape Bruny Lighthouse is the second-oldest lighthouse tower in the country, having been first lit in 1838. The structure was commissioned by Governor George Arthur following a series of mishaps and shipwrecks just off Bruny Island and took two years to build by convict labor.
Technological advances in the 1980s and 1990s led to the lighthouse being lit for the last time on Aug. 6, 1996, when it was replaced by a solar-powered light nearby. In December 2000, the lighthouse was declared part of the South Bruny National Park.
Visitors should be prepared for rough roads and a steep walk to reach the lighthouse, although you’ll be well rewarded on arrival; with some fantastic views out to sea, migrating humpback and southern right whales have been spotted from this vantage point.
Standing sentinel over Hobart, Mt. Wellington is also known as Kunanyi or simply “the Mountain.” The 4,170-foot (1,271-meter) peak offers unbeatable views over the Tasmanian capital, and the surrounding parklands serve as a popular recreational ground for city dwellers.
With a legacy dating back to 1824, Cascade Brewery is Australia’s oldest continually operating brewery, founded by English settler Peter Degraves. The historic brewery, set in Hobart at the foot of Mount Wellington, welcomes guests to its brewhouse and restaurant, and offers tours and tastings.
Less than an hour from the Tasmanian capital and yet a world away from the busy streets of Hobart, Bruny Island draws a steady stream of weekenders from the mainland. The two islands, joined by a long narrow isthmus, are a wildlife haven of jagged cliffs and golden beaches swirling with seabirds. Both are dotted with sleepy villages and tranquil guesthouses, and main activities are hiking, fishing, and slurping fresh-from-the-ocean oysters.
Less than 30 minutes from Hobart, amid the lush vineyards of the Coal River Valley, historic Richmond village is among the most picturesque in Tasmania. Lined with elegant Georgian buildings and presided over by the much-photographed Richmond Bridge, it’s also an important piece of Tasmania’s colonial heritage.
Whether it’s settling in for a sunset viewing of Bruny Island’s Little Penguins, or climbing the 273 steps up towards the Truganini Memorial, visiting the Hummock is a highlight of Bruny Island. At this windswept promontory overlooking Bruny Island Neck, visitors can get a panoramic view of the thin isthmus of white sand that connects the two parts of the island. Penguins are most commonly sighted on this shoreline between the months of September and February, and since they’re officially the world’s smallest species of penguin, there’s an undeniable cuteness factor to watching them waddle ashore. During sunny periods in the middle of the day, it’s possibly to make out the Tasmanian Mainland across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, and visit the memorial at the top of the stairs that’s dedicated to the last known, full-blooded Tasmanian aborigine to live on the island.
Some of Australia’s most beloved animals—including kangaroos, koalas, and Tasmanian devils—call the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary home. As one of Tasmania’s most important sanctuaries, Bonorong’s aim is to rescue, rehabilitate, and preserve some of the island’s rarest and most endangered creatures.
South Bruny National Park is a perfect place to escape the hustle of Hobart and experience the true beauty of Tasmania countryside. This scenic getaway on the southern tip of Bruny Island offers visitors the best of both land and sea—from coastal cliffs to secluded beaches. It’s ideal for a quick day trip or an overnight camping excursion.
Visitors can spend the morning collecting shells along the beach’s shore or taking a leisurely dip in one of the park’s sheltered swim areas (a local favorite is near Jetty Beach). Experienced surfers love the serious waves that break at Cloudy Bay, where rustic campsites are almost always available for a small fee.
Birders and botanists will love exploring the lush rainforest just beyond the sand, where dozens of plants and bird species indigenous to Tanzania thrive. Curious sorts can explore the remains of an old whaling station at Grass Point or wander to Cape Bruny Lighthouse, the second oldest of its kind in the country.
Day-trippers and less experienced hikers can wander along shorter trails, like the memorable trek to Grass Point or Fluted Cape. More challenging routes, like the Labillardiere Peninsula Circuit or East Cloudy Head trail are best left to fit visitors planning to spend at least a night.
What was once a rundown warehouse and storage unit on the waterfront of Hobart has since become one of the most-visited destinations in the city. More than 600,000 people visit Salamanca Market for its fresh fruit, organic produce, and handmade craft stalls each year. Its trendy bars, quiet cafes and inventive restaurants attract food-lovers from around the area, making it a uniquely Tanzania experience. Salamanca’s popularity has caused it to grow rapidly from 12 vendors in 1972 to more than 300 in 2010. As a result, there’s something for everyone at this once-a-week market that brings the best of Hobart together.
More Things to Do in Hobart
This all-female prison is one of 11 places that make up the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. Between 1788 and 1853 approximately 25,000 women—and even some of their children—were held in one of Cascade’s five structures. High rates of illness and infant mortality, as well as grim conditions led to tragic ends for many of the inmates who were forced to sew and mend to repay their debts to society.
Three of the five original buildings are open to the public, so visitors can see the heavy stone walls and thick metal bars that held so many women captive. The Matron’s Quarters in Yard 4 provides travelers with details about the lives of civilians who were charged with punishing and reforming Cascade’s wayward women. This female factory is a fascinating introduction to Tasmania’s role in convict transportation for Great Brittan.
The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens opened in 1818 and its impressive collection of indigenous plants, trees and unique Asian-inspired gardens span some 35 acres of scenic countryside. Perhaps the garden’s most unusual exhibit is the Subantarctic Plant House, which displays plants from the remote Macquarie Island. In addition to environmental conditions that mimic the wild, audio from the island—like sounds of Elephant seals and penguins—is also piped throughout the space, giving visitors a full sensory experience.
After wandering the grounds, relaxing by the lily pond or exploring the French Memorial Garden and Fountain, stop by the Royal Tasmanian’s restaurant, which sources produce from its very own vegetable garden for a truly Tasmanian farm-to-table experience.
Visitors to Russell Falls face a difficult question concerning the surrounding beauty: Is it the lush environment and deep green foliage that give this area its splendor, or is it the three-tiered waterfall that powerfully plummets its way through the verdant forest? Either way, Russell Falls is often considered to be the most popular waterfall in Tasmania, and the short, paved walkway that leads to it makes for an easy and accessible hike.
The falls are located in Mount Field National Park, where large tree ferns and forests of swamp gum create an exotic, faraway feel. The park also teems with wildlife, and lucky travelers with a keen eye might spot a platypus, echidna or possum. Ten minutes further up a steep trail, another waterfall, Horseshoe Falls, provides a second option for photographing water spilling down through the forest. Visitors who want to work up a sweat can extend their visit and tackle the
Tall Trees Circuit, a 30-minute trail through towering swamp gums, the tallest flowering trees on Earth.
The Penitentiary Chapel, nicknamed "The Trench", designated for male convicts in Hobart Town was a less than holy place. With poor ventilation, 36 solitary confinement rooms and separate punishment chambers hidden beneath the chapel floor, it was truly a spot for torture and despair. The dark cells, referred to as “dust holes” were deemed inhumane and closed in 1849, but visitors can still catch a glimpse of the horrid conditions on a Hobart Convict Penitentiary tour, where guides remind guests about the terrible sounds that could be heard coming from convicts chained beneath the floors.
The Hobart Convict Penitentiary grounds include a prison yard, barracks, punishment chambers and an execution yard, as well as the chapel, which was partially transformed into courtrooms in 1859. Visitors who opt for the ghost tour can wander the tunnels and gallows by lamplight while hearing stories of the more than 30 individuals who were executed here.
Towering over the Derwent River and dramatically illuminated at night, the Tasman Bridge has long been one of Hobart’s most memorable landmarks. Built in 1964, the five-lane bridge runs for 1.4km across the river, connecting the central business district with the eastern suburbs, and forming part of the long-distance Tasman Highway.
Despite its status as a city landmark, the Tasman Bridge is perhaps most notorious for its collision with the MV Lake Illawarra bulk carrier In 1975 – an accident that caused extensive damage to the bridge, the sinking of the ship and several fatalities, becoming known as the ‘Tasman Bridge Disaster’. Today, a memorial plaque honors the tragic victims, while the sunken vessel provides an unusual attraction for scuba divers.
The name suggests this hilly bushland is ruled by royalty, but the grassy fields of Queens Domain were actually designed for the Tasmanian people. In 1860, the then governor ruled this park that passes along the Derwent River become a community green, with meeting halls, barbecues and picnic areas for gathering with family and friends.
Queens Domain is a perfect place to people watch on a sunny afternoon, or relax after a visit to the nearby Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Visitors can take a dip at the Hobart Aquatic Centre or play a match at Hobart International Tennis Centre. Enjoy a leisurely walk over the scenic Tasman Bridge after unwinding at Queens Domain and then enjoy dinner at one of the nearby restaurants.
This quiet suburb just south of Hobart was established in 1818, and while extravagant houses and luxury homes now dot the landscape of this prestigious town, a walk through its shaded streets offers visitors a look at how Tasmanians used to live.
The old warehouses of Salamanca Place are still visible from atop Kelly’s Steps, a series of hand-carved stairs built in the 1800s. Travelers can explore Battery Point’s colonial past at the Narryna Heritage Museum, then trek to the town’s highest point at St. George’s Anglican Church, built in 1936.
No trip to Battery Point is complete without a visit to Arthur Circus—one of the nation’s first official subdivisions. Today, visitors can wander around the original cottages, which are now some of the most expensive and sought-after homes in the area.
Nowhere is Hobart’s communion with the sea more evident than Constitution Dock, where commercial fishing boats share the harbor with sailboats and luxury yachts. Each summer, Constitution Dock is the ending point for the Sydney-Hobart sailing race, which is generally regarded as one of the world’s most challenging offshore races. Even during other times of the year, however, Constitution Dock is a buzz of activity with visitors and Hobart locals, as fishermen hoist up crates full of fish, and waterfront restaurants serve some of Australia’s freshest fish and chips. When visiting the coastal Tasmanian capital, the dock is the perfect place for a stroll and feeling the city’s pulse. In the area surrounding Constitution Dock, many of Hobart’s historic buildings all line the action-packed waterfront, where buskers, fishermen, merchants, and tourists combine to create an energetic, yet authentic Tasmanian scene.
There’s plenty of history to soak up on a visit to Hobart, Australia’s second-oldest settlement. Get a lesson in history with a visit to Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), established in 1843 by the Royal Society of Tasmania. You’ll see archaeological and colonial relics, Aboriginal artifacts, old photographs, ephemera and fine examples of colonial decorative arts.
Hobart’s heart lies on the sea, and as an island Tasmania’s history is inextricably bound to the water.
If you’d like to learn more about Tasmania’s maritime history, the Maritime Museum of Tasmania provides all the answers.
You’ll see models of the ships that docked at Sullivans Cove, hear the stories of the men who sailed in them, learn about Australia’s first explorers and see the navigational instruments they used.
The watercraft of Tasmania’s original inhabitants, the Aborigines, are also displayed, along with artifacts rescued from shipwrecks, photographs, paintings and whaling equipment.
Extending between Richmond and Port Arthur, the Convict Trail traces the history of Australia— which was initially founded as a convict settlement—back to its origin. Learn about how convicts developed the country’s infrastructure as you pass some of the tallest and most-scenic sea cliffs on the planet.
Showcasing contemporary art alongside antiquities, the largely subterranean Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) draws primarily from the private collection of owner David Walsh. A must for visitors to Tasmania, Mona is a provocative and engaging place to spend a few hours or even the night.
Situated on the edge of 1.6 million hectares of World Heritage Listed woodland, the Tahune AirWalk overlooks the Huon River, offering an aerial view of Tasmania’s southern forests. The treetop walkway is a steel structure that’s as high as 45 meters in places.
There are a number of paths to the AirWalk, all of which are clearly signposted. The Swinging Bridges Track features two steel cable foot-bridges that cross both the Huon and Picton Rivers. This track is a loop circuit that will take you an hour or so to complete. Alternatively, the Huon Pine Walk is an easier 20-minute walk across flat ground and boardwalks.
For the more adventurous, the Eagle Hang Glider will be sure to get your heart rate up. It’s a 250-meter cable that glides over the Huon River, allowing you to reach speeds of up to 40 kilometers per hour.
Bruny Island has a reputation as an Australian foodie paradise, and the Bruny Island Berry Farm is part of the reason why. Here on this family-owned berry farm near the shores of Adventure Bay, locally-grown berries are deliciously transformed into ice cream, scones, jams, cheesecakes, and a wide assortment of desserts. If some of the farm’s 7,000 strawberry plants happen to be in season, visitors have the chance to wander the fields and pick their own berries from the vines. Blackberries, blueberries, boysenberries, and youngberries all sweeten a visit to the farm, and even if the berries aren’t currently in season, the rural café is a relaxing spot for a coffee, tea, or scone.
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