My introduction to Tasmania was altogether too brief. Due to a scheduling snafu and delayed flight, I had just 36 hours in Hobart, the capital of Australia’s southern island state. But, as ever, I was determined to make the most of my visit. While I didn’t climb to the top of Mount Wellington or go into any museums as I’d hoped, I did manage to see several of the city’s other major attractions. What follows is my Hobart itinerary. Hopefully it might help inform your own stay!
I landed in Hobart around 6pm and planned to take a taxi to my hotel to save time. Outside the baggage claim area, a friendly shuttle bus driver approached and asked if I needed a lift to town. He promised to get me to my hotel in 26 minutes and was so gregarious I could hardly refuse. In fact, everyone I met in Hobart offered a warm welcome, visitor tips, and helpful background information. My hotel was well located in Hobart’s fashionable Battery Point neighborhood.
After checking in, I made a beeline to Preachers, a pub that has given new life to a heritage home. The side yard is now a cozy beer garden decked with twinkle lights, wood-burning stoves, and a disused city bus that was serving as a bingo parlor at the time of my visit. I enjoyed a cheeseburger and Tasmanian apple cider alfresco before moving in to discuss the region’s apparently well-known whiskeys with the bartender. A stop at the nearby 9/11 Bottle Shop let me pick out a few gifts based on my newfound knowledge of the region’s spirits.
I began with a hearty and delicious breakfast at Pollen Tea Room, a vegetarian cafe with an easygoing ambiance. A friendly (noticing a trend here?) waitress chatted me up about my travels and impressions of Australia. She was also amenable to adding an egg to my avocado toast, a combination I highly recommend.
From the cafe, I meandered down the quiet lanes of Battery Point, stopping often to admire the quaint houses and pretty fall foliage. The small cottages ringing Arthur Circus are particularly charming. Just around the corner on South Street, a local passerby told me that the grand Victorian mansion I was photographing used to be a brothel! Considering Battery Point’s beginnings as a 19th century military bastion and working-class fishing village, I guess this shouldn’t be surprising.
Kelly’s Steps provide easy access to Salamanca Place, a row of pretty sandstone warehouses now containing an array of shops, galleries, and cafes. Many of the artists were on hand to discuss their work and I found this to be an engaging spot for souvenir shopping. If your visit falls on a Saturday (mine didn’t), Salamanca Market bustles with over 300 vendors selling everything from local produce and wine to handmade clothes and pottery. I made my way slowly along the wharf, past boats bobbing in the calm blue water, to Van Diemens Land Creamery. The cafe’s award-winning ice cream is made by a family of local dairy farmers with the admirably simple goal of making people smile. Mission accomplished! My flavors of choice were caramelized fig and peach and lemon myrtle.
Tempted as I was to peruse the displays inside the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, I instead took a taxi to the Cascades Female Factory. This is one of the eleven Australian Convict Sites to be included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. The Cascades Female Factory was built in the early 1800s to house convicted British women and their children. Not much remains of the actual factory, but the stories of the women live on. Many were found guilty of petty theft and received longer sentences than the crimes seemed to warrant. One woman was given seven years for stealing tea and sugar, while another got seven years for stealing two pieces of gauze ribbon.
The factory was intended to reform the women, who were assigned jobs based on the severity of their crimes and their behavior on board the ships that transported them halfway around the world. The most docile were given jobs as cooks and nurses, while the worst criminals were made to do laundry and spin wool. Those who broke any rules were punished with solitary confinement. Conditions at the factory were harsh and many women and children died from disease.
Once their sentences were completed, many of the women were granted permission to marry local men, often former convicts themselves. Someone working in the ticket office explained that most people from Hobart have a convict in their ancestry. This sentiment was repeated by a kindly man down the street who came out to chat when he saw me photographing his well-tended garden. He said that people used to be embarrassed by this history but were now coming to embrace their pasts. Considering the absurdity of some of the sentences, the shame belongs with the judges and courts.
It is a fifteen minute walk from the Female Factory site to Cascade Brewery, assuming you don’t fall into conversation with any locals en route. Cascade Brewery is the oldest continuously operating brewery in Australia. Since I wasn’t able to join one of the three daily tours, the convivial man running the gift shop filled me in on some of the history.
One of Cascade’s founders, Peter Degraves, hatched a plan to make “beers that cannot be excelled” using pure spring water from Mount Wellington and Tasmanian hops. But there was one small problem: Degraves was doing time in the Hobart gaol. His brother in law started a sawmill operation in 1824 and seven years later Degraves joined the family business. He sold his first Cascade Brewery beer in 1832. The Brewhouse had eight different beers and ciders on tap, but I opted for the original Cascade Pale Ale. It was like drinking a glass of history!
Unfortunately, I don’t have any restaurants to recommend for dinner. The wharf-side fish shack I chose was disappointingly mediocre given its glowing online reviews. You win some, you lose some.
I woke up hungry and, with a few hours until my flight out, I hurried down to Daci & Daci Bakers, a local institution adjacent to the Parliament House. If you have time, I suggest enjoying your breakfast inside the bakery’s lavish dining room; otherwise, the staff will be happy to pack your purchases to go. The quiches and tarts are fantastic!
Tell me: How would YOU spend 36 hours in Hobart?