25 Things to Do in Hobart: A City Steeped in History
It’s hard to determine which city in Australia is the best to visit, but safe to say Hobart is up there. Here are some unusual and fun things to do in Hobart, Tasmania, the country’s most southern city. We’ll also recommend where to stay and eat (as Hobart and Tasmania in general are paradise for one’s tastebuds).
Australia is blessed with some naturally beautiful cities and I often wonder whether Hobart is the nicest of all.
The city is small in population, but by no means compact, spreading out at the foot of Mt Wellington, a 1,270 metre high mountain, offering sweeping views of the city from its summit.
Along with being the smallest state capital city, it’s also the second-oldest city in Australia, after Sydney. Once a colonial outpost, it’s now a popular tourist destination, rife in history and natural beauty.
Sandstone buildings are littered around the city and the area was thought to have been populated for around 35,000 years by Australia’s First Nations people.
Hobart seems to have something for everyone. Foodies will delight in exploring its extensive restaurant and cafe scene. It’s a hotspot for the arts and there’s nature, nature everywhere.
The only thing Hobart is lacking in is its own AFL team (although Tasmania is represented in the league by the Hawthorn Football Club).
Here’s a list of what you can get up to in the Tasmanian capital, on your trip down south.
Where to Stay in Hobart
Check out other hotel options in Hobart
Things to Do in Hobart on Your Next Trip
1. Visit the Museum of Modern and New Art (MONA)
One of Hobart’s biggest drawcards is its MONA Art Gallery. The museum showcases very… let’s say interesting contemporary and modern art. The story behind it is as fascinating as the gallery itself.
MONA was founded by former professional gambler and Tasmanian, David Walsh. Feeling guilty about the millions he’d made from gambling, Walsh opened the gallery in 2011, in order to give back to his local community (entry to MONA for Tasmanians has remained free, since the gallery’s inception).
The gallery has been controversial since it first opened, particularly due to its affiliation with the annual Dark Mofo Winter Festival.
Indeed, inside the gallery you’ll find questionable video art and a machine that does a poo at 2pm every day. Ceramic vulvas once lined the walls and there is a work by Jannis Kounellis featuring live goldfish swimming around a butcher knife, which regularly receives complaints.
So, MONA is certainly worth a visit, just for the novelty factor alone. The gallery is located just outside the city centre, accessible by either car, or ferry from Brooke St Pier.
Entry price varies between $25–$28. The ferry from the city centre is additional $22 for a return ticket, $55 if you opt for the “Posh-Pit” option, which comes with complimentary drinks and canapés. Totally taking this options when I’m a baller.
|Hobart Trip Tip: If your time in the city is limited, but you want to see as many sights as possible, book onto a tour that will allow you to see the best of Hobart, including an entry ticket to MONA. See prices and availability here.|
2. Check out the Hobart Museum & Art Gallery
If you’re into a rather more toned down version of art, consider making a trip to the Hobart Museum & Art Gallery.
TMAG has been open since 1846, its collections housed in a beautiful sandstone building. Inside, you can see current exhibitions, learn about Australian native wildlife and the history of Old Hobart Town.
The museum is also the home of a stuffed Thylacine – the extinct Tasmanian Tiger. If you’re interested in learning more about this sadly lost symbol of Tasmania, then TMAG is the place to visit.
General admission is free, but some exhibitions may incur a fee.
3. Attend Dark Mofo Festival
It might seem to strange to suggest a trip down south in the dead of winter. Putting aside the fact that Hobart is an extremely cosy city to hang around in during the cooler months, there is a weird and wonderful festival, which is held there in the middle of the year.
Dark Mofo is an arts, food and pagan festival, which has been controversial from the get-go.
Some works in the past that have garnered great public attention include Hermann Nitsch’s “bloody sacrificial ritual”, where participants pulled apart a dead bull carcass for three hours, performance artist Mike Parr burying himself under a Hobart street and the display of inverted crosses along the waterfront, which Christian leaders found highly offensive.
Even if you’re not into performance and video art (which is fair), it’s worth going for the food alone. A particular highlight is the Winter Feast, where stallholders sell food and alcohol to patrons, who can then eat at long, candle adorned tables within the warehouse, or outside around fire pits.
The festival ends over the winter solstice, with a nude swim in the River Derwent at sunrise, an event which is only growing in popularity.
There are plenty of other interesting festivals conducted in Tassie, such as the Taste of Tasmania, which runs over the New Year and MONA FOMO, an arts and music festival which is held in Launceston in January.
4. Explore the World Heritage Cascades Female Factory
Hobart was once a colonial outpost, remnants of which can be seen across the city. One such structure is the remains of the Cascades Female Factory, in the city’s south.
This was a place of incarceration for female convicts, many of whom were sent over from the UK and Ireland for crimes ranging from petty theft, to incest and murder.
These women were divided into three classes and tasked with chores – cooks and hospital attendants among the higher class, the production of clothes and mending of linen for the second class. The lowest class of convicts did the laundering and carded and spun wool.
Conditions were poor and life was tough for all women at the site, which closed in 1877. Although most of it has been demolished in times since, what remains was acquired by the Tasmanian state Government.
The Cascades Female Factory Historic Site is now world heritage listed and exists as one of 11 convict sites in Australia (formally the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property).
Today you can take self-guided or official tours of the site – see more information here.
5. Have a drink at Cascade Brewery
Established in 1824, the historic Cascade brewery is still fully operational, producing Australia’s oldest beer, Cascade Pale Ale. Set against the dramatic backdrop of Mount Wellington, it’s truly an icon of Tasmania.
There is a range of activities on offer at the brewery. A simple tour of the area will enable you to learn a little of its history and try some of its wares.
Hops enthusiasts can book into Cascade’s beer school, which will take you right into the brewing process of their beer.
Fans of the paranormal can book onto a special 45 minute night tour, which will lead you throughout the empty and eerily quiet brewery and down into the bowels of its long ago abandoned cellars. You can work up some Dutch courage beforehand, with the two 7oz tasting that are included in the tour price of $24.
|Hobart Trip Tip: Book onto a 48-hour City Loop tour, which gives you access to an open top double-decker and includes a tour of the Cascade Brewery. See prices and availability here.|
6. Drive or walk to the top of Mount Wellington for views of the city
One of the top things to do in Hobart, is to gaze down at the city from the top of Mount Wellington. It’s possible and highly advisable to walk to the summit. However, there is a road you can drive up, as well as shuttle and tour options that will take you to the top of the mountain.
If you’re lucky, you might arrive at the summit to find snow! Mount Wellington is the first place I saw the white stuff – in the middle of October, our spring season, nonetheless.
There is a current move to install a cable car on Mount Wellington, which many residents of Hobart oppose. I agree, it would be a terrible move and the city doesn’t need it. A prime example of corporate greed and why we can’t have nice things, in a nutshell.
Book onto a tour to Mount Wellington here
7. Walk the Truganini Track
Hobart’s got some great walks, but if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of walking up Mount Wellington, consider doing the Truganini Track instead.
This is a 2.1km medium-grade bushwalk, which will take you from the Cartwright Reserve on Sandy Bay Road up to the Mount Nelson Signal Station.
The walk will take you along Cartwright Creek and through dense bush, where wildflowers bring colour to the path in Spring. Watch out, as the trail can be quite muddy in wet weather.
Keep an eye out for the Truganini Memorial, dedicated to the First Nations people of Tasmania and their descendants.
Then, when you reach the Signal Station, relax and enjoy the view of Hobart, below!
|Hobart Trip Tip: Head to the Signal Station at Mt Nelson for panoramic views of the city, if Mount Wellington is too clouded over.|
8. Stroll around beautiful Battery Point
Battery Point is a suburb in Hobart, just up from Salamanca Place, overlooking the water.
It’s one of Hobart’s most desirable regions, filled with gorgeous colonial houses and winding streets, set against the backdrop of the Derwent River on one side and Mount Wellington on the other.
If you want to know more about this region of Old Hobart Town, you can take a two hour guided walking tour around the area.
If you’re going on a self-guided tour of the area, be sure to look out for the following landmarks:
- Kelly’s Steps– named after 1800’s sea captain James Kelly, these steps join Battery Point to Salamanca Place.
- Hampden Road– the main street of Battery Point, lined with cafés and beautiful houses.
- Narryna Heritage Museum – a museum filled with colonial artefacts and furniture.
- Battery Square & Princes Park – overlooks the finish line for the annual Sydney to Hobart ship race.
- Shipwrights Arms Hotel – an old, cosy pub in the area.
- Arthur Circus – a circular road, lined with cute cottages dating from the earliest days of Old Hobart Town. There’s a park in the middle of the roundabout, where you can sit and relax.
Book onto a guided tour of Battery Point
9. Explore Salamanca Place
Another historic area of Hobart is Salamanca Place, which was once where sailors and workmen came to congregate.
The area is filled with three or four storey high sandstone buildings and is home to boutique shops, cafés, bars, restaurants, theatres and galleries.
It’s the place to head to if you’re staying near the harbour and are after an artisan souvenir, a tipple or a bite to eat.
10. Check out the Salamanca Markets
The Salamanca Markets are held every Saturday and is one of the best things to do in Hobart.
The area fills with stalls, selling everything from sculptures made out of Huon Valley Pine, to gorgeous throws of soft, alpaca wool. Scents of delicious, sizzling food and the aroma of coffee fills the air.
There’s a flurry of colour and activity as people walk up and down the area, browsing the wares, trying out samples of gin and whiskey, purchasing steaming plates of hot food and engaging in long conversations with stall holders.
It’s well worth checking out, if you’re in Hobart for the weekend. Bring lots of cash and luggage space.
11. Go shopping at the various boutique stores around the city
What I really like about Hobart, is that the shops in the CBD aren’t filled with tacky souvenirs. Rather, you can find quality, artisan goods and works of local artists and makers, easily in the city.
If you’re a shopper, I thoroughly recommend having a poke around Salamanca Place, just for this. The markets will utterly delight you as well.
Do remember – quality does come with a slightly hefty price tag – as it should!
12. Do the Heritage City Walk
If you’re looking for some free things to do in Hobart, then consider this particular tour.
The Heritage City Walk is a self-guided tour that you can take within Hobart, to tour the sights on your own.
You can check out both the map and the podwalk here.
13. Go ghost chasing around town and beyond
A city with Hobart’s sort of history (which is not entirely pleasant at times) has to have a few ghosts knocking about.
If you’re into paranormal activity, want to learn more about the history of the area or are keen to explore Hobart at night, this could be an activity for you.
You can check out options for ghost tours in Hobart and Battery Point here.
14. Walk across the Tasman Bridge
This 1,396 metre long bridge connects Hobart’s CBD to the eastern suburbs.
Built in the early 1960’s, the bridge is rather notorious, suffering a collapse in 1975, when a bulk ore carrier collided with it, killing 12 people.
There is pedestrian access to the bridge and you’re able to walk across it from one end to the other. It’s quite a trek, but the views over the river are spectacular.
15. Take a cruise around the River Derwent
If you’re a fan of boats, at some point you should get yourself onto the River Derwent, on some sort of nautical device.
There are many options for cruises – the ferry to MONA, day trips to places like Port Arthur and Bruny Island via boat.
However, if you’re after something short and sweet, consider taking a cruise to Peppermint Bay, down the south coast of Tasmania, stopping for lunch at the Peppermint Bay Hotel.
Book onto a cruise to Peppermint Bay here
16. Go on a kayak tour of the city
If you fancy combining a city-tour of Hobart with a bit of upper-body exercise, consider jumping on a kayak tour, for a slightly different perspective.
This tour will take you around the ships moored within the harbour and includes an “in-kayak” meal of fish and chips!
The seafood in Hobart is pretty amazing, but we’ll talk about about that later.
Book a kayak tour of Hobart here
17. Grab some fish ‘n chips on the pier
If you’re a fan of fish and chips, you’ll be delighted by the wares on offer in Hobart.
Constitution Dock in particular is home to a range of floating fish and chip shops, notably Flippers Cooked Seafood. You can also find gelato here, if you fancy strolling around with some ice cream.
I quite enjoy Fish Frenzy as well – their fish burger is delish and their chowder looks to be most tasty, too.
18. Explore nearby Richmond
Richmond is located around 20 mins from Hobart and is a popular destination to visit for a few hours or so.
Tasmania has some very interesting small towns and although I can’t claim to have seen them all, Richmond is surely one of the prettiest.
It’s a village teeming with history, containing the oldest school and bridge in Australia. It’s filled with colonial architecture, including Richmond Gaol, which is open for tours.
Richmond is easily drivable from Hobart, but you can jump on a half day tour, which will take you there and back, showing you the most important sights.
Book a tour of Richmond from Hobart here
19. Poke around a model village of Old Hobart Town
This is Australia’s only original historic model village, depicting life in Old Hobart Town (as Hobart was once known) in 1820, in delightful miniature.
There are sixty replica model buildings and hundreds of figurines, of those who called Hobart home during this tumultuous period of Australian history.
It certainly makes for one of the more unique things to do in Hobart – comparing past, with present!
20. Catch a flick at the State Theatre
If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy checking out art deco theatres around the country and the world and seeing what they have to offer.
Hobart’s State Theatre has been running for over 100 years and screens a range of flicks. There are some popular releases in its program, alongside arthouse and indie films. They’re particularly fond of showcasing local talent.
There is too an accompanying bookstore next to the theatre, called the State Bookstore. I know I’m sold.
375 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart
21. See an old, preserved fishing boat in the harbour
There’s quite a bit of history in Hobart’s harbour and if you’re in the area, keep an eye out for The Matilda.
Built in 1886 and on the water until the 1940s, it’s one of the oldest preserved fishing boats of its kind in the world.
Fans of nautical history should look for the Westward, moored alongside the Matilda. It’s the only Tasmanian yacht to have twice won the Sydney to Hobart Yacht race on a handicap, in both 1947 and 1948.
22. Visit the Maritime Museum
These two boats sit right outside Tasmania’s Maritime Museum, which tells an important part of the history of this island state.
Inside you’ll find a collection of ship models, boat building tools and navigational instruments, among much more.
Most interesting are the discoveries from shipwrecks around the Tasmanian islands, demonstrating how treacherous the waters in this part of the world can be.
It feels scary enough crossing the Bass Strait via the Spirit of Tasmania, these days!
Things to do in Hobart: Where to Eat
For breakfast: If you’re around Salamanca Place, head to the Retro Cafe or Machine Laundry Cafe (which doubles up as a laundrette!). Both are popular, so expect a wait on weekends. Battery Point has quite a few nice cafés as well – we ate at the Kombi Café and Smoothie Bar.
For lunch: Any of the above will work for lunch, but if you’re going further afield try Bear With Me and the Macquarie Street Foodstore, which are both in South Hobart. If it’s a Saturday, I thoroughly recommend grabbing some lunch at the Salamanca Market.
For dinner: A perfect opportunity for fish and chips on the harbour! If you’re after a more upscale dining experience, try Frank, which serves up South American cuisine with a waterfront view or Aloft, for local produce in a fine dining setting.
For drinks: There are numerous pubs around Hobart, but for fancy drinks with a view, check out The Glass House on Brooklyn Street Pier.
Things to do in Hobart: Day Trips
Day trip from Hobart to Port Arthur Historic Site
Tasmania during colonial times, was a hard place. European settlement was brutal upon the displaced Indigenous population, who were ravaged by disease and violence.
Life was hard too for the convicts sent to the island, some for pityingly small offences, sometimes never to see their loved ones again.
Port Arthur perfectly encapsulates this essence of Tasmania – it’s a beautiful spot, but there is a sadness that lingers in the air, one only perpetuated by a massacre that took place on the site in 1996, leading to massive gun reforms in Australia.
The site is easily accessible from Hobart, with the drive taking around 1 hour and 30 minutes. There’s too a shuttle bus, which will drive you straight there from the city.
Alternatively, you can book onto a full day tour of Port Arthur, which includes pick-up from your hotel, admission and a harbour cruise.
Buy your entry ticket to Port Arthur here
Day Trip from Hobart to Bruny Island
Bruny Island is a small island located off the south coast of Tasmania, home to the South Bruny National Park.
There’s plenty to do on Bruny, from nature walks and wildlife spotting, to stuffing yourself full of the fresh produce, seafood and wine that Tasmania is becoming more and more renowned for.
It takes just over an hour to reach Bruny Island from Hobart (depending on the ferry timetable), either navigating there yourself or hopping onto a guided tour.
If you want to self-tour the island, you can catch a ferry across from Kettering Ferry Terminal. It takes around 20 mins and a ticket can be purchased on arrival. See the timetable here.
If you’d like to spend more than a day on Bruny Island, you are more than able to stay overnight. Check out accommodation options here.
Book a full day tour of Bruny Island here
Day trip from Hobart to Maria Island
Maria Island is a mountainous island located off Tasmania’s east coast. It’s the state’s only island National Park, making it up there with the best places to visit in Australia.
It’s located around an hour and fifteen minute drive from Hobart, with a ferry departing from Triabunna Wharf. You can check out times and prices here.
If you’re keen on seeing more of Tasmania, Triabunna (where the ferry departs) is located quite close to the start of the Great Eastern Drive, which will take you from the Bay of Fires, along 220kms of gorgeous coastline. This however, is a trip in itself!
Once you’re on the island, there’s plenty to do, to keep you busy. You can visit the town of Darlington and take a walking or cycling tour of the island (be sure to check out the Fossil Cliffs and Painted Cliffs). There are remnants of the Aboriginal tribe who called the island home, alongside structures from convict settlement.
The island too is a wildlife park, giving you the opportunity to see Tasmanian and Australian native animals in the flesh. Seeing Tasmanian marine life is particularly rewarding.
Maria Island can be accessed via a self-guided trip, or an organised day trip. The day trip will provide you with transport to the island, the national park entry, morning tea and a packed lunch.
Book a full day tour of Maria Island here
These are just some of the things to do in Hobart. Have you done the things on this list, or is there anything you’d like to add?
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Please note – all prices listed are in AUD.