Hobart is my new favorite Big-Little-City. As much as I like big cities, they can be overwhelming, and a lot of times I leave feeling like I didn’t see everything I should’ve seen on my visit. Hobart, however, is geographically small with a HUGE personality. It’s the kind of city that will satisfy you without exhausting you, making it the perfect weekend getaway.
With flights from Melbourne to Hobart only being an hour and 15 minutes, you can easily pack a backpack and hop on a budget flight on a Friday after work. The airport is only 15 minutes from the city’s CBD, and you can take a bus for about $20.
Tip: Hobart also has a bus system that can take you to most of the city’s tourist attractions, and the CBD is easy to navigate on foot, but if you don’t want to rely on bus schedules you can grab an inexpensive rental at the airport.
Hobart has a great variety of hotels, bed and breakfasts, hostels, cottages and even campsites to suit any type of traveler. If you don’t rent a car you’ll want to stay in the CBD or Battery Point, where you’ll be a short walk from the harbor and nightlife. We stayed at Tassie Backpacker’s at The Brunswick Hotel on Liverpool Street and were able to walk to nearly everything we wanted to see.
For a small city, Hobart actually offers quite a variety of activities for tourists. There are several museums and historical sites as well as exciting night life and fine dining, but there are two things that absolutely make the city worth a visit. The first is the Salamanca Market, which features dozens of vendors selling everything from wallaby burritos to sheep’s milk vodka (I’m not joking, there are samples), and is one of the liveliest and most interesting street markets I’ve ever been to. It operates every Saturday from 8:30am to 3:00pm all year around and is just a 5 minute walk from the city center. It’s the perfect place to sample all the unique wares Tasmania has to offer, and also get a feel for the kind of laidback people who live there.
Saving the best for last, Hobart has MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art. It’s the only art museum I’ve ever paid to get into, and believe me when I say it was worth every penny. MONA’s not just a museum, it’s an experience. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m not sure if I ever will. For about $30, you can spend an entire day engrossed in the whacky world full of lights, sounds, videos, paintings, sculptures and even a mummy that they’ve curated for visitors. They actually provide guests with an iPhone that you can sync up to the pieces around you and play messages from the artists and curators, and even save your favorites to send to yourself in a list at the end of your visit. They also have excellent, though pricey, food in the café.
I loved Hobart so much, I put together the ultimate sample itinerary that you can do with your friends, partner, or even alone if you’re a solo traveler like me!
Arrive in Hobart Friday evening and get settled into your accommodation in the CBD. Take a cab or bus to North Hobart and have a quick wander while you find the perfect place for dinner. The restaurant strip offers a wide selection of cuisines to suit any budget, and it’s a hub for live music and entertainment.
Throw on your walking shoes and take yourself on a short tour of the CBD on your way to Salamanca market. Grab breakfast at a local café or build up an appetite so you have room to try everything at the market. Once you’ve had your fill and supported plenty of local vendors, continue your sightseeing walk around the harbor, through Hobart’s historic docks, and back through the CBD.
Tip: Get cash out the day before or on your way to the market. The lines at the ATMs on Salamanca Pl. are ridiculous on Saturdays; probably because people spend more than they plan to once they see everything you can find at the market.
Tip: While you’re walking around the harbor and Salamanca Place try to spot the nightclubs and restaurants you might like to visit in the evening. You’ll find everything from pubs with live music to upscale nightclubs with DJs.
Once you’ve worn a couple holes in your soles head back to your hotel and clean up for a night out on the town. Again, one of the best things about Hobart is that the CBD is small enough to walk everywhere, but you can also easily catch a cab back to Salamanca place or one of the other nightclubs or restaurants in the Harbor. When I visited, we started with drinks and live music at the bar downstairs at our hotel, and then walked toward the harbor from Liverpool Street. As long as you have comfortable enough shoes, walking is perfect because you can stop in at every place that looks interesting along the way.
Tip: Hobart’s docks are not only home to an array of vessels and activity, but also where local fishermen go to sell their wares. They’re home to fresh seafood restaurants galore, and the perfect place to go for dinner with a gorgeous view.
Once you’ve recovered from your night out in Hobart, head across the bridge to MONA. You can get there by bus, cab, or driving, but whatever you choose just make sure you give yourself several hours to spend at the museum. It’s open daily from 10am to 5pm and you’ll need at least 4 hours to do it justice. I can’t stress enough how incredible of a place it is to visit. When you’ve had your fill of mind boggling art and delicious food, you can head straight from the museum to the airport and leave knowing you’ve seen the very best of Hobart.
Tip: If you’re really an early riser, you might stop to take a walk through the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens on your way.
Tip: Parking at Mona is free, but very limited. You will spend time looking for a spot, but it’s worth it.
Pro Tip: If walking around the harbor and CBD isn’t enough exercise for you, get up early one morning and do the Organ Pipe Loop at Mt. Wellington just 30 minutes outside the city. It’s a killer hike, but worth it for the amazing views.