Nestled in the vineyard-etched foothills of Kunanyi (Mt. Wellington) and adjacent to the lush farmland of the Huon and Derwent Valleys, it seems only natural that a capital city like Hobart—despite a former reputation as a town that culture forgot—would be at the forefront of the slow food and sustainability movement in Australia.
The city's young, artistic and compassionate community of outdoor enthusiasts is made evident by the proliferation of outdoor outfitters, bicycle and surf shops, and yoga studios sprinkled throughout the city center. Hobart has also housed the awesome nonprofit, non-political Sustainable Living Tasmania on Murray Street for over 40 years.
With an ideal location for exploring historic Port Arthur or dramatic Bruny Island, a thriving culinary scene with a close farmer/chef collaboration, and the world-class Museum of New and Old Art (MONA) a pretty ferry ride up the Derwent River, Hobart is a perfect spot for both the outdoor adventurer and the discerning food and wine lover.
Here's a game plan for your weekend in Hobart as you begin exploring the magical heart-shaped island of Tasmania, recently named fourth best island in the world by Travel and Leisure.
Drive 15 minutes out of downtown to Hobart's serene Eastern Shore and check into your charming suite at Otago Cottage and Bungalow overlooking the calm, blue waters of Otago Bay and directly opposite MONA. Owners Tim and Karen Smith have been running this bed and breakfast for 25 years, and despite their commitment to old-fashioned hospitality (Karen still greets guests with a home-baked quiche, ready for them to pop in the oven at their leisure) they also know how to adjust to changing times.
Their two cottages (available to rent as one unit for larger groups) recently got an eco-friendly overhaul with the installation of ultra-efficient, new plumbing and fixtures. They also save all their wastewater and organic scraps for use in their garden, and recycle and repurpose wherever possible. The eggs in your breakfast (as well as all their produce) are straight from a neighboring farm too.
Striking views of the sapphire bay and rolling green hillsides greet you as you settle into your cozy cottage; open the French doors to your veranda and pause to enjoy the tranquility. After a wander around the grounds at Otago Cottage and maybe a reviving soak in your immense bathtub, make the short drive back downtown.
Take a wander up Elizabeth Street, lined with artisan shops, art galleries, music stores, and small, multicultural restaurants before heading down to Sullivans Cove, where the fishing boats bring back their hauls of tuna and crayfish.
When you've worked up an appetite, make your way to Ethos back at 100 Elizabeth Street for chef Iain Todd's innovative six-course tasting menu. The menu changes daily, based on what is fresh and available, so you will simply be asked about your preferences and the food will be presented to you in a succession of delights, paired with local wines if you choose. Owner Chris Todd (Iain's father) is sometimes around for a chat, proud to share how the chefs cure their own local meats and make their own yogurts, as well as the history of the building.
The entryway is 193 years old and the colorful chandeliers are made from repurposed bottles from the 1920s from the previous occupant, Ash Chemist and Druggist. If you still have energy after your decadent meal, head to "Knoppies," Knopwoods Retreat, at 39 Salamanca Place for a nightcap and interesting people watching. Friday nights there are popular with locals and visitors alike.
After sleeping in a bit, lulled by your warm bed and comforting surroundings, allow the bright blue sky to beckon you outdoors for a gorgeous summer weekend in Hobart. Begin your day at Pigeon Hole Cafe, at the intersection of Molle and Goulburn.
For breakfast, enjoy the croque monsieur — free range ham, raclette, herbs, and dill seed vinaigrette or soft baked eggs with homemade stone-ground toast, lemon, herbs, and taleggio cheese. The cafe is affiliated with nearby Weston Farm, where the motto is "the harvest of our food is our relationship with you."
The corn cobs suspended from the ceiling in the eatery's entryway are grown at Weston, ground with the farm's own corn mill, and made into polenta for the ever-changing seasonal menu. All organic waste from the restaurant returns to the farm for composting and to feed Rosie and Lola, the resident pigs, creating a 100 percent closed waste system.
After breakfast, stop by the farmers market at Salamanca Place, which has been held every Saturday for over 30 years. From 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. over 300 stalls are set up of fresh local produce, handmade crafts, and prepared delicacies.
Try not to lose track of time as you've booked an 11 a.m. cruise (departs daily from Adventure Bay) to beautiful Bruny Island with Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, winner of multiple awards of "Excellence in Sustainable Tourism" from Tasmanian Tourism Awards, as well as National Geographic "Travelers of the Year."
In 2011 the owner of the company, Robert Pennicott, circumnavigated Australia in a 5.3-meter inflatable dinghy raising $300,000 towards conservation. Grab lunch on board as you take in the awe-inspiring views of some of the tallest sea cliffs in the country, along with fascinating wildlife like migrating whales, dolphins, seals, and waterfowl.
Once back ashore, take a short drive over to the award-winning Coal Valley Vineyard to taste some of the exceptional pinot noirs and sauvignon blancs of the region, with a climate closer to that of France and Germany than of mainland Australia. Coal Valley Barilla Bay Pinot Noir is a standout.
It's been a long day so you decide to combine nightlife and dinner at the Brunswick Hotel, host of live music most nights (local singer/songwriter Dan Vandermeer this Saturday evening) and featuring a wide variety of humanely-sourced and vegetarian options. Start with the roast pumpkin, feta, and spinach salad with pine nuts and continue with their specialty, a "parmy," or baked schnitzel. A spicy veggie version with roast jalapenos, chili oil, and fresh mozzarella is a winning combination.
Head home to cuddle on your patio and stargaze under the crystal clear Southern hemisphere constellations before drifting off.
Start your day with breakfast at home with the free-range local eggs, fresh bread, and coffee Karen and Tim have thoughtfully provided at Otago. Then head out for a walk to pretty Risdon Brook Dam, just a five minute drive from Otago Cottage.
Pick up some fresh cherries and apricots at the Sunday Farm Gate Market (on Bathurst Street in Hobart from 8:30 am to 1 pm). Then park at Waterman's Dock to catch a ferry to the famous Museum of Old and New Art, or MONA, as it is popularly known.
Spend the early afternoon wandering amongst the eclectic collection of paintings and sculptures housed at MONA before heading back to town for a quick stop at Brook St. Pier at Franklin Wharf, boasting a lovely view of the fishing boats and yachts in Sullivans Cove and tasting booths for local products. Our favorite: the sumptuous White Pearl (creamy Persian style feta) and Primavera (a savory manchego) of Grandvewe, a Birch’s Bay cheesery and distillery. It’s Australia's only organic sheep cheesery.
Have a late lunch of flavorful laksa noodle soup and a pot of "Inner Calmness" tea at Heartfood Vegetarian Tea House at 66 Liverpool Street to wrap up the weekend with zen clarity and sooth your soul into a smooth transition to mainland time.
Ins and Outs
Hobart is an easy 2-hour flight from Sydney (just over one hour from Melbourne) or for the more intrepid and non-time-constrained adventurer a 9-hour boat ride from Melbourne aboard the Spirit of Tasmania. Packing layers and good hiking shoes are essential as even in summer the weather can change without warning and the island is rife with unspoilt wilderness trails.
Julia Reynolds is a travel writer, adventure enthusiast, and serial nomad living (mostly) in the Hawaiian islands. She is currently on a one-year trip around the world, avoiding air travel when possible and traveling slowly over land and sea. Some of her best travel experiences to date have been kayaking the Napali Coast of Kaua'i, diving the isolated atolls of Belize, and rock climbing in the Krabi region of Thailand. Her worst travel experiences have been getting robbed in Guatemala, breaking her back in Thailand, and breaking multiple bones in a mountain bike accident in Alaska. She still loves the places where the worst experiences occurred.