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Hobart in the spotlight: what makes the harbour city so great

February 1, 2013 - Jo Lane

Hobart is another city on the make. It’s also the second city in this series featuring the Lonely Planet’s top 10 cities of 2013.

I’m happy to note I visited Hobart in 2012 and ran three posts last year that featured the harbour city:
In pictures: Tasmania unplugged
In pictures: Old Hobart town
In pictures: Salamanca markets, Hobart

Hobart also made Trip Advisor’s 2012 list of “10 destinations on the rise“. First here’s what Lonely Planet had to say:

Hobart

Harbour town becomes hip

Best for: Events, culture, food

Fishing fleet and their lobster pots moored in Victoria Docks, Hobart. Copyright Lonely Planet Images.

The sleepy harbour town reputation attracts a solid ‘outdoorsy’ set, but the recent arrival of the world-class MONA museum has the waters rippling, hip tourists flocking and Hobart rousing from its slumber. 2013 will see the new kid on the block team up with the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) for the Theatre of the World exhibition curated by Jean-Hubert Martin, former director of the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. This year will also prove exciting for Hobart’s already burgeoning gastronomic scene as the city’s culinary credentials continue to rise.

From TripAdvisor:

Perched on Australia’s southeastern coast, the lively city of Hobart is a unique mash-up of the 19th and 21st centuries. The waterfront cafes, restaurants and studios of Tasmania’s largest city are housed in centuries-old converted warehouses that overlook a harbor bustling with yachts and fishing boats. An active arts scene, vibrant nightlife and leisurely daytime pace add to the city’s charm.

Unlike Darwin that has seen a lot of urban renewal (on the Lonely Planet 2012 top cities list), or even Hyderabad where monuments are being fixed up (Lonely Planet’s 2013 top cities list), Hobart is pretty much just what it always has been. So why has it it suddenly being discovered?

Perhaps the outstanding, albeit controversial, MONA, a new world class museum, has helped put it on the map? Whatever it is, little has changed in Hobart from what I can see, but for some reason the rest of the world is waking up to this gem of a city. And it is a gem, offering a lot to visitors. Here are some highlights.

Markets

The Saturday morning Salamanca Market is on most visitor’s itinerary to Hobart and it should be. With the wonderful array of Tasmanian fresh fruit (often piles of luscious berries and apples), succulent and enormous vegetables and specialty food from ciders to cheeses and chocolate it’s a real connoisseur’s market. It’s also a place you get to meet the people that grow or make their own produce. There are also buskers, tourists and locals, an array of arts and crafts. Get some local seed to grow in your own garden, eat your fill of waffles, enjoy the local music, grab a cup of coffee or buy some local jewellery or woodwork.

Salamanca markets. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

The history

Salamanca Place is not only a fantastic backdrop for the weekly markets, but it exudes much of the history of the harbour area as well. With Georgian sandstone warehouses fitting in beautifully by moored fishing boats it’s a really picturesque setting as well. Hunter Street, in the Old Wharf area, is another place worth a wander. In the 1860s the IXL jam manufacturer was based here, but the old buildings have now been turned into a hotel, entertainment and shopping complex. While you’re here it’s well worth a wander around the harbour front, and into the evening one of the best places to eat are from the various fish and chip shops in the area, some of which float in boats in the harbour. Another quaint part of Hobart is Battery Point, with houses constructed in the 1830s out of huge sandstone blocks. Today many of these have been converted to bed and breakfasts, hotels and coffee shops.

The IXL factory. Pic: Joanne Lane, www.visitedplanet.com

Museums

The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has become one of the premier attractions in Hobart since it opened in 2011. It contains varies antiquities, modern and contemporary art from David Walsh collection which contains works by Sidney Nolan, Stephen Shanabrook and Chris Ofili. Walsh has called the museum a “subversive adult Disneyland”. There’s plenty here to get tongues wagging – go see for yourself. But that’s not the only museum in Hobart, there’s also a military, cricket, maritime and heritage museum.

Active pursuits

Mt Wellington rises some 1271m above Hobart and is 20km from the city. It’s a popular place to run, walk or even cycle and regular mountain bike tours make the long descent from the top back to Hobart. It’s an excellent place to escape the heat on a hot day also. There’s also an Inter-City Cyclewaythat is good for bikers and pedestrians. It traverses 16 km between the waterfront at Sullivans Cove to Box Hill Road in Claremont.

Day trips

Those with limited time will also find Hobart an excellent base for exploring the area. It’s possible to get to the famed convict prison of Port Arthur and back in a day. Other day trippers head to beautiful Bruny Island, explore the Derwent River Valley or head to the Huon Forest and the famed Tahune Forest Airwalk.

Assessment

Did Lonely Planet get it right? Absolutely! 10/10

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