Destination Hobart

Our editor's take on Tasmania’s coolest city

  • Elisabeth Knowles

There is a lot to love about Hobart – exceptional food offerings such as Luke Burgess’s ever-popular, seasonally driven shared dishes at Garagistes, excellent produce markets such as Salamanca and Farm Gate, and cultural offerings such as Festival of Voices, held each July. Then there’s the history, with areas such as Battery Point offering self-guided walking tours to take in its gorgeous Georgian architecture.

More outdoorsy types might prefer hiking Myrtle Forest or mountain biking down Mount Wellington, but what invariably gets me booking a holiday back to Hobart is a new exhibition, festival or event at the Museum of Old and New Art. MONA hosts enough events throughout the year to pull anyone back – MOFO, a Festival of Music and Art in January; MoMa, a food market held throughout summer; and DARK MOFO, a food-and-arts-based winter festival.

Even the most fuddy-duddy traveller must by now see no point in pooh-poohing the tourism benefits of a gallery that boasts themes of sex and death as its raison d’être – they just couldn’t argue with statistics. Within six months of MONA opening in 2011 it became Hobart’s second-most-popular attraction after Salamanca Market – a ranking that still holds today. And according to a Tasmanian Visitor Survey released by Tourism Tasmania, in the year ending June 2014, over a quarter of the one million visitors to the state indicated that they had visited MONA – up 10 per cent year on year. In fact, 15 per cent of those visitors indicated that they had come to Tasmania specifically to visit MONA – that’s 37,500 people who, in one year, crossed Bass Strait to roam through a subterranean art gallery.

Even the most fuddy-duddy traveller must by now see no point in pooh-poohing the tourism benefits of a gallery that boasts themes of sex and death as its raison d’être

So why is it so popular? The art, of course, but there’s also its incredible food and drink offerings. How many galleries can boast their own brewery (Moobrew) and winery (Moorilla Estate)? You can sample MONA’s beer and wine products at any of three outlets: The Source, a high-end, French-inspired restaurant high above the gallery with views across the Derwent River; The Wine Bar, which has shared tables, oysters, charcuterie and antipasto; and the Café, which does a mean coffee and snacks.

MONA provides a nice place to spend an entire day, and is complete with chill-out pyramids and giant beanbags on a sunny lawn (the sun comes out more often than you might think) – or an entire weekend if you don’t mind forking out a minimum of $700 per night to stay in one of the gallery’s onsite Pavilions.

And what of the art? As said earlier, it is mostly all sex and death, with a bit of scatology thrown in for fun, and moves jarringly from ancient to contemporary art.

Once in Hobart, the charm of the city takes hold. Of course, there’s much more to do and see than just MONA, but the gallery has no doubt helped change travellers’ perception of the city.

Once in Hobart, the charm of the city takes hold

So, those other places and activities? Things like the Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum opposite Constitution Dock. Like Cascade Brewery. Like Salamanca Arts Centre. Like a historic pub crawl, taking in the built-by-convicts Brunswick Hotel, the Shipwrights Arms and the Hope & Anchor, reputedly Australia’s longest-running pub. Like using Hobart as a starting point for trips to Bruny Island, Port Arthur or Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Like sampling Tassie produce in markets, cafés and restaurants. Like taking a cruise down the Derwent – or the ferry back to MONA.

Eat here: 3 Hobart restaurants to try

Garagistes: As alluded to in the first paragraph of this story, if you go to Hobart without visiting Garagistes (103 Murray St; garagistes.com.au), you’re missing out. It’s big on local produce. Try the five-course set menu matched with artisanal sake.

Frank: Frank restaurant and bar – a great restaurant with bright, playful décor – such a relief if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the amount of restaurants that seem to take themselves too seriously these days. The menu is Latin-American influenced – i.e. charcoal-grilled steaks, empanadas and cornbread – and it’s right on the waterfront (1 Franklin Wharf; frankrestaurant.com.au).

Franklin: Newly opened inside the refurbished art-deco Mercury newspaper building (28 Argyle St; franklinhobart.com.au), this Italian-ish eatery juxtaposes an urban feel – open kitchen, concrete floors – with a menu seemingly inspired by peasant food, such as pigeon, sweetbreads and sea urchin. We don’t know what it is about naming restaurants as if they were humans but Betsey, the café in the same building, is a great place to drop by for breakfast. Don’t be afraid to share a table – there is only the one in here. Grab a Single Origin coffee and perfectly poached eggs.