24 Hours In Hobart: A First Timer’s Guide
Australia’s southernmost capital is full of excellent things to see, eat and drink, especially when there’s a festival in town.
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The first thing you notice about Hobart is that it’s beautiful. Before you’ve even pulled out of airport parking lot, the natural wonder that makes Tasmania one of the country’s most popular destinations is on full display – think wide open green spaces, blue skies, mountain peaks and trees. Lots of trees. It’s the sort of landscape that convinces you to immediately ditch your mouldy Sydney apartment and relocate to a cabin in the woods with an open fire and a hot mug of tea.
But if you’re making your first visit to Tasmania, holing up inside is the last thing you should do – Australia’s southernmost capital is full of excellent things to see, eat and drink, especially when there’s a festival in town. Here’s the AWOL guide to popping your Hobart cherry.
Don’t Get FOMO for Dark Mofo
If you’re making the pilgrimage to Van Diemen’s land, you might as well do it when one of the country’s best festivals is on.
Every winter, Dark Mofo takes over Hobart for two weeks of art, music, performance and the utterly unexplainable. Some of what’s on the program is family friendly, like the beloved Winter Feast, which brings together dozens of Australia’s best food vendors for the most gothic-looking picnic you’ll ever have.
Also on offer are weird and wonderful events like Welcome Stranger, which take you on a Lynchian odyssey through multiple venues. Poke around and you’ll find everything from half-naked women performing healing rituals with salt crystals, to tripped-out karaoke booths and rooms in which punters are instructed to lie down while heavy vibrations are sent through the floor.
Then there’s music from big-time bands like Mogwai, Xiu Xiu doing the Twin Peaks score and all-night raves scored by legendary selectors like DJ Harvey. And did we mention the Winter Solstice Nude Swim, in which a pack of very brave souls swim naked in the River Derwent smack bang in the middle of winter? (Everything once. Everything once.)
Keep an open mind and you could find yourself answering the phone at 11pm and agreeing to participate in Nat Randall’s 24-hour play The Second Woman at 6am the next morning, or getting faux-kidnapped and taken to a secret party. Dark Mofo is weird, wonderful and one of the best things you’ll ever do.
Whatever you do, go to MONA
MONA is to Hobart what Gaudi is to Barcelona – its influence on the city is omnipresent. The Museum of Old and New Art is (surprise!) an art museum, but not as you know it.
Instead of stuffy, high-brow displays, MONA is all about the subversive. Permanent exhibitions include The Great Wall Of Vagina, which collects of 40 different casts of real life genitalia, and the Cloaca poo machine, an apparatus that is fed food from the cafe upstairs (when I was there, it got a nice looking veggie quiche) and produces real poop, mimicking the human digestive system. Heads up: the room kinda stinks.
But it’s not all NSFW – a mesmerising special exhibition hosted during MONA called The Museum Of Everything displayed art made by “ordinary people”: bereaved partners, the devout, the hospitalised, prisoners and all those who fall outside the confines of the art world proper.
And getting there is half the fun. You could drive, but most opt to get the dedicated MONA ferry, which offers comfy seats, stunning scenery, an onboard cafe and makes Sydney’s public transport pale in comparison. Pro tip: upgrade your ride to the ‘Posh Pit’ and enjoy free champagne and nibbles on the ride.
Arrived after a big night of Dark Mofo-ing? MONA also offers an excellent Bloody Mary.
There’s a lot to eat in Hobart, so those around for just a weekend will want to plan carefully.
If you’re in the mood for something a little fancy come dinner time, Franklin is the place to go — chef Dave Moyle and team serve up first-rate fare in a converted showroom on Argyle Street from Tuesday ‘til Saturday. If you haven’t booked ahead, try your luck getting a seat at the bar, where you’ll be afforded a front row view of the exposed kitchen. There’s a reason it just got voted the sixth best restaurant in Australia. (Can’t get in? Other restaurants of note include Fico, Die Makr and Templo.)
For late night drinks, move onto Hobart’s favourite bars, Willing Brothers. They won’t put Lorde’s new album on the speakers for you no matter how nicely you ask, but they do serve the best soft cheese I’ve ever eaten. And a real nice Pinot.
Want to really do Hobart justice? Upgrade your short break to a full week and fit more in. Head to the Cascade Brewery to see how beer is made — the 90-minute tours of Australia’s oldest brewery include tastings. Then work it off with a hike or bike ride around Mount Wellington for Hobart’s most stunning views (not-so-outdoorsy types can drive straight to the top).
If you happen to be in town on one of the alternate weeks that the Hobart Twilight Market operates, hit the Macquarie Point waterfront for eats, drinks, shopping and music. The Salamanca Markets, open-air and on every Saturday, are also worth a visit for artisan wares from local artists, food and more.
Want more tips? Check out our Localist guide to Hobart:
Lead image: Dark Mofo/Lusy Productions