A Local’s Guide to Hobart: Platypus Watching, Spontaneous Nights Out and Popular Energy | tasmanian holidays

Food

It used to be hit or miss even trying to get a good coffee in Hobart, but there’s a lively and interesting cafe culture these days. Bury Me Standing makes the most delicious bagels. La Laundromat a máquina in Salamanca is also a favorite: it is a combination of laundromat and cafeteria so you can enjoy one of their excellent muffins while you do your laundry.

Kinoko Deli is perfect for a quick and affordable lunch – they make Japanese bento boxes with lots of fresh salad options. (It’s a couple of doors down from Cracked and Spineless, so make time for a post-lunch browse at Hobart’s best bookstore.)

It’s hard to miss the great selection of ice cream flavors at Mures on the waterfront, but if you’re looking for something a little fancier, head to the Glass House for delicious small plates and river views.

On Sundays, the Farm Gate Market is the place to be. I love the seasonal organic vegetables from the Hmong community and the street musicians. One week you might see a contortionist (Samora Squid puts on a great show) and the next a five-piece jazz funk ensemble on the steps of the historic Playhouse Theatre.

The Farm Gate Market on Hobart's Bathurst Street is open every Sunday from 8:30am to 1pm
The Farm Gate Market on Hobart’s Bathurst Street runs every Sunday from 8:30am to 1:00pm Photograph: David Steele/Alamy

Inspiration

There are many exciting pockets of grassroots energy in Hobart’s cultural scene: some of the most attractive work takes place outside of the best-known institutions.

For the visual arts, check out events and exhibitions put on by artist-led initiatives like Constance ARI and GoodGrief. Contemporary Art Tasmania is also a great place to see a cross section of local artists.

There are also some interesting events in terms of movies. Rewind Cinema at Kickstart Arts in New Town is a celebration of films from the ’80s and ’90s, and while they may not have the most advanced projection equipment, it’s a genuine, passionate and welcoming cinephile space. The Simple Complex in North Hobart is a newer venue, with events including a monthly work-in-progress night for filmmakers. Wide Angle Tasmania is also great for local screenings and filmmaker talks.

Neighborhood

One of my favorite areas stretches from the western edge of the CBD to the west and south of Hobart, where there is a concentration of interesting places to explore. If there are children in your life, Lyrebird is a charming Steiner-inspired toy store. Eumarrah is a whole foods store that offers amazing raw foods – carrot cake is a favorite.

Hamlet is also a cool cafe that runs on a social business model. From there you can walk along the creek towards South Hobart. Even if you’re not lucky enough to see the resident platypus, there’s some cool public art to interact with, and the track leads you to the Female Factory Historic Site. I would especially recommend a tour called The Proud and the Punished, a one-woman performance by Karissa Lane-Irons, which provides powerful insight into the tragic lives of convicted women in the colony.

Once you get to South Hobart, there are a bunch of decent shops where you can hunt for a bargain, before grabbing a coffee at Ginger Brown or Bear With Me.

Green space

Hobart is surrounded by green spaces.

Mount Nelson and Knocklofty Reserve are worth exploring. Even at The Domain you feel further from the city than you really are, but honestly, you can’t beat a little drive up to kunanyi/Mount Wellington.

You can't beat a little drive up to kunanyi/Mount Wellington.
You can’t beat a little drive up to kunanyi/Mount Wellington. Photo: Paparwin Tanupatarachai/Getty Images

If you are not a heavy walker, which I am not, you can drive to The Springs. If you look around, you can see the foundations of the Springs Hotel, which burned down in the wildfires of 1967. Grab a coffee from the pop-up shipping container Lost Freight Cafe, and then take one of the shorter trails from there. Fern Tree Park near the Fern Tree Tavern (another local favourite, where you’re likely to find live music and discussion events) is another major access point to Wellington Park and a useful place to start your walk.

For more experienced hikers there are longer and more challenging trails – to the top, under the organ pipes and into the disappearing Tarn. It’s amazing to have such a spectacular mountain so close to town with great hiking, forests, views, and wildlife, but don’t underestimate it, especially in winter. You can definitely get lost and the weather can change quickly.

A Hobart cityscape at night.
The Hobart locals’ habit of not booking in advance makes for an impromptu night out easy for visitors. Photograph: Andrew Merry/Getty Images

Night life

Tasmanians are notorious for not booking events in advance, which is very stressful if you’re a venue owner, but great if you’re a visitor and want to turn up and see what’s on.

If I had a spontaneous night out, I’d check the online listings for the Grand Poobah, the Hanging Garden, and maybe the Peacock Theatre. Pablo’s Cocktails is also a small atmospheric bar that often features live music.

Otherwise, there are plenty of places to have a quiet drink. I recommend the gin tasting float at Society Salamanca if you want to try some unique Tasmanian gins, made from native ingredients. Nearby is Preachers which is a classic hangout – they have an old bus in the beer garden which is a great place to relax and chat with strangers.

To stay

The art-filled Hotel Alabama (rooms from $100) is an absolute gem. Centrally located, with a quirky but relaxed atmosphere. They offer boutique and budget rooms with shared but immaculately clean bathrooms. There’s a cozy guest lounge inside for cooler days – a common sight in Hobart – and a plant-filled terrace bar that’s perfect for happy hour drinks.

Briony Kidd is a film and theater director, event producer, and creativity coach.

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