Cradled between the spectacular Mount Wellington and the crystalline waters of the Derwent River, the sleepy city of Hobart is quite simply made for weekends away. No need to rush around town visiting the sights here. It’s more about taking it easy – a lazy cafe breakfast, a stroll around the markets, fish ‘n’ chips by the water and a beer at the pub. One spectacle you won’t want to miss though is the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), which opened earlier this year and has attracted plenty of attention since.
So grab yourself an early flight from Melbourne and you’ll be there in under an hour, just in time for breakfast.
There’s no better way to kick off a weekend away than over a long breakfast and Hobart has no shortage of places on offer.
Our choice is Jackman & McRoss, a pleasant stroll up the hill past Salamanca Place. Reminiscent of a French patisserie, this place is a Hobart institution and sits amid Tudor homes and sandstone cottages in the quaint Battery Point. With the snow-capped Mount Wellington as backdrop, it all feels more Swiss Alps than Hobart city. The menu serves up gourmet pies, indulgent breakfasts, fine breads and an array of sweet treats. The star of the menu is the slow-cooked lamb shank pie, complete with shank intact, poking out of the pastry. Epicureans will want to try the glazed blood-red strawberry and pistachio tarts or a huge spongy lamington. Grab yourself a loaf of olive and rosemary or pine and walnut sourdough for that afternoon picnic. Another top spot to try is Pigeon Hole Cafe for the freshly baked panini and great coffee.
Held at Salamanca Place every Saturday, the open-air Salamanca Markets attracts locals, artisans, fishermen and tourists alike. Grab a snack of sautéed spinach and mushroom crepes, a steaming coffee and peruse the stalls lined up selling everything from fresh produce, local cheeses and tempting organic wines to handmade arts and crafts as well as second-hand clothing. Once you’ve stocked up on goods you probably deserve a stop off at Knopwoods Retreat for a Cascade in front of the open fire.
A magnet for fans of contemporary art and weekenders alike, the recently opened MONA is Australia’s largest private museum, housing the $150 million collection of its eccentric owner David Walsh. He has been described as anything from a multi-millionaire professional gambler to a rabid atheist obsessed with sex and death, and you might suggest this is reflected in the world-class collection. Notable works include a skull made from beetles, remains of a suicide bomber sculpted from dark chocolate, a wall lined with sculptures of female genitalia and an interactive lethal injection machine. But it’s not all novelty and controversy here. Thanks to the calibre of artists, architecture, location and Walsh’s inimitable approach to it all, MONA makes for a unique, world-class museum experience.
Board the MONA ferry (complete with bar) at the Brooke Street Wharf for the picturesque 30-minute ride down the Derwent. Once inside, the sandstone walls and dim lighting project an eerie feeling, akin to trespassing in Dr Evil’s lair. There are no plaques or labels on the walls, instead you get the free ‘O’ iPhone which you click as you go and it will update your location and provide info on nearby artworks. Allow yourself most of the day to take it all in and finish it off with a drop at the Wine Bar or a decadent dinner at Source Restaurant onsite.
Filling your belly at one of the fine restaurants around the city is a great way to keep warm once the southern night chill sets in. The star of the scene is Garagistes with its seasonal menu, which respects the land and sea by using locally grown and foraged ingredients served up in an industrial warehouse interior. Expect communal tables, Scandinavian bar stools, industrial lightshades, exposed beams and rustic ceramic dinnerware that is almost as good as the food. The no booking policy plus the ‘hottest restaurant in town’ reputation can translate to some lengthy queues, so try dining on a Sunday when you can book for the four-course lunch at $75 per person. Check the website for the ever-changing menu.
It’s best to base yourself close to the waterfront so you can just roll out the hotel door and find yourself at the main attractions within a five-minute stroll. Hotel Collins is great choice and one of the newer options in Hobart with a fresh, bright lobby cafe and modern contemporary decor. Nab a room up high for the mountain views. Other good choices to rest your head are Hotel Lenna, where you can splash out on a room in the accommodation wing next to the National Trust mansion, while art lovers will want to book a room at the Henry Jones Art Hotel, Australia’s first dedicated art hotel boasting deluxe spa rooms and harbour views.
Jackman & Ross, 57–59 Hampden Road, Battery Point
(03) 6223 3186
Mon to Fri 7.30am–6pm
Sat to Sun 7.30am–5pm
Pigeon Hole Cafe, 93 Goulburn Street, West Hobart
(03) 6236 9306
Tues to Sat 8am–4.30pm
Hotel Lenna, cnr Runnymede Street & Salamanca Place, Battery Point
(03) 6232 3900