With all the drama, shows, film and fireworks of Mona Foma and its associated festivals taking over Hobart every six months, you’d be forgiven for forgetting there’s a healthy fabric of further attractions dotted around the city. When not browsing the catacombs of Mona or running around town looking for the after-party, here’s our guide on where to stay and what to eat, drink and do while you’re in town this January.
By day (and, let’s face it, a lot of the night), you’ll be indulging in the non-stop art party that is Mona Foma. So you’ll need somewhere comfortable to sleep. If you just want a bed to crash in, we recommend Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse, an affordable boutique hostel close to the action in historic Battery Point.
Macq 01 is a new four-and-a-half-star hotel on Hobart’s waterfront that eschews your standard fit-out for unique individual designs – each of the 114 distinct rooms reflects and tells the story of an icon from Tasmania’s history. Being on the lip of the harbor, there’s also stunning views included.
Up the hill and out of the city, such as it is, The Islington Hotel is an elegant old Regency house converted into a homey getaway. Come for the huge rooms, tranquil gardens and a seasonal, organic kitchen – stay for the views of the mountain.
Hobart dining punches well above its weight. The best in town is Franklin. It’s also one of the best in Australia (number six, in fact, according to the Financial Review). Don’t leave the island without trying the abalone – it’s a Tassie specialty.
Don’t confuse the above with Frank, a far more laid-back affair, and a great spot for South American-inspired food, cocktails and a view over the waterfront.
Templo is a tiny, acclaimed 18-seater serving Italian-inspired food. The small, ever-changing menu (though the gnochetti is a sure bet) is accompanied by an equally small but perfectly targeted wine list. It’s open for lunch and dinner, and it doesn’t cost a packet.
Etties calls itself a bar and bottle shop, which is an understated way to describe this excellent establishment. Out front it’s a wine shop of distinction (have a glass or take away a bottle). Out back, it’s a European bistro with some of Hobart’s best in the kitchen. It’s open on weekends for live music, cocktails and wines until 1am.
It’s not hard to find good coffee in Hobart, and it’d be too hard to pick just one favourite. Yellow Bernard is a tiny shopfront in the CBD, brewing beans from Melbourne’s Gridlock Coffee. Within a few blocks, there’s also Ecru, Villino, Pilgrim and the straight-up vegan Straight Up.
Preachers is a staple for afternoon beers. Just up the hill from the waterfront, this converted colonial house has one of the best beer gardens in town, with an old bus providing much-needed afternoon shade.
Low-key doesn’t have to mean low quality. North Hobart’s chilled wine bar Willing Bros. Wine Merchants has a solid cellar selection and an unfussy food menu that includes charcuterie and cheese.
While you’re in town to see Godspeed You! Black Emperor and other assorted imports, make sure you delve into the town’s own thriving band scene. The Brisbane Hotel offers an eclectic line-up of local and touring acts. On a weekend you’ll find metal bands playing the back bar and rock‘n’roll out the front, plus cheap beer and sticky floors in both. There’s also a sharehouse-style rooftop balcony out the back for lukewarm evenings.
There’s the big, world-famous art gallery somewhere out in the northern suburbs, of course. But Hobart has a great stable of smaller galleries, too. Check out intimate but interesting spaces such as Visual Bulk, Private Projects and the Moonah Arts Centre.
Hobart has a real market culture. Our favourites are the Farm Gate Market, a weekly hub of seasonal produce held every Sunday; the more tourist-y but still essential Salamanca Market; and Mona’s own summer market destination, MoMa Market. All have excellent food and hidden gems.
When the markets close, the town’s disproportionately good bookshops kick on. We love Fullers Bookshop and the Hobart Bookshop, both of which run author events. Then there’s the newly opened and thoughtfully curated spot Poet for philosophy and tea, and Cracked and Spineless, a rabbit warren of cult and hard-to-find literature.
If you want to get away from the Mofo madness, get out of town. In half an hour you could be at the top of Kunanyi (aka Mount Wellington) taking in cool air, the scent of eucalyptus and unparalleled views over Hobart. For a bit of Tasmanian wilderness, go in the direction of Mount Field National Park and head for Russell Falls. For something closer, try Richmond, a tiny Georgian village with a bakery, a tearoom and a handful of antique shops. Quaint, and very, very Tasmanian.
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