A May 2002 trip
to Hobart by Ozzy-Dave
Quote: The Great Southern Land has a Great Southern Island. Tasmania is Australia’s island state, as geographically diverse and unspoilt as any settled land. Just 500,000 people share a space the size of Ireland, so there’s plenty of room to explore. We discover head-turning heritage and atmosphere in the nation’s capital.
This culture-packed, progressive metropolis of 200,000 tempts travellers with its friendly atmosphere and smorgasbord of accessible attractions. Then, when you feel like exploring, there’s impressive walking in the nearby mountains and, of course, its most famous export – chocolate:
1. That’s No Ordinary Market; shop ‘til you drop and be inspired by showcases of unique art and craft in the world-class cultural, market and gallery precinct of Salamanca.
2. Colour Your Life; Hobart’s botanical gardens are an education and delight to explore in any season.
3. The Dark Master; join the parade of faithful on a pilgrimage to the land of the cocoa bean.
4. The Pipes Are Calling; look over the whole island from Mount Wellington’s 4000-foot summit before indulging in a walk to the world’s biggest organ for more incredible views.
5. Treasure Hunt; discover the history, personality and colour of Australia’s second oldest city on your own walking tour.
This is Chapter Five in a series dedicated to exploring this unique island. It follows the Way Down South journal and can be read in isolation or as a continuing story. The regional map provided here illustrates the area visited by this journal and each destination covered by the entries is identified in BLUE.
Enjoy the virtual tour …
HOW TO GET THERE: Fly to Hobart from any Australian capital or catch the overnight ferry from Melbourne to Devonport, an hour northwest of Launceston. It’s then a comfortable, three-hour drive south to Hobart along Highway One.
ACCOMMODATION: Bed & Breakfast or self catering accommodation offers the best value – usually less than A for a comfortable double. Hotels (pubs), some of heritage significance, are similarly priced, then there are grand, historic houses and modern hotel/motels for A-200. Bookings are rarely needed and prices are often negotiable for extended stays.
Many of Hobart’s accommodation properties occupy splendid seaside locations – at prices much lower than their mainland counterparts. It’s a good place to indulge in a little luxury.
Car hire rates are low, starting at around A a day for a new, mid-range four cylinder vehicle, including all insurances and taxes. Good maps are provided and Tasmanian roads are well signposted. Petrol costs around A a litre. The good news is that traffic is light so driving on the "wrong side of the road" won’t be stressful.
Some regions of Tasmania are quite compact and visitors sometimes hire (or buy) a bicycle. Aside from the steep terrain around Mount Wellington much of Hobart’s surrounds are easily accessible by bike.
TIP: Tasmania’s car hire industry is very competitive. Regular specials are offered, especially outside peak season. Don’t be tempted by companies offering older vehicles at reduced rates – these cars are often unreliable and new-car rates cost little more.
Hotel | "Corus Hotel"
Relaxing on the deck of our Port Arthur cottage, waiting for the moonrise, a full-page advertisement for Hobart’s Corus Hotel had me curious. Good location, refurbished 4½-star property, room upgrade, complimentary wine and restaurant meal for A$98 a night. It wasn’t hard to sell Karen on the idea.
No Such Thing as a Free Meal?
Reception is lined with bright-eyed hospitality graduates eager to please and it’s apparent that the new owners are promoting an image change. Brushed steel and chrome, recessed lighting and bold flower arrangements signal style and chic. Trevor almost bursts with enthusiasm. Of course nothing is simple with promotional offers and confusion reigns. Occupancy is low so I sense an opening.
"We’ll be staying three nights if the room is appropriate," I bluff, ecstatic they hadn’t thrown us out for lowering the tone of the place. (We needed a laundry and I had tomato stains on my last decent t-shirt.)"So we’ll be needing complimentary vouchers for each night."
Complimentary goodies apply to each booking, not each night, but who reads small print? Evidently not the staff. We get four vouchers instead of three for the intolerable delay caused by the confusion. How inconvenient. Maybe there is such a thing as a free meal.
What’s on TV?
From the underground carpark we catch the lift straight to our floor. The room is an oasis. King size bed, in-house movies, comfy lounging area with writing desk and plenty of marble in the bathroom. And those huge, thick, fluffy hotel towels. The tea and coffee facilities get a workout and we enjoy the city views from our balcony. Karen looks like the cat that swallowed the canary.
"Oceans Eleven is on at 11pm tonight and tomorrow night there’s Training Day," she says, checking the in-house movie guide. "I don’t think we’ve seen them."
We returned that night around 11:30pm, disappointed that we’d missed the start of the film. What we got was someone’s birthday party home video. A quick call to reception solved the problem. A new machine apparently, "We’re just trying it out." The next night the machine wasn’t turned on, and the last night we just wrote a list of what we wanted to watch and had our own in-house movie marathon.
Two of the three nights we dine at Embers, the hotel’s stylish, modern restaurant. Jim, our host, is attentive and we indulge on woodfired pizzas, quality Australian cuisine and wine for the price of, well, nothing. That’s right, free meals and damn good ones too!
The moral? Allow for that occasional indulgence and keep your eyes peeled for low season bargains – the luxury places need us, they have to pay their bills too.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on November 9, 2002
Mercure Hotel Hobart
156 BATHURST STREET
Hobart, Australia 7000
61 3 62326255
Attraction | "The Dark Master - Cadbury Chocolate Factory"
And then there’s chocolate.
That’s right. Stand between me and my dark master, the cocoa bean, and you risk mortal injury.
Constitution Dock is a picture on a sunny autumn morning. Hobart’s waterfront is a short stroll from the city centre and the docks are abuzz with the new day. Bold colours of recreation craft dominate the greys and whites of working vessels, all reflected in the glassy waters. To the west, the scene is flanked by the gaze of Mount Wellington’s cloudless summit.
"Good day for a cruise," says Karen, pre-occupied with a sign promoting excursions to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, about 15 kilometres up the Derwent River. Hmmm – sunny day, cruise, chocolate, free samples."Lead on, MacDuff."
Our 10am boat departs as Len regales us with a commentary of the local landmarks and history on a 70-minute journey along the Derwent’s extensive deep-water harbour. Industry is minimal and the city hugs the undulating landscape, a generous mix of green belts and unobtrusive development.
We meet Peter and Jenny, school teachers on holiday from Melbourne. Jenny’s chocolate addiction rivals mine – she’s wearing a six-pocket jacket, four of them lined with plastic bags in case some of the samples are unwrapped. My jealousy is obvious and I lament my lack of preparation. Jenny relents, giving me two of her bags and Karen cringes.
At the factory a meet and greet team brief us on etiquette and the inappropriate use of plastic bags. Karen cringes again. We’re issued earplugs and cute little hairnets – insurance against stray hairs in your chocolate bars.
For the next 90 minutes a well organised tour of the plant demonstrates the finely tuned processes that produce our favourites. Founded as a one-man business in 1824, Cadbury is now one of the world’s largest chocolate producers. Its signature product, Dairy Milk, has been the biggest selling milk chocolate in the UK and Australia since 1920. The formula hasn’t changed and neither has its nutritional value – it’s still good for you!
Regular tasting stops fuel the fierce competition for free samples but the "stayers" are quickly sorted from the "sprinters". By tour’s end the competition gives way to a chorus of gurgling stomachs and we exit the factory only to find ourselves in Australia’s cheapest chocolate shop where everything we’ve just seen, tasted and collected can be bought in bulk at ridiculous prices.
Back on board we conduct an audit of our bounty with Peter and Jenny over complimentary tea and coffee. Some of the passengers look uncomfortable. I’m sure nobody was thinking about the cruise home whilst assessing the merits of milk, dark and white chocolate in extraordinary quantities.
Thank goodness for smooth seas.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on November 9, 2002
Cadbury Chocolate Factory
Cadbury Estate, Cadbury Road
Claremont, Australia 7011
+61 (0)3 6249 0333
Attraction | "Colour Your Life - Royal Botanical Gardens"
Hobart’s Royal Botanical Gardens excel at all of the above, captivating visitors with inspirational displays, inventive new exhibits and sweeping river views.
The Queens Domain occupies a large hilly area immediately to the city’s north. Most of it is reserved as public parkland but 14 hectares of its eastern flank was set aside in 1818 and used by early governors to establish the gardens that flourish today.
With most of a sunny afternoon to kill after a morning’s sightseeing, a picnic in the gardens sounded good. There’s a shop, restaurant and kiosk complex to the right as we enter, but a riot of colour diverts us and we explore a carefully crafted display of Chinese/Tibetan plants, maples showcasing their autumn splendour.
Past a sunken lily pond surrounded by delicate ferns is an open space dominated by spectacular oaks, ablaze in gold and russet tones. Picnic perfect. We share the experience with a young family. Mum and dad are infatuated with each other and their infant daughter is a practicing hippie, resplendent in beads, kaftan and an oversize patchwork hat. She’s busy collecting leaves, throwing them in the air, then running away from them.
Our view of the Derwent River is framed by a deep blue canvas, broken by the occasional litter of raining leaves. It’s hard to imagine a better place.
The journey continues though several theme exhibits to a more curious display – Peter Cundall’s Vegie Patch. Peter hosts a popular ABC gardening show where viewers tune in for all the dirty tricks on mulching and composting their way to growing better vegetables. It’s filmed here and visitors are free to explore this working garden first hand.
Further north through a high brick wall is the Japanese Garden, one of the most popular displays. It’s beautiful in every season but today the maples are incredibly vivid, their watery reflections demanding attention. The kaftan kid and her parents arrive, and she leaps past us across a red, arched bridge and balances astride a large stone lantern.
Approaching the herb garden we detour to the Sub-Antarctic House, a unique exhibit where the conditions of Australia’s subantarctic islands is chillingly recreated to display a fascinating collection of indigenous flora. The education continues as we conclude our visit with a tour of the Botanical Discover Centre.
A series of clever interactive exhibits entertain and instruct as they lead participants through the wonders of the plant world. There are games, videos, hands-on displays, microscopes, computers, even a "factory" where operators can imitate the photosynthesis process. It’s packed with wide-eyed kids and parents.
Come for a visit, it’s guaranteed fun for all the family.
Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
Hobart, Australia 7000
+61 (0)3 6236 3050
Attraction | "The Pipes Are Calling - Mount Wellington"
You’ll need wheels to reach the top or catch a bus to the suburb of Fern Tree, a three-hour walk from the summit. Either way there’s breathtaking views over half the island and a choice of 50 walking trails used by surprisingly few visitors.
Concentration is essential on the narrow route up the mountain. Absent guard rails provide the incentive - minibuses, cars and panoramic views provide diversions.
It’s quiet this morning, the sun surprising many visitors, and jackets are discarded like Christmas wrapping. It averages ten degrees Celsius colder than the city up here, but you wouldn’t know it today.
A Visitor Centre provides historical information and a protected viewing area but most people wander a series of connected walkways to several well-placed platforms. There’s little pollution and the peaks of Ben Lomond National Park, east of Launceston almost 200 kilometres to the north, are distantly visible. Slow growing alpine plants blanket the rocky landscape, hugging the ground to avoid the ravaging winds and dry environment – efficient survivors courtesy of tiny leaves that minimise water loss.
First sighted by William Bligh in 1792, the mountain was named after the Duke of Wellington who vanquished Bonapart at Waterloo. Although climbed as early as 1798 it wasn’t until 1937, 140 years later, that a road to the summit opened. Small parking areas mark the journey, allowing motorists to strike out on foot and explore. We stop at the Chalet, a tiny hut close to the summit, for a five kilometre return walk to a natural phenomenon called the Organ Pipes.
The eucalypts here bear the scars of devastating bushfires. Records back as far as 1897 document the terror of bushfire but in February 1967 they tore across the entire peak, destroying life, property and vegetation in an unprecedented assault. Alpine areas regenerate slowly and the evidence is still widespread.
Tiny marsupials own the bush, mountain shrimp the water, and currawong the skies in this fragile wilderness. We rock hop for an hour, glimpsing 180-degree views of the city as we circumnavigate the peak above. It’s peaceful, almost spiritual – the ochres, greys and greens of the rocks and bush combining with a sky-blue palette to define the Australian landscape. We try but never succeed in describing this to friends in Europe and America. It’s a feeling as much as a vision.
Finally our quarry is revealed as the primeval dolerite columns of the Organ Pipes tower above. Formed 170 million years ago, the sculpted cliffs glow yellow and red in the morning sun. I’m in awe. Above us is history’s inspirational canvas, around us is a delicate wilderness, and below us is a city of 200,000 people.
Incredible? That’s Tasmania.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 9, 2002
Hobart, Australia 7000
+61 (0)3 6230 8233
Attraction | "That's No Ordinary Market - Salamanca"
Sandwiched between restored 1830s sandstone warehouses and elegant parklands fronting the Derwent River, this historic precinct offers everything from farm-fresh produce to tarot readings and raspberry chilli beer in a celebration of art and culture that has everyone talking – and returning for more.
It’s 7:30am and we meander through a maze of stalls to our breakfast destination at the Retro Café on Salamanca Place. The cacophony of market day already dominates the street. Lyn and Matt had arrived and we organised to meet them for French Toast, spicy scrambled eggs and a morning of market madness.
The Retro occupies front row centre and the scene unfolds as our protein and caffeine fix kicks in. Directly outside a spruiker offers new season apples for A$1 a kilogram. Next to him a flower stall is ablaze with colour and on the other side a large, bald man sells delicately turned figures crafted from aromatic sassafras and huon pine.
Two things become apparent as we explore almost 400 stalls. Firstly, there’s very little trash amongst many treasures and, secondly, the prices are good – unusual for such a popular market. The reason for this becomes clear as we listen to the conversations around us and Brian, who sells antique telephones, puts it into perspective.
"Sure, there’s plenty of tourists, but half the people here are locals," he points out.
"You’re lucky today, it’s fine and warm, but it’s a long winter here – too cold for the tourists. We have to appeal to the locals first, they are our staple trade. You need quality and a good price to do that. The rest follows."
Brian’s right, basic economics I guess. And Salamanca is a better market experience because of it. Well, that’s until you taste raspberry chilli beer. After leaving Brian I’m captivated by an energetic, bearded man doing a roaring trade from a large ice bucket.
"Come on son, get into this. Cures everything and turns you into a sexual tyrant! Like having a circus in your mouth! Brewed fresh here in the Huon Valley."
"I’m game," I say. "Give me a try."
Let me tell you, raspberry and chilli are mutually exclusive, especially when brewed to form a beverage. Tasmanian Fine Ice Cream has a nearby stall (by design I’m sure) and a Macadamia and Cointreau cone restores the equilibrium. I find Karen exploring the fresh produce offered by the local Hmong community. These Laoation migrants elevate fruit and vegetable displays to an art form – the colour, symmetry and smells tempting a steady stream of buyers.
"Incredible market," she says. "I want to buy everything!"
"Come on, I’ll buy you morning tea. Let’s find Lyn and Matt."
"Look! Raspberry chilli beer!"
"Trust me," I say. "That’s one circus you don’t want in your mouth."
41 Salamanca Place
Hobart, Tasmania 7000
+61 (0)3 6223 2700
Attraction | "Treasure Hunt - A Walking Tour of Hobart"
Hobart is like a successful, 40-something, artsy type with fond memories of the hippie era. Instantly likeable, it’s accessible, friendly and confident, but never brash or arrogant. It embraces new and exciting ideas, skilfully merging them with a rich history and showcasing the results as a beautiful canvas that always brings a smile.
So grab the walking map and join me as we make a new friend.
By the numbers
Start early with breakfast at Retros in Salamanca Place (1). It’s an icon – the fine food and lively atmosphere bring regulars from everywhere. Overlooking the river and surrounded by parkland and elegant sandstone warehouses, this historic precinct houses a dazzling array of quality galleries, shops and cafes. A nearby staircase leads to Battery Point (2), Hobart’s original port area and oldest district, and in Arthurs Circus the memories of a maritime village are recalled in the splendid early 1800s architecture.
Returning along Salamanca Place we enter St Davids Park (3), a stately sanctuary dominated by majestic European trees and resting place for some of Australia’s first free settlers. Fascinating headstones provide insight into the hardships of early colonial life. The history lesson continues at the Royal Tennis Club (4), one of only five courts in the southern hemisphere and the oldest in Australia, built in 1875. Played on an indoor court that brings many hazards into play, Royal, or "Real", tennis is the ancestor of the modern game, predating it by several centuries.
Heading uphill past St Davids Cathedral on Murray Street we turn onto Liverpool Street and visit the Tasmania Shop (5) for a tempting display of the island’s goodies before browsing for bargains in Elizabeth Mall (6).
Past leafy Franklin Square, the splendid Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (7) is our next stop, stylishly housed in Hobart’s oldest building, dating from 1808. You’ll need refuelling and the nearby fish restaurants on Elizabeth Pier (8) offer the freshest bargains in the city while pubs like the Brooke Street Bar (8) provide a glimpse of Aussie culture and the lure of a cold beer.
Follow a hearty lunch with a wee dram on a visit to Lark’s Distillery (9) next to the Information Centre before admiring Hunter Street’s wharfside Georgian warehouses (10). The buildings in Salamanca Place looked like this 30 years ago before they were renovated.
Check the time and if you’ve got a couple of hours jump on a ferry at Brooke Street Pier for a harbourside cruise to the Royal Botanical Gardens (11) – the perfect end to a day out with your new friend; the funky and cultured harbourside city of Hobart.
Battery Point Walking Tours
The Wishing Well, Franklin Square
Hobart, Australia 7000
+61 (0)3 6223 7570