Here's what we saw, ate and did. I say "beginner's guide" meaning a guide of a beginner to Hobart, but I expect to become an expert at some stage - already thinking about when to go back next...
The city of Hobart is very, very charming: colonial architecture, big boulevards laced with smaller, cosy streets and alleyways, hilly scenery, and a gorgeous harbour. Food is fresh and in abundance and so tasty; it's definitely a bit of food heaven down there (as you should know we base our destination decisions on how good the food reputation is). Art is everywhere too, it's definitely not just MONA. People are cheeky, creative and superbly chill. They just seem to have a really, really good life there.
Where we stayed: The Alabama, Hobart
One word: brilliant. It was a budget boutique hotel so only had the necessities (crazy comfy bed, super indulgent natural soap, and shared but really cute and spotless bathrooms), but the place was decked out with some pretty mad art, and had the most welcoming communal area and terrace - all in the middle of the city. Kelly and Aedan who run the place were so great to us, with cool recommendations and funny stories up their sleeves. If you're a spoilt brat that needs instant coffee in their hotel room then forget about it, otherwise - don't miss it.
What we ate and drank (ooooh here we go):
- Bruny Island Cheese Co: There's a little shop in the city and the main attraction on Bruny Island, both stocking their own, most beautiful cheese selection, as well as other local meats, jams, honeys, oils and other condiments. If you're in a hurry this is a good one-stop-shop for your all your belly satisfaction needs, as they sell Tassie booze as well (I know, we were amazed too by the fact that you're allowed to sell alcohol basically anywhere, given that it's from Tassie. #represent)
- Garagistes: spectacular fine dining; modern Australian with a Japanese touch (menu matched with sake anyone?). Understated space, surprisingly calm even on a busy night, huge kitchen and bar, with seats at the bar from where you can observe all the action. Service was perfect... no everything was perfect, including the bathroom sinks towards the front windows.
- Sidecar: Garagistes' little baby sister, where you sit around the bar and they slice Garagistes' cured meats for you to devour eagerly (even if you would've just come from Garagistes, unable to breathe). Again, super cosy and welcoming spot, where drinks and snacks are served with great knowledge, good chat, and a lot of pride. Makes you wanna come back again and again.
- Lark Distillery: There's so much hype around Tassie whisky, and this is where you can experience it all, minus all the extravagant schmick. Tasting flights of Lark's own award-winning booze for a mere $10, an absurdly large range of single malt whisky, and a fine selection of bottles to buy for your consumption at home - all happening in this shed-like, super down-to-earth bar. Just make sure the boys don't get sucked in all day.
- The Standard: Rad American burger joint, in an alleyway/loading dock in the middle of Hobart city. Apparently it had only been open for a week when we went there, but it's hard to miss: crankin' hiphop can be heard from the main street, and the wall art along the laneway makes people stop for a second look. A small selection of simple, solid burgers, awesome fries, and shakes so thick the girl at the counter calls it ice cream. Grab a milk crate to sit in the sun pocket and it really feels like you're away from it all. Genius.
- Smolt: beautiful restaurant in Salamanca Place, serving mediterranean-inspired dishes and some seriously good-looking pizzas (that I saw the guys across from us have). We hit up the seafood, and the mussels were to die for. Service was really really lovely, and the location was pretty awesome for people-watching, including spotting Kochie coming in for dinner!
- Property of: Pilgrim: This place is crazy. The effort that goes into what they serve for breakfast is really what you'd more expect at a nice dinner venue (confit duck? Slow cooked beef cheeks? Anyone?). That said, of course everything was sensational, including the stunning fit-out (theatre seats!! These guys are too clever) and warm service. By the way, their coffee sizes are perfect, medium and large... don't you embarrass yourself and order the wrong one here.
- New Sydney Hotel: the vibe there on a Sunday night was amazing. Old and young were dancing to rad live music, families were having dinner, couples were having a beer at the bar - everyone was just having fun time, and the demographics really amazed me. Everywhere we went people were talking about this pub, how good their beer range is and how we should check out the bands playing there. The streets were dead that night and the pub was full - we guess this is where half Hobart hangs out.
- Jackman & McRoss: The venue we visited downtown was this very elegant, rustic and French-inspired bakery/patisserie, with pastries literally everywhere when you look through the huge windows, which I of course couldn't take my eyes off. From substantial breakfast dishes to pastries, cakes and bread, they've got everything your dough-loving heart desires (cherry chocolate coconut danish was soooo yum). Go for a very European experience, sitting outdoor in the sun, leaning against the black-painted brick facade, imagining yourself in Paris.
Other things we saw:
- Shops: Salamanca Arts Centre caters well for a relaxed stroll to admire unique gifts, clothing and other objets d'art (I was too focused on the Bruny Island Cheese Co. shop that's located there as well, so I didn't have too much headspace for the other stores). There are also lots of antique shops which we came across while exploring the city, however I can't quite remember where they were; if you're desperate I'm sure a google search can help. For quirky clothing and homeware/stylin' bric-a-brac, pick up a "We are Hobart" guide when you're there.
- Public art: It's everywhere, and it's amazing. North Hobart was a bit of a highlight for me.
- Salamanca Market: I think whole Hobart + its tourists come down here every Saturday morning. It's the biggest outdoor market in Australia, and it sells absolutely everything (conveniently, most of the stuff is Tassie made). As expected, we really loved all the food-related stalls, including fresh produce, Tassie condiments and booze (yes, booze at 9am in the morning at a market; only in Tasmania), and lots more that I couldn't keep track of; my head was buzzing by the time we got out of there. Don't forget to try the scallop pie from the pie van - so delicious. When it all becomes too much, walk up Kelly's Stairs and have a wander through Battery Point, Hobart's oldest residential area.
- Bruny Island: this is a very special one. I first read about Bruny Island on Feast Magazine, and had never wanted to go somewhere this bad. Hire a car and drive about 30 minutes south to Kettering, where a ferry takes you over to Bruny. Give it at least a whole day (but keep an eye on the ferry schedule) - the scenery is quite breathtaking and dreamy, and the island is a solid 100km long, so don't expect to get through it all on a tight schedule. Food again is a huge highlight, with of course Bruny Island Cheese Co. based here, and Get Shucked Oyster Bar within a baby distance (FAQ: "Where do you get your oysters from?" - "Across the road"), as well as much more, which we unfortunately didn't get to check out. Of course you can't miss the "Neck", where you can take a set of stairs up to an outlook point, and enjoy the magnificent scenery of the ocean coming in on both sides of this thin strip of land, connecting North and South Bruny. I almost cried when I saw it.
- MONA: Oh MONA, how could anyone resist visiting you when in Hobart. It was a pretty outstanding experience, from the James Bond-like ferry trip, to the massive space and venue, and of course the art on exhibition; it was all a bit surreal - when you get back to "mainland" Hobart you almost want to wonder whether that all really happened. A lot of the art was quite interactive, but some was also a little dark; the underground venue doesn't really help with the mild panic I might've gotten walking into somewhere pitch black. The museum has its own vineyard, brewery, restaurants, Saturday market and hotel, so you could technically spend days here. If that's not your jam, at least a half-day visit is a must, because you gotta see it to believe it.
1 At Salamanca Arts Centre * 2 + 3 North Hobart * 4 + 5 The Standard * 6 + 7 North Bruny Island * 8 Get Shucked Oyster Bar * 9 Bruny Island Cheese Co. * 10 + 11 The Neck, Bruny Island * 12 What The Alabama used to look like * 13 Bruny Island Food Pork Rillettes * 14 Streets of Hobart
Other places we would've loved to check out:
- Pigeon Hole Cafe
- Crumb Street Kitchen
- Ethos Eat Drink
- Farm Gate Market
- Mount Wellington (we tried to drive up there but the streets were blocked for a cycling race)
- Bruny Island Smoke House
- Nutpatch Nougat, Kettering
So if you haven't been and are after a relaxing but still active holiday, I can't speak any more more highly of Hobart - you gotz to go. If you're an old Hobart lover already, let me know what to check out next time I'm down there! x