For our first wedding anniversary a few weekends ago, we spent four and a half days in Hobart, Tasmania. We loved Tasmania. It was one of the best four-day vacations we’ve ever spent, and we can’t wait to return. It had so many of the wonderful elements of the Pacific Northwest – boats and water everywhere, fresh salmon, pinot noir, temperate rainforest, and the feeling of being steps away from some very cold and wild places (e.g. Alaska and Antarctica) – combined with some of the best parts of Bay Area – beautiful coastal walks, artisanal cheeses and breads, rolling hills and the smell of eucalyptus – while, of course, being fully Australian.
The reason this trip was so fantastic was because Tasmania is a truly unique and fabulous place. However, we also realized that we had actually put into practice many of the lessons we learned in Southeast Asia (listed below and posted about in August). In other words, we had finally executed a trip the right way, for us at least.
Plan ahead. If nothing else to ensure that Justin doesn’t freak out and ruin a day unnecessarily.
We split the duties of planning our Hobart trip, but Laura was our prime researcher. She took the lead in arranging our accommodation and main activity each day: exploration of the city and the Salamanca market, a boat cruise from Port Arthur, and a visit to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Justin did some research into food, hikes in and around Hobart, and was tasked with ‘while travelling’ research.
We were careful not to over plan any particular day. Instead, we planned a single major activity for each day and then researched a couple of different options for the rest of the day that might appeal to different interests and energy levels. This wasn’t hard with the diversity of activities and things to do within a short drive of Hobart.
Make sure that there is at least one point in each day where there is a planned activity apart from ‘relaxing’. Or Justin won’t let anyone relax.
If you combine the opportunities available within Hobart with those within a 90 minute drive of Hobart, the opportunities for being active seem almost endless. The Parks & Wildlife service has even put together a fantastic website and iPad/iPhone app of 60 Great Short Walks in Tasmania. We ended up walking two of them and wished that we had known about this great source of information before we visited.
Each day, we took an afternoon hike (or bush walk, as they call it in Australia). We walked around the peak of Mount Wellington …
among the towering tree ferns, waterfalls, pademelons and wallabies of the Mount Field National Park …
along the cliffs and rugged coastline of the Tasman Peninsula …
and in the hills around Hobart itself.
Getting outdoors should be the priority but experiencing a day or two in a world class city is a plus.
With a population of between 200,000-250,000 people, it would be a stretch to call Hobart a world class city. Its downtown (CBD) neighborhoods are certainly quaint, filled with cute ‘gingerbread’ houses that reminded us of craftsman houses in California. This quaintness translates to a somewhat sewn up nightlife; by 6pm, most of the streets of the CBD were deserted. However, there is one aspect of Hobart life that hits above its weight for such a small city: food.
Hobart feels like the center of Australia’s farm to table culture and the quality and variety of restaurants available in Hobart reflected that. There’s even an Australian reality TV show called ‘Gourmet Farmer’ that follows a Tasmanian family in their farm to table adventures. You can find his new shop in the Salamanca market area.
We were instantly impressed with our first meal (and our first of many bottles of Tasmanian Pinot Noir throughout the trip). It is now weeks later, and we are still talking about the Raincheck Lounge’s arancini with blue cheese. We remained impressed throughout the trip, particularly with breakfast. We highly recommend both Jackman & McRoss Bakery and Machine Laundry Cafe.
Find friends in places you want to visit; prioritize those places.
Unfortunately, this lesson was not applicable for this trip. We should have tried harder to make some new friends in Hobart as we will be back!
If there is a vrbo or airbnb available, take advantage. Otherwise, stick to the recommended budget hotel options.
We are huge fans of airbnb. If you aren’t familiar with the concept, it allows anyone to “monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions” (from the airbnb website). In other words, if you have an extra room or an apartment you rarely use, you can rent it out to travellers. We find that it is frequently much less expensive than a hotel, can offer some extra personal touches that you don’t find in a typical hotel, and some of the spaces available for rent are quite unique.
For this trip, we stayed in a self-contained floor of a family’s home in West Hobart. We had a good-size bedroom with a small kitchen space (including a fancy coffee maker and some snacks), a living room, free wifi, and of course a bathroom. The host also prepared a thorough guide book, including restaurant recommendations, transit information, maps, recommendations for day trips, and more. And we had access to the family’s huge selection of movies. Our favorite parts of airbnb are these personal touches. Unlike hotels, the places you stay are places where people actually live, so the bookcases are often filled with interesting books to read, movies to watch, etc. And the hosts are often eager to share great, non-touristy activities. Our host was an avid walker and pointed us to a great hike in the neighborhood.
Museums are good, but art museums should be kept to the few and far between category. Or Laura should explore them alone.
Our last full day in Hobart, we went to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). According to Justin, MONA is the best museum he has ever been to, full stop.
Honestly, MONA is hard to put into words. David Walsh, the man behind the museum, describes it as a “subversive adult Disneyland”. It is a bit dark and can be shocking to the easily offended. But don’t let this turn you away. It is also delightful, beautiful and truly surprising.
All we can say is go. Add it to your growing list of ‘places to see before I die’. Visit their website and explore – and then think about how much you’re missing by not seeing it in person. Better yet, think about what you would do with hundreds of millions of winnings from internet gambling – would it be as cool as MONA?
A good guide can make a memorable holiday.
For the guided portion of this trip, Laura’s parents sent us on a 3-hour eco-adventure boat cruise around the Tasman Peninsula for an anniversary present. They had taken the same cruise when they visited Tasmania this past May and loved it. We did too. What’s not to love about cruising around dramatic sea cliffs and into sea caves, watching humpback whales, seals, albatross, diving mutton birds while learning about the history, geology, and ecology of the coast?
Laura likes body scrubs, no matter the cost to her wallet or marriage.
Though this is largely still true, no body scrubs were experienced on this trip. Also, Laura would like to remove the clause “no matter the cost to her wallet.” She has come to realize that body scrubs might be cost prohibitive outside of Southeast Asia.
Find places that are close enough to the beaten path to have some creature comforts.
Tasmania is certainly full of creature comforts and is technically on the beaten path. However, approximately 40 percent of the island is protected in World Heritage wilderness areas, in national parks or in other reserves. Packed on to an island the size of West Virginia is a landscape of glacial lakes, ocean beaches, rocky mountains, and soggy rainforests. In other words, its comforts are not far from paths that feel rarely beaten. This means that you can spend your day exploring pristine forests of towering swamp gums and your evening enjoying a five star meal. Or your morning viewing world class art and your afternoon on a mountain top. It has both stunning nature and accessible, high-quality culture. For us, this is the perfect combination.