Tasmania’s state capital is the second oldest in Australia and began life at the start of the 19th century as a penal colony.
Some of Australia’s oldest institutions are based in Hobart, and there are exciting remnants from Australia’s earliest days, at a UNESCO-listed female workhouse and a historic penitentiary.
Around the harbour and the older neighbourhoods like Battery Point you can still find lots of architecture from this period.
One street lined with Georgian dock buildings is Salamanca Place, the setting for a sensational market on Saturdays.
Always in the background is the peak of Mount Wellington, which grants you a dumbfounding view that reaches across the region and far beyond the city.
1. Mount Wellington
Part of the Hobart skyline as much as any building, Mount Wellington climbs 1,271 metres just a few kilometres inland from the city.
The peak and slopes are protected by the 18,000-hectare Wellington Park, and you can conquer the mountain by car, with a tour group or on foot if you know what you’re doing! Pinnacle Road wriggles up through glacial rock formations and sub-alpine vegetation to the top, ending at the Pinnacle Observation Shelter.
There you’ll be confronted by a view that can only be described as epic, encompassing Hobart, the Derwent River, Bruny Island and Tasmania’s South West Wilderness in one humungous sweep.
It’s all part of the fun, but worth remembering that temperatures on the summit can be between 10 and 15°C cooler than down in Hobart’s city centre.
In winter sub-zero conditions are the norm up here.
2. Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
Resting in the Queens Domain, an area of hilly bushland bordering Hobart’s city centre, you’ll discover Australia’s second-oldest botanical garden.
It’s amazing to think that the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens were planted more than 200 years ago, and the combination of historic specimens and a stirring waterfront location make this attraction essential.
There’s an Antarctic plant house, a fuchsia house, a cactus collection, serene Japanese garden and traditional herb garden.
The ingenious Arthur Wall is internally heated, allowing exotic plants to grow in Tasmania’s cool climate, and out on the garden’s winding paths you’ll be in the shade of the largest public collection of conifers in the Southern Hemisphere.
Don’t leave without a peek at the shop, selling honey made in the garden’s apiary, as well as botanical gin.
3. Salamanca Place
Possibly the best market in Australia sets up shop on this street tracking the south side of the harbour at Sullivans Cove.
Outside market day, Salamanca Place is still obligatory for its long terrace of Georgian houses and dock buildings constructed from honey-coloured local sandstone.
Facing off against them are giant plane trees, while down the sides are lanes, alleys and little squares that haven’t changed a great deal since Hobart’s whaling days in the early and mid-19th century.
Fair to say that there’s new tenants, as today this area is brimming with restaurants, bars, cafes, galleries, theatres, bookshops and boutiques.
A bit newer is Salamanca Square, a plaza laid out in the 1990s, with shops and lawns around a fountain.
4. Salamanca Market
Every Saturday from 08:30 to 15:00 more than 300 stalls set up on Salamanca Place for one of Tasmania’s most famous spectacles.
This is the Salamanca Market, dating back to 1972 and often touted as Australia’s best market.
Many different things come into play, from the diversity of craftspeople, artisans and producers who trade here, to the picture-perfect backdrop of Georgian facades and Mount Wellington rising in the west.
Browse for super-fresh local ingredients, collectibles, homewares, art, handmade jewellery and a wealth of other arts and crafts.
Food-wise you’ll get lots of chances to try before you buy, and as with all the best farmers’ markets the traders will be happy to share facts and tips about their wares.
5. Sullivans Cove
The initial landing site, and then the location of Hobart’s first permanent European settlement, still serves as the city’s main dock area.
This is a great place for a wander.
On the north side of this recess in the coastline was Hunter Island, now joined to the city by reclaimed land along Hunter Street.
The sequence of piers along the waterfront took shape during the 19th and early 20th century, the oldest being Elizabeth Street Pier from 1866. Along the esplanade there’s a great deal of stately 19th century architecture still intact.
You can study the information boards and inspect the tall ships and pleasure yachts of all sizes moored at the port.
Many of Hobart’s big attractions are right here, accompanied by cafes and art galleries.
You won’t have to search long for restaurant with ultra-fresh fish and seafood, from sushi to oysters to fish and chips.
The Museum of Old and New Art opened in 2011 on the Berriedale Peninsula, upriver from Hobart’s city centre.
The museum draws on the $110m collection of David Walsh, the colourful professional gambler who owns this estate, and took the place of a museum of antiquities that opened in 2001. At one storey tall, MONA looks pretty unassuming from the outside, but the interior sinks into the ground on three levels that are carved into the side of cliffs in a maze of galleries.
Walsh has built up a collection of more than 1,900 works, from Ancient Egyptian sarcophagi to Sidney Nolan’s Snake mural and Chris Ofili’s The Holy Virgin Mary.
But the architecture and the museum’s use of technology are also at the heart of the experience, with a handheld device using GPS to communicate information about each piece.
The museum is about 15 minutes by road, but the favourite way to get there is by ferry up the Derwent from the new dock at Brooke Street Pier.
7. Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Australia’s second-oldest museum is a product of the Royal Society of Tasmania, the oldest Royal Society to be founded outside the UK.
The museum was established in 1848, with collections that had been put together much earlier.
These span a whole host of fields, from fine art to Tasmanian decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology and the island’s history as a stepping stone for Antarctic exploration.
The current home, completed in 1862, was purpose-built, designed by Henry Hunter (1832-1892), who also built Hobart Town Hall.
A necessary permanent exhibition is “Our Land: Parrawa, Parrawa! Go Away!”, which looks at Tasmanian history from an Aboriginal perspective and is worth combining with the Ningina Tunapri Tasmanian Aboriginal Gallery.
8. Brooke Street Pier
The shed-like structure impossible to miss on the south side of Sullivans Cove at Franklin Wharf is in fact Australia’s longest floating pontoon, completed in 2015. Eighty metres long and twenty metres across, the Brooke Street Pier combines a high-tech ferry terminal with a market space for Tasmanian produce, specialty foods, artisan alcohol, design, cosmetics and design.
Past the stalls at the far end is the Glass House bar and the Brooke Street Larder cafe, and in between you can shop for goodies like Tasman truffle oil, saffron, posh fudge, teas, Tasmanian whisky, luxury soaps, Tasmanian wine and Australian opal jewellery.
9. Cascades Female Factory
This workhouse and penal colony for female convicts lasted from 1828 to 1856, and is one of 11 locations that contribute to the UNESCO-listed Australian Convict Sites.
The Cascades Female Factory is in a deep valley on the Hobart Rivulet, about four kilometres southwest of the CBD.
This remote location is no coincidence, and was chosen to keep the women away from Hobart’s temptations, and to protect Hobart from what was believed to be the women’s corrupting influence.
With three of its original five yards intact, the Cascades Female Factory is the only facility of its kind remaining, so offers a rare insight into early Australian life for women.
When you come there will be a choice of guided tours: In 2020, “The Proud and the Punished” was a 45-minute dramatised tour focussing on a petty criminal coping with forced labour, pregnancy and punishment.
10. Hobart Convict Penitentiary (Campbell Street Gaol)
Right in the middle of Hobart’s CBD is a prison complex where you can dip into the darker side of Tasmania’s early period.
The Georgian prison building (1821) was designed by the prolific local architect John Lee Archer and served as a place of custody for the next 140 years.
Around 40,000 male convicts passed through these gates until convict transportation was ended in 1853, and one of the more notorious inmates from that time was the serial killer and cannibal Thomas Jeffries (executed 1826). When the prison closed in the 1960 much of the complex was demolished, save for a stretch of the gaol wall and the two court buildings that were adapted from the original chapel.
On a guided tour you can discover the grisly reality of this place, explore the tunnels that linked the courts and cell block, visit a solitary confinement cell and see the rebuilt gallows.
11. Constitution Dock
The section of Sullivans Cove opposite the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is Constitution Dock.
This is one of the most lovable parts of the harbour, with a huddle of seafood restaurants beside a rock-walled marina.
One of those eateries is Mures, a Hobart mainstay since 1973, with an “Upper Deck” for à la carte dining and a “Lower Deck” for good old fish and chips.
There you can watch the comings and goings at the working Victoria Dock.
Constitution Dock is famously the rallying point and event venue for the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, which departs Sydney on Boxing Day, with the winner arriving at Hobart between one and two and a half days later.
Around the way, Constitution Dock’s water-level entrance is guarded by a sturdy bascule bridge, which opens periodically and sits beside a preserved steam crane, built by the Appleby Brothers in England in 1899. There’s another, smaller historic crane at Constitution Dock, by the Mures restaurant and dating back to before 1885.
12. Maritime Museum of Tasmania
As an island 240 kilometres off the coast of mainland Australia, seafaring has been in Tasmania’s veins since long before the arrival of the British in 1803. At this museum, set in Sullivans Cove at the handsome Carnegie Building (1903-07), you’ll learn about the role of the sea on the lives of Tasmanians, going back to the indigenous population who forged strong ties between neighbouring islands.
There’s information about Aboriginal vessels, early European explorers, 19th-century maritime industries like whaling and the development of steamships that drove Tasmanian trade in apples, timber and minerals.
You can check out boat-builders’ tools, navigational instruments, paintings, models and numerous finds from shipwrecks to show just how perilous the waters around Tasmania can be.
13. Battery Point Sculpture Trail
Beginning at Salamanca Place is a two-kilometre walking trail along the lower Derwent Estuary, around Battery Point and ending at Short Beach on Sandy Bay.
Waiting for you on the route are nine different numerical sculptures.
These represent a date, time, distance, quantity, weight or other measure linked to a compelling story about Hobart’s past.
Around historic Battery Point you’ll pass some of Hobart’s oldest Georgian cottages and the sites of the city’s first factories, and there will be constant views up to the port and over to the hilly east bank of the estuary.
The sculptures are always surprising too, cut from a hedge, glowing in the dark or literally floating in the estuary.
14. Sandy Bay
This upmarket southern suburb of Hobart is minutes from the CBD but has a quaint, small town feel.
Sandy Bay is pedestrian friendly, and although it’s one of the poshest areas in Hobart, also has a young atmosphere thanks to the Hobart Campus of the University of Tasmania.
Some of the priciest real estate on the island rests on the slopes of Mount Nelson, and on quiet residential roads there are lots of houses that have been standing since the 19th century.
Walkers can amble next to yachts, follow steep winding roads to beautiful viewpoints and take a break at an international selection of restaurants and cafes.
Beaches line the shore, and the two open to the public are Long Beach and Nutgrove Beach.
Sandy Bay boasts the Wrest Point Casino, the first legal casino in Australia when it opened in 1973.
15. Mount Nelson Lookout
Not as heavily trafficked as Mount Wellington but spectacular all the same, is the Mount Nelson Lookout, eight kilometres south of the CBD.
From 1811 this was the site of a signal station relaying messages, normally about escapees, to Port Arthur, around 100 kilometres southeast.
A convict at that time had little chance of getting away, as a signal could be communicated in less than 15 minutes.
The station closed with the arrival of the telegraph in 1880, and today Mount Nelson is somewhere to linger over breathtaking panoramas of Hobart and the Derwent Estuary.
There’s a picnic area and a restaurant for light bites.
You could also go on a hike into the Trugani Reserve, 130 hectares of preserved native bushland.
Within is the Trugani Memorial, dedicated to Tasmania’s Aboriginal people.
One looping track traces the course of Cartwright Creek through woods littered with wildflowers and inhabited by birds like the endangered swift parrot.
16. Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum
Facing Constitution Dock on Argyle Street is a small but well-presented museum that documents Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-14. Their ship, the SY Aurora set sail from Hobart close to this location, at the start of an adventure that would last more than three years.
In this time Mawson and his team navigated more than 1,800 miles of uncharted coastline, collect vital geological and biological samples and take oceanographic and meteorological measurements.
The museum offers a glimpse of the daily routine for the explorers, making clear just how inhospitable the conditions were in the “windiest place on earth”. All proceeds go towards the conservation of the original wooden huts still standing at Mawson’s base in Commonwealth Bay, Antarctica.
17. Three-Hour Hobart City Sightseeing Tour
Hobart has such a heady mix of history, knockout sights and natural splendour that it’s a good idea to let an expert show you everything if you don’t have much time.
On this three-hour coach tour through GetYourGuide.com you’ll discover all of Hobart’s highlights, like Salamanca Place, Battery Point, Sandy Bay, St David’s Park, the Cascades Female Factory and many more spots that aren’t on this list.
You’ll ride around in a converted tram, making four stops and listening to fascinating insights about Hobart’s history, culture and lifestyle from your clued-up guide.
18. Cascade Brewery
Hobart claims Australia’s oldest brewery, established in 1924 and set on a pretty estate at the foot of Mount Wellington.
Cascade Brewery produces lagers, a draught beer, pale ale, a stout and a blonde beer, as well as a variety of seasonal beers.
These are all made using hops and barley grown in Tasmania and water from a mountain stream.
Cascade Pale Ale is officially Australia’ longest continuously brewed beer, dating back to 1832. Cascade Premium Light meanwhile is the country’s bestselling light beer.
The grand old brewhouse towers over the brewery’s gardens and the visitors’ centre is in the old manager’s house.
Ninety-minute Brewery Tours set off from here every day of the week, during which you’ll find out about Cascade’s ingredients and the intricacies of the brewing process, from malting to bottling.
This is available only to over 16s, but there is a 45-minute all-ages experience called the Cascade Story Tour.
19. St David’s Park
At the west end of Salamanca Place is a park that from 1804 to 1872 was Hobart’s first cemetery and the burial place for at least 900 people.
Harking back to this time are the old headstones embedded into the park’s walls.
St David’s Park was re-landscaped in the 1920s, and among the memorials surviving from the 19th century is David Collins (1756-1810), the founding Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemens Land and founder of Hobart.
On a walk you can peruse those headstones, which bear the names and details of the island’s earliest European settlers, and check out the temple-like bandstand.
The lions flanking the entrance were carved in 1884 and restored and moved here in 1888 to mark Australia’s Bicentenary.
20. Parliament House
The Parliament of Tasmania sits at the former customs house on Salamanca Place.
This solemn Georgian building was ready in 1840, and within a year took on a joint role, housing parliament while also serving its intended purpose as a customs house until 1904. Parliament House was built from local honey-coloured sandstone using mainly convict labour, and was designed by John Lee Archer, responsible for all Tasmanian government buildings in the period.
If you fancy a look inside there are public tours at 09:30 and 14:30 on the days that parliament isn’t sitting.
Or if you’re intrigued by the inner-workings of Tasmanian democracy you could always take a seat when the House of Assembly or Legislative Council are sitting.
21. Lark Distillery
This boutique distillery opened in Hobart in 1992, more than 150 years after the previous licensed Tasmanian distillery shut down.
The island has all you need to make great whisky, from its highland peat bogs to its fields of barley and pure waters.
In the same block as Mawson’s Huts and the tourist information centre, you can find out all of the knowhow, skill and science that goes into Tasmania’s first single malt whisky.
Tours take place 10:30-13:00 Friday to Sunday, but there’s also a whisky bar open every day of the week, pouring more than 250 domestic and international whiskies, as well as Tasmanian beer, cider and wine.
22. Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
Follow the Derwent upriver and in half an hour or so you’ll arrive at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can get up close to endemic Tasmanian species.
In spacious paddocks and enclosures amid idyllic parkland you’ll meet Forester kangaroos, wallabies, Tasmanian devils, quolls, echidnas, wombats and a whole variety of bird species.
The Forester kangaroos can go where they please, and are very sociable, often approaching you for attention.
A bag of kangaroo feed is included in the entry fee, and on regular guided tours you’ll find out some facts about the devils, wombats and koalas you might not otherwise know.
23. Farm Gate Market
On Sundays there’s another destination market in Hobart, often eclipsed by Salamanca Market and so off the tourist radar.
Farm Gate Market is heralded by the peal of a big brass bell at 08:30, and presents the best Tasmania has to offer along an avenue of tent-covered trestle tables.
Straight from the producer you can pick up heirloom fruit and vegetables, endemic plants, herbs, artisan cheese, olive oil, Tasmanian wine, spirits made at boutique distilleries, locally roasted coffee, tea, mustard, jams and preserves.
You can’t leave without some sort of food to-go, whether it’s a wallaby burrito, custom-made laksa, grilled octopus, sourdough donut or wood-fired pizza.
24. Bruny Island: Full-Day Food, Lighthouse & Sightseeing Tour
Beyond the Derwent Estuary is an island that stands out for its dazzling natural beauty and the exceptional quality of its produce.
So it makes sense that a round trip to Bruny Island should blend sightseeing with great food.
You’ll head to majestic vantage points at Adventure Bay, The Neck Lookout and Cape Bruny.
At the latter you can take a tour of Cape Bruny Lighthouse, the second-oldest extant lighthouse tower in Australia.
On short guided walks you’ll get the chance dip your toes in the cool Tasman Sea, and spot wildlife like echidnas, a wealth of seabirds and white wallabies, as well as rare wildflowers.
The trip will make regular stops so you can try local chocolate, cheese, honey, cider, fudge and more, and at lunch you can choose from ocean-fresh fish or beef or lamb reared on the island.
This experience is listed on GetYourGuide.com.
25. Wineglass Bay & Freycinet National Park Day Trip
An image that leaps to the fore when you talk about Tasmania is this sublime, sheltered bay with white sands and turquoise sea.
Winesglass Bay lies among the wooded granite hills of the Freycinet National Park.
You can get there on an 11-hour day tour via GetYourGuide.com, pausing at the sweet coastal towns of Orford, Triabunna and Swansea along the way.
Lunch will be oysters or abalone right from the sea before you move on to Wineglass Bay.
There you’ll climb to the Wineglass Bay Lookout, atop granite boulders to behold Tasmania’s most photographed view.
After that you can visit the other exquisite bays in the national park and observe the rocky islands and outcrops from the wooden boardwalk at Cape Tourville, before heading back to Hobart in a happy daze.