I got my first taste of Hobart on a cool early morning, with a wee dram at the Lark Distillery Cafe on Davey Street, overlooking Hobart’s waterfront.
The café is the meeting point for Lark’s whisky tours; Hobartian Bill Lark first founded his international award-winning boutique distillery in 1992, when he managed to obtain Tasmania’s first whisky distilling licence in 153 years.
After our early morning tipple and a talk on the history of the distillery, we climbed into a minibus for a 45-minute drive to the outskirts of Hobart. Here we found Bill’s small distillery stacked high with hundreds of barrels of ageing whisky.
We met the makers and went behind the scenes of the distillation process, sticking our noses into huge vats and, of course, tasting numerous single malt whiskies. The day tour costs $165 per person, which includes generous tastings measures (tasmanianwhiskytours.com.au).
Enjoy a wee dram at the Lark Distillery
Still just about standing after my whisky-infused morning, I spent the rest of my afternoon wandering around the Tasmanian Museum and Art gallery on Dunn Place, where I found rooms full of beautiful art created by some of the best early Australian artists, hanging in a happy union with humanities and science exhibits within this restored colonial building (tmag.tas.gov.au).
In the evening I quite literally went in search of dinner. I checked Facebook for the location of the TacoTaco food truck, the latest trend to hit Hobart’s streets. Like a Mexican pied piper, the TacoTaco Mexican street-food truck draws fans out of their dwellings with their tantalising simple tacos. Founder, Matt Hidding, creates fresh cash-only $5 tacos that are filled to the brim with deliciously prepared and locally sourced, free-range, gluten-free meat, fish and veggie fillings. Pulled pork tacos are the most popular, followed by grilled chicken and braised beef cheek. I find the truck parked up at an abandoned petrol station, where fellow taco pilgrims gather around the vibrantly painted truck. You can visit facebook.com/tacotacotas for the daily location or call +61 (0) 488 060 636.
The following morning I take to the skies in a sea plane with Tasmanian Air Adventures. After a safety briefing, we board the plane and take off right on the Hobart waterfront. The flight takes us on a breath-taking tour over Tasmania’s state capital, with a bird’s-eye view over Hobart, the towering Mount Wellington, and the River Derwent with its spectacular surrounding landscape. Although a little costly ($99 for a 30-minute flight), the exciting flight offers a fantastic view of the southernmost coastline in Australia that you simply can’t beat (tasmanianairadventures.com.au).
Take to the skies with Tasmanian Air Adventures
Just a short walk along the waterfront I arrive at the ferry service for the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). The 15-minute ferry boat ride passes along the River Derwent before reaching the museum jetty in Berriedale.
First opened in January 2011, MONA is Australia’s largest private museum and thousands of people flock to see the erratic and erotic collection every day. It is largely because of MONA that Lonely Planet listed Hobart as one of the world’s top 10 cities, and why so many new restaurants, bars and boutique hotels are opening to accommodate the influx of international visitors heading for the museum.
Museum owner, David Walsh, likens MONA to a ‘subversive adult Disneyland’. He’s not wrong. I take my time to wander through the three spectacular levels of subterranean art space built into a sandstone cliff face, looking at exciting, breathtaking and jaw-dropping contemporary installations and permanent exhibitions. You can of course drive, walk, cycle or take local transport to the museum too. Entrance costs $20 (mona.net.au).
MONA is a ‘subversive adult Disneyland’
A new day and a new experience; this time I take a Segway tour of Hobart’s waterfront and Salamanca Market with Segway Tasmania (segwaytasmania.com). Every Saturday morning Hobart’s famous Salamanca Market is in full swing. To get there, I join a small group of people on the waterfront outside the Henry Jones Art Hotel (well worth a look), where we are introduced to our Segway machines. After a practice session, we head off cautiously along the harbour in the direction of the Salamanca Market, trying not to ride into the water.
The two-wheeled machine is fun and easy to control. The speed is regulated, so you can’t go too fast. I bumped up and down footpaths, past the fishmonger selling his daily catch, and along the harbour with its small bobbing fishing boats and icebreakers bound for Antarctica. At Salamanca Place, two street blocks are packed to overflowing with hundreds of stalls selling everything from food, music, arts and crafts, collectables, books, curios, clothing and jewellery.
I dismount my self-balancing personal transporter and join thousands of people who have come from all over Tasmania to browse the local produce and take in the aromas of freshly brewed coffee and baked goods coming from the market and surrounding cafés. It’s well worth including a Saturday in your visit to Hobart so you can experience the market.
The following morning I’m on two wheels again, but this time it’s a mountain bike provided by Wild Bike Tours ($80 for three hours, wildbiketours.com). We meet at Brooke Street Pier for an early morning guided ride down the 1,271-metre high Mt Wellington, the highest point in Tasmania.
Our bikes are loaded onto a trailer and we are driven to the top of the mountain. The higher we climb, the worse the weather becomes… hailstones tumble from the sky, the wind picks up, and thick cloud obscures our view. Not ideal.
Although wet at the summit, the conditions improve as we descend the mountain road. Halfway down, we trade in the Tarmac for a long section of beautiful rainforest, with lush vegetation, and twisting and turning rocky trails. Definitely worth a go, whatever the weather.
So, is Hobart one of the world’s top 10 cities? I don’t know about that. Give me a few more drams of whisky, though, and I’m sure I’d be happy to agree.
Read more in our September issue.