For years, I've been fascinated by Tasmania. Why? It's something I've found hard to put my finger on. All I knew is that I wanted to visit this mysterious island off the south coast of Australia. After being bit by the Tasmanian travel bug, I did some reading and became even more intrigued: fantastic fresh and inventive food in Hobart, stunning scenery, and some of the most unique wildlife in the world? Count me in! It took years but I finally managed to tick this bucket list destination off my list.
I was lucky enough to travel to Sydney for work back in November. While the main purpose of the trip was business, I managed to carve out four days for a long weekend vacation. We booked our tickets on Virgin Australia and were soon on our way: a two hour flight in total from Sydney to Hobart. We'd flown over 24 hours to get from Dublin to Sydney so the two hour flight felt like a blink of an eye in comparison. What did we find when we landed in Tasmania? Here are sixteen reasons why Hobart, Tasmania is an amazing city break destination from Sydney.
1. Salamanca Market
Saturday in Hobart centers around Salamanca Market, a huge outdoor market running for several blocks through town and down toward the sea. We discovered Tasmanian specialties like fruit leather and dukkah (a spice mixture to combine with olive oil and bread for dipping). Add in creative crafts, and a variety of musicians and you have a perfect Saturday morning experience at the the southern tip of the world.
2. Local Markets Selling Unique Products. Beer Jam anyone?
You might think that in a city of about 200,000, Salamanca would have a monopoly on the market scene in Hobart. Not so! With half the population of Tasmania residing here, there is room for more than one outdoor market. On Sunday, we discovered Farm Gate Market which featured a variety of locally produced foods. Walking around with a fresh fruit smoothie, we ogled the produce and other innovative products. We couldn't help but stop at Captain Bligh's for a taste of beer jam. Yes, beer flavored jam that you spread onto crackers. Only in Tasmania ;-)
3. Battery Point Nosh
Battery Point is a quiet residential neighborhood in Hobart that can be accessed by driving up a fairly steep hill or by walking up a series of steps from Salamanca Place along the waterfront. We took the stairs to get a bit of exercise for what lay in store at the top of the hill: some really nice restaurants. We ate in Battery Point twice during the course of the long weekend. The first time we had lunch at Monsoon and enjoyed Asian influenced seafood with a glass of Tasmanian wine. The second time we had a late dinner at Ristorante Da Angelo, an Italian place and one of very few restaurants in Hobart that will seat you after 9 pm. Delicious!
4. House Proud with Flowers, Picket Fences, and Ornate Trim
After our lunch at Monsoon, we strolled through the neighborhood admiring the lovely homes complete with ornate trim, rose gardens, and white picket fences. The residents of Hobart are clearly proud of their homes and for good reason!
5. Wildlife Encounters at Bonorong Wildlife Reserve
Tasmania first registered in my world when I was a kid in the form of a spitting, spinning, cartoon Tasmanian devil named Taz. Just outside of Hobart, you can see Tasmanian devils in real life (minus the spitting and spinning, of course) at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. We signed on for a night tour that allowed us to get up close and personal with a Tasmanian devil and other uniquely Australian animals like wombats, and albino possums. We even got to feed a mob of resident kangaroos. There were also plenty of birds out and about just before the sun set.
6. Amazing Sunsets
Speaking of sunsets, they are pretty amazing in Tasmania. We watched the sun set over Hobart in a million shades of pink and purple from our hotel room balcony.
7. Harbour Walk
Hobart is a waterfront city and taking a walk along the harbour makes for an enjoyable afternoon. We enjoyed seeing the fishing boats and other sailing vessels bobbing in the crystal clear water.
8. Birds You Won't See Anywhere Else
My regular readers know that I'm an opportunistic bird watcher. I *love* birds but don't have the patience to sit for hours waiting for an elusive species to come into view. Tasmania was perfect for us because we saw a ton of new species and didn't have to try very hard. We spotted black swans, maned wood ducks, Cape Barren geese, superb Fairy-wrens, Tasmanian nativehens, colorful parrots, and more.
9. Archival Architecture
We also enjoyed admiring the architecture of Hobart. Many of the buildings had a name and often a year stamped onto the facades. While the storefronts were modern, it was cool to look up and take a step back in time.
10. Good Home Base for Exploring the Tasman Peninsula
Hobart is also an excellent home base for a day trip to the Tasman Peninsula. We hired a car and drove down the stunning coast past Pirates Bay all the way to the former penal colony at Port Arthur.
11. A Night Expedition to North Hobart
After a long day on the Tasman Peninsula, we decided to go in a slightly different direction for dinner. We walked to the strip of shops and restaurants along Elizabeth Street. Admittedly, it was pretty quiet up there on a Sunday night and we swiftly crossed the street when we suddenly saw a possum walking towards us in the dark! However, we were soon rewarded with a fine meal at the newly opened Roaring Grill. After a pair of seafood starters, our main (salmon skewers) arrived in dramatic fashion.
12. Mt. Field National Park
Mount Field National Park is another easy day trip from Hobart. After arriving at the visitor's center, we hiked into the primordial forest and up to a waterfall. We even saw pademelons (small native Tasmanian marsupials). Admittedly, my heart started racing when I heard a noise in the bush but that quickly subsided when I realized it was the cute pademelon and not a killer snake. :-)
13. Fresh Seafood
Back in Hobart, we sampled more fresh and fantastic seafood at Blue Eye. Chargrilled octopus really hit the spot.
14. There's Nothing Like Tasmanian Bacon
We sat down to brunch at Smolt on Salamanca Place. It was here that we discovered that Tasmanian bacon is unlike regular bacon, in fact, it's unlike any bacon I've ever seen the world over. We ordered French toast with Tasmanian bacon. Imagine my surprise when this plate came out. I recognized the toast but instead of a shriveled little piece of bacon, we were treated to a huge slab of pork. Yum!
15. Wine Tasting in Coal River Valley
Wine tasting in Tasmania is also a once in a lifetime experience since the wineries in the region typically don't export. We spent our final day in Tassie sipping wines in the Coal River Valley wine region. The views over the Tasmanian landscape were stunning and the refined Pinot Noirs were out of this world.
16. Richmond Town
Richmond town is situated in Coal River and is a great stopping off point when heading back to the airport from Hobart. We wandered around the small streets taking in the various restaurants and shops. In fact, it was the perfect afternoon for an ice cream. We enjoyed our ice cream while checking out the famous Richmond Bridge, the oldest bridge in Australia that's still in use. Opened in 1825, the bridge has certainly seen a lot over the last 200 years in Tasmania!
We were worried that Tasmania wouldn't live up to my expectations given how excited I was about the trip and how long I'd wanted to go here. We shouldn't have worried. Tassie totally exceeded our expectations. I'm now trying to figure out how to get back down there for an extended trip around the island!