MONA didn’t just give Tasmania’s arts scene cultural credibility, it made Hobart cool again. Established in 2011 in a customised subterranean structure on the River Derwent, the private collection of David Walsh is innovative, aggressive and occasionally offensive, but doesn’t take itself too seriously. Get there via private ferry, and don’t miss The Snake — the eye-popping work by Sidney Nolan.
From there, it’s just a short walk to Glenorchy Art & Sculpture Park (GASP) showcasing how community, art and nature can interact, with three pavilions and an elevated boardwalk across wetlands and waterways.
Compared to the likes of MONA, the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery might seem conservative, but Australia’s second-oldest museum certainly delivers an element of quirk. Don’t miss its permanent collection, which ranges from a herbarium to displays on Antarctica and colonial art, plus a tribute in taxidermy to the (now extinct) Tasmanian tiger.
Nearby is the Salamanca Arts Centre, home to over a dozen artists and galleries including a non-profit, artist-run cooperative, a micro-gallery in a phone box, theatre company, second-hand book shop and even a cheese shop.
If you find yourself in Hobart at the weekend, head down to the Salamanca markets. On Saturdays, you can chat with local artists before checking out over 300 stalls, selling everything from tulip bulbs to ornate metalwork.
The artisanal distillery scene in Hobart is exploding — a remarkable feat given that distilleries were banned in Tasmania until 1992. Not only has it become a destination for whisky lovers, it’s also made a splash internationally. Last year, Sullivan’s Cove was named producer of the world’s best single cask single malt whisky at the World Whiskies Awards, and daily tours and tastings at its Hobart distillery are available seven days a week.
If gin’s more your thing, you’re well-catered for in the Tassie capital. Shene Estate & Distillery produces the award-winning Poltergeist Gin, named after the spirits rumoured to haunt the estate. Join a tour of the property, offered by appointment. 7K Distillery’s digs are certainly original: its 1,100-litre copper pot, barrel house and bottling line are housed in modified shipping containers. When the owners aren’t foraging for botanicals, you can try their gin at one of Hobart’s Twilight Markets.
Located by the waterfront, Lark Distillery was the first Tasmanian distillery to open in over a century back in 1992. These days it offers over no fewer than 150 different whiskies, but if you fancy shaking it up a little, then call in at The Den in Salamanca for classy cocktails in a stylish bar.
Paul Fleming’s top 5: Places to photograph
The waterfront precinct is my favourite place to shoot. There’s always colour, life and activity; from the fishing fleet unloading their catch to taking in beautiful sunrises over the harbour.
Also known as Mount Wellington, the ever-present backdrop to the city is only a 30-minute drive but feels like an ancient, wild place far away from civilisation.
Just south of Hobart at Tinderbox, this shore of this tiny, secluded cove is carpeted in thousands of fossilised shells. A natural archway in the cliffs that leads to a second beach.
Don’t miss Russell and Horseshoe Falls in Mount Field National Park, and Tasman National Park, with its ocean views from high sea cliffs.
The aurora has often been viewed from Hobart, you just need a clear view south away from man-made light — and cross your fingers for no clouds!
Paul Fleming is the author of PAUSE: A Collection of Tasmanian Moments. pauldfleming.com
Published in the March 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)