The southernmost city in Australia’s southernmost state. Next stop, Antarctica. With the tranquil Derwent at its front and wilderness at its back, Hobart revels in its surrounds. Steve Cordony, interior stylist and Belle magazine’s style director-at-large describes the Tasmanian capital as “Lake Como, surrounded by the River Derwent”. “The rolling hills are so picturesque, and the calm beauty of the landscape is like a painting,” he marvels. But Hobart’s charms go beyond appearances.
Call it “the Mona effect”, credit it to our growing appreciation of the boutique and local-leaning – Hobart is having a moment.
But the city still holds onto what defined it before mainland urbanites descended. It remains in a dining scene where sustainability is assumed and not affectation; in inner-city cottages untouched since convict times; in hamlets just outside the big smoke dripping in country charm. For Steve, this blend of heritage, scenery and food has proven intoxicating.
Follow in Steve’s footsteps for a jam-packed weekend making the most of everything Hobart has to offer.
All glass, steel and organic pastries, Pigeon Whole Bakers is one of Hobart’s favourite places to break bread. Steve’s recommendation is the breakfast roll, filled with capocollo salume, omelette, sautéed greens and relish.
It’s a short walk on to Brooke Street Pier for the pilgrimage out to Tasmania’s irreverent cultural holy site, the Museum of Old and New Art (Mona). Board the camo-printed Mona Roma catamarans for the twenty-minute cruise up the Derwent – Steve recommends Posh Pit tickets to experience the approach from the ‘pointy end’.
“Pulling up to the peninsula by river boat was the first treat of many to come,” Steve says. “The surrounding river, the imposing stairs leading you up to the main square and the subtlety of the complex, quietly melding into the landscape, was beautiful.” Mona looms behind every conversation on Hobart’s transformation, and dedicating a few hours to David Walsh’s capricious vision is a must.
Glide back downriver for a late lunch at Dāna Eating House. One of the young guard of Hobart restaurants adopting a bistronomy approach, Dāna offers modern South-East Asian cuisine with a side of philanthropy (a portion of every bill goes to social causes).
Afterwards, meander through Salamanca Markets as it concludes for another Saturday and up to Battery Point – one of Hobart’s first suburbs. “I love the laneways and old seafarers’ cottages of the precinct, where the outside of the buildings and the streetscape has largely been unchanged since it was built”, Steve says. Stop by Annick's Antiques, inside the heritage Mariner's Cottage, for antiques and collectables dating back to the 18th century.
See the sun set on Hobart with the winding drive up kunanyi/Mt Wellington to the Pinnacle. Dress warmly – on a good day, the peak is 10 degrees colder than city level – but the panoramic views are worth it, especially after a dusting of snow.
Although Hobart’s dining scene continues to grow at pace, old faithfuls remain treasured. The offering changes weekly at Fico, determined by the season and supplies, but guaranteed is the European-inflected menu and warm welcome that has made the restaurant a mainstay.
Home for the night, Islington Hotel, is an elegant Regency house transformed into an urban lodge decorated with a private art collection. “I loved the homely feel of the hotel,” Steve says. “And being perched up on the hill with views up to Mount Wellington was magical.”
Rise and shine – it’s market day. Every Sunday, Bathurst Street in the city centre is closed off for southern Tasmania’s best makers and growers to set up shop for Farm Gate Market. You’ll need to arrive early, Steve cautions, to nab a box of Lady Hester sourdough donuts – they sell out fast.
Stocked up, take the scenic drive west of Hobart to the Derwent Valley. New Norfolk is the largest township in this bucolic rural enclave, wended through by the Derwent. Settle in for one of Tasmania’s most-lauded culinary experiences at The Agrarian Kitchen, courtesy of spouses Rodney Dunn and Séverine Demanet. Linger over the set field-to-fork lunch or grab the morello cherry and ricotta baked cheesecake from The Kiosk to go.
No Tasmanian country drive is complete without a bout of antiquing, and here New Norfolk excels. Visit Miss Arthur for aesthetically pleasing home goods; Flywheel for bespoke stationery; and The Drill Hall Emporium for curated antiques, where Steve managed to snap up some botanical prints for his home in regional NSW.
Stop by bookstore-meets-café Black Swan to browse design tomes and order a coffee for the return drive and then head back towards Hobart’s eastern fringes and park up to wander the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. “The incredible variety of trees and shrubs, all in park-like grounds overlooking the River Derwent, was pure magic.” Steve says.
Fit in one last snack before your flight with an aperitivo session at Sonny. From the team behind Hobart’s beloved pocket-sized Italian bistro Templo comes this pocket-sized Elizabeth Street wine bar, where a record crackles perennially on the stereo and specials are scrawled on a blackboard. The oysters are “beyond”, Steve offers, as was the handmade pasta with sea urchin.
From here, the Tasman Bridge carries you towards the airport and away – but, like Steve, it’s unlikely to be your last glimpse of Hobart.
By Krysia Bonkowski