Hobart: the Forgotten Australian State Capital

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Looking down on Hobart from Mt Wellington

Looking down on Hobart from Mt Wellington

Tasmania, an island off the southern coast of mainland Australia is not served by any international flights from the UK. To get there you need to fly from some other Australian major city. The state capital , Hobart, is served by just a small airport so getting in and out of it is quick and easy

But at this time of the year Hobart can be known the world over because this is the winning line for one of the most famous ocean races in the world, the Sydney Hobart. This can be a gruelling race that begins on Boxing Day on the spacious Sydney Harbour in New South Wales and ends about 2 days later in a much smaller Sullivans Cove in Hobart.

Being a small city, Hobart has a population of only about 47,000, so it is easy to walk throughout the city centre. Buses, taxis and cars form the main way or getting around as there is no railway system at all. You do need a vehicle to get you to the best vantage point to see Hobart and this is from Mount Wellington. (about 24 kms away.) In winter the road up there can be blocked by snow or closed by ice but at any other time of the year there are buses that go most of the way and tour coaches that will take up to the top. From there is a viewing platform over the city and the bay. The landscape at the top is slightly eerie. T looks how you imagine some of the moon might look and it very definitely looks as though some of it should be used for a movie set.

In the city itself, one of the big draws is the Sunday market in Salamanca Place. Four rows of stalls run for over a quarter of a mile in addition to the shops down one side. Here you can find examples of Tasmanian wood carved into all sorts of shapes, food stalls, second hand books, plants, clothing, sweets and crafts. If you are attracted to the wood just be aware that if you buy Tasmanian Myrtle (not related to our myrtle trees) which is a deep red colour be aware that the very distinctive perfume that it has requires a lot of wrapping to contain it on plane trips. After I got a piece back to the UK it took a couple of days for our living room to return to normal. The market gets very busy and finding a place to relax away from the crowds is hard. Try the café at the back of the Red Dot Salamanca Art Gallery. Maybe because tourists didn’t know it was there was why we had no problem in finding a seat.

Around the marina’s in the cove are where you can find some great and inexpensive fish and seafood restaurants. There are take-aways and sit down restaurants; posh ones and fast food ones. But eat early or late. From about 6-7pm, they all seemed packed and in a few cases people were queuing to get inside.

One place not to miss is the Tasmanian Art Gallery and Museum. One common tourist thought is that all museums are basically the same and there is a lot of truth in that. What makes this museum different is that has a large collection of Tasmanian artefacts relating to the indigenous and Polynesian peoples. That is something you can’t see everywhere.

Finally a general note about accommodation and eating. In Australia as a whole, accommodation is cheaper than in Europe unless you want to stay in really swanky hotels. The big chains have hardly got to Tasmania so small hotels. motels and guest houses abound with price ranges to suit. But it won’t cost an arm and a leg. Similarly with food. Aussies eat out a lot so restaurant prices are pretty reasonable. Half a lobster and chips cost me less than the equivalent of £10. And it was all, fresh off the quay that day.

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