12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Hobart & Easy Day Trips
Australia's most southerly city, Hobart snuggles at the foot of Mount Wellington along the estuary of the Derwent River - a beautiful setting, which belies its grim past. This vibrant capital of Tasmania was once a brutal penal colony, where convicts were sentenced to years of hard labor. Today, the city has embraced its rich history and culture. Its handsome convict-built architecture and fascinating museums and galleries are some of the city's top tourist attractions.
Thanks to its deep-water harbor, Hobart also boasts a rich seafaring tradition. Sailing is still a popular pastime, and the city is the end point for the iconic summertime Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Year round, visitors and locals flock to the waterfront to feast on fresh seafood and gaze out at the yachts bristling in the harbor. Hobart also has plenty of day trips on its doorstep, from scenic trails in World Heritage wilderness areas to the penal settlement Port Arthur.
See also: Where to Stay in Hobart
1 kunanyi (Mount Wellington)
Often dusted with snow - even in summer, Mount Wellington (1,270 m) undulates to the west of Hobart like a gentle slumbering giant. A narrow 21 km mountain road winds its way up from the Huon Highway to the summit through temperate rain forest and subalpine scenery. At the Pinnacle, visitors can browse old photographs in the observation shelter and enjoy breathtaking views over the city, the sea, and the stunning World Heritage wilderness in the distance. Mountain bikers love to zoom all the way to the bottom from the peak, while those on foot can follow the safe boardwalks to the very edge of the precipitous escarpment. A striking feature of the mountain is the Organ Pipes, a cliff of dolerite columns and a famous rock-climbing venue. A walk from the Springs to Sphinx Rock on the way up to the Pinnacle offers impressive views of these shard-like rock formations. Bushwalking trails cater to all abilities and key observation points offer picnic and barbecue facilities. Sightseers should bring warm clothes for protection against frequent icy winds and capricious weather.
Hours: Observation shelter on the summit summer (daylight savings) 8am-8pm, winter 8am-4:30pm
2 Salamanca Place & Salamanca Market
Built between 1835 and 1860 on Sullivan's Cove, the handsome historic sandstone buildings of Salamanca Place are steeped in heritage charm. Once the commercial hub of old Hobart, the cobblestone strip is now a tourist hotspot. From Battery Point, descend Kelly Steps to this busy precinct where cafés, restaurants, antique dealers, and shops, grace the old Georgian warehouses. The Salamanca Arts Centre is a cultural hub with galleries, performing arts venues, and artist studios. One of the most popular attractions in Salamanca Place is the Saturday Salamanca Markets. More than 300 vendors sell everything from handcrafted woodwork and jewelry, to ceramics, glassware, and fresh fruit and vegetables. Street musicians enhance the festive ambiance. Feasting on fresh fish and chips at nearby Constitution Dock is a favorite pastime in the city. In the first week of January, tourists throng here after the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Adjacent to Salamanca Place, Parliament House, originally built by convict labor in 1835-40, welcomes visitors to the gallery when Parliament is in session.
3 Battery Point
The old harbor quarter of Battery Point is like an open-air museum. Convicts erected the buildings and, evidently, some of them were first-rate craftsmen. Named after a gun battery that once occupied the promontory, this charming seaside Hobart suburb is lined with quaint 19th-century cottages, boutique hotels, and restaurants. Highlights of the area include Lenna House, a heritage-listed sandstone mansion, now a luxury hotel; waterfront Princes Park, site of the original battery; the Narryna Heritage Museum; and the mid-19th-century cottages around Arthur Circus. The neoclassical St George's Anglican Church here, dating from 1836, was built by two of Tasmania's most prominent colonial architects, John Lee Archer and James Blackburn. From Battery Point, visitors can walk to Salamanca Place via Kelly Steps.
4 Mona Museum and Art Gallery
Opened in 2011, the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is one of Hobart's most talked-about attractions. This provocative private collection of modern art and antiquities is housed underground and offers interactive interpretation through portable touch screen devices. Described as a "subversive adult Disneyland," the gallery displays works ranging from an Egyptian sarcophagus to a machine that turns food into brown goo. Among the many facilities on site are a chic restaurant, entertainment venues, a library, cinema, and contemporary accommodations. To access the museum, visitors can hop aboard a high-speed ferry from Hobart's waterfront; the 30-minute cruise up the Derwent River takes guests right to the museum's steps.
Hours: 10am-6pm Wed-Mon; closed Tues
Admission: Adults $20, concession $15, under 18s, Tasmanians free
Address: 655 Main Rd, Berriedale, Hobart
5 Penitentiary Chapel
The former Penitentiary, with a chapel built by esteemed Irish-born architect John Lee Archer in 1831, provides a poignant snapshot of convict life. Few Georgian church buildings are as well preserved as this little chapel. In 1860, two wings of the Penitentiary were converted into the criminal courts and used through to 1983. Sightseers can join an excellent guided tour of the courtrooms, cells, and execution court, or sign up for the spooky one-hour evening ghost tour.
Hours: Open daily, closed most major holidays
Admission: Adults $12, concession $10, children $5, under 5 free, group discounts are available
Location: Corner of Brisbane and Campbell Streets, Hobart
6 Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
Originally laid out in 1818, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens are a Hobart gem on a hill with glimpses of the Derwent River. The gardens change with the seasons displaying beautiful colors, especially in the fall. A highlight are the tranquil Japanese gardens, but visitors will find everything here. Native and exotic plants feature in a Tasmanian fernery, Subantarctic Plant House, conservatory, fuchsia house, vegetable patch, and lily pond. Kids will love the antique steam carousel. After strolling through the beautiful gardens, visitors can enjoy Devonshire tea at the café.
Admission: Free, donations suggested
Address: Queens Domain, Hobart
7 Tasman Bridge
One of Hobart's most distinctive landmarks, the Tasman Bridge spans the Derwent River in a bold arch, borne on numerous piers. It links Queen's Domain with the suburb of Montagu. Eleven years after it opened in 1964, a cargo vessel rammed one of the piers, threatening the bridge with collapse. A replacement bridge opened in 1977. Pedestrians can stroll across the bridge on dedicated paths and enjoy beautiful views of the river and harbor.
8 Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery
Encompassing the state's oldest public building, the 1808 Commissariat Provision, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery offers a more traditional counterpoint to the cutting edge MONA. It's a great one-stop dose of aboriginal and convict heritage, natural history, and art. Of particular interest are the displays on the history of seafaring and whaling in the southern hemisphere and the fascinating details about the extinct Tasmanian tiger. The museum presents interactive child-friendly exhibits, while the gallery spotlights Tasmanian art from colonial times to the present. A courtyard café is a relaxing place to unwind after browsing and for an extra fee, visitors can take a theatrical tour of the museum's heritage buildings called Settlement Secrets.
Hours: Open daily 10am-5pm, closed most major holidays
Admission: Free, donation suggested
Location: Dunn Place, Hobart
9 North Hobart
A 30-minute stroll up Elizabeth Street from the city center takes visitors to the restaurant strip of North Hobart. Foodies can travel around the world with their taste buds: Chinese, Indian, Italian, Turkish, and Thai are just some of the cuisines on offer. The area exudes a slightly quirky, Bohemian vibe. A top attraction in the area is Runnymede, an elegant two-story mansion of the mid-19th century set in a beautiful garden overlooking New Town Bay. It was originally built around 1837 for a lawyer named Robert Pitcairn who campaigned for an end to the transportation of convicts. In an Art Deco building, the State Cinema is another top draw screening arthouse and foreign films with a café, bookshop, and a summertime rooftop cinema.
10 St David's Cathedral
St David's Cathedral is an oasis of peace and beauty amid the city hubbub. A fine example of neo-Gothic style, the cathedral was begun in 1868 and consecrated in 1874. Today, visitors can admire its beautiful stained-glass windows, gaze up at its square tower of Oatlands stone, and listen to the sonorous peal of its bells. Even those who are not religiously inclined enjoy the artistry and tranquility here.
11 Louisa's Walk
For a unique perspective on Hobart's history, visitors can follow the trials and tribulations of female Irish convict Louisa on this two-hour "walking play." Talented actors lead visitors on a journey back to 1841 when Louisa Ragan was banished to Van Diemen's Land for seven years, all for the petty crime of stealing a loaf of bread. Along the way, visitors will enter the World Heritage-listed Cascades Female Factory Historic Site where Louisa was incarcerated. This is a fantastic way to gain insight into the brutalities of convict life and visit an important historic site at the same time.
Address: 16 Degraves St, South Hobart
12 Theatre Royal
The Theatre Royal, designed by John Lee Archer, is an architectural jewel. The foundation stone was laid in 1834, making it the earliest theater in Australia. It has an impressive neoclassical façade and a charming interior (rebuilt after its destruction by fire in 1984). Many international stars have appeared in the Theatre Royal, which Laurence Olivier rated 'the best little theater in the world'.
Address: 29 Campbell St, Hobart
Where to Stay in Hobart for Sightseeing
We recommend these unique hotels in Hobart's city center near top attractions like Salamanca Place and Battery Point:
- MACq 01 Hotel: luxury waterfront hotel, Tasmanian storytelling theme, individually designed rooms, contemporary decor, professional staff.
- Grand Chancellor Hotel Hobart: mid-range pricing, harbor views, light-filled restaurant, pillow menu, solarium with a pool.
- Salamanca Inn: affordable all-suite hotel, short stroll to Battery Point, kitchens, rooftop pool and hot tub, free parking.
- Astor Private Hotel: budget-friendly rates, helpful staff, quaint decor, free continental breakfast.
The brutal penal colony history of World Heritage-listed Port Arthur, 95 km southeast from Hobart, seems strangely at odds with its stunning location on the tip of the Tasman Peninsular. In 1830, Governor Sir George Arthur founded this settlement where Tasmania's most infamous convicts were sentenced to backbreaking labor. Today, Port Arthur is one of Tasmania's top tourist sites and a poignant reminder of the hardships of convict life. Visitors can tour the guard tower, sandstone church, hospital, prison, and museum. At night, lantern-lit "ghost tours" are sure to send a chill down the spine of visitors. Nearby, Tasman National Park is an uplifting diversion with its soaring dolerite cliffs, spectacular rock formations, and secluded coves.
About 25 km northeast from Hobart, Richmond is a kind of living open-air museum. Of all the early settlements in Tasmania, it presents the most complete and homogeneous picture of a Georgian colonial town. It was founded soon after the landing of the first settlers in Risdon Cove in 1803 and soon developed into the commercial center of a very fertile grain-growing district. Richmond was also an important military post, and inmates from the town's penal colony constructed many of the buildings as well as the 1825 Richmond Bridge, the oldest bridge in Australia.
Often seen in the background of bridge photos is the timber-topped St Luke's Church with beautiful stained glass windows. It was so well constructed that the convict carpenter responsible was pardoned. A short distance to the north, the neo-Gothic St John's Church dating from 1837-59 is the oldest Roman Catholic Church in Australia. Other historic highlights include Richmond Gaol and the well-preserved heritage buildings of Bridge Street. A favorite family attraction, the Old Hobart Town model village recreates life in the 1820s.
A 35-minute drive south of Hobart and a 20-minute ferry across the D'Entrecasteaux Channel from Kettering is the wind-whipped wilderness of beautiful Bruny Island. The island is a haven for foodies with handmade chocolates and nougat, artisan cheeses, local berries, and fresh-shucked oysters. Many day tours include tastings of these local treats. At the island's southern tip is South Bruny National Park, reminiscent of northern Scotland in parts with its towering green coastal cliffs. Eco-cruises and bushwalking are popular activities in the park. Offshore, fur seals and fairy penguins frolic in the cold waters where kelp forests sway in the currents. On land, visitors can spot white wallabies, wombats, echidnas, pademelons, and sea birds. Adventure Bay and Jetty Beach offer sheltered swimming areas, while experienced surfers can ride the breaks at Cloudy Bay. Hikers can follow nature trails through the wilderness along pristine beaches. Cape Bruny Lighthouse, built in 1836-1838 by convicts, offers wonderful views of the tempestuous Southern Ocean.
Hartz Mountains National Park
About 70 minutes drive from Hobart, Hartz Mountain National Park is a World Heritage Wilderness Area and a haven for hikers. The stunning scenery ranges from glacier-carved crags, dolerite cliffs, waterfalls, and glacial lakes. Visitors can explore the wilderness via the extensive network of walking trails or climb to Hartz Peak (1,254 m) for breathtaking views over the surrounding bush.
Mount Field National Park
Founded in 1916, Mount Field National Park is one of Tasmania's oldest national parks. The drive to the park, 64 km northwest of Hobart, is beautiful sightseeing in and of itself, with rolling green hills and valleys dotted with sheep. Once at the park, visitors can hike through ancient forests with towering trees and giant ferns. Magnificent waterfalls cascade down rugged cliffs (Russell Falls is a favorite) and alpine plants cloak the higher elevations. Lake Dobson is another popular part of the park and is home to platypus, pademelons, and a small ski area.