Tasmania: Hobart – The Idyllic City
Some say that Hobart’s climate is similar to that of Wellington’s. I couldn’t agree more. We arrived on a Friday afternoon and boy was it windy! Still, it was a sunny day and so it made the cold (it being winter) a lot more bearable.
Being the capital of Tasmania, I expected a lot more from Hobart. So, I was slightly ‘disappointed’ by how small a city it is. Let me qualify myself: I don’t like cities. Even New York’s Times Square didn’t excite me. However, being a visitor, I did expect a more vibrant cityscape. Instead, even on a weekend, as far as activities go, it was pretty dead. That said, it would have been a different story if I were living there. Hobart has all the trappings of a modern city without the woes normally associated a city: traffic congestion, pollution…at least from first impressions. The pace of life and cost of living (judging from housing prices) was akin to what Auckland was 15 years ago. Petrol is cheap, just A$1.19 per litre! Hobart seems to move at a leisurely pace. It appears that the main activities that were very much alive would be its fine cafe and restaurant scene.
With regard to food, I was introduced to Fish Frenzy, on the waterfront. They make awesome Fish n Chips, and their seafood chowder was pretty mean too. Prices are reasonable, considering the portions they give you, which are huge. Service is brisk but friendly . Come early, or late, as dinner time is usually crowded. We ordered the seafood chowder and their house specials, Fish Frenzy. The seafood was fresh and done just right. Highly recommended! Seeing that both locals and tourists are packed into this place during dinner, I’m sure they agree with me too. While there is parking near the restaurant but it can be difficult sometimes, particularly on a Friday night. Fish Frenzy is located at: Elizabeth Street Pier, Sullivans Cove, Hobart, Tas 7000. Open from 11am-9pm daily.
Speaking of crowd, it seems that the only crowd were reserved for a Saturday morning at Salamanca Market. Open between 8.30am and 3.00pm only on Saturdays, the whole Tasmania seemed to have converged at this place. It is surely one of the largest outdoor markets in the southern hemisphere (Victoria Market notwithstanding) and features an eclectic mix of food, fresh produce, crafts and baskers. The longest lines though, seemed to be reserved for Jasper Coffee. For some reason, the idea of coffee and donuts appeal to the frozen soul (it was a cold wintry morning).
We did pick up some bric-a-brac from the craft stalls. Apart from the ice creams from Viking Cones, I would say that the food sold at the market was good but not exceptional, at least not from those that I’ve tried. Viking Cones’ ice creams was rich and creamy and come in many flavours.
One notable point about Salamanca Market was that many of the stalls sell items made locally. This is a refreshing change from markets inundated with stuffs made in China. So, from that standpoint, this market stands out as different from other markets that I have visited. Salamanca’s 300 stalls may sound like a lot, but in truth, you could easily browse through everything in an hour or so. Still, it is a worth a visit while in Tasmania. While the market closes officially at 3pm, many of the stalls start closing at 2pm. So be there early. Salamanca Market is located at: Salamanca Place, Hobart, TAS 7001.
Leaving Salamanca Market, we drove along Darvey Street, which eventually became Huon Road. Our destination: Kunanyi, a.k.a Mt Wellington. In 1836, Charles Darwin, scaled Mt Wellington through thick vegetation and wet weather. And so we congratulated ourselves for living in this age and were travelling in the ease and comfort of a vehicle. It was just 30 minutes’ drive from downtown Hobart but the ascent was rather quick. Our smugness quickly turned to despair as we didn’t realise the elevation was 1271m and from what was a relatively warm 14°C at Salamanca Market, the temperature plummeted to 3°C with a windchill factor of -5°C. So, as you can imagine, our thin jackets were no match for the mighty wind and cold that day. Fortunately, we were able to seek refuge at the Pinnacle observation shelter at the summit. Unfortunately though, the glass windows at the shelter were not the cleanest and I could not get decent photos from within. So, I had to brave the wind and the cold outside to take photos. For a moment, the commanding vista from the outside viewing platform made me forget the discomforts of the cold. I would imagine that on a clear, warm, summer day, it would have been perfect. Mt Wellington is opened to the public all day and is free to enter. But, it pays to check the weather forecast ahead of your visit and, just for safe measure, bring along some warm clothing.
Our visit to Tasmania quickly came to an end. We didn’t have time to do all the touristy stuffs, in fact, we didn’t even get to visit Port Arthur, which was promoted as a must-visit place. Still, I would say that from our short visit of Tasmania, it is a worthwhile holiday destination. The people of Tasmania are an easy-going lot as can be seen from the way they drive and interact with other motorists on the road.
Would I visit Tasmania again? Indeed, but probably in Autumn. And I hope to visit the Huon Peninsula and the west coast of Tasmania the next time.