Ending a tremendous stay at Bicheno on Tasmania’s beautiful east coast, we had a flight leaving Hobart the following evening, so decided to make the most of our time when we got to the city.
The non-stop drive south to Hobart along the Tasman Highway takes a little over two hours, but we stopped at the nearby Devil’s Corner at Apslawn for a light lunch.
This impressive winery, one of the Brown Brothers stable, has arguably the best views of any vineyard in Australia.
Below the property to the east is a sweeping vista of Great Oyster Bay, the Hazards peaks and the Freycinet National Park. All serve to enhance the excellent cool-climate wines and fine dishes to be had at this devilishly good place.
The weather started to change a tad as we made our way south, hugging the picturesque coastline. Rainsqualls drifted in, but these only caused us to make more stops than we should have, to snap pictures of the atmospherics over the coast.
Being way down in the moody Roaring Forties, Tassie weather can be fickle year-round, but the ever-shifting play of light, wind, rain and clouds add to the rugged beauty of the Apple Isle.
Charming Hobart Digs
Then it was onwards to Hobart, where the Salamanca Wharf Hotel awaited.
Only metres from the waterfront on Castray Esplanade, this contemporary, self-contained boutique hotel offers visitors high-end comfort and convenience in one of the best and most charming colonial precincts in Australia.
Patrons are 150-metres from Salamanca Place with its historic seafaring pubs, park, restaurants and funky cafes.
The area has become one of the most popular urban tourist destinations in Australia and is famed for its vibrant weekend markets and lively waterside vibe.
Nowadays the Apple Isle is a happening place! The entire island seems to be flavour of the decade with a booming economy that is currently far outstripping the larger mainland states.
Despite sitting among some of the oldest buildings in Australia, the ultra-modern Salamanca Wharf Hotel is airy, full of light and smartly designed, taking advantage of harbour views as well the lovely Princess Park behind the property. It boasts 22 apartments including four loft penthouses.
The interior features colourful walls and slick architectural design, making it something of a modern artwork in itself. Furniture crafted from local Tasmanian timbers adds to the clean line aspect of the building.
In the rooms and common spaces are striking photographs by Antarctic adventurer Laurent Dick, adding a unique aesthetic. (Most of the Australian Antarctic Division missions are launched from Hobart, with their icebreakers a gull’s squawk from this hotel).
We were lucky enough to drop anchor at one of the four luxurious loft penthouses and were really impressed with our chic space overlooking the park.
There was a king-size bed in the boudoir with lush linen, goose down doona and a choice of comfy pillows. There was also a super soaker tub in the room to relax the tired pins after a long day exploring the sights.
A horizontal window next to the tub provides bathing exhibitionists a view out into the living room, or vice versa, but bashful splashers or couch spuds can pull the blind if needs be.
A sloping ceiling in the loft apartment bedroom was a curious feature and looked good, but I’m not sure how it would impact the noggin of a sleep walking major league basketball player. We Hobbity types remained bump-free.
The granite kitchens are equipped with quality appliances and the mini bar fridge stocked with premium Tasmanian beers, wines, cheeses and chocolates.
The living area features leather lounges and smart TV.
If you are not feeling like going out for a bite, then you can either self-cater in your apartment or slip downstairs to the popular Salamanca Wharf Café on the ground floor, open for breakfast and lunch.
The hotel caters for parking with a car stacker system. This is kind of a garage conveyor belt and giant dumbwaiter for cars. While it can be a bit daunting manoeuvring the Bugatti onto the steel belt, watching it shuffled like an ace card and disappearing down into the bowels of the earth behind a steel gate, one soon learns to trust the mechanism. It’s also a superb foil for parking inspectors.
Down to the Docks!
That evening we took a stroll through Salamanca Place. Most of the buildings here date from the 1840s and have been stylishly converted for modern commercial use. But there are older ones still. The Hope and Anchor Tavern over in Macquarie Street has been serving grog over the bar since 1807.
We then headed over to the wharfs and settled in at Mures Lower Deck for fish ‘n’ chips, a glass of Tassie white and beaut views of Victoria Dock.
The harbour is a visual treat at night with fishing boats, yachts and other craft dotting its calm waters.
Next morning we headed back to Salamanca Place and grabbed a cuppa at an old favourite of ours, the Retro Café. This eclectic eatery, right in the middle of the Salamanca action, has good coffee and food, and attracts both tourists and the Hobie business crowd. Fine people-watching terrain.
Then we took off downtown for some retail therapy. Like many aspects of today’s Hobart, the shops are more sophisticated than they once were, and Jacqui bought a fetching pair of heels at one of the boutiques.
Funky Culture at its Best
Then it was time for a bit of crazy culture. We drove over to the amazing Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) to see some of the exhibits we’d missed on previous visits.
Of course, we had the option to go up the Derwent to the Berriedale Peninsula on the MR-1 Mona catamaran, a grey-tone camouflaged craft that transports travellers from the Brooke Street Pier to MONA, but being pressed for time, we took the car. (After extracting it from the car stacker like a can of fizzy from a vending machine.)
MONA, the largest privately funded museum in Australia is the brainchild of wealthy gambler-turned-art collector David Walsh.
His taste in art is decidedly eclectic and as many art lovers now know, what he has done with this extraordinary attraction is exceptional.
The single-story MONA building, opened in 2011, appears at street level to be dominated by its surroundings, but its interior has a spiral staircase that leads down to three larger levels of labyrinthine display space built into the side of the cliffs.
There are no windows and the atmosphere is intentionally ominous. The various galleries present antiquities as well as modern and contemporary art from Walsh’s collection.
The wry and quirky Walsh has described his museum as a “subversive adult Disneyland,” but even this is being rather unadventurous.
For example, there’s that memorable contraption accurately replicating the entire process of human digestion, concluding with a ‘number two’ plopping into a beaker every afternoon.
There’s also a couple of mechanical human skeletons demonstrating the ins and outs of the missionary position for the voyeuristic public – and what seemed to us an inordinate number of sniggering schoolboys.
The displays and collections are frequently updated and the facility also hosts the annual MOFO and Dark MOFO festivals that showcase large-scale public art and live performances.
We had a ball moving between the subterranean galleries and agree with those who say it takes several visits to fully appreciate this oft bizarre and enthralling Hobart facility.
Heading back to town, we stopped in at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens; a wonderful way to while away a few hours before heading out to the airport for our Perth flight.
The 34.6-acre site, adjacent to Queens Domain near the Derwent Bridge, was established way back in 1818.
Prior to European settlement, local indigenous tribes used the site, and traces of their occupation are still apparent.
From 1996, the Gardens have contained The Patch, a working display garden that regularly appears on the popular ABC TV series Gardening Australia.
The Gardens hold historic plant collections and a large number of significant trees, many dating back to the 19th century. Having recently returned from Northern California we recognised an enormous Sequoia Redwood at the entry to the garden.
The RTBG is the second oldest in the nation after the Sydney Botanical Gardens, established a few years prior.
It also features important conservation collections of Tasmanian plants, and the world’s only Subantarctic Plant House. Here, plants from subantarctic islands in high southern latitudes are displayed in a climatically controlled environment, where chilly fogs and mists mirror the wet, cold conditions of their island homes.
The Gardens are dedicated to educating people about plants and the environment. One of their major educational annual events is Growing Your Future, a career event bringing together a variety of organisations and businesses with students.
Then it was out to the airport to flit back across the Great Australian Bight to Perth. We’re still mighty thankful that Virgin put on their direct flight – long may they soar!
We can highly recommend the Salamanca Wharf Hotel on your next business or leisure trip to Hobart. We found it a comfy, relaxing, friendly and ideally situated.
The Starfish would like to thank the Salamanca Wharf Hotel for our stay. The hotel is located at 17A Castray Esplanade in Salamanca Place, Hobart, Tasmania.
More info and bookings at www.salamancawharfhotel.com