Attractive and small state capital located on the hills around the Derwent River.
The City's Major Attractions
It is widely accepted that the highlights of the city include the magnificent Botanical Gardens, the untouched historic charm of Battery Point, the mixture of history and modern charm to be found around the docks and Salamanca Place, and the density of historic building in the city's central business district. Beyond these essentially historic explorations there are also a number of trips around the city - the most popular of which are the journey up Mount Wellington and the boat trips to the Cadbury factory, down the Derwent and through the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.
The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens lie on the banks of the Derwent River just beyond Government House. The land was originally a 50 acre (20.2 ha) grant to a farmer, John Hangan, in 1806. By 1826, with a widespread agreement that Hobart Town should be the capital of Van Diemen's Land, Governor Arthur had plans drawn up for Government House and an adjoining Botanic Gardens. The Gardens first superintendent, William Davidson, was appointed in 1828. He was paid �100 per year and given a house (which still stands in the gardens) which was built in 1829. Over the next five years Davidson imported plants from England while, at the same time, collecting over 150 native species from Mount Wellington. The garden grew progressively during the nineteenth century. An interesting footnote from this period is the fact that Martin Cash (distant relative of Pat Cash and more famously one of Van Diemen's Land's most notorious bushrangers) worked as an overseer in the gardens between 1854-56.
An excellent map and comprehensive history of the gardens is provided in the brochure Let's talk about the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. The brochure provides details about the historic Arthur Wall (built by Governor Arthur in 1829), the Rossbank Observatory site (the site of an observatory built by Governor Franklin in 1840), the Conservatory, Rosarium, Floral Clock, Fern House and Tropical Glasshouse. For more information check out: http://www.rtbg.tas.gov.au/
Battery Point has no equal in any other Australian city. It is a much superior Tasmanian equivalent of the Rocks area in Sydney but, whereas the Rocks are a real tourist haunt, Battery Point is a very elegant 'suburb' with an extraordinary concentration of beautifully preserved nineteenth century houses.
The only way to experience Battery Point is to simply walk up Kelly's Steps (probably built for Captain James Kelly in 1839-40) from Salamanca Place and start wandering through the winding streets. Every corner offers a surprise and every streetscape is characterised by charm and elegance.
Battery Point gets its name from the Mulgrave battery of guns which were mounted on the headland in 1818. This naming comes relatively late as the point was settled by Europeans as early as 1804. Up until the 1830s the point was primarily rural but it was around this time that building started with the completion of Stowell and Secheron House (built around 1831 and located at 21 Secheron Road) and the construction of the impressive warehouses which still stand in Salamanca Place.
By 1850 Salamanca Place and Battery Point had become the marine focal point of the city. Sailors from all over the world came to the area - some lived in the houses on the point, others used the numerous pubs around the docks for shoreside recreation - and sailors' and workers' cottages were built in an area which was already noted for its gracious Georgian mansions. In this sense Battery Point is a unique combination of living styles. Neat, tiny cottages owned by working people stand next to mansions in an streetscape which includes roads which wind around the point and even 'village greens' designed to mimic the streets of rural and urban England.
The most impressive and famous building in Battery Point is St George's Church (or, more particularly, its tower). The church was built between 1836-38 and the tower, a James Blackburn design, was added in 1847. It is regarded as the finest Greek Revival Church in Australia with its impressive Doric portico and decorative carvings.
A number of the cottages at Battery Point are used as guest houses. Barton Cottage at 72 Hampden Road was built in 1837 by Captain William Wilson and now is used as a bed and breakfast facility. Similarly Colville Cottage (1877) at 32 Mona Street, Cromwell Cottage (1880) at 6 Cromwell Street, and the impressive two-storey Tantallon Lodge (1906) at 8 Mona Street, all provide unique and historic accommodation.
It is fun to explore Battery Point enjoying the sense of surprise offered by the whole area. If you want something a little more organised the National Trust offers conducted walking tours on Saturday mornings.
History and modern charm around the docks and Salamanca Place
If there is a central point to Hobart is must be the docks and Salamanca Place. It is here, every year, that the victorious yacht which has led the fleet from Sydney-Hobart arrives. It is here that, each weekend, locals and visitors mix and mingle in the excellent Salamanca Markets. And, it is here, that the old Georgian warehouses (built between 1830-50) have been converted into excellent restaurants, galleries, craft and gift shops. It is widely recognised that the Salamanca Place warehouses are the finest dockside Georgian warehouses remaining in Australia. Although built at different times and without any apparent architectural consistency they form a coherent whole partly because of the consistent use of stone and partly because they seem to be in proportion to each other.
The Historic Buildings in the City
There is a pamphlet, Let's Talk About Hobart's Historic Buildings, which concentrates on the important historic buildings and sites in the city's central business district. If you are not overwhelmed by the buildings at Battery Point and Salamanca Place it is worthwhile walking up into the main part of the city and exploring Davey and Macquarie Streets where there are nearly sixty National Trust classification buildings squeezed into two streets. The visitor can see most of the important buildings by completing a circuit from the City Hall up Macquarie Street to Harrington Street then down towards Salamanca Place and back along Davey Street).
The buildings of particular note in the CBD include the Commissariat Store (1808-10) at 40 Macquarie Street (Hobart's oldest building), the Bond Store (1824) behind the Commissariat, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (1863) and the Town Hall, with its impressive ballroom, which was built in 1864.
The old Court House complex in Murray Street incorporates the Supreme Court (1823-24), the Treasury Offices (1859-64) and the Deeds Office (1884). Over the road from the Court House, although it now longer stands, was the site of the colony's first gaol. Further up Macquarie Street are the Tasmanian Club (1846), runs of stone houses dating from the 1850s, St Joseph's Church (1840).
In Davey Street, opposite St David's Park, are a number of brick houses dating from the 1840s and 1850s. Next to St David's Park is the Parliament House (first used in 1855) and beyond, in Murray Street, is the Customs House Hotel (first licensed in 1844).
Of particular note is the Theatre Royal at 29 Campbell Street which was built in 1837 and is recognised as the oldest theatre in Australia. The spectacular Georgian interior is a reminder of the possibility for sophistication which existed in the colonies in the 1830s. It is claimed that the theatre has a ghost. Perhaps, more significantly, the stage has been such theatrical luminaries as Laurence Olivier and Noel Coward.
Further up Davey Street are the Anglesea Barracks. Built in 1814 they are recognised as the oldest military establishment still in use in Australia. A pamphlet Let's Talk About Anglesea Barracks provides a detailed history of the barracks and a map with details of each of the major buildings in the complex.
The barracks were originally built on the instructions of Governor Lachlan Macquarie who, during his visit to Van Diemen's Land in 1811, became concerned about the inadequate facilities for the military in Hobart. Over the next decade (it seems that Macquarie's enthusiasm wasn't matched by the local authorities) the Barracks were built with the foundation stone being laid in 1814 and troops occupying some of the buildings by 1818.
Any tour of the barracks should include the Guard House (1838), the Hospital (1818), the Military Gaol (1846), the Officers Quarters (1814) and the Old Drill Hall (1824). It is possible to visit the Barracks from Monday to Friday between 8.00 am - 10.00 pm however, at this time, many of the buildings are not open to the public. A free guided tour is held every Tuesday at 11.00 am.
Towering over the city is Mount Wellington which is 1270 m high. Often mistaken for a dormant volcano it is in fact an igneous intrusion known to geologists as a sill. The dolerite rock which makes the mountain was emplaced in a molten state (known as 'magma') about 175 million years ago but it never reached the Earth's surface at the time of its emplacement and so could not form a volcano. What happened was that once the molten magma reached a certain level during its upward movement through the Earth's crust, it spread out laterally in a sheet-like form, bodily lifting the horizontal sedimentary strata which still lay above it, and them cooling slowly to form the present rock. This type of 'igneous intrusion' is called a 'sill', and the vertical columns which characterise the present Tasmanian dolerite landforms formed as a result of contraction during the cooling. In the case of Mt Wellington and many other Tasmanian peaks, the sedimentary strata which originally overlaid the dolerite have since been removed by erosion.
Mount Wellington was first sighted by Captain Bligh in 1785 and named Table Hill. In Christmas Day 1798 George Bass became the first European to climb the mountain and to enjoy the spectacular view across the Derwent River and down the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.
It has become one of the major sites of Hobart and over the years it has been climbed by such famous people as Charles Darwin (he took 5 hours to reach the summit in 1836), Lady Franklin (reputedly the first white woman to reach the summit in the late 1830s), and the novelist Anthony Trollope who, having climbed it in 1872, dismissed it as 'just enough of a mountain to give excitement to ladies and gentlemen in middle life'.
About 8 km up the Derwent River from Hobart is Risdon Cove, the site of the first formal white settlement of Tasmania. It was named after William Risdon, the second officer on one of the two ships which arrived in the area in 1793. Settlement occurred at Risdon Cove in 1803 but the soil was poor and within a year relocation to Hobart had occurred. It is worth remembering, while visiting this historic site, that there was a major massacre of Aborigines here within months of the establishment of the settlement. It was the beginning of an act of genocide which nearly wiped out all traces of the island's original inhabitants.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service have developed the site and there is an excellent audio visual display in the visitor centre which explains the story of the early British settlement of the island.
Boat trips to the Cadbury factory
Every city has its major tourist attraction and a boat trip to chocolate heaven seems to be amongst the most popular in Hobart. The Derwent Explorer departs from the Brooke Street Pier, Franklin Wharf and makes its way up river to the Cadbury factory at Claremont where, apart from the educational interest of seeing chocolate being produced, the visitor gets an opportunity to sample and to purchase the product. For more information check out: http://www.cadbury.com.au/about-cadbury/cadbury-visitor-centre.aspx
A number of other cruises are available which, avoiding chocolate, go around the harbour and down the Derwent and through the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.
The history of the city, the bustling weekend markets at Salamanca Place, the proximity of Australia's most famous convict ruins at Port Arthur, and the sense of being in another country, all add to the appeal of the city.
Rafting the Franklin
Water by Nature operate a rafting expedition on the Franklin River which have a 5, 7 and 10 day expedition. They depart from Hobart on Fridays and Sundays between October and May. For more information check out: http://www.franklinrivertasmania.com/
This Week in Tasmania, a free guide widely available in hotels and tourist places in Hobart, offers an extensive guide to restaurants, hotels and motels in the city centre. The inevitable drawing power of the seafood restaurants around Constitution Dock is essential for anyone wanting to enjoy reasonably priced, and deliciously fresh, seafood.