The cat didn't quite fiddle while Hobart burned, but the feline did end up exhausting one of its nine lives. In 2007, the Tasmanian capital's main department store was razed by a fire that also damaged shops in the adjoining Cat and Fiddle Arcade. The shopping mall, built in the early 1960s, was a loved landmark that included a drawcard retro clock which sported a stylised fiddling feline. Eventually, both the mini-Myer department store and the arcade rose again in the form of a strikingly modern, upmarket complex with the handy addition of this 235-room Crowne Plaza Hobart hotel which opened last year.
The Crowne Plaza couldn't be more central, set on the bustling (well, bustling for Hobart) Liverpool Street, right in the heart of the city's compact central business and retail district and within easy reach of main attractions. Towering above the 12-storey hotel, and all else for that matter in Hobart, is the 1200-metre Mount Wellington, a broodingly rugged wonder that's well worth a trip by private car or on an organised tour.
The hotel's Liverpool Street entrance is effectively a rough-hewn timber-clad lift lobby, with the real action beginning on a considerably more expansive level four. This attractive and contemporary space, festooned with local art, is decked out in soothing shades of blue, silver and grey, inspired by Hobart's divine Derwent River-side setting. It also features the main reception, restaurants and bars, including The Deck, an al fresco area, popular with Hobartians, overlooked by the mountain.
In contrast to the main lobby, the superior king rooms have colour schemes inspired by the warmer red and brown hues of Mount Wellington and are set on the city and mountain side of the hotel. These contemporary and smartly-designed rooms on levels five to nine come with either Derwent views or Wellington glimpses. For additional luxuries such as espresso machines and fluffy bathrobes missing from the superior king rooms, splurge on one of the pricier, king club suites on levels 10 and 11.
When this reviewer visited the ever-popular Hobart, the city's most favoured restaurants, such as Templo, Fico and Dier Makr, were booked out, so it pays to reserve a table well ahead of your arrival date. But the Crowne Plaza's own in-house diner, the farm-to-table-focused Core Restaurant & Bar, is more than a worthy fallback. Hobart, like every other Australian capital, is full of fancy cafes, but one of its oldest, the Retro Cafe at Salamanca Place, remains a vibrant yet unpretentious choice.
The reincarnated Cat and Fiddle Arcade, with its 70 specialty upscale stores and that whimsical sculpture, is right next door. The huddled sandstone warehouses of Salamanca Place, the site of the open-air Saturday markets, Constitution Dock, or Sullivan's Cove waterfront, where Sydney to Hobart boats arrive at the end of the renowned yacht race, are all within an easy walk of the Crowne Plaza. It's from here that high-speed catamarans ferry visitors to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). It's the only way to go. Above Salamanca, historic and beautiful Battery Point, peppered with small public parks, is one of the most intact heritage suburbs in the country. Here you'll find the village green of Arthur Circus ringed by quaint cottages dating to the late 1840s.
It may not be quite Hobart's crowning glory, as far as accommodation goes, but in terms of four-star hotels, the Crowne Plaza Hobart is a five-star standout with its impressive location, first-rate amenities, efficient and courteous service and value for money.
The attentive, well-trained staff are, without exception, friendly and welcoming and appear justifiably proud of their hotel.
When the hotel is busy, the elevators on the ground floor can be painfully slow in conveying guests to the main reception, restaurant and bars on level four. Patience, please.
Anthony Dennis stayed at the Crowne Plaza Hobart as a guest of Globus on a nine-day Globus Rugged Tasmania tour. See globus.com.au