See Hobart without blowing the budget by getting around on a velocipede from Artbikes (free if returned same day, $22 overnight, arts.tas.gov.au/artsatwork/artbikes). On Saturdays, Salamanca Place, on Hobart's waterfront, is transformed into one of Australia's most popular street markets, with over 300 stalls touting everything from chilli beer to vintage toys (Salamanca.com.au). Have a breakfast salmon sausage focaccia here, from the Silver Hill Fisch caravan ($7), and coffee at Salamanca institution the Retro Cafe ($5). Next, climb Kelly's steps to wander around Battery Point's early 19th century cottages, Georgian homes and boutiques. Return to the harbour for lunch from floating punt Fishy Business ($11.50). Then, spend the afternoon in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (Tues-Sun, 10-4, free, tmag.tas.gov.au), learning about the striped, wolf-like thylacine, (possibly) the last of which died at Hobart zoo in 1936, and the island's once flourishing Aboriginal population. In the evening, sample a dram of whisky on a Lark Distillery tour ($12, larkdistillery.com.au) before ordering from the bar menu at the Brunswick Hotel (67 Liverpool Street, Tempura Huon Valley Mushrooms $13, brunswickhotelhobart.com.au). Finally, catch a band at The New Sydney Hotel (87 Bathurst Street). Staying upstairs at the Alabama Hotel (Queen rooms $80, alabamahobart.com.au) is one budget option but the homey, spacious Montacute Boutique Bunkhouse, in Battery Point, offers exceptional value ($35 in shared room, montacute.com.au). Total $120.50, including $15 for artisan Tassie cider.
Easy does it
Breakfast at the lovely Pigeon Hole Cafe, a stroll from the CBD in West Hobart, where the eggs en cocotte with summer onions and jamon begin the day beautifully ($18 including coffee, pigeonholecafe.com.au). But leave room for tastings on chef Mary McNeill's Gourmania city tour ($120, 9.30-1.30pm, gourmaniafoodtours.com.au), a progressive feast through Hobart's food culture, taking in 10 outlets, including Cool Wine, where a variety of Tassie drops are sampled. End with a small plate of Spring Bay mussels in white wine and garlic ($23.90) at Smolt (2 Salamanca Square, smolt.com.au). In the afternoon, visit the atmospheric Mawson's Antarctic hut replica, constructed from Baltic pine from the same Scandinavian timber mill that supplied his 1911-14 expedition (open 9-6pm, October-May, 10-5pm other months, $12). Then join a thrilling descent of Mount Wellington, Hobart's 1270-metre elephant in the backroom, sweeping down winding roads and dirt tracks on mountain bikes (underdownunder.com.au, 4pm departure in summer, $75 adults). Warm up again at new, Latin American-themed Frank Restaurant, on the harbour front, where the grilled octopus, with causa and pebre ($20) and half baby chicken with red onion, fried yucca and purple sweet potato ($24.90) are delectable (1 Franklin Wharf, frankrestaurant.com.au). Stay at Hotel Grand Chancellor Hotel (harbour view rooms from $210, grandchancellorhotels.com/au/Hobart/). Total $503.80
On Sundays, Hobart's farm gate market introduces an irresistible assortment of regional produce from "Lady Hester" sourdough donuts to the most artful-looking oyster mushrooms from nearby Huon Valley. Expect to spend a minimum $100 (Bathurst Street, farmgatemarket.com.au). Next, take a 15-minute seaplane flight over Hobart before splashing down at MONA ($250 pp including Mona entry, tasmanianairadventures.com.au). You'll need a day to absorb this underground treasure chest, conceived by multimillionaire professional gambler and Tassie philanthropist David Walsh (mona.net.au). Catch the impenetrable but compelling Matthew Barney River of Fundament exhibition until April and don't miss Sydney Nolan's panoramic 44-metre long Snake and Wim Delvoye's horribly fascinating "poo machine". If that doesn't put you off, break for Bruny island oysters (6 for $18) and Smoked Ocean Trout plate ($26) at the beneath-ground wine bar. End the MONA visit with a splendid nine-course degustation ($175) with accompanying wines ($100) at The Source restaurant on-site before returning to Hobart by taxi (about $20). For style-meisters, the Avalon city retreat (From $900 a night, avaloncityretreats.com.au/city) deposited by crane atop a nine-storey office tower, is the Hobart address to bed down at. Total: $1489
The writer was a guest of Tourism Tasmania and Avalon city retreat.