To quote that dishevelled and disoriented brief in The Castle, "it's the vibe and, no, that's it, it's the vibe. I rest my case". For sure, "Vibe", as a word and name, sounds a little (at best) 1998 - the year the cherished Australian flick was released. But, fortunately, there's nothing at all otherwise antiquated about the Vibe Hotel Hobart. This appealing 15-storey, 142-room property opened late last year, part of a flurry of successive flash new digs in the compact Tasmanian capital which was enjoying an international and domestic tourism boom before the pandemic.
Initially, Vibe Hobart's strategic position on Argyle Street, right in the midst of the Royal Hobart Hospital campus from which it no doubt draws some of its clientele, is a trifle uninspiring. But it proves more than handy to the Constitution Dock arm of the picturesque Sullivans Cove waterfront facing the Derwent River and across from buzzy restaurant, cafe and bar-studded Salamanca Place. While set on the eastern edge of the CBD, the heart of the compact city centre is literally around the corner with the Derwent Riverside Queens Domain parklands, a feature of Hobart since 1860, a short stroll away.
The hotel - the first under the Vibe brand in Tasmania - is built on the former site of a 1820s colonial house of Anthony Fenn Kemp, an early pioneer of Van Diemen's Land. The snug, snazzily decked-out lobby includes the reception, a small lounge with a thoughtfully-included fireplace (it probably flickers on more days than most in a typically crisp Hobart year), and the street-facing Belvedere, the Vibe Hobart's all-day dining venue. Upstairs, a surprise and bonus amenity is a local climate-friendly heated swimming pool (bugger, we forgot to pack our togs).
We've scored a top floor, two-bedroom contemporary-styled apartment with magnificent views of the city, river and mountain. This splurge-worthy, mini-penthouse, soberly but smartly furnished and designed, proves to be a cosy hidey-hole on a late autumn day before we eventually venture out in the chill early evening. There's a sizeable terrace running off the large living, dining and kitchenette space. The two bedrooms' furnishings are sourced from Tasmanian oak and crafted locally. Frankly, you could live here and, by the look of them, the less substantial and more affordable rooms won't disappoint either.
A tad weary at the end of an almost two-week tour around Tasmania (hell, we know), after a drink by the waterfront at the five-star Macq01 Hotel we decide to dine in-house at the no-fuss Belvedere, named after the dance hall which used to operate on the Vibe Hobart site. The restaurant morphs from breakfast to lunch and straight onto dinner with a menu showcasing Tassie produce, including everything from Spring Bay mussels to Cape Grim beef.
Hobart remains our most accessible capital city with most of its main attractions within an easy or brisk walking distance. From the Vibe, head across the pleasant waterfront to the preserved sandstone warehouses of Salamanca Place, site of the famed open-air Saturday markets. Beyond Salamanca is historic Battery Point, one of Australia's most bewitching heritage suburbs. Grab a table at Jackman & McRoss, an old and still deservedly popular bakery-cum-cafe stager with fabulous views of Mount Wellington (or Kunanyi by its Indigenous name) which is beautifully framed by hilly Hampden Road outside.
Before the decade ago opening of the edgy Museum of New and Modern Art (MONA) and its black Dark Mofo festival spinoff, Hobart could feel, at least to the sniffy mainlander, a little quaint and unworldly. But the, er, vibe around Hobart these days couldn't be better and this smart and affordable four-star hotel is only one part of the city's elan. We rest our case.
King rooms from $197.10 a night. Vibe Hotel Hobart. 36 Argyle Street, Hobart. Phone 13 84 23. See vibehotels.com
This understated four-star shines but the real winner is the ever-appealing Hobart itself which never fails to deliver for the mainland visitor.
A quibble it may be but there are better sites for a hotel in Hobart than the slightly sterile hospital precinct in which the Vibe is situated.
Anthony Dennis visited Hobart as a guest of Vibe Hotels and Globus Tours. See globus.com.au