* Prices may differ from that shown
SCENE 1: A Youth Hostel Reception. Noon.
RECEPTIONIST: Anything I can help you with?
ME: Yep, can you remind me which bus I need for Cadbury's, please?
RECEPTIONIST (laughing): Sure...you want to go there?
ME: It's why I came
RECEPTIONIST (incredulous): You came all the way here to go to a chocolate factory?
SCENE 2: A hospital emergency department. Midnight.
DR: You're British, right? (Confused) What on Earth brought you Tassie?
ME: Um...the chocolate factory?
DR (smiling as realization sets in): Ah, of course.
How I ended up in a youth hostel is pretty obvious, and how I ended up in a hospital is beside the point. All you need to know is that I didn't go all the way to Tasmania just to visit a chocolate factory, but when I was looking for a weekend away, it was certainly a contributing factor in my decision to go. Hobart is the Brummie bit of Australia in so far as it's a city with few redeeming features beyond a Cadbury's factory hidden in its suburbs. However that's where the similarities end. Nestled between the Derwent River and the imposing Mount Wellington, Hobart very much resembles a colourful Alpine village surrounded by rolling green hills with huddles of Terracotta houses adorned with rooves of teal and charcoal and lime.
The city centre itself is not especially large. Stretching up from the waterfront is Elizabeth Street, home to the tourist information office and the main shopping parade. Branching off are several side streets boasting coffee shops and cafes, but almost no restaurants and bars to speak of. On my first night I was amazed by how quiet the place was. Forget cities that never sleep, this was one that valued its kip and went to bed early. I struggled to find somewhere to eat as there was a distinct lack of open eateries and not even a supermarket or 7-11 to help me along. The next day I discovered that all the restaurants live together, in an area of town called 'North Hobart'. It's a 10 minute bus ride from the CBD, and as I'd walked and walked the night before I concluded I must have been just moments from it when I had turned round and given up. I had a good meal that second night, though, feasting on a banquet of Italian food although the service could have been better. On noticing my casual attire and my request for a table for one, I was banished to a back room of the restaurant in which mine was the only one of over a dozen tables occupied.
In Hobart attractions are limited. You can climb Mount Wellington for fantastic views of the city and beyond, but it's a 4 hour upward trek so I opted for the much more refined coach trip up to the summit. For $16 you get a 2 hour round trip with live commentary and plenty of photo opportunities. It's well worth doing if you're wrapped up warmly and steady on your feet as the severe winds at the top threaten to blow you over with every gust. This being Tassie, there are no gift shops or restaurants at the top of the mountain - it houses nothing more than a walkway, a semi-enclosed viewing gallery and some toilets, because even the most foolhardy amongst us would not want to pee into *that* wind.
At ground level a popular excursion is a river cruise, and most come with some kind of meal or snack provided - breakfast or morning / afternoon tea or lunch or dinner - with the price reflecting the number of courses provided more than the quality of the boat or the route taken. I paid $11 for a 90 minute cruise, again with live commentary, and unlimited hot drinks and cookies, and there was some good gossip to be had in addition to the historical facts, and it was a good place to shelter from the storm that whipped up half way through.
Back on dry land I decided to explore the 'Museum and Art Gallery', a combined affair on Macquarie St, but was disappointed. I got the impression someone had awoken one morning and, realising Hobart ought to have something along these lines, thrown some random artefacts into glass cases, pasted on a few labels and opened the rooms to the public. Apart from one room of half-decent artwork, there was little of interest to me here, and I did not stay long.
Instead, I hit the shops as I needed something to wear for our speed dating venture this week back in Sydney. Settling on the perfect top for a bargain $20 I then ruined the saving by proceeding to buy the necessary underwear and jewellery to accompany it, but I couldn't help myself as Hobart has some pretty funky shops. The next day I headed off for some more retail therapy at Salamanca Market, a once weekly affair in and around Salamanca Place. The area lies empty 6 days a week but comes to live from 8.30am on Saturdays when stalls selling everything from antiques and accessories to Dutch pancakes and German Wurst pop up in abundance. It was busy but not unpleasantly so, and though I was there on and off all day, it remained accessible at all times. Up behind Salamanca Place is Battery Point, a quaint little village of tea shops and delicatessens where everything is so adorably old fashioned it shuts up shop at noon on Saturday until Monday morning.
Late on Saturday afternoon I had a few hours to kill before my airport pick up, and had little to do as everywhere was shutting, so I took myself off to see a film and discovered the only way in which Hobart resembles a state capital: the cinema prices. I paid almost 3 times what it would cost me to take in a film at my local place in Sydney, it was still a price worth paying for somewhere to shelter from the storm that was brewing that was safe and warm and unlikely to do my diet too much damage as 2 hours at a coffee and cake shop, my only other option, would have done.
Outside of Hobart, the nearby suburbs offer more in the way of shopping and eating experiences, but no further attractions, really, apart from the Cadbury's Factory. This is located in Claremont, about 45 minutes from Hobart, and busses run fairly regularly via Glenorchy which is also worth a visit if only for the huge shopping centre. Tours run at the factory Monday - Friday from 8am, and advance booking is essential, though if you forget you can usually wangle a place by booking on a Cadbury Cruise tour which takes you up the river and then into the factory. This costs about $45, and in comparison I paid under $15 for entry to the factory and a day's travel on local busses. I really enjoyed the factory tour. On entering you are relieved of your bags and supplied with a hair net, and you are then guided through the working factory for about 90 minutes, seeing whatever it is that is being prepared that day, and learning little secrets like why you get more of some than others inside boxes of Favourites (= Miniature Heroes) and Roses, and how much chocolate Australians eat in a year (10kg each on average, the most in the world). You also have chocolate thrown at you almost constantly, and are encouraged to eat as much as you like. We sampled Dairy Milk, Cherry Ripe, a newish bar with white chocolate, milk chocolate and mint fondant, Old Gold, Turkish Delight, Fudge, Flakes and much more, and were rewarded with a box each and some additional mis-shapes to take home. On exiting you are encouraged to visit the shop where they sell a large proportion of the Cadbury Asia-Pacific range at factory prices. The only thing I was disappointed by was the lack of Cadbury themed merchandise - beyond pens, rulers and t-shirts there was nothing to choose from, so I just had to spend my pennies on the edible stuff instead.
I travelled to Hobart with JetStar, a budget airline, paying about 75 GBP return from Sydney. Airport transfers are limited to taxis, around $45, or shuttle busses, $19 return. Accommodation ranges from hostels to hotels, and I had a single room in the former for $45 per night. Daytime, snacks are readily available in Hobart, and I would recommend breakfasting at one of the Elizabeth St restaurants where choices include British and American style options (plus random things like 'thin pancakes', i.e. crepes, with maple syrup). Gloria Jeans Coffees, also on Elizabeth St, is good for cake, and the Bakery at Salamanca Place would have had my custom on several occasions had I located them sooner. As it was I breakfasted and lunched there on the same day, and sampled some delicious things including the first chocolate croissants I've located since arriving in Oz over a month ago. The 'most famous' ice cream café in town is Sticky Fingers on the water's edge, but I wasn't convinced. The selection was basic and adding German names to the flavours in an effort to make them seem 'exotic and European' just doesn't do it for me. However I opted for the Oreo Cheesecake instead of the ice cream and it was most edible.
Tasmania is south of the mainland and quite a bit cooler and wetter. Pack a coat and some jumpers if you remembered to bring them with you to Oz. There is a lot to see in Tasmania and I would recommend a proper holiday of at least a week if time allows - I was limited to a weekend and therefore chose to stay within Hobart, but would like to see more of the island at some point.
The current exchange rate is $2.2 = 1 GBP
While I was planning my trip to Melbourne to visit my best friend, she was busy far away planning a short trip for us. Every year we try and spend a few days away and this year we decided on Tasmania. Why? Because the cheap flights go there and it was a bargain price!
After an hour in the air we took the airport shuttle to our hotel, the Corus. It was centrally located in Bathurst Street but it was too dark to see anything. However I did notice that considering it was 9pm, there were very few people on the streets. The few pubs we passed seemed to be bursting at the seams, indicating that perhaps there werent too many evening establishments to frequent! This didnt bother me we were only there for two days and this was going to be a whistlestop tour!
* Shopping *
My friend and I are self-confessed shopaholics and we love a bargain or two. Hobart wont disappoint it has all the major chains seen in other Aussie cities such as Myer (although a very small one!), Sportsgirl and well known book stores. From our hotel the shops were easily accessible and within walking distance.
* Food *
Always an important part of my holiday restaurants are plentiful! Our breakfast was taken at Kafe Kara which was five minutes walk down the hill from our hotel. This was a relaxed coffee shop in Liverpool Street selling muffins, omelettes and gorgeous hot chocolate! Breakfast is served til 11.30 so if you have a late one and decide on a lie in, this would be perfect to recharge your batteries. There are also magazines and newspapers in there to catch up on the daily gossip!
My friend was recommended a restaurant by one of her colleagues and we decided to treat ourselves to a slap up meal there. Located at Salamanca market, this was a 10 minute walk away and is called The Ball and Chain Grill. Its located at Salamanca Place (number 87) and is an absolute must for steak lovers! They are cooked on real charcoal grills and the smell will draw you in. Seafood and chicken are also served and theres a free salad bar. Theres a wide range of wines and yummy desserts too!
There are also Indian and Thai restaurants dotted around the main shops and youll be spoilt for choice! Theres something for everyone here.
* What to do in Hobart? *
As I said, our stay was very short at 2 nights. We decided to do one tour which lasted all day and I think 9 out of 10 people will want to know about it if I say the word Cadbury to you! Yes indeedy peeps, theres a choccie woccie factory here!
Tours can be booked at your hotel and youll be picked up there. Our tour was called Hobart Deluxe which was run by Gray Line and cost $94 (around £39). This includes the factory tour, seeing the Tasmanian devils (!) and Richmond.
We were taken to the harbour (about 5 mins drive away) and then our cruise commenced up the Derwent River at 10am to the chocolate factory. We were lucky considering our trip was in April the weather was a sunny 28 degrees. My friend and I went out on deck lapping up the rays (and getting a beautiful new hairstyle thanks to the wind!). The cruise lasted one and a half hours and we were called to the front to be given a packed lunch (which we started on early as .. ahem .. hunger was calling!).
So, onto the good bit, the chocolate! Firstly all visitors have to remove their jewellery. This includes wedding rings and even earrings they are all safely locked away or you can keep them upon your person in a pocket. Then you are given a fetching new plastic outfit a pretty new coat dress and an attractive cap to squash your newly blow dried hair. Men - if you have a beard even this has to be covered up! Once you are made to look extremely foolish, you are then ready to go get those free samples!
You see every kind of chocolate being made or zoomed along on conveyor belts and the smell is sugary, sweet and at times over powerful. Every so often your tour guide will dip into a humungous box and you are told to take two or three. Ehm the greedy Aussies were taking off their caps and filling them (!) and one lady found an envelope just by chance in her handbag she told me and began filling that! Each to their own - I just filled my boots! ;-) Afterwards I counted at least 10 different samples including Twirl, Flake and Freddo.
The actual tour lasts about 30 mins then you can buy more choc (bleugh) in the shop. Its fairly cheap and some of it is sold in packs of 5 or 10 but without the Cadbury wrapper, just in plastic but these are the best deals as they can't be sold in the shops due to some imperfection.
At the factory there is a small café, toilets and a rather measly shop selling key rings, postcards and t-shirts. We had lots of free time before the pick up for the wildlife park.
So the next stop was Bonorong Wildlife Park. We had just over an hour there, which was just about the right amount of time. I love the unusual animals but after 8 trips to Australia, I have been there, done that but hadnt seen a Tasmanian devil so I was quite excited! Other animals included koala, possum, wallabies and kangaroos (which were roaming free). We were given food in a packet and encouraged to feed the kangas and I loved that! The Tassie devil didnt disappoint he was a snarling, ugly, solid black thing running round and round his pen like an absolute mad man! The keeper was feeding him and he was ravenously tearing apart some rabbit still with the fur on. * ewwwwwwwww *
After the animals it was on to our final destination, Richmond. This is an olde worlde type place with Australias oldest existing and best preserved colonial gaol and convict built homes. We were again given a short time here so my friend and I found a tea house and sat outside enjoying the scenery with a cake and a cold drink! Other shops included a lace shop and a lolly shop which had fantastic licorice and all your childhood sweets served from the glass bottles and measured out for you. Well worth a look!
20 minutes later we were back in Hobart and back at the hotel by 5pm. It was a fab day full of different experiences and I can highly recommend the tour.
* Salamanca *
This is one of Hobarts famous markets which is every Saturday from 8.30am to 3pm. A brilliant atmosphere, music, food and shopping all in a short space! We got there early and enjoyed an omelette in a roll for a paltry 4 bucks (£1.60). Stroll around and pick up a bargain or three. There's everything from jewellery to leather goods to local arts and crafts. And try the worlds smallest pancakes theres enough for two people! I bought some gorgeous apple butter, hand made earrings and some designer sunglasses! Salamanca is an absolute must even if you dont like shopping the food and music will ensure you stop by! We visited just before we had to go to the airport but Im so glad we were there on a Saturday to enjoy this!
* Finally *
As this review is bordering on the obscenely long that is really my very brief look at Hobart. I so wish wed had more time to explore Port Arthur and learned about the convict era, visited Mt Wellington and the gorgeously named Peppermint Bay. But that will be for another time. And I do hope to go back.
If you are planning a trip to Tasmania, Hobart is definitely worth a look. Small and pretty, it wont be everyones cup of tea but if you like quaint and quiet with beautiful scenery then you wont be disappointed. Just make sure you check the weather its notorious for being much colder than mainland Australia! The full five stars and a big recommendation. People are helpful and friendly and theres so much to do and see.
Thanks for reading!
Hobart is the state capital and most populous city of the Australian island state of Tasmania. Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, it is Australia's second oldest and eleventh largest city, with a metropolitan population of approximately 202,000. The city is the financial and administrative heart of Tasmania, and also serves as the home port for both Australian and French Antarctic operations.