Five years ago, Hobart was almost a ghost town. Shops were closing, the streets were empty, and a gloom pervaded this small city of 250,000 people.
But now, Hobart’s got its mojo back.
Is it MONA — the Museum of Old and New Art — built on the gambling proceeds of its elusive owner? Is it the festivals, the markets, or the organic produce? Or is it that Hobart is now one of Lonely Planet’s Top 10 travel destinations?
It’s probably all of the above.
Hobart is the smallest of Australia’s cities, far removed from the bustling mainland. At times Hobart feels so isolated that it’s hard to believe the rest of Australia exists at all.
This isolation once meant that Tasmania was at least 20 years behind the mainland when it came to culture, and many people left town in search of employment and entertainment elsewhere.
Yet, people are coming back in droves these days in search of a slower pace of life and the opportunity to partake in Hobart’s rebirth.
The city is now a festival hub with a range of music, art, food, boats, and lighting that have contributed to the city’s revival. Suddenly, everyone wants to visit this magical place.
According to a recent article in The Guardian, Hobart is attracting artists and entrepreneurs from Sydney and Melbourne because of its relaxed lifestyle and flourishing business opportunities. Hobart is also enticing more tourists who are keen to sample the fresh, organic produce and explore the city.
In turn, restaurants have blossomed as has the music scene and the galleries.
Hobart is like a smaller version of Sydney. The city has a magnificent harbour and many of the houses have stunning water views. Behind the city is Mount Wellington forming a green backdrop in contrast to the blue harbour.
Hobart was the second city to be settled by the British. Much of the original architecture can still be found in its sandstone buildings. What a glorious sight it must have been to see ships sailing up the river to deliver the latest news from the mainland and Great Britain.
Ships still play a major part in this city and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race is a highly anticipated event each year. The ships sail down the river, having crossed the challenging waters of Bass Strait. At the conclusion of the race, pubs are literally full of drunken sailors (albeit wealthy drunken sailors as the event is generally the domain of millionaire participants).
It’s exciting to see Hobart changing. It is a beautiful city and one that was once largely forgotten by mainland Australia.
Hopefully, the increase in visitors will enliven the rest of the state.
Tasmania has lots to offer and beautiful Hobart may just revive the fortunes of this small southern isle.