A word of warning: going to the Australian Antarctic Festival may cause you to spend all your money on a ticket on the next icebreaker out of Hobart.

The Tasmanian capital's upcoming celebration of the frozen continent highlights all the reasons why the icy continent has captivated us for so long.

Even the ancient Greeks dreamed of it, not knowing if there was such a place, and dubbed it Antarktikos - the opposite of the northern bear constellation Arktos.

The Hobart waterfront lights up at night. Photo / 123RF
The Hobart waterfront lights up at night. Photo / 123RF

Today Australia has the largest territorial claim to Antarctica thanks to geologist Douglas Mawson, who led the country's first expedition in 1911.

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It is a crucial site for scientists to understand everything from climate change to subatomic physics to the Southern Lights, which can sometimes be seen from Tasmania.

You can even visit the continent - Chimu Adventures is running a month-long tour departing from Hobart in January 2017. But price and time stands between most people and this bucket-list destination.

More people have been on top of Everest than in the hut Mawson and his crew survived in during their expedition.

That's where the festival comes in.

A handful of folk as obsessed with the Antarctic as Mawson was have had the hut faithfully replicated - and the result stands next to Hobart's Franklin Wharf.

Inside the replica of Mawson's Hut. Photo / mawsons-huts-replica.org.au
Inside the replica of Mawson's Hut. Photo / mawsons-huts-replica.org.au

The museum is a permanent fixture in the city, but is the best starting place to get a feel for the festival.

Real-life recordings of Antarctic winds roar through the replica hut and the tiniest details from the pictures the crew had on their bunks to the stove they cooked on help transport you to a place that is in reality 5475km away.

Down the road the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery's permanent Islands to Ice exhibition unlocks more of Antarctica's secrets - but the highlight for kids, and most adults, is the giant ice block you can feel to truly realise how cold it gets down there.

The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Photo / 123RF
The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. Photo / 123RF

You can also jump on a working icebreaker during the festival and tour research ships Aurora Australis and LAstrolabe, which are being opened to the public for the first time in more than a decade.

Another must-see are the packs of huskies that will recreate the 1912 Race to the Pub that welcomed expeditions home.

Hobart is a delightful city in its own right but is the ultimate destination to get a taste of Antarctica - without having to wear too many layers.

IF YOU GO


GETTING THERE:

Hobart International Airport is about a 20-minute drive from the city centre. Have your camera ready for the stunning view of the Tasman Bridge and Mount Wellington as you approach the River Derwent.

Hobart is a city you can conquer on foot, most major attractions within walking distance of one another in the CBD.

The ferry is the easiest and most picturesque way to get to MONA. Splash out on tickets in the Posh Pit to travel in style.

PLAYING THERE: Hobart's inaugural Australian Antarctic Festival runs from September 8-11. It's noticeably colder down here - Tasmania is close to Antarctica after all - so wear warm clothes, including gloves and a scarf. You would also do well to pack good walking shoes, and keep a raincoat or umbrella at hand.

For tours, visit the Chimu Adventures website. The company is offering a four-day tour that gives you access to the best of the festival.

TOP TASTES OF HOBART

• Locals flock to Yellow Bernard in Collins St for the best coffee in town.

• Escape the cold with a whisky at the Lark Distillery in Davey St, or if you're looking for something softer try their Forty Spotted gin.

Fishing boats docked at Franklin Wharf. Photo / 123RF
Fishing boats docked at Franklin Wharf. Photo / 123RF

• Enjoy a pre-drink dinner at the trendy Frank on Franklin Wharf or come during the day for lunch with a view.

• Pick up local fresh produce at the Salamanca Square markets on Saturday or eat delicious seafood tapas at Smolt any day of the week.

• Your eyes will be bigger than your stomach during a visit to the French style cafe Daci Daci Bakers in Murray St with their tantalising pastries.

- AAP