Hobart is Australia's quiet overachiever. As the country's smallest and most-southerly state capital, it rarely gets the attention lavished upon its mainland siblings. This is odd because it punches way above its weight in terms of attractions, accommodation, dining and experiences – much like the island state of Tasmania itself. The good news is that we'll soon be able to fly direct to this diminutive gem when international flights resume between Auckland and Hobart. Here's a taste of what awaits us when we can.
The city's most notable hotel opening last year was the Crowne Plaza Hobart, a stylish 235-room property in the heart of the CBD with sweeping views of the waterfront and Mount Wellington. Splash out on a club room and you'll get access to a dedicated Club Lounge with complimentary all-day refreshments and early evening canapes and drinks. Even if you don't stay here, be sure to check out Aura, the property's show-stopping rooftop bar and restaurant, where you can indulge in a seven-course degustation menu featuring Tassie's finest fresh produce (think kingfish ceviche and oysters with mascarpone and caviar). crowneplaza.com/hobart; aurahobart.com.au
Two more brands that recently debuted in the city include Vibe, which now has a sleek 142-room city-centre property with a heated infinity pool, and Movenpick, which unveiled its first Australian hotel in January. Near the waterfront, the contemporary 221-room property is particularly popular with chocoholics thanks to its indulgent chocolate-tasting packages and free treats during a daily "chocolate hour". vibehotels.com; movenpick.com
If you'd like to learn more about Hobart's colourful past, check out MACq01, where every room is named after a notable local character. The award-winning luxury hotel offers free storytelling tours of the property and the city, plus it has a fantastic onsite restaurant, Old Wharf, and an intimate, curio-filled cocktail bar called Evolve (look out for the life-size skeleton of a Russian cave bear). macq01.com.au
You can't talk about Hobart without mentioning the gallery that catapulted it on to the global art stage. The Museum of Old and New Art (Mona) is Australia's largest private art gallery, an engaging, confronting and, at times, downright disturbing collection of contemporary art housed in a striking subterranean sandstone space. Recently re-opened after a nine-month refurbishment, it now has a children's playground, a mirror maze and new artworks from eccentric owner David Walsh's personal collection. The sprawling complex is also home to a brewery, two wineries, several bars and restaurants, a tennis court and accommodation in eight luxury pavilions. If you only do one thing while you're in Hobart, make it this. mona.net.au
Mona gets all the glory but it's not the only cultural heavyweight in town. What the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery lacks in shock value, it makes up for in accessibility (it's free and ideally located on the waterfront), prestige (it's Australia's second-oldest museum) and diversity (it houses everything from fossils to fine art).
If architecture is more your thing, be sure to take a stroll around Battery Point, a quaint historic enclave near Salamanca Place. Once a nefarious slum, it's now one of the most exclusive parts of the city – a delightful montage of grand mansions and historic cottages, many of which house cafes, book stores and antique shops. batterypointwalk.com.au
It's well worth timing your visit to fall over a weekend so you can experience Hobart's famous Salamanca Market. From its humble beginnings of just 15 stalls in 1972, this weekly Saturday spectacle now contains more than 200 vendors, selling everything from scented soaps to wooden bowties to handmade ceramics. You'll also find a wide range of Tassie produce, including whiskeys, gins and wines, plus live entertainment and food stalls. salamancamarket.com.au
A smaller but no less appealing option is the Farm Gate Market, which every Sunday transforms a section of Bathurst St into an authentic farmers' market. It's a great place to grab brekky (I can highly recommend Lady Hester's lemon curd-filled sourdough doughnuts) and stock up on delicious Tassie treats such as olive oils, preserves and cheeses. farmgatemarket.com.au
Wine and dine
Ten years ago, Hobart was a culinary cul-de-sac. Now it's at the forefront of Australia's dining scene thanks to a new breed of innovative chefs who are championing the island's abundant natural produce.
Tucked away on Brooke St near the waterfront, Stock Market is a notable newcomer where you can feast on coal-roasted crayfish washed down with a silky Derwent Estate pinot. If you'd rather somewhere European-flavoured, check out La Sardina Loca, which specialises in Spanish-style small plates (think crispy Manchego cheese croquettes) served Italian aperitivo-style, with spritzers and BYO sparkling conversation. stockmarketrestaurant.com.au; facebook.com/lasardinaloc
If you're short on time but high on fomo, Gourmania Food Tours' new progressive dining experience is the ideal solution. Over the course of an evening, you'll follow a self-guided tour to three of the city's hottest bars and restaurants, where you'll sample a signature dish and drink in each. The company also offers a range of foodie walking tours, which showcase a curated selection of the city's best eateries and market offerings. gourmaniafoodtours.com.au
Given Tasmania's impressive credentials as a whiskey producer (Lark Distillery's Classic Cask Single Malt is a standout), it was only a matter of time before it jumped on the gin bandwagon. Forty Spotted Gin is Lark's foray into the gin world and you'll find its full range plus a wide selection from other Aussie distillers at the stylish new Gin Bar on Argyle St. If you fancy yourself as an aspiring gin maker, check out its entertaining gin-blending class, where you can make your own bespoke bottle of juniper-laced goodness to take home. ginbarhobart.com
Although Tassie wines are well supported by the city's bars and restaurants, if you're hankering for a cellar-door experience, the Coal River Valley wine region is only 20 minutes away (and temptingly close to the airport). Best known for its cool climate rieslings, pinots and chardonnays, it's home to about a dozen cellar doors, many of which also have notable eateries. Frogmore Creek is a perennial favourite, thanks to its award-winning pinots and fabulous restaurant overlooking the vineyards. Also worth checking out is Pooley Wines for its exceptional single-vineyard rieslings and relaxed al fresco restaurant serving wood-fired pizzas. frogmorecreek.com.au; pooleywines.com.au
Out and about
You could easily while away your time in Hobart hopping between cafes, bars and restaurants, but you'd be missing out on the city's dramatic landscapes and scenery. Mount Wellington (kunanyi in the local indigenous language) is a dominating presence, an often cloud-shrouded 1271m-high mountain that stands guard over the city. Although you can drive to the summit, active types will appreciate the challenge of hiking there on a full-day guided tour with Walk on Kunanyi. Along the way, you'll pass waterfalls, soaring dolerite columns and temperate rainforest containing more than 500 native plant species. walkonkunanyi.com.au
For an aquatic perspective on the city, join one of Roaring 40s popular Hobart City kayak tours. The 2.5-hour beginner-friendly paddle skirts the city's historic waterfront and includes a floating lunch of local fish and chips in the heart of colonial-era Constitution Dock.
If both of those sound like too much work (you're on holiday, right?), let Pennicott Wilderness Journeys whisk you along the River Derwent on an exhilarating boat trip to see Tasmania's oldest lighthouse, the sturdy 11m-high Iron Pot, plus Betsey Island, which is a haven for seabirds. En route, the 2.5-hour cruise passes historic Battery Point, nudges into a spectacular sea cave and provides a fascinating insight into the city's maritime heritage. ironpotcruises.com.au
AirNZ is launching a direct service from Auckland to Hobart on Thursdays and Sundays. Tickets will go on sale once quarantine-free travel is available. airnz.co.nz
Check border restrictions before travelling.