Hobart is famous for its fascinating history but you don't need to be a serious history buff to enjoy it. Whether you're passionate about uncovering the past or would prefer to kick back and enjoy a chilled local brew at the pub, there are plenty of wonderful ways to take a step back in time in the Tasmanian capital.
Spent the night with paranormal investigators
Get ready to scare yourself silly when you spend the night with paranormal investigators at the Old Hobart Gaol to experience the weird happenings at one of Hobart's oldest buildings. During previous investigations, those who are believed to haunt this site made their kinetic energy felt by touching people, hair pulling, scratching, and moving objects. You'll use equipment like an EMF meter which measures electromagnetic frequencies to identify paranormal activity and a parabolic microphone which is used to pick up sounds in adjoining rooms. Because if someone from your group isn't in there, it's probably a ghost. If you aren't game to spend the night at the gaol, there are other (far less scary) options such as a day tour, which includes access through the courtrooms and tunnels to the chapel plus the chance to experience "Pandemonium", an innovative a multi-sensory film presentation.
Experience Hobart's historic pubs
Hobart is a town that has always enjoyed a drink. Back in the 1830s, there was one pub for every 200 residents and every drinking den did a roaring trade. Although there aren't quite as many pubs these days, there are still plenty of historic drinking spots to explore. The Old Hobart Pub Tour visits several of them, including The Hope and Anchor Tavern, which opened in 1807 and was the colony's first pub to sell ale to thirsty sailors and locals. Along with entertaining yarns about what it used to be like serving beer and drinking at Hobart's historic pubs, you'll be able to buy a pint or two yourself. Lively tales about those who pulled up a stool at the pubs' wooden bars make this tour especially entertaining. If you prefer to explore on your own, simply wander around the CBD until you find a historic pub that takes your fancy. It won't take long. Some of them, like the New Sydney Hotel, serve meals featuring Tasmania's local produce that are several steps above the usual pub grub.
Stay in a circa 1800s jam factory
Located in one of Hobart's oldest buildings, the Henry Jones Art Hotel is one of Australia's most unique accommodation options. You're literally surrounded by history here as the building's exterior remains largely unchanged and industrial machinery blends seamlessly with the hotel's contemporary design when you step inside. The IXL Long Bar is a nod to the building's original life as the IXL Jam Factory and Landscape Restaurant & Grill is filled with works by early settler and famous painter John Glover. Book a table and feast your eyes on the walls, and on your plate, as this "date night" restaurant shouldn't be missed. Rooms are decorated in rustic tones and have a cosy modern feel; the pick of these on the third floor come with lovely water views. The hotel's historic tour is excellent and free for guests.
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Stroll around the atmospheric CBD
Any day is a good day to explore the historic centre of town, but time your visit for a Saturday and you'll be able to browse the Salamanca Markets from early morning until late afternoon at Salamanca Place. What started as a few pop-up stalls has grown into half a kilometre of food trucks, locally produced fashion, art and crafts, and a selection of boutique distilled spirits. Salamanca Place is also where you'll find Hobart's private art galleries, fashion boutiques, eateries and pubs built inside historic bond stores from the 1800s. A short stroll from Salamanca Place will take you to one of Hobart's oldest suburbs, Battery Point, for a fascinating look at Tasmania's early colonial architecture.
Visit Australia's oldest continuously operating brewery
The historic Cascade Brewery, one of Hobart's most photographed buildings, is just five minutes from the CBD by car. There are several excellent and affordable tours to choose from here. The Cascade Brewery Tour takes place only on weekends and is the real deal with high-viz vests, lots of stair climbing, and the chance to walk along metal gantries inside the brewery. For A$30, you get a fascinating 75-minute tour plus a tasting paddle of four locally brewed beers or ciders. If you would like to do a tour during the week or you're travelling with under-16s (who aren't permitted on the brewery tour), the Cascade Historic Tour is for you. Or you could skip the tours entirely and enjoy a locally made brew at the Cascade Brewery Bar, which was originally the brewery manager's house.
Immerse yourself in Hobart's scandalous past
On Friday and Saturday nights, discover the best (or, some would say, the worst) of Hobart's grisly and gasp-inducing history on a Hobart's Dark Past tour. This experience for ages 15+ is packed with grim details about the punishment, retribution, and scandalous behaviour that took place in and around Hobart in the settlement's early days. Some of the tales about the city's most notorious early residents such as executioners, smugglers, criminals, convicts, bush-rangers, and the ladies of the night who kept them entertained, might have you looking over your shoulder on the walk back to your hotel. Don't be surprised if you feel like steadying your nerves with a drink at one of Hobart's historic pubs when this tour ends.