Hobart combines the old and the new

Two Hobart landmarks ... Salamanca Place and Mount Wellington.

Two Hobart landmarks ... Salamanca Place and Mount Wellington.

I’m no great fan of yachting but I felt compelled to go down to Sullivans Cove late in 1993 to watch Ninety Seven finish what has been described as one the toughest Sydney-Hobart races of all time.

Skipper Andrew Strachan had guided one of the smallest boats in the 104-strong fleet — only 38 yachts finished — to a line-honours victory.

It was a performance that demanded respect and attendance.

I lived and worked in Hobart for 10 years, and those docks, the adjacent suburb of Battery Point and the stretch of the Derwent through Sandy Bay hold many good memories for me.

In the 20 years since I left, Tasmania has changed a lot and it has changed very little.

Ready to roll ... the writer and the Woman with Altitude at Parliament House.

Ready to roll ... the writer and the Woman with Altitude at Parliament House.

It’s still just a small city typified by peak minute and a very laid-back approach to life, but it’s also become a lot less apologetic about the quality of its thriving artistic, touristic and culinary scenes.

Hence I returned recently with considerable excitement and expectation — and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

There were certainly more restaurants to choose from, more local delicacies to try and the wine industry was mature and thriving rather than just showing promise.

The Friday night crowd having a few drinks in Salamanca Place was as joyously boisterous as ever, the markets there the next morning offered the same variety and quality as they always had, Battery Point had retained its charming village-like atmosphere, and three of my favourite restaurants — Prossers, Mures and the Astor Grill — had, if anything, upped their quality.

Great seafood ... Mures Upper Deck.

Great seafood ... Mures Upper Deck.

They’re all very different. Prossers occupies a gorgeous waterfront spot on the Derwent at Lower Sandy Bay, Mures has pride of place at Sullivans Cove, and the Astor Grill is part of a wood-panelled private hotel in the city.

There were people who suggested that we were heading to the wrong establishments in the city to really judge its culinary development, and that we should have been trying out some of its more cutting-edge restaurants.

Perhaps they had a point, but we were really happy to have chosen where we did. All three restaurants showed exactly why they’d stood the test of time, and why locals in the know kept heading back to them, especially for special occasions when they demanded the very best.

The drive to the top of Mt Nelson remains a scenic must for putting the city of Hobart into geographic perspective. It’s hard to believe that its signal station only ceased to be an active part of the state’s communications system in 1969.

Selling some of the best fruit and veg on the planet ... the Hmongs' stall at Salamanca Market.

Selling some of the best fruit and veg on the planet ... the Hmongs' stall at Salamanca Market.

One of the most thrilling — and certainly very different — ways of experiencing Hobart is from the back of a Trikemania Adventure Tours’ trike.

Just strap yourself in and let David Glazebrook guide you around the city, Battery Point, Sandy Bay, the Eastern Shore or even to the top of Mt Wellington.

The patter is a bit cornball but the ride and the scenery are quite exhilarating.

I didn’t have time for the drive up Mt Wellington this time, but if you do it’s certainly worthwhile — to take in the seemingly endless wilderness to the south-west, and to perhaps watch clouds form right before your eyes.

Do be careful, though. The weather at the top can turn amazingly quickly and you can easily find yourself enveloped by swirling mist.

IF YOU GO

Prossers on the Beach, 19 Beach Road, Long Point, Sandy Bay, phone 03 6225 2276, visit www.prossersonthebeach.com 

Mures Upper Deck, Victoria Dock, Hobart, phone 03 6231 1999, visit mures.com.au

The Astor Grill, 157 Macquarie St, Hobart, phone 03 6234 3122, visit astorgrill.com.au

Trikemania Adventure Tours, phone 0408 655 923, visit hobarts-trikemania-adventure-tours.com

For general tourism information, visit www.discovertasmania.com.au 

John Rozentals is a freelance writer whose passions are travel, food and wine. He lives at Molong in the Central West of NSW, from where he hosts Oz Baby Boomers, a lifestyle-resource for mature Australians, and Molong Online.

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