Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
August 16-18, 2023
August 16, 2023
Flying to Hobart
Our day began with an early 6:00 a.m. flight from Melbourne to Hobart, Tasmania. In order to make it we woke up at 3:00 a.m. and caught the airport shuttle. It was a short flight, only a little over an hour. We made the mistake of trying to wake up and start our day right away and drank an energy drink each. We should’ve tried to sleep a bit more on the plane and wake up later. Instead, we were wired between 3:00 and 7:00 a.m. then crashed as soon as we made it to the hostel. We napped well into the day not waking up until after 2:00 p.m.
Tasmania is an island off the coast of Victoria, Australia. It is the smallest of the Australian territories, found in 1642 by Abel Tasman and later circumnavigated by Matthew Flinders.
The first thing I remember about Tasmania is how it was significantly colder than Melbourne. We were bundled up in our big winter coats and I was certainly happy I had my newly purchased uggs! I was glad for the cold though. It was a nice change from the scorching hot we’d felt in Japan. It also gave the cute town of Hobart more character. Like a Hallmark Christmas movie, it would not have been the same if not a little chilly. After all, it is one of the closest areas to Antarctica.
The island is known for its unique fauna. If you thought the mainland of Australia had unique animals, Tasmania takes it to a whole new level. It is the home to marsupials like the endangered Tasmanian Devil. It was also home to the recently extinct Tasmanian Tiger. Not really related to the tiger at all, but sharing its striped coat, this strange beast had a massive jaw filled with tiny, sharp, teeth. It has become extinct in the last century due to human over-hunting.
Dinner and Drinks
Since we had spent a good portion of our first day sleeping, we journeyed out into the town later in the afternoon for some dinner. Lawrence found a place doing a special on chicken wings and off we went. It turned out to be a pretty cool place. Lawrence was happy with his wings, and I got a king size order of fries with a garlic aioli. The trendy bar was hosting a trivia evening with questions that were really fun!
FIFA Women’s World Cup Match
We could only stay for the first half of trivia though, because we wanted to get back to the hostel and watch the next Women’s World Cup match. This was an especially important game because it determined if Australia would make it to the finals. Australia was going up against England, an extremely tricky team to beat. Hobart is a small town and didn’t seem to be very awake and pumped to watch the game. This was surprising since it was their homeland playing a finals-qualifying game. We ended up watching with just a few other people at our hostel’s lounge. Sadly, Australia lost, putting England against Spain for the finals and Australia against Sweden for 3rd place.
I didn’t feel as bad as when the U.S. lost, because this time Australia was definitively outplayed. England won fair and square, even after an awesome equalizer goal by Australia’s Sam Kerr. It was a bit of a bummer, but not too surprising. They seemed to have made it this far due to mostly luck rather than skill. It was fun while it lasted!
August 17, 2023
Today was dedicated to exploring the quaint town of Hobart. Hobart is very small and quiet. The Hobart Pier was the main area for attractions. If you looked out over the bay, you would find beautiful mountains reminiscent of the views found on Lake Tekapo on the South Island in New Zealand. If you leaned over the pier and looked into the clear water, you’d find hundreds of starfish basking in the shallow waters.
Moving inward towards town the marketplace, shops, and restaurants are found. There is a weekend farmers market that we would just miss since our stay only extended through a Friday. Even without the weekend market set up you’ll find impressive English architecture sprawling the streets. The architecture makes sense given Tasmania was colonized by the English in 1803. Any aboriginals that were originally on the land were completely eradicated. What is left are the renovated military stations now posing as delightful English-styled homes and shops.
Kelly’s Steps is a good starting point on the route to exploration. These stairs were originally used by sailors and whalers as the main access from town to the port.
Marine Research Center
Tasmania is the closest point to Antarctica in Oceania making it a top destination for research and exploration. Along the pier in Hobart, you’ll find the Marine Research Center which provides exhibits on the Antarctic explorations and findings done out of Tasmania. It’s also possible to see the research vessels docked on the pier being prepared for their next expedition.
Hobart has tons of fun local restaurants you can try out as well. We went to one in the main square near the market. Tasmania, like many parts of Australia, specializes in wine making. We didn’t partake in any of the seafood options ourselves, but Tassie is also supposed to have excellent shellfish in the Hobart area. Australia is not typically a place with the most exotic flavors. That being said, Hobart, Tasmania had the tastiest options especially when it came to the foods we didn’t expect to be exceptional. Pizza, burgers, fries, and aioli are some of the budget-friendly options we opted for that did not disappoint!
August 18, 2023
Port Arthur Tour
Today on our northern Tasmania tour we went to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Port Arthur Prison. On our way we stopped at a few local areas popular amongst the tourists for providing Tasmanian-specific goods.
First, we stopped at a small chocolate factory and store. They had a big glass window you could look through and see the chocolate making process up close. They offered more than just chocolate candies to purchase. Here you could find chocolate soaps, cosmetic products, candles, and more! I purchased a few flavored truffles before we loaded our shuttle up for the next stop.
The lavender farm was similar to the chocolatier in that it sold plenty of lavender-themed items including lavender coffee, soap, candy, and essential oils. It was out of season so there were unfortunately no flower blooms in the lavender field. What I found the most interesting was the lavender distillery. They distill the lavender plant in a similar way to beer, wine, or spirits. My first question: what it the world are they distilling? The answer: lavender essential oils! One of the most popular and lucrative essential oils, lavender oil can be used on its own, mixed in with cosmetics, or mixed into candle wax for scent.
Pirates Bay Lookout
We stopped for a brief photo op at Pirates Bay Lookout. This scenic overlook was given its name despite never having had any pirate related activity. It’s a popular spot to stop and snap a picture before continuing to the Port Arthur grounds.
Port Arthur Prison
The Port Arthur Prison is a must-do if ever near the Hobart, Tasmania area. The history is so fascinating and its stories endless. This is yet another place you can get a student discount. Instead of the regular $47 AUD for an adult ticket, students will only pay $38 AUD, so bring that student ID! There is a lot to explore on the grounds including a museum, church, and two main penitentiaries. The Port Arthur Prison offers tons of personalized tour options as well. However, we should note they are all very expensive and will cost you upwards of $100 AUD each. We opted for a free audio guide Lawrence found on Spotify instead, but were very tempted by the nighttime haunted ghost tour.
Before scanning your tickets and entering the main grounds there is a small museum that provides an overview of the complex as well as a few interesting inmate stories. Only a few prisoners ever managed to escape “the prison at the edge of the world.” One inmate made a daring attempt by killing a kangaroo and wearing its pelt as a disguise. He was caught along the beaches not far from the prison. The kangaroo pelt remains on display in the museum to this day for visitors to see.
Another sad story that stuck out to me was that of a 9-year-old boy. He was hired by an older criminal boss who had him steal toys from around the local town. This was known, but he was still made to stand trial and served 7 years in the Port Arthur Prison.
The Port Arthur Prison was a working prison set up for Australian and other worldly convicts and was known for its especially tough methods for dealing with difficult prisoners. The first and most iconic building is in ruins today but acts as a more striking centerpiece for the entire grounds. This was the kinder of the two prisons. It offered less brutal jobs like doing laundry, cleaning, and lawn maintenance.
The second prison is the more gruesome of the two. Port Arthur was known for holding some of the most aggressive and tough criminals in the world. In attempt to try and break difficult criminals the guards of the prison first resorted to whipping and beating the inmates. These tough beatings proved to strengthen the prisoner’s skins only further. The guards came up with a new idea to break the strong bodies of the tough prisoners, this time with solitary confinement.
The second prison contained cells for inmates sentenced to an extreme version of solitary confinement. They were made to wear masks covering their faces when rarely moved outside for exercise, were passed scraps of food without interaction, and had little to no light in their cells. This method was far more effective in breaking the inmates down psychologically and erasing all individuality or identity.
Port Arthur Ferry Ride
One of the reasons Port Arthur was so difficult to escape is because it is surrounded by ocean on all sides. Only a small land strip guarded by dogs gives access to the rest of the island of Tasmania. The most common way to bring in goods to the prison grounds was by ship on the nearby bay. There is a complimentary ferry ride that takes you around the surrounding waters. You’ll pass by a small island in the middle of the water, which was used as a cemetery, and does offer a separate tour option if interested in further exploring. The scenery is dramatic, and the cliffs seem to stop exactly on the horizon making it easy to see why it was known as the prison at the edge of the world. If you were to continue straight past Tasmania’s cliffs, the next area of land you would hit would be Antarctica.
Port Arthur Memorial
The last thing we saw before leaving Port Arthur was the memorial to the 1996 shooting. By this time the Port Arthur Prison had long been closed and was used as it is currently as a tourist attraction. There was a small café located along the edge of the grounds where a mass shooting took place. It is notable because it was the first and last time a mass shooting event took place in Australia. Directly after, and in response to the Port Arthur shooting, guns were banned from the entire country. To this day Australia maintains safe and strict firearms laws.
Before getting on the shuttle back to Hobart we stopped at a unique cave structure known as the Remarkable Cave. It is similar to other dramatic scenery you’d find in Australia and New Zealand and is worth checking out since it’s so close to Port Arthur. If you look closely, the hole in the center of the cave looks just like the outline of Tasmania!
Back to Hobart
Once back in Hobart we collected our things, took showers, and had some dinner at The Woolshed, a restaurant close to the bus shuttle. And then we were on our way to the airport for a late-night flight back to Melbourne! A short and sweet time spent in Tasmania. Between Perth, Sydney, Canberra, and Melbourne, Hobart, Tasmania was so far our favorite city in Australia. If we were to do it again, we’d spend even more time in the small territory, leaving time to head south and possibly catch some views of the Southern Lights.