You don’t have to travel far to find wonderful arts and cultural experiences in Hobart. From the smallest artist-run spaces and shops to world class museums, cutting edge contemporary art galleries and live theatre – there’s plenty of inspiration to be found – even where you might least expect it.
Hobart – cultural attractions
A good place to start is the Salamanca Arts Centre close to Hobart’s waterfront, which showcases local artists, theatre, workshops and retail galleries in its historic 1830s-built sandstone warehouses. Upstairs at the Long Gallery you can see contemporary Tasmanian, national and international visual arts, design and photographic exhibitions.
The Sidespace Gallery is an exhibition space for professional artists to show their work; while at Kelly’s Garden, an outdoor installation space, you can sit and contemplate some intriguing works.
On Saturdays, you can also enjoy the food and entertainment of the Salamanca Markets.
No part of Hobart has more significant cultural heritage than the Battery Point precinct. It’s the location of some of Hobart’s most historic buildings and where many of Tasmania’s first industries began.
The Battery Point Sculpture Trail features public artworks around the theme of ‘sculpture by numbers’. Spend an hour following the trail that winds from Salamanca Place to Marieville Esplanade and learn about the captivating Battery Point story.
As an island state, the sea is significant to all Tasmanians. The Maritime Museum of Tasmania explores the island’s strong maritime heritage through a collection of informative presentations, ship models, artefacts, paintings and images.
Hobart also has a long association with Antarctica, and one of the city’s newest attractions is the Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum, displaying identical, full-sized replicas of the buildings built in 1912 by Sir Douglas Mawson that remain down south on the frozen continent.
For a relatively small city, the range of live theatre in Hobart is incredibly broad. The Theatre Royal, Australia’s oldest working theatre, presents an assortment of live performances including drama, dance, circus, comedy, opera, musicals and more.
As well as the delightful main stage and ornate auditorium, the Theatre Royal also includes a small studio theatre – the Backspace Theatre, offering an intimate opportunity to see smaller scale theatre by interstate and Tasmanian theatre companies.
There’s also the Peacock Theatre, managed by the Salamanca Arts Centre, which presents works from emerging artists and performers offering theatre, dance and performances.
The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, regarded as one of the finest small orchestras in the world, presents an enticing year-round program of concerts at Federation Concert Hall which includes classical music, family concerts and contemporary performances.
Art Forum is a free weekly event hosted by the Tasmanian College of the Arts (during the semester period) and provides an opportunity to hear noted artists, critics, theorists and curators from Australia and overseas speak about their area of professional practice.
The Tasmanian College of the Arts is housed in a striking refurbished warehouse on Hunter Street adjacent to historic Sullivan’s Cove, and includes studios and gallery space.
The Henry Jones, is an old jam factory which has been converted into Australia’s first ‘art hotel’. An extensive collection of original paintings, prints, works on paper, sculpture and design objects are displayed in the rooms and throughout the building. Book a tour on one of the curated art tours which operate every Friday at 4 pm.
A visit to Hobart wouldn’t be complete without taking in David Walsh’s highly acclaimed and controversial Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), Australia’s largest private art collection. MONA is not to everyone’s taste and the art is often confronting, but it’s an out-of-this-world modern art experience that will no doubt leave you talking.
Not to be outdone, the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Australia’s second oldest museum, has recently undergone a multi-million dollar redevelopment with more than 2,000 square metres of new exhibition space.
Exhibitions bring you face-to-face with the mystical Tasmanian Tiger and a fascinating range of nationally significant archaeological material, some of which has been hidden away for more than 150 years.
Take advantage of Hobart’s Artbikes, a bike borrowing service that enables art lovers to easily access Hobart’s arts precincts and galleries.
Fifteen bikes are available and can be picked up from the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery or Arts Tasmania in Elizabeth Street, but they can’t be booked, and are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Artbikes are free if you return them on the same day, or you can hire one overnight for $22, or $44 for the weekend, along with complimentary helmets and a map.
Kris Madden was a guest of Tourism Tasmania