Aimless wandering can be relaxing but for those wanting to find out more about a place, the insider knowledge and local perspectives on one of the many guided Hobart walking tours can be very rewarding. If you want to know which ones to pick, here are four fabulous walking tours in Hobart that are worth your while.
1- Gourmania – Saturdays at Salamanca
The tour begins at Doctor Coffee, where our guide Mary explains a little of the area’s history, how most buildings lining Salamanca Place are warehouses from the 1830s-1840s and how it’s only been a pedestrian precinct since the 1990s.
Saturday is market day and the fresh produce stalls are interesting. Johnno from Fork and Hoe Collective, an organic producer south of Hobart, offers our group tomato tastings from yellow cherry ones to red varieties with tiger stripes.
Turning to the next stall, Michelle lets us sample walnuts, blueberries and strawberries from the Huon Valley.
A few steps and we’re in a warehouse building at the Bruny Island Cheese Co. Tastings give an insight into different cheeses, my favourite being the camembert-style “Saint,” so called because in France many such cheeses are named after local saints.
At 43 degrees south, William McHenry and Sons is Australia’s southernmost distillery, situated near crystal pure spring water that’s invaluable for quality spirits.
At their market stall different styles of gin are up for taste testing and we manage a few. The Old English Sloe Gin is made using sloe berries and is certainly popular.
Other interesting stops include Smolt Restaurant, where we sample some Get Shucked oysters from Great Bay, a Pachamama Mexican food stall with a wallaby burrito, Ashbolt Farm’s specialty elderflower products and the Tasmanian Truffles stall.
In Wursthaus Kitchen, a gourmet deli, we enjoy some cheeses and ocean trout with crème fraîche.
Saturdays at Salamanca concludes at Dickens Cider House, where I’ll finish up twice in one afternoon. More later.I’m sure you can see why this is a popular Hobart walking tour for foodies.
2- Alcohol History of Hobart
Can’t get the friends along for history tours? Try the Alcohol History of Hobart to pique their interest.
We begin at the Henry Jones Art Hotel, where our guide Robyn explains how Henry used his cold storage facility to stash the entire crop of hops he’d bought from local growers.
No hops, no beer, but teetotaller Henry didn’t care, using them as leverage to have regulations changed so he could sack union labour in exchange for selling Cascade Brewery the hops at a cheaper price.
Our first tasting stop is Gasworks Cellar Door, where the tasting is organised around Tasmania’s different regions.
The Jansz Cuvee Vintage 2008 is an inspired way to illustrate how the Pipers River area makes fine sparkling wine, while the 42 Degrees South Pinot Noir from Frogmore Creek Winery shows what Tasmania’s cool climate can do for that variety.
Next is the Lark Distillery outlet where we taste a single malt whisky. Lark are using Tasmanian peat from the Central Highlands, giving the whisky a more earthy quality.
History stories include how customs officers took barrels for themselves at unloading, moved them through a secret tunnel and had the product sold for them by the Customs House Hotel.
Walking into Dickens Cider House, the proprietor John Dickens gives me a wave. Been here before!
Tastings of various ciders are offered, from a Granny Smith wild fermented one to a Pink Lady apple and pear cider with a little pinot to boot.
And the group decides to sit awhile and get over all that walking.
3- Live History Hobart
“You’ve nicked that loaf of bread,” says Matt, the overseer. “It’s off to the magistrate with you.”
“But I have to feed my children,” she retorts in her Irish accent.
Here we are in the streets of 19th century London.
Well, not quite.
We’re actually in Tasmania and, leaving the Cascade Brewery building behind, we follow two actors along the path on a theatrical presentation by Live History Hobart.
The story we’re told is a true one, with the names changed of a female prisoner sentenced to be transported to the convict colony, remains herself throughout while the male actor morphs from overseer to ship’s captain then prison warden.
The Cascades Female Factory is a World Heritage listed site, of which sufficient ruins remain to see how it functioned.
From 1828 to 1856 it operated with the intention of reforming female convicts.
Women were divided into three groups according to the seriousness of their crimes, with the least serious offenders assigned as servants to free settlers and members of the ruling class.
We learn about rations, the chapel being segregated and punishments for misdemeanours, including working at unravelling tar-encrusted ropes.
We’re also given a heart-rending account of how about 900 babies died here, babies that the female convicts often had after working outside as servants.
4- Ghost Tours of Hobart and Battery Point
Ours is a group of all sorts, young and old, sceptics and believers, as we follow our colourful Ghost Tours of Hobart and Battery Point guide from Salamanca Square toward Battery Point in the gathering dark.
Outside the Narryna Museum, a Greek Revival townhouse built in the 1830s, our leader explains that museum guides have told him, for years now, of pregnant women going up the stairs complaining of feeling unsteady and descending without seeing the floor above.
A local historian has since found that an unmarried housemaid named Polly faced a future of poverty and ostracism in the 1850s such that a fellow worker thought to “save” her by pushing her down the stairs so she’d lose the baby.
Unfortunately she broke her neck and died.
Various houses along the way have ghostly tales to tell, but I must not spoil it by relating them all.
At one point the patrons of a once-haunted hotel even give us a rowdy cheer, for it seems the walk’s established a fame of its own.
We stop at Lenna, a heritage-listed hotel, built as a house in the 1870s-1880s by Alexander McGregor, a shipping magnate.
The lookout on top was well-suited for signalling ships in the Derwent River and from here McGregor kept watch.
Coming back down from the lookout, our guide tells of many patrons experiencing a swaying feeling up there, as if on a ship.
There have also been photos with images of possible ectoplasms or spirit energies, where none had been seen by the naked eye.
Unfortunately for us, it’s ‘not tonight my dear.’
Other short walking tours in Tasmania
1- Launceston Historic Walks
Launceston Historic Walks start from 1842, the original Counting House of a grocery business, now a furniture and fine art gallery, and proceed through historic Launceston, telling tales of its colourful characters.
2- Launceston Guided Walks
Launceston Guided Walks offers a choice of three walks. There’s one into Cataract Gorge, with its gardens, rotunda and suspension bridge. Others cater for visitors interested in Launceston’s art and design galleries or gourmet food outlets.
3- Launceston City Ghost Tours
Launceston City Ghost Tours takes visitors back to the city’s dark convict past, with its history of violent deaths and heartache. Learn something of the ghosts of characters long dead and the paranormal energies that they left behind.
4- Trowunna Tours
Trowunna Tours offers a three-hour guided tour to kunanyi/Mt Wellington, where the walking segment lets visitors experience the cultural and heritage landscape of Tasmania’s First Nation people, heading through sub-Alpine forest to the Octopus tree, where a healing ceremony is performed.
5- Port Arthur’s Isle of the Dead tour (not a ghost tour)
Port Arthur’s Isle of the Dead tour sees visitors disembark from the cruise vessel to inspect the graves on this island and hear a guide relate some of their stories. More than 1000 burials took place here from 1833-1877.
6-Port Arthur Ghost Tour
Port Arthur Ghost Tour is a very popular way to gain a different perspective on this World Heritage listed site, with black-coated guides leading lantern toting groups through the darkened ruins. Hear about real people’s documented stories of sightings and unexplained occurrences of the past, involving convicts and soldiers.