Having finished work in March after a decision to stay home with our toddler (Little Prince) and our soon-to-be new baby (due in September) I have to tell you I was looking forward to our family trip to Hobart. Hobart- for those of you who aren’t familiar with Australia’s geography- is that little triangle at the bottom of the country. My own family on my father’s side settled there from the earliest days of colonisation from England and Ireland. I think its romantic that one couple travelled on the boat together (accompanied) and married some time after their arrival.
So where do you go in Hobart with young children? What is there to do? This post is really a summary of what we got up to, with some recommendations…
Retrospectively these were my top 7 highlights for anyone with a young family planning a visit to the Apple Isle (in random order):
(1) MONA ( a museum of modern art, which in my experience was world class). That said there were a few exhibits which I tried to shield my toddler from that caught me off guard lest I scare him for life. But really, it was fabulous with some great installation art and a subterranean ascent that gives one a sense that they are going on a journey as they move from one exhibit to the next.
(2) Salamanca markets– this is great spot to pick up some souvenirs such a mugs, wooden crafts, alpaca and mohair blankets- all made in the area… enjoy apple turnovers made with organic apples with steaming coffee (much appreciated given the blustery weather on the day that we went) or go antiquing. There’s a large bakery close by called Banjos if you want to get a quieter cuppa in more informal surrounds.
(3) The Country Womens Association (CWA) Gift Shop– yes, truly, this was on my top 5. As a crafty person myself, I love seeing the handiwork of others and being pregnant it was wonderful to peruse the gorgeous selection of reasonably priced knitted baby garments. A full layette was $100. The women who volunteer there are also extremely helpful and friendly and I honestly love the idea that my money is also working to support a good cause.
(4) Mako at the wharf (near Salamanca market)- This looks like a take away, you can take away but you can also climb the stairs and sit in the sparsely furnished dine in area with full view of the kitchen. It is small. If it weren’t on the water I would call it a hole in the wall. You have to go here at least once on your visit- terrific if you want fish and chips without the frilly price tag. I had the grilled blue eye cod with sparkling ASHBOLT elderflower to wash it down. I can honestly say it was some of the best fish I could recall eating- prepared so simply it was nothing short of excellent. I will not quickly forget that delicious fish! And the ASHBOLT elderflower lead to me to hunt out a fe bottles before I left (but I was long ago converted to the subtle taste of elderflower in the UK).
(5) The Cat and the Fiddle Arcade. I can’t believe I am putting a shopping plaza on my top things to do list but seeing the delight on my toddler’s face, I have to note it for the mums and dads out there who are trying to keep their little ones happy and amused, for at least some part of the day. Every hour , on the hour for about a minute, a wall hung cat plays the fiddle, the cow jumps over the moon and the dish runs away with the spoon. We took Little Prince back a few times and I can promise it will probably be his one lasting memory of Tassie… he clearly sings out with excitement “cat and the fiddle!” So really, I had to put it down, a child’s delight is a mother’s delight!
(6) The Royal Botanic Gardens, Hobart– Plenty of room to run for kids, gorgeous landscaping and a great day to be had in short proximity of the city centre- providing it isn’t raining.
(7) My husband took our son to the Heritage trout Hatchery in New Norfolk called The Salmon Ponds– this was a delight and probably one of the holiday highlights for our little one. Kids can feed the fish special fish pellets than can be bought for $2 a punnet, there is a museum and a picturesque vantage of the ponds. Note: there is a restaurant and barbecue area nearby.
Whilst in Tassie I did also spend a day at a property in the Lachlan Valley doing a cooking course called the Agrarian Experience. The host was hospitable, my husband was offered coffee when he dropped me off and the owner is passionate but in terms of my expectations and what I was looking for, it probably wasn’t the best value for money. I should caveat that with a note I have only done a few cooking classes but I was put on preparing vegetables with another couple and beyond reading the recipe I really didn’t feel I got the same benefits had I been working on another dish which I had never tried.
The class was stopped a couple of times to point out some techniques but I would have preferred a more structured series of demonstrations- it seemed we all just dived in hell for leather for several hours of cooking… Admittedly I was also disappointed that I had called and advised I was pregnant and there were certain things I couldn’t eat, was told they totally understood and one of the main dishes we prepared was smoked salmon on potato hash browns (essentially) with bernaise sauce. Smoked salmon is a well known pregnancy no-no. Well, no substitute was offered, I just had to eat what essentially a fried up potato with sauce. Other recipes required salad dressings with raw egg. Whilst I didn’t complain and essentially lumped it, I did feel it would have been better to tell me my dietary requirements would’t or couldn’t be fully accommodated when I called to book. I love smoked salmon and it left me feeling very disappointed as I listened to my companions praising how great it tasted. Probably the real plus side of the experience was making wood fired bread from scratch. The owner also gave us a tour of his garden and we got to nibble and smell different herbs. I haven’t eaten lovage since I lived in England and it was great to see someone had claimed it as a herb garden essential.
Would I recommend the Agrarian Experience? Depends on your expectations. I already have a herb garden and some fruit trees, however humble. I love the idea of eating from my garden and of the Slow Food moment (Alice Waters cook books are my favs) but the novelty factor of what the Agrarian Experience offered isn’t perhaps as high for me as it might be for someone else who had less opportunity to already do some of these things. I guess for just shy of $400 for the day, I was looking for a bit more…
As one of my passions is knitting (though somewhat superseded by sewing for a while) I must mention The Stash Cupboard in Hobart. It is so wonderful to find a shop- tastefully decorated and full of friendly, knowledgable service- when you are looking around for yarn. Most such shops have long since gone from my own city (Canberra) leaving those with crafty inclinations to instead sift through the highly diverse and not often very interesting offerings of SPOTLIGHT and LINCRAFT. Here you can buy your copy of The Knitter or Mollie Makes, stock up on some delicious gem coloured lovelies and confidently embark on a new project. The cold weather definitely had me in the mood for knitting, as did the spare time without my sewing machine and the ever imminent birth of our second child.
Where did we stay? Best choice ever was the Gables in New Town, an inner city Hobart suburb. It was the perfect base, especially with a toddler. The apartments (one of two) were tastefully decorated with an art deco feel, thoughtfully prepared with a few basic essentials like bread and very convenient with a little kitchen to prepare basic meals. It wasn’t our plan to eat out every meal on holiday and we got away with eating most breakfasts there before we went out. The owners graciously also leant us a pram and left out some toys- lifesavers… you don’t get that at a hotel or serviced apartment!
If you don’t want to have breakfast at the apartment go to Jackman and McRoss a few minutes drive away (or a short walk) on the main road. The lamingtons here are a must try with your coffee (maybe for morning tea) and for $4 they are nothing short of enormous… delicious, delicious, delicious.
One other thing to add for parents- we really enjoyed the playground at the Battery Point foreshore (not far from Salamanca market)- very picturesque and a little drive through the narrow streets gives you a great taste for the area.
Heading to Hobart? Enjoy! Great city for a family vacation.