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Hobart, Tasmania

Australia

Hobart is the second oldest capital city in Australia, dating from 1804 - it is exceeded in antiquity only by Sydney. As a result, Hobart vibrates with history, added to which you’ll find a city set in a beautiful natural setting. Much of the original Hobart was built with convict labour and the evidence is still apparent in the historic sandstone buildings – from the settler's cottages to the colonial mansions.

The remnants of the early convict days are still evident in the old sandstone buildings that are now seaside cafes, artist's galleries and restaurants.

Situated on the Derwent River it’s excellent deep water harbour makes Hobart a place of yachts, fishing boats and cafés by the sea and sipping cappuccinos after visiting the Salamanca Market on a Saturday afternoon.

Once bustling with whalers and entrepreneurs, 19th century sandstone warehouses now serve as dockside cafes, artist’s studios and restaurants, where you can enjoy excellent cuisine and fine wines.

This old fishing town has some wonderful treasures. Visit Fair Light Cottage, an old shipwright's cottage perched high on the edge of Cygnet Bay. Discover Australia’s history in the nearby Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, enjoy classical and modern music in a variety of venues, or go to the theatre, in this city of festivals.

Take a harbour cruise past square-rigged yachts, or drive to the summit of Mount Wellington for a bird’s eye view of the intricate pattern of islands and estuaries that reach out to the sea beyond.

There is a lot to do within a 90 minute radius of Hobart. Visit Richmond, south east of Hobart then wander down to the Tasman Peninsula and the Port Arthur historic site. Walk along the cliffs at Port Arthur.

Take a cruise that brings in you to within metres of some of the world’s highest sea cliffs that rise more than 300 metres out of the sea at Bruny Island. Bruny is truly an island of surprises with only 500 permanent residents among the gentle rolling countryside that meets a wild and rugged coastline.

Drive north to Oatlands, to explore Australia’s largest collection of sandstone buildings. Farther afield through New Norfolk is the pretty town of Hamilton, or for a taste of the high country, visit Bothwell at the southern edge of the Central Plateau

Only 26 kilometres from Hobart, Richmond is one of the oldest of Tasmanian towns. It is most famous for its bridge, built in 1823, the oldest stone bridge remaining in Australia. However, there are other attractions as well.

The town also has the oldest surviving gaol in the country, built in 1825. It has its original Courthouse, public buildings and churches. St Luke’s Church was started in 1834, while St John’s Church, started in 1836, claims to be the oldest Catholic church in the country.

Based on historical records of how Hobart looked in the 1820’s, Old Hobart Town Historical Model Village in Richmond, took three years to construct, has sixty buildings and 400 figurines.

There is also Zoo Doo Fun Park, where one can find alpacas, llamas, buffalo and camels, as well as miniature pony races, with jockeys, of a type. There are also an indoor working model village and a merry-go-round.

You can ride in a horse-drawn carriage, or wander the art galleries and shops full of antiques and craft products. There are cafés, old-time bakeries, restaurants, and a guided historical walk.

Port Arthur is one of most tangible relics of the convict system in Australia and it is a piece of the nation’s history which is not to be missed. Along the route, a point of great interest is Eaglehawk Neck, which really is worth stopping for.

In convict times, Port Arthur is where soldiers and dogs guarded the Tasman Peninsula to ensure that escape was almost impossible. At this point the isthmus is only one hundred metres across. A chain was run across and dogs tied to the chain. Then, since the only possible escape route was via the sea, a rumour was circulated that the waters were infested with sharks. Even so, in 1843 the bushranger Martin Cash and two of his friends did manage to escape from here.

Now, though, the point of interest is not the dogs, but the natural scenery and historical buildings. Here you’ll find four natural wonders within the space of a few hundred metres.  Tasman Arch, a natural bridge across which one can walk; the Devil’s Kitchen, where the waves rush in through a narrow gap producing a cauldron of churning water at the foot of a deep enclosed chasm; the Blowhole; and the Tessellated Pavement, caused by wave action. The scale of these natural phenomena is most impressive.

When passing through the Visitor Centre, one finds oneself in the role of a nineteenth-century criminal, being sentenced to transportation and then entering the ship and emerging in Port Arthur. One is given a prisoner identity card, relating to the circumstances of an actual past prisoner, and invited to trace his history and discover what became of him.

Within the grounds are approximately thirty buildings, some restored and some just ruins, some prison buildings and some the homes of those operating the prison, or just ordinary civilians residing in the area.

There are other sights to see in the vicinity of Port Arthur. These include Remarkable Cave, five kilometres south, and various other convict sites. Of the latter the most interesting is the Coal Mines, in the north-west of the peninsula.

With the River Derwent at its heart and Mount Wellington rising above it, in Hobart the tranquility of a city from a bygone era co-exists with the vibrancy of a pocket-sized modern metropolis.

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