About four months ago I fell in love with Tasmania. Having never in my 30 years been before I was kicking myself for not venturing so far south sooner.
My partner and I tackled the Overland Track (see Into the Wild) in Tasmania’s beautiful Cradle Mountain National Park and since that time have been plotting a way to get back.
We were especially keen to see what Hobart had to offer as a city and decided to use our five-year anniversary together as an excuse to treat ourselves to a long weekend away.
Ordinarily my partner and I aren’t the biggest fans of staying in posh hotels. By and large, most have failed to live up to expectation. They may have fancy fittings and expensive bedspreads but they all tend to feel a little too much like sterile carbon copies of each other, and therefore don’t justify the money spent.
However, in Hobart, we discovered a truly worthy exception to the rule. The Henry Jones Art Hotel is the most lovely, character-filled hotel I have ever slept in, and the experience of staying there very much added to our enjoyment of the overall trip.
Housed across seven sprawling sandstone warehouses that were once home to the iconic IXL jam factory on Hobart’s picturesque waterfront, the Henry Jones is an ode to the past and the future. Along with chefs and concierges, the staff list also boasts a historian and art curator.
The historian takes guided tours of the maze-like buildings every Friday, where guests can marvel at the rough cut marks in the sandstone hewn by convict tools and see a wonderful exhibit that shows the dilapidated state of the IXL factory before its masterful and sensitive restoration. But the art curator is what really sets this hotel apart.
Throughout the foyer, restaurant and corridors, as well as in the suites themselves are hung 250 of the most beautiful, intriguing and quirky artworks created by leading and emerging Tasmanian artists. They are all for sale (often ending up on the walls of homes around the world), and are regularly rotated, creating something of a personal art gallery during your stay. As you stroll from your suite to the lift to take you to breakfast, you almost feel as though you should be wearing headphones and listening to a guided tour of the paintings.
In a beautiful melding of its past and present, general manager Rod Black has decided to revive the jam-making this building was once so famous for, and now you can buy bottles of delicious jam (homemade using fruits from a local farm by his wife) from the adjoining café Jam Packed. It’s no wonder it’s regularly nominated as one of the best hotels in the world.
Once we managed to extract ourselves from admiring the art in our charming hotel, we fell in love with the rest of Hobart, too. Highly recommended is trip to Mount Wellington (the more active have the option of mountain biking back down) and a walk through historic Salamanca Place by night, with the trees lit up by fairy lights. On a brisk evening, there is nowhere better to be than by the roaring fireplace of Knoppies – the most popular pub in town.
It’s also easy to explore further afield from Hobart so hire a car and don’t miss a day trip to Port Arthur, a must for history buffs, while the outdoorsy will enjoy a drive to Mount Field, the national park beloved by locals, for its beautiful hikes through rugged alpine woodland.