Tasmania's capital city of Hobart was first settled in 1803 as a penal colony, and a notorious one at that. Substantial remnants remain, from prison facilities to the graceful stone bridges built by convicts. Prosperity came from its large harbor fed by the Derwent River and burgeoning commercial enterprises involving agriculture, forestry, mining, and whaling. Today its harbor front and historical attractions are a big draw, with cruise ships docking just a 10-minute walk from the city center.
What We Love
MONA: The Museum of Old and New Art fascinates with strange, sometimes shocking sculpture, paintings, and installations (a cascading waterfall spells out a dozen words in rotation reflected on a stone wall).
Fresh From the Sea: At the lovely waterfront, you can taste an array of seafood such as clams, oysters, octopus, prawns, salmon, and blue-eye trevalla right off the boat. The specific catches will be posted on chalkboards.
Best Known For
View From Above: The best place from which to survey the surrounding land and seascape is 4,176-foot-high Mount Wellington. Make a stop on the way up at the Cascade Brewery, Australia’s oldest (1832).
Port Arthur: Thousands of convicts were deported from Britain, especially to Port Arthur, the state’s largest penal colony. The prison facilities and museum provide a profound picture into a past where many men and women were incarcerated for very minor crimes.
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Who It's Best For
History Buffs: While Tasmania is a relatively new settlement, its unique origins involving convicts, settlers, and those that followed are of great interest.
Oenophiles: Tasmania has a climate similar to Europe's wine regions and produces top-tier pinot noir as well as sparkling wines. There are more than 30 wineries to visit in the Tamar Valley to the north of Hobart.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Harsh History: Not everyone is aware how stringent the laws were in early-19th-century Britain, and Hobart's beautiful surroundings cover over the degradation that suddenly hits you full-force at Port Arthur. The all-day visit can be a shattering experience.
Theodore W. Scull is a New York-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has written several books on crossings.