For a very long time, Hobart was the uncool kid of the Australian peer group.
But, in the last decade, the city came into its own, found people who understood it, MONA bought the boys to the yard and cheap flights, world class whisky, beer, wine and music festivals turned it into a place young people went to, not left.
Now, Hobart can show you a good time any (okay, most) nights of the week. Two of us headed down for a long weekend to find out where the fun is at. Here’s five of the best bars.
Our number-one pick for a Hobart night out, Preachers would be completely at home in Brunswick or Surry Hills, with comfy, mismatched lounge chairs, open fire places, cheap tapas and ironic signs urging tips. It’s got 16 different beers on tap and are strong champions of local breweries.
Preachers is close to nightlife hub Salamanca (but then, it’s Hobart — everything is close to Salamanca) and home to a fine beer garden. But, here’s the clincher – it has a bus. An actual, though stationary, full sized old-school tour bus, with tables and chairs and attractive French tourists drinking beer. You can even play driver at the wheel should the mood and drink strike you right. Gimmicky? Absolutely. Fun? Ridiculously.
Where: 5 Knopwood Street, Hobart
#2 Republic Bar
If you’ve been out in Hobart before, chances are you’ve been to Republic. It looks like the pubbiest pub that ever pubbed, with deco brickwork, old men propping up the bar and excellent beer garden filled with actual Tasmanians. It even has a local butcher on retainer – this is an honest-to-goodness pub and it’s long been the one of the most popular bars in Hobart.
However, the unassuming watering hole also has an impressive live music roll that reminds you that this is actually a capital city, with a strong predilection for Aussie rock and hip-hop and live music seven nights a week.
Where: 299 Elizabeth Street, North Hobart
#3 Nant Whisky Bar
It almost feels like a lie to call this a bar – room for only 36 patrons, The Nant is definitely on the cosy side. While helping me “research” this piece, my friend decided to test out Hobart’s Tinder scene and her date suggested this place before quickly revoking the idea because there is no way you could have the awkward “So what do you do?” conversation without every other person in the bar hearing.
Size aside, The Nant offers a huge range of whiskies and whisky from around the world and they have the kind of thoughtful bar staff that teach you things about what you’re drinking without being condescending. Also, the seafood heavy menu is so fresh you can taste the ocean.
Where: Shop 3G, 63 Wooby’s Lane, Salamanca
#4 Rektango at Salamanca Place on Friday Nights
It was a Tasmania-cold Friday evening when we wandered into the Salamanca Arts Centre, completely expecting the huge 1830s sandstone square to be empty. But, instead, droves of rugged up families, uni students and visitors flocked to Rektango – a performance space with a little stage and littler pop up bar – to dance and drink. Apparently this happens every Friday night, all year round, with the bookshop and art gallery staying open late and free live gypsy, jazz and swing music. It had an unselfconscious European or South American sensibility that would absolutely not work anywhere else in Australia.
Where: Salamanca Place
#5 Sixty Jazz Club
Six Jazz Club is so cool and so exclusive it’s only a actually bar once a month and it lives in a whisky farm. While the history of Hobart focuses mostly on the rough and tumble convict narrative, there was another trade that welled up before the convicts even settled – whisky. And, now with single malt distillers like Sullivans Cove, Lark, Nant and William McHenry and Sons Distillery kicking arse all over the whisky world, scotch snobs are making their way South in droves.
No-one is happier about this than Brett Steele, the director of the official Tasmanian Whisky tours. Brett is now making the most of this flush of tipsy travellers and his natural aptitude for socialising and story-telling by creating an in-house pop up bar that’s so popular you have to book months in advance and they enforce a strict lock-out time of 8:10pm. Once you’re in, one of the 60 seats drinks are cheap, the music is excellent and the chat is quality.
Where: 77 Salamanca Place, Battery Point
(Lead image: Preachers / Facebook)
Alice Williams was one of the original creators of and long-time editor for Melbourne print magazine, SPOOK. She now lives at Junkee Media, but looks better on Twitter @awildwilliams Her opinions are those of her employers and are definitely not her own.