Backpacking in Tasmania, Australia: Hobart Revisited

First time round it wasn’t all that pretty. I ranked it as dull and claimed I was uninspired. That was on a two day summer visit to the Tasmanian capital back in February. However I since returned to Hobart twice after that (in May, and then in June) and suddenly realised I was wrong at first. Hobart was one of those rare places that I changed my opinion of.
 
So what was missing first time round? Well I walked all around the city, I went to the harbour, I had a wee drink there, I went to the less than impressive Hobart Night Party by the river, complete with a fireworks display. And it was in Hobart, on a dark Tuesday evening that I said my goodbyes to Daniel, Neil and paul. I have seen none of them since, and none of them are still living in Australia. Perhaps the memory and the goings on in my head at the time blurred this fantastic wee city from my positive line of thought.
 
It took a visit to a hospital for me to give some spark to Hobart. I had been working pretty constantly for 3 and a half months in either Devonport (and surrounds) or Poatina (and surrounds) but had registered for a 23 month Working Holiday Visa for New Zealand. I had applied for this when I was 29, the day before my 30th birthday. There’s something about a 30th birthday and cut off points and declusion zones on certain privileges in life, working holiday visas being one of them.
 
So this meant I had to complete a lengthy and expensive medical if I wanted to head to New Zealand, at least it would give me the option of doing that anyway. And for that medical I had to drive to Hobart, some 300 kilometres south of my base at the time. This was no problem because I had 3 days off from work at one point (from cauliflower harvesting) and also planned to visit Bruny Island and Port Arthur. Both of these places were down in the south of Tassie, best reached from a base at Hobart.
 
It wasn’t really a case of killing lots of birds with one stone. It was a case of driving to Hobart to do my X-Ray and Full Medical on the Friday (my first day off, out of the three) and taking things from there. It was to be an action packed 3 days that was for sure.
 
It all began with a long drive straight from work on the Thursday night. I’d been on the usual cauliflower field in East Devonport at Loanes Lane, and actually had asked for the Friday off as it was the only conceiveable day I could have done the Medical. With work coming thick and fast after that, and no Saturday or Sunday openings for Medibank or Hobart Private Hospital, it had to be that Friday.
 
And so I arrived in Hobart late on the Thursday night, where it was very dark. In fact the whole drive was in darkness. Tasmania was in winter, it was May. Dare I say it, it was cold (though nothing like Northern Ireland) and when I arrived in Glenorchy (the northern suburb/separate settlement at Hobart) it was time to park my car and sleep. No point in paying for a hostel or hotel. And besides my X-Ray appointment was the first one of the day – 8.30 am in central Hobart.
 
I passed the Derwent Tavern on a roundabout, just past Brighton on the way into Hobart. 
 
I slept well near Old Beach at a wee park called Lennox Park in the middle of a housing estate. Nobody bothered me there and I woke early and headed straight down to Hobart city centre, where I parked just after 7 am. It was free parking on the main streets until 8.30 am. 
 
I didn;t want to pay the hospital parking fee, and decided instantly to take advantage of the earlybird offer which meant all day parking for $10. That meant I could leave my car there in the multi-storey until 5.30 pm. It;s pretty reasonable and for peace of mind, security and relaxation it wasn’t even a second thought. So there I had my day planned.
 
I had one day to do everything I needed to get my New Zealand Visa confirmed. So here was the plan…I would have a cup of tea somewhere, then I would move my car into the Earlybird Multi Storey. I would go to Hobart Private Hospital for my chest X-Ray at 8.30 am, which I had to request to be urgently completed by 4 pm, so I could drop the results off at Medibank. After the chest X-Ray I had a wee bit of time for a walk round the city (at the time I wasn’t looking forward to that having not enjoyed Hobart first time round). Then it was time for my medical appointment, booked at Elizabeth Street for 11.30 am. After that lunch and another walk round the city, before returning back to Hobart Private Hospital for my chest X-Ray results. Then after all that I had to walk back to Medibank with my results an submit it before closing time. After that the day was anyone’s guess…
 
So it began with me spying the excellent “Cafe on Collins”, owned and run by a lovely Asian lady called Annora. In there I ordered an Earl Grey Tea. I got two cups out of the amount of tea leaves she gave me, for just $3. In there I was also able to use the toilet out the back to freshen up as I relaxed ahead of my day of hospitals. I watched the commuters come and go and the Hobart world went by outside my window at Cafe on Collins.
 
Then I moved my car for the day and got my Chest X-Ray done with a minimum of fuss. I was free from 8.50 am and I walked all round the city. It was in Hobart back in February where I saw the Antarctic Monument at the seafront. 

This was at Mawson Place by the harbour. Now, some four months on, the Antarctic dream of mine had been a probability. Having worked countless long hours on farms, I had now booked a trip to Antarctica. I was in the closest capital city to the South Pole. Some things were falling into place.

 
And so I decided I should look for and buy the Lonely Planet’s Antarctica Guide Book. I had seen it before a few time sin bookshops, but not for a while. I had already checked bookshops in Devonport and Launceston without success. Here in Hobart on a day of hospitals, I visited every book shop in town. First up Angus and Robertson, and they didn’t have it. Then it was off to JP Ellison, who also didn’t have it!
 

Then it was into the Mall called Centrepoint and a bookshop called Dymocks, which also didn’t have my book. It was proving a tough task. The 3 biggest bookshops in town didn’t have it, but I didn’t give up. The lady called Claire recommended a wee Map Shop on Elizabeth Street, which incidentally was where I was heading anyway to my appointment. I thought I had found that exact shop, which was actually a second hand bookshop.

 
So this shop looked pretty good, and I was convinced it was the one that Claire was talking about. There were a few maps in it, and it was on Elizabeth Street. Fate plays a part in life sometimes, and there it was….a Lonely Planet book on Antarctica, a second hand one mind you! But possibly that was even better for me – meaning it was cheaper but also that it was more vintage and rare. I picked it up straight away.
 
It was strange that it was also just a few books down from a book on great Ulster walks! Fate?Coincidence? Something from God? I dont know but it made me happy and I went to the counter and bought the Antarctica book, very happy. I spoke to the owner and took a photograph of him as I told him I was off to Antarctica.
 
The book shop was excellent – one of the nicest ones I’ve been in and I will remember it, as I sail down the Drake Passage towards Antarctica. I picked up a business card from there. It’s Tolhurst’s Downunder Book Shop, 1 & 2 Mid City Arcade, 88 Elizabeth Street, Hobart, Tasmania. That’s a photo of Gary the owner. His wife and co-owner didn’t want in the photo.
 
Then it was off to do my full medical, which looking back on was fairly stressful and not something I enjoyed, but I passed the medical in the end so everything was OK. Another touch of irony happened in there, the Medicare Centre for Tourist Visas. There was a map of Antarctica right above where I sat in reception waiting for the medical.
 

The doctor was Dr. Crompton from Oxford in England. An Oxford United FC fan, no less. A stadium I have visited twice, the Kassam Stadium. He was knowledgeable about Northern Irish players as well – many had played for Oxford over the years – Jim Magilton, Billy Hamilton, Phil Gray etc.

 

Then I needed to get A LOT of blood extracted. I have never enjoyed injections and actually this was the first time I remember having blood extracted. I do not agree with blood donors and for this reason I won’t ever give blood. I hate taking risks like that. And on this particular day I almost fainted getting the blood taken out of me. All because the New Zealand government wanted an HIV test to enter the country.

 

I needed some water and then had a cup of tea to come round, but I had a lot of blood taken out of me that day.

 
I rested for a while in the medical centre before deciding to walk back down Elizabeth Street. I had a few hours to kill before my test results for the X-Ray. On the way back down the street, I actually found “The Map Shop!”, yes the one I was meant to find earlier, so actually the Downunder Book Shop wasn’t the place I was looking for before. Yet that was the one with the Antarctica Lonely Planet Guide Book, an old version for $15.80 which I had bought. it was almost like fate.
 
This shop, “Tasmanian Map Centre” was as the title suggests a massive map shop. They had everything geographical about planet earth: guidebooks, maps, globes, photos etc.
 
Their Lonely Planet Library was massive. 
 
There was just one copy of the current Antarctica Lonely Planet Guide there, and so…I decided to buy it as well. 
 
They also had a very detailed map of Antarctica, which I bought too. I though it was better to buy these things there and then (and while I had money and was earning well)
 
The Tasmanian Map centre was run jointly by Rosemary Matthews and Rosie Leworthy. I spoke to one of them and she had done a bit of traveling before. Unfortunately because they are always having to work in the shop, neither of them really have any time to travel any more. I said to her I was impressed by the shop. They even had maps of Belfast and Londonderry in there. It certainly was a guide to the world. The sort of shop I’d like to own if I ever settled down. 
 

After that another cup of Earl Grey was in order so it was time to return to Cafe On Collins where I got a lovely seat at the back, used the toilet and sink again and was even offered that “you can go out the back and have a nap if you like” by Annora, the Asian owner. The ladies working there were very friendly and it’s probably the nicest tea and coffee shop I’ve ever been in.

 

I went on the internet there and enjoyed relaxing. By 4.15 pm it was time to go and get my Chest X-Ray (which cost me $99) and then I had to go with it back to the Medicare Centre again, where the doctor would fill in the report and forward it in a sealed and stamped envelope to me. I then had to forward it to New Zealand for my Immigration Check.

 

On the way back to the car after that, it was time for me to decide to stay in a hostel that night. I had only stayed in a hostel a few times in the previous 6 weeks, mainly to save money, but also because I didn’t really need a hostel when I had my car fully equipped.

 

From there I randomly called into the Brunswick Hotel (actually a hostel with 3 different names…Hostelworld Hostel Hobart, The Old Hobart Hostel or The Brunswick Hotel). It was just $20 a night, with free internet and a car park out the back. It was an inspired choice.

 

For later that night I enjoyed a great wee night out in the Victoria Tavern with my new Scottish friend, Richard Codd, who is a big Dundee United fan. I would never have met him if I hadn’t decided to stay there that night. Fast forward a month or so, and I met up with Richard again, in Brisbane to watch the Brazil v Portugal World Cup match. I’ve covered the day in detail now a few times on this blog, and in closing I’d just like to say…..

 

At first I didn’t like Hobart one bit. In fact I thought it was boring and had nothing to offer. I’ve now been 3 times. And I like it. It’s a very nice city, and also the closest state capital city to the South Pole…

 
Where – Hobart, capital city of Tasmania, down on the south east of the island
 
Population – 
 
Sightseeing – Tasman Bridge, Elizabeth Street, Post Office, Docks, Salamanca Market, Wrest Point, Government Gardens, City Hall, Franklin Square, Mount Wellington
 
Nationalities Met – Australian, Scottish, English, Republic of Irish, German, American, Indian
 
Pub – Victoria Tavern
 
Pint – Cascade (Hobart’s own)
 
Key Song –
 
Space – Begin Again (because I realised Hobart’s charm second time…):
 
HOBART – WALKING DOWN LIVERPOOL STREET:


HOBART – BY THE POST OFFICE:


HOBART – BY ELIZABETH STREET PIER:


HOBART – BEFORE MY CHEST X-RAY:


HOBART – CAFE ON COLLINS:



HOBART – BRUNSWICK HOTEL HOSTEL:



LIVE MUSIC IN THE VICTORIA TAVERN, HOBART:


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