|A handsome city flanked by the tranquil waters
of the Derwent River, Hobart has a spectacular backdrop in Mt Wellington.
Amongst the bustle of a modern city are National Trust, classified
buildings, ensuring the preservation of much old-world charm and a
palpable sense of history.
In 1642 Abel Tasman made landfall while seeking trading opportunities
for the Dutch East India Company. He named the region Van Diemen's Land
after a high-ranking official in the Company. Much later, this was changed
to Tasmania in honour of the explorer.
Between 1772 and 1793 Bruni d'Entrecasteaux and Huon de Kermadec
explored the coast naming the Huon River and Bruny Island, Captain Bligh,
of mutiny on the Bounty fame, and Captain James Cook anchored in Adventure
Bay, which can be seen from the Resolution Road. An explorer by the name
of John Hayes named the Derwent River.
The original inhabitants of Tasmania had been indigenous to the island for
more than 20,000 years when Europeans arrived. They greeted explorers with
distant tolerance until it became evident that their land was under
threat, and then retaliated. The Governor reacted in turn, with an order
sanctioning forcible action. Permission was granted to local settlers to
shoot Aborigines on sight. Sanctioned killing and programmes of
relocation, combined with disease and the destruction of traditional
hunting grounds, led to the tragic annihilation of the Aboriginal
population. In this dark history, the last full-blooded Aborigine,
Truganini, died in 1876.
In 1803, afraid of the interest the French were showing, a British party
was sent to establish a colony. The settlement was to be called Hobart,
named after Robert Hobart, the British Secretary of State for the
Colonies. A site was chosen on the eastern bank of the river where the
town of Risdon now stands. At the same time, Captain David Collins was
sent to Port Phillip Bay in Victoria, but quickly decided that the place
was unsuitable for settlement and pressed on to Van Diemen's Land,
arriving in 1804. He immediately took charge and moved everybody to
Sullivan's Cove, where he founded Hobart Town. The settlers were
constantly under threat from starvation and raids by bushrangers. It was
soon found that wheat thrived in the areas around Richmond and Sorell, and
by 1817, excess produce was being exported to Sydney.
The worst criminals, repeat offenders and unmanageable prisoners were sent
to penal settlements in Van Diemen's Land. It was the perfect penal
colony, because a huge labour force was required to establish the
settlement and inaccessibility and wildness ensured isolation and
security. The worst of the worst were sent to Port Arthur Penal
Settlement, established in 1830. Escape was virtually impossible as very
few convicts could swim, and sharks were present in the surrounding
waters. The narrow isthmus at Eaglehawk Neck was easily guarded by dogs
and by strategically positioned military outposts, an example of which
still stands at the Eaglehawk Neck Historic Site. Other sites steeped in
incarceration history are the Richmond Gaol and Island Produce Building,
originally used as a women's prison. It was not until 1853 that the
transportation of convicts ceased.
From 1820 the township blossomed from a mixture of settlers' huts and
rural land into an ordered and well-planned town. The area known as Queens
Domain, which today includes the Botanic Gardens, was commissioned for the
Governor. A number of mansions were built around this precinct, including
Runnymede in New Town (circa 1836). New industries such as the Cascade
Brewery (1824), with its "wedding cake" Victorian façade were
also established, and in 1837 Australia's oldest theatre, the Theatre
Royal was built.
Named after the battery of guns built on the point in 1818, this historic
precinct was originally farmland, but by 1850 the area developed into a
mariners' village, with shipowners living side by side with sailors and
artisans. In recent years historic homes in this area have been restored
as tourist accommodation. The Gattonside Historic Bed and Breakfast (circa
1885) Harbour House, Battery Point Guest House and Ascot are prime
examples. Quince Cottage on Arthur Circus is a lovingly restored mariners'
cottage and the the Shipwright Arms is still used as a public house.
Restaurants are also popular in the area, with Alexanders of Lenna exuding
elegance and charm and Kelley's Seafood Restaurant housed in an old
In the colony a flourishing sea trade and ship building industry revolved
around warehouses on Salamanca Place. These buildings, built between 1835
and 1860, represent the best sandstone Georgian warehouses remaining in
Australia. A visit to galleries such as Salamanca Arts Centre, Handmark
Gallery or Artasan, and fine dining institutions, such as Panache, give
the visitor a view of the warehouses from the inside. Salamanca Market
offers an equally impressive view of the exterior. The docklands have
always been a Hobart focal point, originally used for trade, and are now
the heart of the city's festivals and celebrations. Constitution Dock is
the hub of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race festivities (first raced in
1945-1946) and is also a venue for the Hobart Summer Festival.
The twentieth century
The depression hit Tasmania hard, but a thriving mining industry made it
bearable. Despite difficult economic times, new enterprises such as
Cadbury's Chocolate Factory were established. In
1964 the Tasman Bridge was opened connecting both banks of the river and
in 1973 Australia's first casino, Wrest Point, was built. The magnificent
beauty of the south-west wilderness was added to the World Heritage List
in 1983, making Tasmania the greenest Australian state with over 40% of
its area devoted to parks. In 1995 the Aboriginal Land Act was passed,
returning twelve significant sites back to the descendants of the original
A visitor to Hobart can expect to meet history face to face. It is
there in the stones and mortar used to create it. Take a walk through
Battery Point, visit Richmond or just wander the main streets to be
transported to another time.