The Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race boats are here, and the Tasmanian summer is light and bright.
The state has Australia’s longest hours of daylight across the warmer months, and one of the busiest summer festival calendars in the country. It’s time to celebrate the good things in life.
Summer shines in Hobart
Culture and creativity
Christmas kicks off a summer of festive fun in the capital. As the yachts sail up the River Derwent, Tasmania’s Taste of Summer is flavouring the docks: watch the yachts arrive from a waterside table. Mona Foma’s music and art events dot the city, while markets revel in the warm days and evenings, be it Saturday at Salamanca Market or Friday night at the dual-venue Hobart Twilight Market. And why not roll out a beach towel and settle into a good book? Hobart was named a UNESCO City of Literature in 2023, after all.
Food and drink
Tasmanian seafood never feels fresher than in summer. Seek out a crayfish – they’re in season – dine at one of Hobart’s waterfront seafood restaurants, or grab some fish and chips from a floating fish punt and munch by the water. Seasonal palawa (Tasmanian Aboriginal) food is the focus on a kipli takara bush-tucker walk with palawa kipli. And you’ll need barely leave the city centre to find a craft brewery of choice: Overland, Deep South Brewing Co and Shambles are just the beginning. Sweeten things up again with an ice cream from Van Diemens Land Creamery’s floating punt at Constitution Dock.
Accept the sun’s invitation and hit the water, sailing the River Derwent – one of the world’s deepest natural harbours – with Hobart Yachts. Or paddle into the docks for some floating fish and chips with Roaring 40s Kayaking. Catch a wave at Clifton Beach, or hire a bike and pedal the Intercity Cycleway to Mona – the quirky Mona ferry can get you there as well. Lap up the sun at a beach – close to the city are long and lovely Nutgrove and Long beaches – or at a cricket match at Bellerive Oval.
Hobart’s natural guardian, kunanyi / Mount Wellington, is webbed with tracks for walkers, trail runners and mountain bikers. Skip town to cruise among marine wildlife and beneath some of Australia’s highest sea cliffs on Turrakana / Tasman Peninsula or Bruny Island. Or find coolness beneath the Earth’s surface with a tour of Hastings Caves – you can always warm up again afterwards in the 28°C waters of the caveside thermal pools.
History and heritage
Constitution Dock, home to the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race's finishing fleet, is bookended by the 19th-century sandstone warehouses of Salamanca Place and Hunter St. Slip behind Salamanca to find history in abundance in Battery Point, from cottage-lined streets to a sculpture trail telling local tales. Step into the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery to find everything from palawa culture to a thylacine exhibit and Tasmania's oldest surviving public building. Tour the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Cascades Female Factory Historic Site, which imprisoned 7000 women convicts between 1828 and 1856, then ponder it all at Cascade Brewery, Australia’s oldest continually operating brewery.
Summer scenes in Launceston
Culture and creativity
Raise a frothy glass to the New Year at Launceston BeerFest NYE in Royal Park, featuring live music, comedy, kids’ activities, fireworks and the star amber act – beer. The diverse artistic offerings of Mona Foma put down anchor in Launceston as summer comes to an end; while in City Park in February, Festivale is the city’s premier summer celebration – a three-day fusion of entertainment, top Tasmanian produce and local wines, beers and spirits.
Food and drink
How can your taste buds go wrong in one of the world’s 50 UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy? Construct picnics of local produce at the Saturday morning Harvest Market, or graze as you tour through the vineyards and cellar doors of the Tamar Valley Wine Region – some Tasmanian sparkling wine is the perfect summer accompaniment. Go behind the beer scenes with a tour and tasting at James Boag Brewery, or get crafty at Du Cane Brewery.
Start your day on a high with a hot-air balloon flight over the forest and farmland surrounding Launceston. Cruise kanamaluka / River Tamar and Cataract Gorge, or propel yourself on a pedal-powered kayak tour along the city shores. Picnic in City Park, with its raucous macaque enclosure and dinky weekend train for the kids. Venture out of town to swing through the treetops on a zip-line course at Hollybank, tee-off at world-class Barnbougle, and barrel down the slopes on George Town’s new mountain bike trail network.
Nature presses close to the city in Cataract Gorge. Follow walking trails along its banks, pausing for a swim in its riverside pool or to ride the chairlift. When the snow melts, nearby Ben Lomond National Park reveals another side of its high plateau. Drive Tasmania’s wildest and wriggliest road – Jacob’s Ladder – to check it out, and take the short walk to the summit of Tasmania’s second-highest peak, Legges Tor (1572m). Discover wildlife and beaches in abundance at Narawntapu National Park, north of ‘Launnie’; while Tasmania Zoo is home to more than 100 rare, exotic and native species.
History and heritage
Launceston is one of Australia’s oldest cities (founded 1806). History looms large here as you walk the streets, passing the likes of the grand Holy Trinity Anglican Church, the colourful Victorian Quadrant and elegant Albert Hall. There’s everything from Tasmanian Aboriginal art to colonial masterpieces and a thylacine display inside the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Australia’s largest regional museum; while history filters out to the towns surrounding Launceston – fire up the jalopy for a visit to Evandale, Westbury and Longford.
Frequently asked questions
How far apart are Hobart and Launceston?
By Australian standards, Tasmania isn’t big. But the island is almost as big as Scotland or Ireland – don’t expect to whiz between A and B in a flash. That said, Hobart and Launceston, Tasmania’s two largest cities, are just 201km apart – around 2½ hours in the car if the traffic treats you well.
Do I need to book accommodation in Tasmania in summer?
Short answer: yes. Longer answer: things get busy here in summer, especially around the New Year when the fleet is around Hobart, and in Launceston over the Festivale celebrations in February. So book your beds as far in advance as you can.
What happens when the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race fleet arrives?
Most of the sailors make it ashore in time for the New Year's Eve fireworks, and are greeted by Tasmania’s Taste of Summer, a waterfront food festival that runs from late December into the first week of January. Near Constitution Dock where the yachts moor, the Hobart Race Village hums with live music, kids’ activities, Q&A sessions and top Tasmanian food and drink.