Climb Kelly’s Steps – a clever inner-city shortcut hacked into a cliff – to reach one of Hobart’s most charming suburbs.
Battery Point is Hobart’s first suburb, and widely regarded as the best-preserved colonial-era suburb in Australia. It was named in 1818 after the Mulgrave Battery, a defence station that guarded the port at Derwent Bay.
As whalers began fishing the harbour, whaling captain James Kelly built stairs in the side of a cliff – which now bear his name – in 1839 as his shortcut between Battery Point and Salamanca Place.
It was the obvious place for maritime workers to live. These days, the compact suburb still features a jumble of dockworkers’ cottages and merchant-class mansions. One of these mansions is a museum named Narryna – The Merchant’s House. Captain Andrew Haig, a seafarer, built the Georgian two-storey townhouse on Hampden Road in the 1830s.
Another grand mansion, built in the Italian Renaissance style on Runnymede Street, is now the boutique hotel Lenna of Hobart. It has turret-like clerestory windows from where merchant owner Alexander McGregor could keep watch for his returning ships. In 2018, Battery Point Distillery started producing small-batch spirits, including a pink gin, from the premises.
The suburb has attracted whalers and jailers, sailors and antique dealers since colonisation, and it continues to evolve.
Stroll south on Runnymede Street to reach Arthur Circus, a striking ring of workers’ cottages surrounding a tiny central park. Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur put the allotments on the market in 1847 and, for more than a century, they were occupied by large working-class families. Today, these highly desirable cottages sell for more than $1 million.
An essential pitstop is the popular bakery Jackman & McRoss, which occupies a heritage double-fronted red-brick building on Hampden Road. “It’s an old historic area that’s beautiful and been really well protected,” says co-owner Nerida McRoss. “It’s just got the charm of yesteryear.”
One of the bakery’s biggest sellers is its lip-smacking scallop pies, filled with Tasmanian scallops in a light curry sauce (some of the state’s scallop pies are based on a mornay sauce).
For those who haven’t heard, scallop pies are a distinctively Tasmanian menu item. The Jackman & McRoss version also features wakame, an edible seaweed. McRoss says the state’s curried versions could be a nod to the fact that the world-famous Keen’s Traditional Curry Powder was invented by baker Joseph Keen near Hobart in the 1840s.
“Our croissants have a big following as well,” she says. “When you use real butter and real ingredients, people can taste the difference.”
After working up a thirst exploring Battery Point, drop in at the white-and-blue nautically themed Shipwrights Arms Hotel, affectionately known to locals as Shippies. The pub has been pouring cold drinks since 1846.
Another way to tour this historic suburb is by taking a seat with Heritage Horse Drawn Carriages.