Mt Wellington, snow-covered in winter, looms over the city and offers a playground only half-an-hour's drive from the city. Like the fabled Uluru in Australia's Red Centre, Mt Wellington changes colour, chameleon-like, throughout the day. From pink and gold through eucalyptus-haze blue to purple, it's a traveller's dream, especially when dusted with snow. Part of Wellington Park, the mount is 1,270m (4,233ft) high. From the summit (you can drive the 22km to the top) you can see forever down the D'Entrecasteaux Channel to the Southern Ocean and across to the Tasman Peninsula, as well as north up the Derwent Valley. There's a detailed explanation of the panorama at the summit.
Port Arthur, the site of the infamous gaol and convict settlement from 1830 to 1877, is an hour-and-a-half's drive from Hobart, down past Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula. The site is well-preserved - although the buildings are ruined – with the fine architecture standing out from the backdrop of green forest and blue sea. Port Arthur is a beautiful, if tragic, place, and had a reputation for brutality and misery unsurpassed even in Australia's violent culture of the era. An unconsecrated church, which burnt down before it could be used, stands sentinel above the settlement in a strange ungodliness. Tragically, the violence didn't end with the abolition of the convict settlement. In 1996 a gunman ran amok, killing 35 people, with no apparent motive.
Today there's a very good visitor centre and frequent guided tours, or you can wander unescorted through the site and imagine life here 170 years ago. Just to consolidate your feeling that this is a place of the dead, there are ghost tours (more fun than frightening) each night of the year, except 24th and 25th December. Phone 1800 659 101 to book.
Accommodation is plentiful in the area, which also has some good restaurants, or it's a breathtaking place for a day trip: wandering, photographing, picnicking and imagining.
Speaking of the dead, while you're in Port Arthur take the short cruise to the Isle of the Dead, which housed the solitary confinement cells for the worst of the unfortunates incarcerated there. It's not as grisly as it sounds, and a good place to understand what happened here. Sombre rather than gruesome, it's part of the education of the history of violence, imprisonment and underprivilege which characterised Port Arthur and old Hobart Town.
Runnymede House, a Regency villa surrounded by well-kept gardens, Runnymede dates from the 1840s and belonged to three families until 1963. The house is well-preserved and an authentic look at middle-class domestic life in the 1860s. Runnymede is situated at New Town in Hobart and is open daily.
Risdon Cove, the site of the first European settlement in 1803, just 8km upriver from Hobart. The soil here proved a disappointment, and the early colony moved to Hobart a year later. Risdon Cove was the site of a massacre of Aborigines early in the colonial era, which started Tasmania's reputation as a cruel and bloody place. Today there's an audiovisual display explaining the European history of the island.
D'Entrecasteaux Channel, Storm Bay and Derwent cruises will take you down the river, round the harbour and through the Channel. The numerous islands, bays and inlets of the channels make it a beautiful and interesting place, whether viewed from a boat or from the many lookouts on the Channel Highway.
Richmond, the centre of the Coal River valley, is Australia's most authentic Georgian village. Its bridge, gaol and Catholic church are the oldest examples in the country, while the original courthouse, cottages and churches add to the charm of this delightful place.
Glenorchy, just a few kilometres upstream from Hobart, is a lovely historic village with a Sunday craft and produce market.
The Huon, Derwent and Coal River Valleys all offer wine-touring opportunities and lovely villages for historical research, photography, picnicking and, of course, wine-tasting. Vogue Living recently described Hobart as “the best capital city in Australia for wine tours”. The premium cool-climate wines of the southern region, many of which have won awards, are accessible through cellar-door tastings at a range of vineyards within easy reach from Hobart. The temperate climate of the Apple Isle also lends itself to fruit wines and liqueurs, as well as traditional whiskies and cider.