Our guide’s jeans were ripped and torn, and her eye shadow matched the hot-pink of her t-shirt. The fact that the fly of her torn jeans was completely open also did not add to her credibility.
What had we got ourselves into?
At least it was a gorgeous, blue sky day to set out to explore the streets of historic Hobart.
Hobart is a stunning city huddled around an equally beautiful harbour with Mt Wellington or Kunanyi (meaning mountain in the palawa kani language) as a backdrop. Settled by English colonists in 1804, Hobart oozes history and character.
What better way to absorb some of that history and colonial atmosphere than with a walking tour through the city, Battery Point and Salamanca areas?
We waited patiently under the towering trees of St David’s Park, revelling in the sunshine and the company of good friends reunited after a 5-year break. I put my hand up here and admit that we were an older crowd, all +50years old and all equally worldly. I think there was a collective eyebrow-raising when a hip and groovy 20-something dawdled up to the group and introduced herself as our guide. Nothing against hip and groovy 20-somethings, but her Captain Casual cynical demeanour and her ripped/torn clothing did not scream ‘professional’. With a few sideways glances at each other, we all did our best to reserve judgement.
Heading off from St David’s Park we worked our way towards Battery Point, a very historic and now very expensive residential area adjacent to the Hobart CBD. The Guide regaled us with stories of the local people and buildings and very soon I realised that 99% of what she was saying was negative. Yes, not everyone was perfect in the good ol’ days, but surely her role was to educate and entertain us rather than continually deride everything and everyone in old Hobart town? This was no celebration of history and did not indicate that she particularly enjoyed history or her job.
She took us past Preacher’s Bar, a building originally the home of Magistrate and Reverend Robert Hopwood. Apparently a cruel and corrupt man who spent more time handing down unjust and severe punishments to criminals, racking up gambling debts, staring into the bottom of a glass and chasing the ladies, than he did being a pillar of society.
Then onto the glorious old home, Narryna, built on the greed and profits of whaling and then all lost again when the whales finally got the message that it was no longer wise to swim up the Derwent River. It is now a museum showcasing a diverse collection of Tasmanian fine and decorative arts, and celebrating the State’s social history.
On we walked past the famous Jackman and McRoss Bakery in Battery Point. Staring through the window, I could feel my tastebuds starting to dance and those delectable calories going straight to my hips. It was too much temptation for a couple of the blokes in our group who, despite only just finishing lunch, could not resist the call of the Scallop Pies.
Throughout the walk our guide kept up her cynical and sarcastic patter. It was obvious that she did not have any awareness of who her audience was or how we were reacting. Her constant groovy slang and witty asides got tedious after a while and yet she had no realisation that we weren’t actually laughing. Our blank faces and the continual glancing at our watches did not stop her delivering with her set spiel.
Arthur Circus was interesting – a small circular park lined with cute, and now incredibly expensive cottages. The original holding was sold off by Reverend Knopwood to settle some debts and when it was resold again in 1849 it was advertised as “delectable building sites in a neighbourhood that will inevitably become The Resort of the Beau Monde”.
Then turning back towards the Salamanca area, we stopped to hear about more hardship, greed, spite and nastiness attached to the old home “Lenna”. Lenna was also built on whaling money, but the owner managed to hang onto all his wealth for much longer. Apparently he still haunts the upper floors, determined not to let go of all that he built. The house is now an exclusive hotel only a few minute’s walk from the Hobart waterfront.
With the end in sight, I noticed everyone continually checking watches or staring off into the distance. The guide was oblivious to it all. A more moderated and professional delivery would have made for a much more enjoyable and engaging presentation.
Looking on the bright side, it was a fine day for a walk and we did walk through some streets we may have missed if we had merely been ambling around on our own (with our own much more witty repartee echoing in our ears).
Finally she wrapped up her stories of misery and woe and we were like school kids escaping the classroom at the end of the day, except we escaped to the closest pub to fortify ourselves!
Please don’t let this story put you off walking through the wonderful city of Hobart. There are plenty of other walking tour companies who would be more than happy to show you around without all the doom and gloom. We just struck a misery guts!
When have you had an interesting walking tour?
What: Despite being advertised as a ‘free’ walking tour, we paid Hobart Free Walking Tours $15pp. Perhaps the fact that we booked as a group triggered a group rate.
Where: The tour covers a radius of about 3-4km in the Hobart CBD and adjacent suburbs.
When: The tour lasted for around 2.5 hours. It felt longer.
Why: To step back in time, learn a little, see a little and feel like you have connected with Hobart on a slightly deeper level.
How: As the name suggests, this is a walking tour including lots of steep paths and steps. It may be challenging for those with mobility issues and definitely not fast-paced enough for children.
Related Posts: What else is there to do in Hobart? Have a read of about an equally interesting and beautiful walk out to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
Related Blogs: Like to learn a little more about Hobart’s early history? Then have a read of this blog collated by Libraries Tasmania.
Read About It: How about a Hobart-related read for the kids? You can’t go past past Possum Magic by Mem Fox. Available from Book Depository.
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