Luxury Travel :
Hobart is hot. Actually, most of the year temperatures are mild to warm, but in terms of excitement, energy, creativity and hospitality, the little old city on the beautiful harbour is punching way above its weight.
Hobart is capital of Tasmania, that heart-shaped island between Australia's mainland and Antarctica. A few years back the locals realized they were walking around in a potential tourist paradise, with only a few boxes to check before they could move on to the highest level.Those items included culture, food, accommodation and visitor attractions. It is pleasing to report that all boxes are now checked and hedonistic Hobart has joined the ranks of the world's most exciting destinations.
Even the tyranny of distance has all but disappeared, with easy and relatively cheap access by sea and air. Recent fares from Melbourne, the closest international airport, were cheaper than the taxi to the airport. There's also an overnight sea route on a large ferry called the Spirit of Tasmania, where you can have a private cabin.
In contrast to the ease and economy of getting to this historic city - Australia's second oldest - today there's a growing emphasis on providing the best, almost irrespective of the price ticket. And there's a fierce island pride among most of the tourist facilities down here - wherever possible they stock local produce, from wine to whisky and art to artefacts.
Pride of place on Hobart's waterfront is the splendid Henry Jones IXL Art Hotel, developed just a few years ago from a derelict jam factory, which had become a squatter's haven. Now one of Australia's finest boutique hotels, it has just 56 rooms. Each is unique, from the rugged stones and massive old timbers to the original, local, artworks hanging on the walls. There are many reminders of Henry Jones, Tasmania's first knight, who was the largest private employer and pioneer of Tasmania's tin mining and hydro electricity industries.
The rooms are pure luxury, with vast, translucent glass bathrooms, each with a European elliptical bath, trapeze lighting, and king size beds with exotic silk covers. High-speed internet connectivity is provided together with, in most cases , close-up views of the harbourside activities and distant views of towering Mount Wellington.
Some rooms overlook the intriguing IXL atrium, revealing glimpses of the old jam factory interior. This is a lively meeting point for Hobart, lined with classy boutiques and design studios. At the summit of this high-end hotel are the Oriental Suites and H Jones Suite, with sumptuous, deep, overflowing spa baths by Kohler.
Hobart has a rare pride in the Henry Jones, somewhat akin to London's affection for the Ritz and Savoy. Yet while those venerable establishments have nurtured this pride for more than a century, this Hunter Street landmark first put out the welcome mat just five years ago.
High-end Hobart doesn't end there - in fact the city's growing reputation for luxury offerings spreads far inland and down the coast. One of the more recent ventures is an enormously impressive initiative in the little town of Bothwell, home of the nation's oldest golf course. There's a strong link with Scottish ancestry here - even the river is named the Clyde - so naturally the converted flourmill is now producing wondrous single malt whisky. You can buy it by the dram, the bottle or even, as an investment, the 100-litre barrel.
The Nant Distillery stands on a National Trust farm complex, housing more than 10 Heritage-listed, convict-built, sandstone buildings. The complex was designed by Morris Nunn, the architect who played a leading role in the renaissance of the Henry Jones building. Here you'll find 200 whiskies from around the world and you can take an educational tour - with a wee dram, of course - and even a three-day school. In this you can assist head distiller Chris Condon and learn all there is to know about fine whisky - well, almost.