6 Things to Do in Hobart for Nature Buffs, Including Platypus Spotting & the Aurora

If you enjoy nature and looking for things to do in Hobart beyond Salamanca markets and Battery Point, this guide is for you.

Tasmania is famous for its wild nature with almost half of the state protected as World Heritage Areas. And you don’t have to travel far to get a taste of Tassie’s wild side. There are plenty of things to do in Hobart for nature lovers. You can spot a wild platypus, catch the southern lights, hit the hiking trails, and even catch a shuttle to the top of a mountain. All without leaving the city.

In this guide, I share the best things to do in Hobart to enjoy nature and spot Tasmania’s plentiful wildlife.

Go Platypus Spotting

where to see platypus in Tasmania

Did you know you could spot a platypus in the wild in Hobart? You just need to know where to look.

There are several platypus living in Hobart Rivulet which is a stream that runs through much of the city. The best place to observe the platypus is the section of the rivulet near the Cascades Female Factory Historic site.

The best time to see the platypus is early morning and late afternoon just before sunset. Follow the rivulet past the historic site and into the Hobart Linear Park keeping your eyes on the stream and its banks for the resident platypus.

Another good spot, also on the rivulet is the Cascade Gardens at Cascade Brewery. Start from the car park and walk along the rivulet.

To get to know the local platypus and see some adorable photos and videos, follow the Hobart Rivulet Platypus Facebook page.

And if you are travelling around Tasmania and keen to see platypus during the day, add Tasmanian Arboretum to your itinerary. It is a lovely botanical garden near Deloraine where dozens of platypus live in the lake. You can find more details in my guide to spotting platypus in Tasmania Arboretum.

See the Southern Lights

Things to do in Hobart - see the aurora

Seeing the southern lights or Aurora Australia Borealis is one of the most spectacular things to do in Hobart if you are in town during a geomagnetic storm.

You probably won’t catch the ‘severe’ geostorm as in the images in this guide, as these come once in several decades. I took these images on 11 May 2024 when we had a KP 9 geostorm that was visible across the globe. But a milder activity is not uncommon.

Now, when people talk about seeing the southern (or northern) lights, they don’t actually mean watching the phenomena with the naked eye. Mostly, you’ll need to use your camera or phone to take a long exposure image of the sky to see the colours. Here are some tips on capturing the aurora.

To increase your chances of being in the right place at the right time, download an Aurora tracking app, like My Aurora Forecast and join the Aurora Australis Tasmania Facebook group.

If you are in Hobart, a good place to see the Aurora is Battery Point near Muir’s boat shed. If you have a car, head to Mount Nelson or Rosny Point, both about a 10-minute drive from Hobart.

Southern lights in Hobart

To photograph the Aurora with a DSLR camera, set your camera on a tripod and pick the widest-angle lens you have. Set the camera to manual mode and choose the widest aperture (F1-2.8 if you can). ISO 800 works well. And then play with exposure times. Depending on the intensity of the aurora, shutter speed between 4 and 8 seconds should do the trick for the brighter displays and between 8 and 20 seconds for the less bright.

If using your mobile phone, make sure to turn off the flash, and your phone camera should automatically go into the long exposure mode. All you have to do is keep absolutely still for 3 seconds as you take the photo.

Hike Mount Wellington & See the Views

Things to do in hobart - mount wellington
Observation shelter at the summit of Mt Wellington

Rising 1,271 meters (4,170 feet) above sea level, the summit of kunanyi/Mount Wellington is a great place to see the stunning juxtaposition of Hobart’s urban landscape against the vast expanse of forests and mountain peaks and the tranquil waters of the Derwent River.

It is also super easy to get to the summit even if you don’t have a car. The Mount Wellington Explorer bus runs between Hobart CBD and the summit several times a day. Keep in mind that it’s about 10 degrees colder on the mountain than in Hobart.

But there is more to Mt Wellington than the jaw-dropping views at the summit. The slopes of the mountain are cross-crossed by hiking trails ranging from easy strolls to challenging hikes. And the shuttle bus stops at the main trailheads. You can check out the different popular walks here.

YEllow wattlebird
Yellow wattlebird on Mt Wellington

For an easy walk, consider the panorama trail that meanders across the top of the mountain. But the best walk is the Organ Pipes Walk – one of Tasmania’s Great Short Walks. The trail runs past a spectacular 120-meter high dolerite formation known as Organ Pipes.

The classical walk is a fairly challenging 3-hour adventure that starts and ends at the Springs. An easier option is to start at the Chalet and walk to the Springs. This way, you’ll be heading downhill and then catch the shuttle from the Springs. You could also start from the summit and walk all the way to the Springs. Allow about 3 hrs for the walk.

And if you are visiting in winter, Mt Wellington is the place to go for the snow. Hobart is typically not cold enough, but Mt Wellington is!

See Wildlife Glow in the Dark

Things to do in hobart - see wildlife glow in the dark
Ring-tail possum

One of the most unusual nature-based things to do in Hobart is the nocturnal Glow Tour. It is a spotlighting walk with a difference. Instead of using the usual white-light torch to spot the animals, Lisa-Ann, who runs the tour as an AirBnb experience, hands you an ultra-violet torch, and nature transforms into a glowing wonderland around you.

Seeing the familiar plants and the typically drab-looking invertebrates come to life, glowing in Avataresque blues, greens, and reds, is a little bit like visiting a different planet. I knew that many Australian animals glow under UV light, but seeing it with my own eyes was an incredible experience.

Brushtail possum glowing pink
Brushtail possums

The common garden snail suddenly became a wondrous multicoloured creature you never suspected it to be. Brushtail possums glowed pink, ringtail – blue, while a pair of unidentified rodents took on a greenish hue. Even the water in the creek glowed milky green, and the rocks turned vibrant purple.

Speaking of rocks, lichen, while all but invisible to the naked eye, suddenly bursts out in purples and pinks when you shine a UV light on them. Even plain old lawn grass becomes alien red on this tour.

See Fall Colors at the Botanical Gardens

Things to do in Hobart for nature lovers - Hobart botanical gardens
Turning of the fagus

If you want to enjoy the colours of the autumn leaves, head straight to the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. In the autumn months, especially in late April-early May, the gardens transform into a magical wonderland of yellow, orange and red foliage.

This is the time to witness the turning of the Fagus – Tasmania’s only native deciduous tree that changes colour in the fall. Unless you are travelling to Cradle Mountain or the higher elevation of Mt Field National Park, the botanical gardens are the place to see the turning Fagus. Plus, a selection of introduced trees that happily turn in the fall.

Apart from the artist’s palette of fall colours, don’t miss the Sub Antarctic Plant House. It’s a small (and cold) but unique space where you can experience the environment of the remote Sub Antarctic region, with an emphasis on the plants of Macquarie Island.

The gardens are also a great spot to see several bird species, including a few species of parrots: Musk lorikeets, Eastern rosellas, cockatoos; Golden whistlers, Fairy-wrens, Little wattlebirds, and Tasmanian native hens.

Things to do in Hobart -Musk lorikeet in botanic gardens
Musk lorikeet

The botanical gardens are a 10-minute drive or a 30-minute walk from Hobart CBD. If you don’t feel like walking but don’t have a car, you can catch the Red Decker Hop-on-Hop-off bus from the city centre to the gardens. Or, if you are planning to visit Mt Wellington as well, the combined Mt Wellington & Hobart Sightseeing bus works out cheaper than two separate tickets.

Take a Day Tour

Things to do in Hobart - see wombats on Maria island

Hobart is the perfect base for exploring the broader East Coast region. There are plenty of options for day trips from Hobart, but for nature buffs, Maria Island is a must. Famous for its burgeoning wombat population, Maria Island is a nature heaven. Especially if you visit in the cooler months when you’ll see more wombats than you ever dreamt of. Plus Forrester kangaroos, Tasmanian pademelons, Bennett’s wallabies, Southern brown bandicoots, Cape Barren geese and many native bird species.

white wallaby on bruny island
White Bennett’s wallaby with its brown conspecific on Bruny Island

If you’ve already been to Maria Island, then your options for spectacular nature getaways from Hobart are: Tasman Island cruise for spectacular sea caves and marine wildlife, Mount Field National Park for waterfalls and stunning cool temperate rainforest, Bruny Island for its white wallabies, Hastings Caves for the largest dolomite cave in the Southern Hemisphere, and Freycinet National Park for the famous Wine Glass Bay.

Final Thoughts on Things to Do in Hobart

The thing about exploring nature and observing wildlife in Hobart and the broader East Coast region is that you simply can’t see it all in a single trip. Tasmania is one of the wildest places on Earth, so there is a lot to see and do if you appreciate dramatic nature and adorable wildlife. My advice is to book your flights to arrive early-ish and depart late and use those travel days for exploring Hobart. And dedicate your full days to taking day trips.

More on Exploring Tasmania


Author
Margarita

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