We check into one of Hobart’s most vibrant and contemporary hotels in a prime waterfront position.
I’m standing on the balcony of my Premium Waterfront Suite at Hobart’s MACq 01 Hotel, overlooking Hobart’s old wharves at Sullivan’s Cove and Constitution Dock. The golden sun is mellowing in the late afternoon, softly glowing on Mount Wellington in the distance, as seagulls swoop and flap in the light breeze. A cruise ship has just pulled out of the nearby Macquarie Wharf No. 2 cruise ship terminal.
In this prime location surrounded by historic, convict-built sandstone buildings, MACq 01 opened its doors in June 2017. It is owned and operated by the Federal Group, who also own the nearby Henry Jones Art Hotel and Saffire Freycinet in the Freycinet National Park.
It is Australia’s first ‘storytelling’ hotel. I feel it, from the moment I arrive, walking up the stairs whose treads are etched with ‘Every traveller needs a pillow; every story needs a start; every villain needs a hero.”
Inside at reception, there’s a large wall map of Van Diemen’s Land, an old nautical bell hovers above the guest services desk; and endless glass cabinets are filled with historic curios, relics and even fossils, as well as instruments and pieces of importance to Tasmania’s Palawa people.
The name MACq 01 is derived from the hotel’s location on Macquarie Wharf. The original shipping shed in that location, known as Macquarie 1, was removed and the hotel was built as a replica, designed by Circa Morris-Nunn Chua Architects, who retained the original footprint of the waterfront warehouse.
The complex in which MACq 01 Hotel is situated was developed by Tasmanian building firm, Vos Construction.
The interior design of MACq 01 Hotel was handled by the boutique agency, Pike Withers. Their goal was to create curiosity and intrigue about what the story might be in each space.
Each one of the hotel’s 114 rooms and suites is named in honour of an illustrious, infamous or celebrated Tasmanian person or character in history.
On each floor, as you alight the lift, you’ll be introduced to the ‘characters’ that reside on each level via a copper plaque with old-school style illustrations by Rachel Tribout.
Each of the 114 characters has been divided into five character traits: Grounded yet Exceptional, Colourful and Quirky, Hearty and Resilient, Fighting Believer and Curious and Creative. The corresponding colour tones, design cues and décor alter accordingly in each of the five different ‘character’ room and suite categories.
I’m pleased to learn that I’ve been assigned to the ‘Curious and Creative’ collective: suite 312, named after convict Henry Constantini, an artist, surgeon, and painter.
In the room
A huge living area merges into the bedroom, where a large artwork serves as a bedhead. It’s all very sleek yet still warm and cosy with a well-considered mix of contemporary lighting, soft grey and blue tones, timber accents, plush carpet, thick drapes and, my favourite, the large balcony with comfy green faux turf underfoot.
I sit out here in the afternoon, enjoying a glass of local Tasmanian Arras sparkling wine, and feeling a sense of nostalgia with a game from my childhood — a Barrel of Monkeys — discovered, along with pick-up sticks, in a bag labelled, ‘Act Three: Let the Games Begin’.
The mini bar is well stocked with many Tasmanian goodies, including salted caramel popcorn from Elly’s in Sandy Bay, flavoured nuts from the Huon Valley, Hellyers Road whisky and McHenry’s gin and vodka.
There are six different types of pillows to choose from, a huge Samsung TV, a desk area and a moody, spacious bathroom with faux timber flooring, charcoal-coloured wall and floor tiles, a large, luxurious freestanding soaking bathtub and two, oval-shaped basins on a long vanity.
There are three dining facilities within the hotel, although it’s also close to many other eateries and restaurants for when you prefer to explore a little further.
For pre-dinner drinks, I head down to Evolve Bar at the hotel’s waterfront entrance. I walk past a chain-metal curtain to a long and a long, marble counter that looks spectacular against a backlit bar of floor-to-ceiling bottles of premium whisky and other spirits. The historic theme continues here in Evolve… there are prehistoric bear fossils framed alongside the bar and an enormous mammoth husk encased in glass, mostly from the private collection of the owners of Federal Group, with other artefacts donated.
The drinks list is extensive – presented in an encyclopaedia-style, leather-bound compendium. Patrons can order tasting flights of Tasmanian whisky (divided into sub-regions); Japanese whisky flights or from literally hundreds of available spirits. There are also signature or classic cocktails to choose from.
I sip on an Apple Isle signature cocktail, made with Endangered Distilling Co. Tasmanian bread vodka, Hellfire limoncello, Derwent Distillery elderflower liqueur, lemon, apple, falernum and egg whites; while my travel companion opts for a classic espresso martini. As our waiter places them on our glass-topped coffee table, I notice they are resting on top of ancient sea scorpions, some 440 million years old which pre-date the earliest fish species.
For dinner, we head to the Old Wharf Restaurant where many guests are enjoying local delicacies such as Bruny Island oysters. We sample beautifully succulent barbecued octopus with capsicum and chilli aioli; lightly fried and coated, tender east coast squid; a King Island fillet steak served with café de Paris butter and mustard; and even though I’m quite full, I can’t resist sharing a serve of ‘Grandma’s apple pie’ made with Tassie apples, naturally, and served with lemon myrtle ice cream.
Breakfast is also included here for hotel guests so I’m back in the morning, re-nourishing on baked eggs with chickpeas and goat’s cheese. The buffet section almost tempts me, with an incredible array of pastries including zucchini and gruyere muffins; salami, halloumi and basil quiche; chocolate custard tart; Cointreau canelé; ginger loaf and lemon madeleines.
One of the fabulous inclusions of being a guest here is the free, daily tours you can enjoy with highly knowledgeable staff. For non-guests, they are just AUD$20 per ticket.
Daily, there’s a 10:00am Hidden Hobart Tour; a 12:30pm Sticky Stones and Secrets Tour; and a 4:00pm 114 Doors tour which includes a complimentary glass of Tasmanian bubbles as you tour and learn about some of the hotel characters.
We join MACq 01 Storyteller, Lucy Palmer, on a Hidden Hobart tour. Lucy, a self-confessed history enthusiast, is visibly passionate about the opportunity to take locals on a tour through the streets of her home town.
Wearing a vest that carries illustrations of some of the 114 characters and carrying an ipad in a discrete case made to resemble an antique journal, we follow Lucy through the Old Wharf precinct, after she first acknowledges the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet and the Tasmanian Palawa people. We view Hobart’s oldest building, located just behind the hotel. Celebrating 200 years in 2023, the current Peacock & Jones building was erected in 1823 as a whaling house.
Looking through the retro-style viewfinders we’ve been handed for our tour, we’re able to go back in time and see what the buildings looked like back in the 19th century (remarkably similar, actually). We learn about the fascinating history of the IXL jam factory and how former convict Henry Jones built his fortune.
The tour also takes guests further into Hobart’s historic streets, viewing the oldest residential building in Tasmania; the statue and fountain built in honour of Rear Admiral, Sir John Franklin; and the famous Salamanca marketplace — all within comfortable walking distance of MACq 01.
Rates for the room I reviewed, one of 17 Premium Waterfront Suites, start from AUD$680 per night.
There are also two luxury waterfront suites, the largest of all the suites, which start from AUD$950 per night.