The best markets in Hobart
Regardless of country or city, the travellers and locals alike seem to have an insatiable appetite for markets. From small local markets run by villagers and offering a few basic items of local produce, through to the high end, carefully curated markets designed to catch the tourist dollar.
Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, has a reputation for having one of the best markets in Australia. Any visit to this city will always include some time at the Salamanca Markets, which take place every Saturday from 8.30am. Having recently visited, I would also suggest that spending time at the Farm Gate Markets is also a must.
The best part of these markets is the location. Located along historical Salamanca Place, it’s a hard decision whether to spend the morning admiring the sandstone buildings or the wares of the vendors. It’s also surrounded by the beautiful Hobart waterfront and harbour and bookended by lofty Mt Wellington in the distance.
A tourist destination
These markets are now a destination for tourists, meaning that many of the products here are designed for visitors to buy and take home with them. There are some of the usual inclusions that you might expect at a market such as this, including hand made clothing, hats, winter wear (it gets cold down here) and belts. There’s also a healthy showing of unique artworks, particularly using local timber carved into a variety of wooden platters, trays and bowls. It’s all incredible quality though, nothing that resembles a cheap trinket or souvenir here.
It’s the waft of sausages, cutting through the crisp air, that grabs my attention first. It looks like my husband beat me to it though, as my eyes settled on him overlooking the gigantic hot plates with a variety of sausages being rolled and turned.
These markets are crazy busy. It gets a little bump and grind in certain places, but unlike many places in the world, this close proximity doesn’t bring security/theft issues with it. You just might need to get used to saying “excuse me” or “sorry” as you knock into people accidentally.
I try not to stop at every market stall, but they are all so tempting. But, not having all day to spend here, I sacrifice anything clothing related since that’s really not my main interest. The lack of photos of this product later confirmed this for me!
We’re here to celebrate everything that’s great about Tasmanian produce, so we work our way slowly around the 300 or so stallholders who come here each week, sometimes in the most evil of weather conditions. We taste and sample our way firstly down one side, and then the other. At the rate at which we move, it felt as though we would be there all day.
It’s always drinking hour somewhere, right? This motto came into play as we sipped numerous tasters of this alcoholic ginger beer. I’ve tried this before, usually a mainstream brand from a bottle shop. This brand, made by local producers, the Tasmanian Chilli Beer Company, has something a little more unusual and definitely unique. Chilli in my ginger beer is a new taste (and I liked it), but it was the one with extra hops that had my taste buds singing. My husband, being a rum drinker, thought the Dark and Stormy was top shelf.
The markets are all about the people. Not just the ones who visit but those who make it possible. Part of the reason why it took us so long to get around here was because we stopped to talk to all the foodie people. We stopped for a good chat with Bruce, owner and pastry chef at The Bakery @ Huntingfield. His fresh food was amazing and we just couldn’t get over his prices. This is one stall that would sell out very quickly.
We couldn’t resist Bruce’s trio of tasty tarts. With shortcrust pastry that truly melted in your mouth, the lemon curd, real custard and bitter chocolate fillings were wonderful.
Now, it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t stop to taste something hot and spicy. The guy who runs this stall is a spruiker, there aren’t many of them here, so we stop to listen. We watched as some young lad took up the challenge to eat the habanero chilli sauce. Moments later, his eyes watered, then bulged, before the coughing started. It’s early morning and we didn’t think we were quite up to that. We settled on some other spicy options, many still pretty fiery, and purchased a jar of chilli paste to take home.
Buskers can be found throughout the market precinct which contributes greatly to the atmosphere. This guy was mid song when he decided to stop and give me the thumbs up for this photo.
There are plenty of places within the market environment where you can enjoy a good coffee, morning tea and even lunch. There are plenty of tables and chairs around or a large green park where a picnic would be a terrific option. If market food doesn’t take your fancy, the surrounding area is full of cafes and restaurants.
- Come early. Like any markets, the earlier you get here, the more likely you will have the ability to buy whatever you want. Some of the food operators do run out of product.
- Bring cash. Whilst some of the vendors have card machines, for smaller items cash is still sometimes king here.
- The market is on completely flat terrain and is therefore wheelchair accessible. Please note the comments with regard to crowds.
- Be sure to return to Salamanca Place at night when the area really comes alive with the cafes and restaurants busy.
- If meandering through a market isn’t your style, download the market map here.
- Bring your own market bag, including a thermal bag if you are planning to be outside for a while.
Every Saturday (except Christmas Day and ANZAC Day)
8.30am – 3.00pm
Farm Gate Market
“70% of the market traffic each week are locals”, said Madi Peattie, founder of the Farm Gate Market . We got to spend some time talking to Madi during our Gourmania Food tour. It’s a strong recommendation by the people who live here, voting with their continual patronage, and buying direct from the farmer.
The Farm Gate Market origin
Madi brought the markets to Hobart in 2009, after recognising the popularity of such events in other states. No such market existed in Hobart, and so her idea blossomed into a full time job developing the market. Constant hard work, focus and an ability to be dynamic, has resulted in an exceptional market. What began with 12 producers and some difficult times, has now grown into around 200 producers who rotate across the seasons.
I am in awe of this market that delivers quality, customer service and most of all, the story of Tasmanian food, in all of its 3D glory.
Each Sunday, as most of us are still in bed, or the late night revellers are finding their way home, farmers and food producers from all over Tasmania are bearing down on the Hobart CBD. In the dark, and often the cold, they fill their stalls with their produce and await the hordes who descend on Bathurst St from 8.30am. They are a dedicated bunch. As if they didn’t work hard enough in their own businesses, they leave their homes, their farms, their factories, to be the face of their product, and indeed the collective face of the Farm Gate Market.
This might look, at first glance, like an ordinary farmers’ market. However there is an underlying, unwaivering food and business philosophy that underpins it all. There are three simple principles.
- If you can’t eat it, drink it or plant it, you can’t sell it.
- Everything sold at the market must be produced in Tasmania.
- The producer must be in attendance, always.
Whilst the first two are super important to maintain the integrity of the market fare, it is number three that means the most to me, for it is the relationship with the producer that I come to such markets for. Sadly, it is also the ingredient that is missing at so many, turning a market with enormous potential into just another “supermarket”.
I want to know where the apples came from. I want to know how the butter was made or how local pigs have been used to make a pork product. I come to the markets to learn just as much as I come to eat and find food to buy.
The difference between a tourist market and a real market
It was also at this point that I was able to make a very stark reference to the differences between Farm Gate and the Salamanca Markets. On the previous day, I stood beside a man operating a stall, whilst waiting for my hot chocolate to be made. For around 10 minutes, this man spoke to another person, in the loudest possible voice, ridiculing the tourists who passed him by. The very people who would potentially stop and part with their hard-earned.
He accused them of being unhappy people and then turned his attention to those standing with me buying their coffees. Here he berated them for standing in a queue for coffee. The rant went on and on. This person was an employee, not the business owner, so was therefore not invested in the livelihood of the business. There was no story to be given about the product he was selling, no relationship to be developed with the customer. In my mind, no money to be made either.
Hail Madi, for making a simple yet effective judgement call on the integrity of her market. It will be the very thing that will build longevity for her and her customers.
In the food hub, nine spaces are occupied by food vendors who must source their food from Tasmania. If you head on over to my review of a food tour I took here, you’ll see we were able to sample such things as local scallops and wallaby.
Be sure to visit
This 165 metre stretch of road injects around of $10-12 million into the Tasmanian economy annually. Bookings are always scheduled in advance, matching seasons with producers and ensuring there is sufficient rotation to keep things fresh and interesting. I have a strong sense though that with this highly functioning business model that Madi is always going to have plenty of producers lining up to get a piece of the action.
Ever the entrepreneur, Madi has now created Street Eats @Franko, a food truck market that operates in Franklin Square, every Friday night throughout the Hobart summer. If Farm Gate Markets is anything to go by, this is sure to be a winner too.
Bathurst St (between Murray and Elizabeth St)
8.30am – 1.00pm
Where to stay
Hobart has many hotels in the CBD, all of which offer great access to the waterfront and all major areas of interest. We stayed at the Mantra Collins which we loved for it’s proximity to everything. Click on the link below to search for other Hobart hotels.