Australasia/ Pacific

Dark Mofo: the festival that makes the most of winter in Hobart

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Winter is coming! No, that’s not a Game of Thrones reference, but rather a call to crack out your thermal underwear and embrace the cold this year in Hobart, the Australian capital city that does the icy season best.

What, when and where

For three weeks in June, from the 6th to the 23rd, you can set aside a week or a long weekend to indulge your senses at Dark Mofo, the brilliant winter arts festival that’s become an annual ‘must attend’ event on calendars around the country, including mine.

If you’re into art, food and merriment with a serve of darkness (both literally and figuratively), then Dark Mofo will feel like home. First held in 2013, it celebrates the darkness of our southern winter solstice, with exhibitions, performances, large-scale light installations and presentations of all types and scopes, delving into subjects like mythology, humans and nature, religious and secular traditions, darkness and light, plus birth, death and renewal.

That might sound a little heavy, but the reality is you’ll probably spend most of your time smiling, gasping and laughing as you wander the streets of Hobart discovering the joys of Dark Mofo around every corner, which really do range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Just be aware that ‘traditional’ and ‘conservative’ are certainly not terms that could be applied to the goings-on at Dark Mofo – it’s experimental and alternative art at its finest.

Aside from all of the regular historical attractions Hobart has to offer, the whole town comes alive for Dark Mofo, with retailers of all varieties in the CBD getting on board and lighting up their storefronts in the festival’s trademark colour of red, providing a spectacular trail of red lights everywhere you go.

Many of the Dark Mofo events occur in the main tourist stops and buildings, so you get to cover your ‘must see’ places at the same time as your winter art tour. Nearly all of these venues are within walking distance of the city centre, the waterfront, and the now-famous Winter Feast precinct, so all you need to do is head into the night and start exploring, with the help of an old-fashioned paper foldout map (available all over the city) or an interactive map accessed on your phone.

Walking should account for most of your transportation while in Hobart. You won’t require a car unless you want to get a long way out of town, so make allowance in your budget for just a couple of taxi rides to get to Mona (the incredible ‘Museum of Old and New Art’ founded and run by David Walsh) and the airport, then walking should cover the rest of it.


With hundreds of events and venues scheduled as part of Dark Mofo, there is literally something for everyone, ranging from world-class international music acts to experimental art created by university students, and even live tattooing and the Nude Solstice Swim (for those brave enough to tackle freezing ocean waters while exposing their own tackle!) Some events are ticketed, like music performances or poetry readings at the Odeon Theatre, but many are free.

As an added bonus, each year during Dark Mofo, there are major exhibitions at Mona and the Tasmanian Museum and Gallery, providing several days’ worth of fascinating art to captivate your heart and mind.


Food and drink

Tasmania’s reputation as a haven for some of the finest food and drinks in the world is certainly on show at Dark Mofo. Most renowned is the Winter Feast, the gastronomical heart and soul of the festival, where thousands of members of the public gather in the enormous shed and the adjoining outdoor area under the stars to eat, drink, celebrate and be entertained, with an enormous range of international cuisines to choose from.

For your daytime meals, there’s an abundance of incredibly good restaurants and cafes on virtually every street you walk down. The prices tend to be on the high side, but we’ve found the food and drinks seem to universally be of the highest quality too, so it’s a case of getting what you pay for. Produce from SBS’s hit TV show Gourmet Farmer is available to purchase at the Salamanca shop called ‘A Common Ground’ that the show’s stars have opened.

A visit to the ferry terminal on the waterfront is a must, with samplings available from a range of local artisans. This is where we first discovered one of the joys of our existence – the Hartshorn Sheep Whey Vodka, which has since gone on to win the World’s Best Vodka award, and rightly so!

A wide variety of other boutique spirits are also available throughout town. Drop in to Lark Distillery for a tipple on the go. Situated on the waterfront, it offers the opportunity to taste Tasmania’s finest whisky and hundreds of other distilled spirits in a warm and inviting atmosphere.

For upmarket evening drinks, visit Society Salamanca, or in the morning after a big night out you can mosey on down and grab some of the most mouthwatering freshly made bread and delicious breakfasts at the Pigeon Hole Cafe. For a quirky culinary experience, hunt down the delightful Bury Me Standing, where you’ll be served fabulous coffee and some of the best pot-boiled bagels in the southern hemisphere.

There’s nothing more beautiful and exhilarating than Hobart in the middle of winter, so pack your winter woolies, some top-notch walking shoes, your sense of humour and curiosity, and get set for an adventure into the dark arts.

Some of the things you’ll discover will be challenging and some will be outright ludicrous, but that’s the fun of it. You’ll never quite know what you’re about to walk into (or how quickly you’ll walk out!)

With fabulous places to explore, delicious local produce, lots of fires to keep you warm, plus history, nature, art and exercise, a visit to Dark Mofo is bound to be one of the most interesting holidays you’ll ever have had.


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