Hobart, with its climate closer to parts of Europe than other parts of Australia, and its history as the second earliest European settlment in the country, does a good line in autumn colour. Australia’s only native deciduous tree, the deciduous beech, nothofagus gunnii, can be seen in certain subalpine areas, including Mount Field National Park and Cradle Mountain, where it turns the sides of mountains gold and occasionally crimson at this time of year.
Closer to town, Hobart and many of its established suburbs and surrounding historic towns (Richmond and New Norfolk notably among them) are planted with magnificent exotic street trees , including oaks, elms and great London plane trees. Tasmanians being great gardeners, a stroll around those established suburbs reveals gardens planted with japanese maple, liquidamber, ornamental prunus and other species selected for their autumn colour.
But it is perhaps Hobart’s parks and gardens that put on the most magnificent show, and over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working my way around some of the best.
The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens
Hobart Rivulet Linear Park
This is not the most spectacluar of Hobart’s recreational areas, but it is one of the most historic. The Hobart Rivuet provided drinking water, energy for waterwheels, industry and a drain to the growing colony. Women convicts arriving on transport ships in Hobart were marched along its length to the Cascades Female Factory, where they were either incarcerated or farmed out to work for free settlers, depending on their record of behavour. Once foetid and a source of disease, the rivulet now runs free and clear from its source on kunanyi/Mount Wellington, and is a popular walking track for locals. In autumn, poplars, willows and others line the route with yellows and golds.
At the top of the linear park, past the Female Factory, Cascade Gardens begin unpretentiously with a filter pond which stops large bits of detritus rushing downstream when the stream is in flood. However a range of exotic plantings put on a fine show during Autumn. At the top of the Gardens, the Cascade Brewery is an imposing presence beneath Mount Wellington, and a reception centre across the road can be a good spot to stop for refreshment, including a range of the brewery’s products.
Fitzroy Gardens are located in Hobart’s dress circle, between South Hobart and Sandy Bay. A walk around this area offers many colourful rewards at this time of year.
Saint David’s Park
Situated a stone’s throw from Hobart’s waterfront along Salamanca Place, Saint Davids Park was the site of one of the first cemeteries in the colony of Van Diemens Land, with some of the settlement’s leading citizens interred therein. The last buriel was in 1872, but it was not converted into an ornamental public park until after the First World War. Some of the buriels were relocated to the Cornelian Bay Cemetery, north of the city, but many continue to repose under the rolling lawns and fine exotics that surround a bandstand, which among other events, hosts the city’s annual Carols by Candlelight events.