Alright, it’s time to get weird. A day out at Mona—aka the Museum of Old and New Art—is a must-do when visiting Hobart. Leave your sensibilities at the door and embrace the eccentric. Architecture nerds, artsy types, and foodies will be particularly in their element. We’ve put together some tips for the ultimate day out at Mona—it really is one of the top things to do in Hobart!
Mona is open six days a week, from Wednesday to Monday, between the hours of 10am—5pm. The museum is closed on Tuesdays as well as Christmas Day. During summer, opening hours are extended (check the website for updates). The museum is also open every day throughout January.
For Tasmanian residents or all youths under 18, admission is free (cheers for that, David Walsh). If you’re sadly not a Tasmanian resident (our sympathies), tickets are $30 for adults and $27 concession. Some artworks require an additional ticket, such as Mona’s answer to the afterlife: The Divine Comedy by artist Alfredo Jaar.
How to get to Mona
Mona is around a 20-minute drive northwest from Hobart, but there is limited parking. Alternatively, catch the Mona Roma Express bus between Brooke Street Pier, Hobart, and Mona (around 30 minutes one way). If you’ve just jetted into the Hobart International Airport and you simply must get your art fix immediately, catch the Airport Express bus to Mona. Fitness fanatics and calve models can hire a bike from the Brooke Street Pier and ride to Mona along the Hobart Intercity Cycleway.
Catching the ferry from the Brooke Street Pier to Mona and back is a fun way to bookend your adventure (arriving by boat to a mysterious museum in the side of a cliff feels very James Bond). David created Mona to be approached by water, and the camouflaged ferries are the way to do it. Mona Roma ferries run ferry regularly throughout the day (check the timetable here) and are basically a 25-minute scenic cruise up the Derwent River (yes, drinks are available onboard). Choose a traditional seat or perch atop a sheep or tiger. If you’re feeling fancy, treat yo’self to a Posh Pit ticket and enjoy complimentary drinks and canapes with table service in the exclusive lounge, bar and private deck.
Enjoy flexible return during the summer peak period (26 December 2019—19 April 2020). Both ferries sail every half hour and you can cruise back to Hobart at whatever time you like (subject to capacity and no Posh Pit, sorry). Check the ferry timetable and arrive at Mona’s jetty 20 minutes before your desired departure time. If the ferry’s full, fear not—catch the next one or travel by bus.
Explore the Museum
Once you’ve got your ticket and slipped on in, head down the rabbit hole to the ground floor and slowly work your way back up the floors (highly recommend starting with a cocktail at the Void Bar). You’ll notice that there are no boring wall labels in this museum; instead, borrow one of Mona’s custom iPods—aka The O—to learn about the pieces on display (you can also mark stuff as ‘love’ or ‘hate’, which doesn’t really do anything but the illusion of power is oddly satisfying). Alternatively, download The O as an iPhone app in advance of your visit. You’ll always have the memories if you log your email—receive all the sordid details of your visit afterwards to e-treasure forever.
Things to see
Mona’s vast collection is always evolving, with regular subtle changes as well as a substantial ‘re-hang’ several times a year. Exhibitions are either artist-led or ideas-led collections. Mona offers a delicate balance of dark and light, which should satisfy both the devil and the angel on each shoulder. You could spend days exploring and still find new things. Some things you may not want to get too close to, such as the ‘poo machine’ (yes, it does smell quite ripe after a feed). Some things seem strangely intimate, such as the living, breathing human artwork perched all zen underground (what’s up, Tim?). Some things are awesome but elusive, such as the fluffy couch that purrs when you stroke it (we swear it’s real). It’s worth lining up for the eerie mummy room (don’t fall in the water).
Once you’ve explored Mona’s moody underground galleries, skip through Siloam, the mysterious tunnel extension (which houses an Ai Weiwei) to Pharos. Pharos is the colourful, airy new wing; home to all things whimsical as well as some permanent large-scale artworks by James Turrell. Outside, set your inner child free in Charles Ross’ magical Spectrum Chamber of rainbows, have a jump on the trampoline, and catch a sunrise or sunset in ‘God’s gazebo’. There is live music on most days and every day over summer, so check the website to see what’s on.
Eat & Drink
Enjoy breakfast or lunch at The Source Restaurant, a temple to seasonal Tasmanian dining perched atop the Mona site (with an award-winning wine list and sweeping views). The Museum Cafe at the museum’s entrance offers hot coffee, tasty treats, light meals, and a sunny spot overlooking the jetty. Faro is the newest dining addition (located in Pharos), open to museum visitors throughout the day as well as for fancy dinners Wednesday—Monday. Share plates are a specialty in this European inspired bar, as well as a few things you will likely be trying for the first time and can brag about later (pig eyeball margarita, anyone?). Book Art + Dinner for exclusive entry to Unseen Seen and Weight of Darkness.
Now, for the bars. Pass a few leisurely hours sitting inside or outside at the Moorilla Wine Bar (open from 10am), with a glass of Moorilla wine or Moo Brew beer in-hand, seasonal treats, share plates, and house-made breads and pastries on offer. Take a peek at the inner workings of the winery, just behind the glass, or book yourself on one of the posh Moorilla Experiences. Alternatively, sip your bevvies beneath John Olsen’s The Source (2002–03) at the Cellar Door (open from 9.30am). The museum’s bottom floor houses the very cool Void Bar, waiting to make you a cocktail or three. On the weekend in the cooler months, enjoy free live music.
Stay at Mona
The Mona Pavilions offer luxurious accommodation onsite overlooking the Derwent River. Each pavilion is beautifully designed and is named after an influential Australian artist or architect (we get the feeling David Walsh is a bit into architecture). Kick back in your fancy digs and admire artwork from the Mona collection—basically your own private exhibition! There is also a swimming pool, so don’t forget your best and brightest budgie smugglers.
Stay at Mona… forever
If you like to plan ahead, you’ll be pleased to know that Mona will let you go beyond a boring, run of the mill lifetime membership. For a cool 75k you can bag yourself a sweet Eternity Membership. Party like Princess Margaret while you’re alive, then when you fall off the perch Mona will have you cremated and popped in a fancy Julia deVille-designed urn in the museum. Now that’s a nice new perch to sit on while your disappointing children fight over your estate!
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