An old building will tell you stories if you listen properly, and much like the Alabama itself, Hobart’s curiosities are an increased interest to mainland tourists since the MONA boom. Built in the 1830s and named after the USS Alabama, this off-beat hotel run by Aedan and Kelly Cloake has been reinvigorated by local artists to provide an experience you can’t get at the Holiday Inn.
Kelly Cloake: The Alabama has had a very colourful, and at times, rough, past. It was believed to be the first place in Hobart to sell take-away alcohol. It was closed to the public for almost a decade after the pub downstairs (The Alabama) closed in 2002. The old pub rooms were rented as student housing for many years. We took on the lease in late 2013, and opened for business in October of that year, keeping the original name.
A chance meeting with the building owner who was trying to lease the building led us to give [running a hotel] a go. I had a background in all sorts of seemingly unrelated things that actually all ended up being useful for a small business in the accommodation industry (Events, Ticketing, Admin, Finance and a shit tonne of hospitality). The building’s owner took a chance on us by allowing a couple with no background in hoteling to not only lease his building, but to become our business partner.
Local artist Josh Pringle recently painted one of our twin rooms with this amazing mural that says “Home Sweet Hobart” and contains many references to life in Tassie. Because it is so new and fresh, it is my current favourite, but all the rooms that have been personally painted by artists are pretty great. I also have a real soft spot for another one of the twin rooms, number six. It is smaller than the others, but really cute, and right down the end of the hall, so probably the quietest room in the place.
The building wasn’t always deco. It was built about a hundred years before it got its deco facade. It was originally Georgian, with a flatter, squarer shape. Going with how it looks today though, we have loosely kept an art deco theme, but not in any major way. Our lounge is full of club lounges and we have a lot of bevelled mirrors from that period but that is about it. We have a bunch of kitsch ‘60s flamingos around the place and stuff from many other decades and eras. It is a pretty strange combination, but one that seems to work.
Our customers are quirky, interested in art and food, and want somewhere clean and inexpensive to stay. I think personalised and friendly service is the most important thing, at any price level. Based on price, people already have an idea of what kind of level of luxury they’ll be in for. You could be staying in a $600 a night room, but if the service is lacking, you won’t feel you got value from the experience.
In the last few years, things have definitely changed in Hobart. The food/wine/whisky industries have just exploded and when you couple that with an amazing museum created by an enigmatic math genius – it creates an irresistible draw. “The MONA effect” is a phrase thrown around a lot, but it exists.
Criterion St Cafe
Oyster and Pearl
Mt Field National Park – just an hour out of Hobart. Great for a day trip, or stay in the Government Huts. Super rustic cabins in the mountains for under $50 per night.
Buses live in a ‘bus mall’, a reverse cycle air conditioner is a ‘heat pump’, if you’re from the North of the state you are loyal to Boags, from the South and you would only let Cascade beer pass your lips.
Best Road Trip
A couple of years ago, we finally took a week to drive around Tassie and see the West Coast. It is wild and rugged over there and so are its people. The North West coast is not as famous as Tassie’s east coast, but it is stunningly beautiful.
Dream Road Trip
I haven’t road tripped around country Victoria in many years and so much has changed. I’d like to spend some time doing that, and visiting ex Melbourne friends who have moved to the country.
Alabama Hotel Hobart
Level 1, 72 Liverpool St, Hobart TAS, Australia
Ph: +61 499 987 698