Nestled beside the gentle lapping waters of the Old Wharf in one of Hobart’s most significant industrial heritage sites, the award-winning Henry Jones Art Hotel offers guests a truly unique experience of the city, fusing its modern sophistication with its rich Indigenous and colonial histories.
Formerly a waterfront warehouse, the building and its historic sandstone facade date back to 1804 and it is most famously known as the original site of the IXL Jams factory.
I arrive at the hotel one sunny Friday in late May for a weekend of art, culture and indulgence and check into one of the hotel’s luxurious Deluxe Spa Harbour View rooms.
The building and its historic sandstone facade date back to 1804 and it is most famously known as the original site of the IXL Jams factory.
Overlooking the water, the room’s modern interior is highlighted by the historical charm of hand-cut stone walls and 200-year-old rough-hewn timber beams. Its glass-encased bathroom is equipped with its own luxurious spa bath, perfect for unwinding after a busy day of sightseeing.
The room is stunning, but so too are each of the other 55 rooms and suites in the hotel, each extolling its own layout and history to ensure each guest has a unique accommodation experience at the hotel.
Australia’s first dedicated art hotel
There are several original John Glover landscapes in the hotel’s collection for guests to enjoy.
Adorning every wall throughout the hotel – in the lobby, restaurants, bar, cafe, corridors and rooms – is an extensive array of artworks by established and emerging Tasmanian artists, a collection that has been expertly collated by the hotel’s dedicated art curator, Tina Zucco.
My visit coincides with the 20th anniversary of the esteemed John Glover Art Prize, of which, at the time of my visit, the hotel is hosting a special exhibition showcasing the works of all prize winners over the last two decades.
Dubbed ‘the father of Australian landscape painting’, Glover was a Scottish artist who in 1831, at the age of 65, emigrated to Tasmania to start a new life in the colonies.
On arrival, he was immediately enamored by the Tasmanian landscape, which inspired him to produce a series of celebrated landscape canvases that present a remarkable record of colonial life at that time in history. There are several original Glover landscapes in the hotel’s collection for guests to enjoy.
On my first day in Hobart, I join the hotel’s art curator, alongside several other guests, for a glass of bubbles and a fascinating hotel art tour, with expert commentary on the prize, the exhibition and the hotel’s wider collection.
Getting to know Henry Jones
Our tour provides a sneak peek into the IXL Jams factory, its workers and the life of the man who brought the brand to life.
Later, I make my way across the road to the hotel’s sister hotel, the MACq 01, and to the ‘storytelling desk’ to join tour guides Ash and Mary for a tour of the Henry Jones Art Hotel itself, on which I learn more about the factory as well as the hotel’s namesake.
The building has undergone extensive and considered refurbishment in the last two decades, with its new iteration as a modern hotel remaining true to its humble wharf factory origins. Subtle reminders of its past are hidden in details scattered throughout the hotel that I would have missed, had the expert tour guides not pointed them out.
Our tour takes us on a fascinating journey to the past, providing a sneak peek into the IXL Jams factory, its workers and the life of the man who brought the IXL Jams brand to life.
The son of convicts, Henry Jones was just 12 years old when he started working at the then burgeoning jam factory Peacock & Co.
Recognizing the opportunities on offer for a young man with aspirations of improving his lot, Jones worked his way up from the factory floor and was appointed factory manager at just 21 years of age.
Seven years later, in 1891, Jones bought the business outright from his former employer, renaming the company Henry Jones & Co, rebranding the products IXL Jams and expanding the enterprise to achieve enormous success – turning the IXL Jams brand into a household name in Australia.
Over time, Jones expanded the factory across several buildings along the Old Wharf; folklore suggests that the locals could determine the type of jam being made each day by the exotic smell of cooking fruit emanating from the jam factory chimneys.
Landscape Restaurant offers a truly delightful fine dining experience centered around Tasmania’s exceptional produce.
That evening, I catch the lift down to the reception area and enter the hotel’s IXL Long Bar. A three-piece jazz band jives in the corner of the busy bar while I chat with the friendly mixologist and peruse the extensive cocktail menu for the perfect pre-dinner drink.
Afterwards, I stroll across the lobby and enter the hatted Landmark Restaurant and am seated on a romantic table-for-two below a dazzling original Glover landscape.
I opt for the Glover-inspired degustation and enjoy a truly delightful fine dining experience centered around Tasmania’s exceptional produce.
This includes east coast grilled oysters with wakame butter and saltbush, wood-fired Stanley octopus, grass-fed lamb, wallaby and Cape Grim beef. For dessert I indulge in a slice of Huon Valley apple pie.
Hobart, then and now
The following morning, after enjoying breakfast at the hotel, I visit Hobart’s Salamanca Market, just a short five-minute walk from Old Wharf along the harbor.
From one of the many market stalls, I order artisan coffee, eat sourdough donuts and peruse an eclectic array of artisan foods, wines, crafts and wares from independent Tasmanian producers.
Later that morning, I make my way back to the MACq 01’s storytelling desk to meet up with tour guide Ash and several other guests to participate in a historic tour of Hobart Town.
Armed with handheld slide viewers, Ash leads our group around the city center on a tour with a difference.
He shares fascinating stories about historical Hobart and positions us in various locales to have us look into our viewers to compare then-and-now images of significant landmarks around the city.
Dinner with a side of history
I top the day off with dinner at Peacock & Jones, a more relaxed yet no-less sophisticated restaurant set amid the historic jarring room of the original factory within the hotel precinct.
Above us, original factory machinery is on display as I dine on a degustation comprising Tongola goat’s curd, local line-caught white fish, Tasmanian lamb and, for dessert, apple crumble sponge cake, all expertly paired with a stellar range of Tasmanian wines.
By the time I check out of the hotel the following morning to catch my flight home, I feel I’ve had a truly unique experience of Hobart. I immediately start planning my return to the Apple Isle with some friends to again stay the Henry Jones Art Hotel, so they can also share this remarkable experience.