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MONA Museum, or the Museum of Old and New Art, has been billed as the place that revitalized Hobart and put it high up on the must-see destination list of Tasmania in Australia.
It is the largest privately funded museum in Australia and I’ve been keen for years to see what all the fuss is about. It’s not only a place for art lovers, but it’s a space for entertainment.
The founder David Walsh has described the museum as a “subversive adult Disneyland.” This might be why it’s considered one of the best things to do in Hobart.
I was more interested in the winery and off site brewery attached and the photos of people lazing around on bean bags with beautiful river views that I always see of MONA.
If you’re thinking of visiting MONA but not sure what it’s all about, here is an overview of our experience…
About Mona Museum
- Cost: $35 per adult. Under 18 tourists and concessions $10. Under 12s enter for free.
- Getting There: The MR-1 Fast Ferry takes 30 minutes from Hobart and costs from $20. For other options click here.
- Opening Hours: Open 5 days a week from 10am–5pm. Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They are closed Wednesday and Tuesdays. For holiday periods click here.
- Website: For full details on your visit to MONA visit the MONA website.
The Mona Museum is not just a public art museum. MONA frequently showcases large-scale art and performance events.
It was founded by art collector David Walsh, who built the museum on the banks of the River Derwent, on the Berriedale Peninsula in Hobart.
The museum is accessible via ferry which is just as arty as David Walsh’s collection inside. You can sail in the “Posh Pit” which is a private deck with a wine bar and canapes.
The MONA site also sits on the Moorilla Estate, a huge winery that you can also visit as part of your trip to MONA.
There are also two restaurants and bars, a gift shop, and cafes, as well as luxury accommodation pavilions where guests can stay.
The architecture is impressive. It contrasts against the landscape with its hard, angular, and industrial-looking facade. It has a podium, a grassy lawn area, and a garden with native plants. There’s also a tennis court.
In the summer, they host two festivals; the summer festival in January, Mona Foma, which has a mix of music and art. In June, there is the Dark Mofo winter festival, which showcases centuries-old winter solstice rituals. It celebrates darkness through art, music, food, and film.
Our Experience Visiting MONA
Our trip to MONA started on the ferry, which is an experience in itself. You can reach MONA by road, but we felt a trip up the Derwent River would make the experience all that more special.
The weather wasn’t helping out so much, but the sheep seats did. Kalyra and Savannah were instantly put into the right joyful mood to enter an art gallery with.
We pulled up to the dock and got an inkling of the architectural grandeur of the building carved into the cliff face.
Inside the museum entrance is a spiral staircase that leads down to three larger levels of display spaces built into the side of the cliffs.
It made the experience inside the gallery that more special, walking down into the cavernous depths to be confronted by graphic images, ones that caused you to dig a little deeper into your thought recesses, and those that were a little more playful.
The MONA museum is not just about standing there and staring at a painting on the wall, hoping to get a chance to read what it’s about or figure it out yourself. You’re a part of the experience as you move through.
I’m not one for art galleries or museums so wasn’t sure that it would wow me.
You’re given an O – which is an iPod device. It helps you discover what each of the artworks is with some thoughts from the founder David Walsh and sometimes the artist’s voices themselves.
There were exhibitions such as the pulse, which gives you the chance to have a light bulb measure your pulse.
Or a trampoline you can jump on to create music with the bells hanging below.
These were the first exhibits we saw and the girls were hooked. So was I.
It’s by far the best, most interesting, and fun art gallery I’ve ever been to.
It was made even more special that the girls enjoyed doing it as well. The only complaint that was heard was when we had finished. Kalyra whined that she wanted to go back in and see more.
Even though the art and the concepts were above her head, I loved the exposure the trip to MONA gave her to art and the idea that the world can be interpreted in many different and fun ways, and from that perspective, you can create pieces of work that people from around the world flock to in their thousands to see.
My favourite exhibits were the weather instrument – a machine that was powered by the wind, which moved a pencil that created a drawing – an artwork by the wind. I LOVED it!
I also loved the concept of the fat car – an obese Porsche showing the effects of consumerism.
There was also a mummy room called the Pharos Wing, which featured underground galleries and some large-scale artworks by James Turrell which has a light show at sunrise and sunset.
In 2017, a tunnel called Siloam, was built connecting to the Pharos Wing and cost $18 million to make. Here you can see the work of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, who was famously convicted and jailed for the art he made.
It also has The Divine Comedy by Alfredo Jaar, which takes visitors on a journey through the three chambers of the afterlife (paradise, purgatory, and heaven).
But the artwork is not restricted to the inside, there’s some outdoor art too. There’s the Charles Ross’ magical Spectrum Chamber where the children can jump on the trampoline and see rainbow colors.
The most fun one was the white cubed room. Inside were 30 TV screens, with Madonna’s biggest fans singing the entire Immaculate Conception album in acapella. It was fun to watch and I almost jumped up and belted out the words to Borderline with them.
The only one I did not like was the human excrement machine, Cloaca Professional by Wim Delvoye. I think we arrived when it was pooping time and the smell drove me out before I could take a good look.
MONA sure is designed to open your mind – it’s a good place to learn about “It’s not better or worse, just different.”
You can do cellar tours of Moorilla Winery, but we opted for a Moo Brew Beer and a glass of wine from the Bogan Bar.
Which was very fitting for me, as I did wear my UGG boots to MONA. True bogan form, at 15 degrees and high winds, I was freezing. And I’m more about comfort than fashion.
If you like wine and art, you will love this tour you can book through Get Your Guide. The Moorilla’s Wine Meets Mona Art Day Tour includes wine tasting at Moorilla Estate, lunch at the Source Restaurant and explore Mona, the Museum of Old and New Art. See rates and availability here or below
Final Thoughts on Visiting MONA in Hobart
MONA gets the big thumbs up from us, despite our apathetic art appreciation. Put it on your Australia list for sure.
BUT, when you do come down here to visit Mona, make sure you tack on a couple of extra weeks to see some other things to do in Tasmania.
There is so much to take in at Mona, you need at least half a day. We enjoyed lunch in the cafe with views out to the river, before walking to the winery area out the back.
In the summer, there is usually some live music happening outside. There was a big gospel choir event on.
While that is not my thing, it was great to sit on the grass and do some lawn-lounging, while the girls played and danced to some upbeat music.
I can only imagine how great a venue it would be when the MOFO festival takes place in January.
Where to stay in Hobart
- YHA Hostel – smack bang in the centre of Hobart with an easy walk to everything in the city and waterfront, the YHA is your best budget option. Clean, comfortable and with a variety of room options. We stayed there in a family room with private ensuite and were very comfortable.
- Salamanca Inn – excellent mid-level accommodation in a perfect location. Stumble 50m to Salamanca Place and enjoy the markets and everything on offer and walk to the best Hobart has to offer. This all-suite hotel with self-contained apartments was great for us as a family. You can read our review here
- Crowne Plaza Hobart, a 4-Star IHG Hotel. Guests love it for room, the location with a short stroll to the Pier and Salamanca Restaurants and markets, fantastic views from the floor to ceiling windows, and great breakfast.
More ideas for Hobart (and nearby destinations)
- A guide to the fantastic Salamanca Markets
- A Guide to Port Arthur and their awesome ghost tour
- 3 Hours of Unspoilt Wilderness on a Bruny Island Cruise in Tasmania
- What to do in Hobart, Tasmania
- How To Get The Best views of Hazards Beach, Tasmania
- Awesome things to do on Bruny Island, Tasmania
- 24 Best Places to Visit in Tasmania