The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) Hobart is Australia’s largest privately-funded art museum and since 2011 it has become a huge drawcard for visitors to Tasmania.
MONA’s collection is a reflection of the owner David Walsh’s personal taste. There’s a mixture of antiquities, photography, paintings, video and immersive installations from Australia and around the world.
A lot of the content is adult-themed – David Walsh obviously has a fascination with sex and death. But MONA is still a place you can take kids as many of the works are interactive and fun.
Here are my Top 9 tips for visiting MONA with kids.
Manage your expectations according to your kid’s age
There are over 300+ artworks on display so you’re unlikely to stay long enough to see them all.
I first visited MONA when Lady AB was 1 year old. She got pushed around in a pram and vaguely looked at some of the more interactive works. We spent about 1.5 hours there.
My second visit to MONA was without kids and obviously it was a completely different experience. We got a guided tour as we were staying at the MONA Pavilions on Tuesday (when the gallery is closed) and had a drink in the subterranean Void Bar and wine tastings at the Cellar Door.
My last visit to MONA was when Lady AB was 6 years old and Baby 2.0 was 4 years old. Baby 2.0’s attention span lasted for about an hour whereas Lady AB and I were at the gallery for almost 3 hours, discussing artworks and exploring concepts of art philosophy plus lunch.
MONA is not a cheap day out – the cost of 2 adult entry tickets ($28) plus 4 ferry tickets ($22) equals $144. So you’ll get more value for money the older your kids are.
Ride a sheep to MONA
The best way to arrive with kids is to take the MONA ROMA, the catamaran that departs from Brook Street Ferry, cruises down the Derwent River, and arrives at the bottom of the museum.
The approach is smooth so you’re unlikely to feel sick and it is very picturesque, especially as you go around the bend and spy MONA’s spectacular hilltop setting. The ferry ride takes 30 minutes.
In addition, there are toilets and a snack bar on board, plus on the upper deck you can ride a sheep sculpture instead of sitting on a seat!
It costs $22 per person (adult or child 4+ years), one way or return. The ferry runs according to Winter or Summer schedule and you must nominate a departure time at the time of purchasing your ferry ticket. You’re able to change your departure ticket at the ticket office at any time.
Note from the ferry terminal there are 99 steps to the entrance of MONA. If you have accessibility issues you will need to discuss your requirements at the time of booking. If you have a pram I suggest you just carry it up/down the steps.
Other ways to get to MONA
If you don’t fancy the boat then you can take a coach transfer from the MONA Brooke St ferry terminal (Hobart).
It costs $22 per person (adult or child 4+ years), one way or return. The bus runs also according to a less frequent Winter or Summer schedule and you must nominate a departure time at the time of purchasing your ferry ticket. You’re able to change your departure ticket at the ticket office at any time.
If your kids are old enough then I highly recommend hiring a bike to cycle to MONA from the Brooke St ferry terminal (Hobart). The ride is mostly off-road, well-signed and flat. You’ll get to see some of Hobart’s outskirts, the water and enjoy the wind in your hair. The only hill is at MONA’s driveway. Rental is $22 per person.
From the airport the MONA Roma Express (Bus) boards outside the Virgin/Tiger Airline arrivals terminal at Hobart Airport. The trip takes 45 minutes each way and costs $22 per person (adult or child 4+ years), one way or return.You need to prebook 03 6223 6064.
How to get around MONA with a pram
Once you get yourself up those 99 steps from the ferry pier then the collection takes up three floors within an underground gallery.
There are several lifts within the building and pending crowds, plenty of room to push a pram around each floor and the ramps. It’s a big space.
The rest of the outdoor site is mostly accessible with a pram, though there are parts that can be muddy or only provide dirt paths.
If you need to store your pram the cloak is free. There are also luggage lockers for hire $6.
Borrow a free O device
Instead of museum plaques MONA provides each visitor with an ‘O’ device, an ipod loaded with information, thoughts and ramblings about each artwork. As you walk through the gallery it senses your location and provides information about the surrounding works.
It’s not really an audio-guide (though you can use headphones with it) and in fact I don’t recommend shutting yourself off with headphones.
If you have a child who can read try to give them their own device (sometimes staff don’t let under 18s have them). There are adult themes and expressions used in the guide so expect to be asked some curly questions.
Give your kids a camera
I find in art galleries that kids can be much more engaged if they’re able to take photos.
I give my kids an old iphone and then after the visit we chat about some of the photos they’ve taken. In amongst the silly selfies kids can also capture interesting perspectives!
Highlight works for kids
While there’s lots of sexually explicit and otherwise confronting content, there’s still lots of of other works to see. The map advises you of areas where parental discretion is advised.
Start from the bottom floor and work your way up.
My kids enjoy these works the most. Note that what’s on display often rotates:
Musical trampoline. When is a trampoline art? When it’s an expression of an artistic intention.
Kids will naturally gravitate towards this interactive work as soon as they step off the ferry. As you bounce the small bells dingle-dangle and while you’re waiting for your turn you can also gong the big bells.
bit.fall by Julius Popp (2001-2006). Words from internet news streams turn into a constant waterfall of words.
Cloaca Professional by Wim Delwoye (2010) aka the poo machine. The installation replicates the human digestive system and it is fed every day at 11am and poos around 4:30pm. Lady AB holds her nose in fascination as we wonder what it had for lunch that day. Note if you stay at the MONA Pavilions on a Tuesday (when the gallery isn’t open) then you get to have a money-can’t-buy experience – a guided tour of the museum plus the opportunity to feed Cloaca!
Dot Obsession – Yayoi Kusama’s polkadot works makes for a fun space to explore. Just don’t touch any of the sculptures!
Queen (A Portrait of Madonna) by Candice Breitz (2005) – Baby 2.0 was mesmerised by the videos of people singing Madonna’s Immaculate Conception album a cappella.
Hound in the Hunt – older children can try to replicate Vermeer’s works using an optical technique and lenses.
Fat Car by Erwin Wurm (2006) – fans of Lightning McQueen will think that the red racecar has eaten too many doughnuts! Lady AB and I had a good chat about the dangers of excess.
ZiZi the Affectionate Couch – this furry seat looks like a standard museum seat…except when you sit on it! It moans, groans and squelches. Give it a hug!
Where to eat at MONA
You can BYO picnic to MONA (just not alcohol) or there are two on-site cafes – one is a standard cafe with outdoor seating facing the water and the other is the Wine Bar with more charcuterie and desserts.
The Source restaurant is a high-end restaurant and does not really cater for kids except perhaps for breakfast. If you do go enjoy the view!
What else there is to do at MONA
Key times to visit MONA include the annual festivals MOFO (January) and Dark MOFO (June) which showcase large-scale public art and live performances. A highlight of this year’s Dark MOFO included the House of Mirrors which is now temporarily installed in Bendigo.
On weekends you can enjoy free jazz indoors or outdoors (depending on the weather)
On Sundays over summer/autumn there are the MONA Markets, a mix of farmers market and craft/design.
Have you visited MONA before? Share your experiences.
Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), 655 Main Road, Berriedale, Tasmania +61(0)3 6277 9904
Open Wednesday – Monday
Closed Tuesdays (27 December excepted) and Christmas Day
Open every day in January
Winter opening hours
Museum and Museum Shop 10am – 5pm (last entry 4.30pm)
Library: 10am – 5pm
Museum Café: 10am – 4pm
Void Bar: 10am onwards
Summer opening hours:
Museum and Museum Shop: 10am – 6pm (last entry 5.30pm)
Library: 10am – 5pm
Museum Café: from 10am
Void Bar: from 10am
ADULT– If you’re not from Tasmania, admission is $28
CONCESSION– With concession card $25.
UNDER 18– Free*
TASMANIAN– If you are Tasmanian and present ID you get in for free.