Port Arthur is located on the Tasman Peninsula 99km southeast of Hobart. The historic penal colony dating back to the 1830’s is historically recognised for its significance in this country’s settlement and notoriously recognised for the indescribable tragedy occurring upon the site in the 1990’s.
This historic site came to be in 1833 when Military barracks were extended and utilized as holding compounds for repeat criminal offenders. Following the lead of an English penitentiary, a harsh criminal justice system was developed and the convict population, transported from far and wide, continued to grow as did the extension of the penal settlement. The convicts were strictly disciplined and severely punished, however they were taught useful skills and produced goods, construction materials and even assisted in building ships. After 20 years the incoming convicts from other colonies ceased and the barracks finally closed in 1877. Today many tourists are attracted from around the world who are interested in the history and stories surrounding the intriguing penal laws and penal settlement of long ago.
There are in excess of 30 buildings to explore, an informative museum and visitors centre telling the stories of the days of the Van Diemen’s Land convicts, guided tours, self-guided audio tours, a 25 minute boat cruise in Mason Cove and much more. There is so much to see and learn here that the entry tickets are valid for 2 days.
Unfortunately Port Arthur is also known for the tragic chain of events that occurred on the fateful day of 28 April 1996 when an abominable amount of lives were so wrongfully taken by a gunman. A touching memorial garden dedicated to the victims is placed at the site, remembering each of them by name. May the tragically taken victims now rest in peace. Enough said.
This experience is a real mix of interest, fascination, education and sorrow. It is an eye opener to Tasmania’s history and heritage and to that of Australia as a whole. Port Arthur makes Australian history fun.
The penal colony is accessible from Arthur Hwy via Sorell and it is definitely worth pulling into the coast around Eaglehawk Neck to appreciate the natural attractions and stunning views. A 4km loop overlooks Pirate Bay and descends to the Tessellated Pavement State Reserve where you can learn about the pavement formed by crystallisation, abrasion and erosion. An easy 5 minute walk finds these tidal rock formations.
South of Eaglehawk Neck a 4km deviation along Blowhole Rd finds Fossil Bay, Tasman Blowhole, Tasman Arch and Devil’s Kitchen
. A short walk explores the rugged coastal headlands, cliff faces and rock formations. The coastal scenery here is magnificent.
This is a beautiful area rich in history and scenery. Don’t miss the chance to explore this remarkable historic site on your Tassie adventure.
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Destinations in Tasmania
Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers
Freycinet National Park
Mt Field National Park
Return from Port Arthur to Tasmania