The historic Coal Mines site was one of the first attractions we explored in Tasmania. We were still house-sitting in Geeveston, before the permanent move to Tassie, and we made the trek to the Tasman Peninsula from the Huon Valley. At that stage, we had absolutely no concept of the time required to cover the region properly.

Coal Mines - Convict History
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

Tourists in Tasmania should allow plenty of time to explore the convict history on the Tasman Peninsula

Coal Mines: Tasman Peninsula Convict History

We landed at the Coal Mines first, en route to its more substantial cousin, the Port Arthur Convict Settlement. The drive to the Coal Mines takes almost half an hour each way from Port Arthur, and from memory there may have been at least some unsealed road involved. Perfectly fine I think, but unsealed. And once you get there, basic toilet facilities and a picnic table are all you can expect. And… no crowds!

Coal Mines - Tasman Peninsula
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

Coal Mines: additional convict history on the Tasman Peninsula, in addition to Port Arthur

We were the only tourists at the site the whole time we were there. And I say “the whole time” because we spent so long at the Coal Mines, we ate into the time needed to properly discover Port Arthur (both the town and the convict attraction). Given our time over again, we would book an overnight visit to the Tasman Peninsula.

Coal Mines - Historic Site
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

The Coal Mines Historic Site on the Tasman Peninsula (photo by Kim and Rod Prestedge).

The Punishment of Hardened Criminals

Originally, Tasmania imported coal from New South Wales, which was expensive and inefficient. The mine, Tasmania’s first, was ostensibly developed to address that dependency issue, and make the colony more self-sufficient. But history would show that the Coal Mines were used to instil fear; it was somewhere the worst of the worst convicts were sent to work as a form of punishment.

Coal Mines - Inspiring Dread
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

Convicts were threatened with banishment to the Coal Mines (photo by Kim and Rod Prestedge).

It’s hard to imagine there could be a place with a worse reputation than Port Arthur for inflicting a harsh reality on convicts. But for over 40 years, if you didn’t tow the line at Port Arthur, you were sent to the Coal Mines. It was enough to break the soul of any man, even a hardened criminal.

Coal Mines - Worst Convict Offenders
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

The worst of the convicts were sent to the Coal Mines (photo by Kim and Rod Prestedge)

Exploring Sandstone Convict Ruins

These days, the actual underground coal mines are no longer accessible. But you can explore the sandstone ruins of the barracks, chapel, bakehouse, store and officer accommodation. Once the coal was extracted, it was carted along rail tracks for transport by sea, and you can walk along the scenic path to the location of the jetty.

Coal Mines - Walking Tracks
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

Walking tracks are provided so visitors can explore the Coal Mines Historic Site

We’ll go back to the Tasman Peninsula again one day, because there’s always new things to discover when you have enough time. In fact, on Facebook one day, we mentioned our intention to return to the Coal Mines. That prompted Think Tasmania readers Kim and Rod Prestedge to share with us photos from their own visit to the Coal Mines, taken during their campervan holiday. Hence this article was inspired!

Coal Mines - Sandstone Ruins
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

The sandstone ruins overlook scenic Tasmanian waterways (photo by Kim and Rod Prestedge)

The Coal Mines in Tasmania are Where?

Entry to the Coal Mines Historic Site is free, and there are interpretive signs for visitors to learn about the history. The site is located near Saltwater River. When travelling from Hobart, turn west off the Arthur Highway about 9kms north of Port Arthur, and follow the signs. You can also access the site from Port Arthur via White Beach and Nubeena. More places to explore!!

Coal Mines - Interpretation for Tourists
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest

There’s no access to the actual coal mines, but there are interpretive signs for visitors

The Port Arthur, Coal Mines and Cascades Female Factory Historic Sites are all World Heritage Listed. The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority is responsible for all three Tasmanian experiences.

So the moral of this story, if there has to be one? In Tasmania,
always allow more time than you think you’ll need. That, and
take more photos. You never know when you might want them!

If you like this article about Tasmania, and you’d like to read more, just subscribe to our newsletter or join us on social media via FacebookTwitterPinterest or Instagram. If you really like this article, and you want others to see it, you can choose one of the “share” options below. We’d love that!

Comments relevant to this article are always most welcome, just leave a reply below. But first… please confirm the date of this article. Have you found something current, or is this ancient information? Either way, thanks for your company and come back again soon.

Map: Coal Mines Historic Site, Tasmania