So it was off to Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula for me this week. Cited as the the Big Daddy of Tasmanian tourist attractions, what I discovered was actually quite surprising.

Port Arthur Tasmania: church building, convict settlement

Port Arthur Tasmania (photo by Dan Fellow)

Port Arthur Tasmania: Convict Hell, Photo Heaven!

Not usually a huge fan of the big promotion attraction, I ventured along without high hopes of genuine appeal. I’m happy to say on this occasion I was dead wrong!

Port Arthur: Tasmanian Convict Settlement

From 1830, convicts were banished to the settlement, originally working the small timber station. With industries such as ship-building and brick-making forged by convict labour, the penal system of the colony advanced the size of Port Arthur. Tasmania had the ideal location for prisoners, with the remote and harsh environment making escape an unattractive prospect.

Coupled with stories of sharks and the reality of guard dogs chained across Eaglehawk Neck (the isthmus dividing the peninsula from the main island) the convicts were destined to a life of toil without much hope.

History Lessons at Port Arthur

Visitors to Port Arthur learn about the gruesome history via static displays and the many features to explore privately, but there are also guides providing tours around the settlement, offering interactive story-telling. The grounds are quite extensive, so I was very happy when it was time to rest the legs and board a catamaran for a cruise around the harbour. From the comfortable seats of the MV Marana, the tour glides past the boys’ prison of Point Puer, the Isle of the Dead and interprets the ship-building enterprise of the station.

Port Arthur Tasmania: convict settlement from the harbour cruise

Convict Settlement from Harbour Cruise

The views to and from the water enhance the magnificent surrounds of the settlement. The gardens and building remains offer a picturesque vista in every direction, and despite the harsh past, I found myself enthralled with the photographic opportunities of the present. In fact, I so underestimated the value of the convict settlement, my day finished way too soon.

Port Arthur Tasmania: turret and boats in the harbour

Through the turret to boats in the harbour

On the day of my visit, the entrance price at Port Arthur Convict Settlement allowed for next-day-access free of additional charge. I would strongly recommend visitors take advantage of this offer, if they have the opportunity.

Port Arthur Tasmania: gardens and convict buildings

Port Arthur gardens (photo by Kerrie Dodson)

Port Arthur: Tasman Peninsula

With many other attractions in the area to complement the convict ruins, you could easily schedule several days in and around Port Arthur, Tasmania. The drive from Hobart to the main attraction on the Tasman Peninsula takes about 90 minutes.

Well, that’s if you don’t get distracted by the Tasman National Park: Tasman Arch, the Blowhole, Devils Kitchen, Tessellated Pavement. And I haven’t even mentioned the Coal Mines Historical Site or Remarkable Cave or Waterfall Bay. Somebody please stop me!

For bookings and further information visit the Port Arthur Tasmania website.

Port Arthur Tasmania: convict settlement buildings

Heritage buildings: Port Arthur Tasmania

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