There is no better way to learn the true history of Tasmania than by taking a trip to Port Arthur on the scenic Tasman Peninsula. Over 500 people populate the tiny town, the community of which primarily services the Port Arthur Historic Site. The stunning entrance to the region at Eaglehawk Neck offers breathtaking views of the bays and the Tessellated Pavement is a popular stop-off point. The area around Port Arthur has some magnificent walking trails and plenty of native bird and animal spotting for the nature enthusiast.
UNESCO World Heritage listed, as one of 11 important ‘Australian Convict Sites’, Port Arthur is one of the most significant remnants of Australia’s convict history. Ruins of convict buildings give a real sense of life there and the museums and displays hauntingly tell the stories of convict life and the impact of forced migration on Australia’s early European settlers.
Originally a timber station, Port Arthur became a penal colony following a decision by Lieutenant-Governor George Arthur in 1830. Prisoners who had reoffended since their arrival in Van Diemen’s Land were banished to Port Arthur and subjected to hard labour, isolation and sensory deprivation as part of their punishment. Port Arthur was operational from 1830 to 1877 and more than 12,500 convicts helped to sustain numerous convict labour industries such as timber milling, boat building and coal mining under incredibly difficult conditions. Most of them never returned home.
Visitors to the Port Arthur site can wander around more than 30 historic buildings and ruins as well as enjoy the grounds, the gardens and the lovely views around that part of the Tasman Peninsula. The museums are fun and interactive experiences ensure the whole family enjoys the trip. Port Arthur is less than a 100-kilometre drive from Hobart, and can be accessed by ferry in summer.