Tasmania series: Port Arthur Historic Site

Building remainsThe former penal settlement and now historic site of Port Arthur, Tasmania is a fascinating and enjoyable place to explore.  Alex and I had much fun exploring the area over the course of two days, after hiring a car in Hobart and driving ourselves to Port Arthur.

  

Day one involved an easy 1.5 hour drive from Hobart to the Port Arthur Historic Site and an afternoon wandering around the grounds and among the various buildings and ruins of the historic site.

Historic remains

Historic remains

Our pre-arranged accommodation in a local “cabin” meant we didn’t have far to travel.  This gave us plenty of time to check in, have dinner at the local hotel and head back to the Port Arthur Historic Site for our night Ghost Tour which was really spoooooky an scary… aaaaahhh!!!!

Is that a ggg ghost

Is that a ggg ghost

Not really… ok…, maybe Alex got a bit scared but it was generally just a fun and cool thing to do and a different way to appreciate the experience… in the dark.

The following day we (again) returned to the Port Arthur Historic Site for a short guided tour and a 30 minute cruise around the harbour, which took us past both Isle of the Dead Cemetery and Point Puer Boys’ Prison.

Port Arthur Historic Site

Port Arthur Historic Site

It may sound like a lot of time spent here but it was really only two half days of exploring and an evening tour, and while the area can be explored in a day trip, the historic site does cover a large area.

By exploring it over two days and breaking it up into different activities (ie, walking around, ghost tour and cruise) I feel like we experienced different aspects each time and it was certainly never boring.

Before leaving Port Arthur we paid our respects at the memorial garden and ruin of the Broad Arrow Café, where 35 people tragically lost their lives and 23 others were wounded on 28 April 1996.  I suggest, if you are intending on paying your respects that you do so at the end of your visit as it leaves you feeling so completely sad.

Fast Facts
Port Arthur is a small town and former penal settlement on the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania, the island state of Australia. The town is about one and a half hours drive from the state capital Hobart.

The major attraction of Port Arthur is the Port Arthur Historic Site, the 40 hectare (100 acre) site of a former convict colony. Many highly recognisable ruins remain, including the penitentiary, the hospital, the insane asylum, and the church.

Picture perfect

Picture perfect

Some portions of the site have been recreated but much is in the original condition.

Original interiors

Original interiors

The Port Arthur Historic Site is Australia’s best known historical site from the convict era.

Port Arthur was first established as a timber station in 1830, supporting the infant colony of Van Diemen’s Land. It became the site of a major penal (prison) colony for male convicts from 1833, a place of secondary punishment for re-offenders, in the 19th century era of convict transportation to Van Diemen’s Land (the former name of Tasmania). It very quickly gained a reputation as a “hell on earth”.

At its peak in the late 1840s, Port Arthur became a near self-sufficient settlement, driven by the labour of its tormented inmates. Ultimately, after a couple of decades of decline in the 1850s and 1860s, Port Arthur finally ended its days as a penal settlement in 1877.

In 1996 Port Arthur Historic Site became the site of Australia’s deadliest gun massacre when a single shooter opened fire on visitors, killing 35 people. Memorials to those who died can be found at the site.  (fast facts extract courtesy of Wikitravel)

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