While travelling around Tasmania some years ago I decided to visit the Penal Colony of the Port Arthur Historical site which is a fascinating place steeped in a dark past, something that is in direct contrast with the natural beauty of the surrounding area.
It is also the site of the worst massacre in Australia where a lone gunman went on a shooting rampage, killing 35 innocent people & seriously injuring 23.
The penal site was established as a timber station that quickly grew in importance as ship building was added so that select convicts could learn a valuable skill that could be utilised once they had served their time.
Life was very hard for the 12,500 odd convicts who served their prison time here over the 47 years that it was open.
In fact, it was Hell on Earth & the hours long with gruelling work in the way of timber cutting & stone quarrying.
†It was a cruel & barbaric place, Solitary confinement cells in the Separate Prison building were used to inflict mental punishment in place of floggings. Some prisoners even had to endure this isolation in church as the stalls were built in such a way that they couldnít see the person in the one next to them.† This type of incarceration was an experiment in that it was a silent prison where psychological coercion replaced physical punishment & each man spent 23 hours each day alone in his cell. The idea behind this system was that separation and silence promoted reflection, remorse, and ultimately reformation.
Despite the hardships it was also a place of opportunity as some of the skills being taught included boatbuilding, shoemaking, carpentry, blacksmithing, and stone masonry all skills that would give the prisoners the means with which to earn a living after they left the walls of the prison to live out the rest of their lives in this land far away from England.
Transportation of convicts stopped in 1853 but Port Arthurís story did not end for it became a welfare establishment in the late 1850s & an asylum & pauperís accommodation was built for prisoners who were too old or ill to work.
Almost immediately the site was renamed Carnarvon and, during the 1880s, land was parcelled up & put to auction, so that people could take up residence in and around the old site.
Today, the Port Arthur Historic Site comprises more than 30 convict-built structures and substantial ruins in a landscape of 136 hectares.
The site was inscribed onto the World Heritage List in 2010 as one of the eleven historic places that form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. Allow yourself 3-4 hours of time to comfortably explore this fascinating historical site.
The area is about a 1-hr drive (93 km) south-east of Hobart & features the Historic site as well as many other attractions in the area including dramatic coastal rock formations & towering cliffs of Remarkable Cave, the gorgeous waterways & secluded sand dunes around Crescent Bay as well as Point Puer Boys Prison which was the first reformatory in the British Empire built exclusively for juvenile male convicts.
There is lots of accommodation in the area including,The NRMA Port Arthur Holiday Park which is the perfect base for exploring the famed Tasman Peninsula. It is located one kilometre north of Port Arthur & is central to the areaís iconic attractions. Accommodation options include water view cabins, glamping safari tents, bunkhouse, ensuite, unpowered caravan & camping sites. This park was awarded Gold Medal in the 2019 Tasmanian Tourism AwardsThe area has lots of inns, lodges, BnBs & villas, in fact everything to suit all budgets.
There are so many different experiences waiting for you in & around Port Arthur & is a must see destination.