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The Port Arthur Historic Site is one of Australia’s most important heritage sites and tourist destinations. Located on the scenic Tasman Peninsula in the south east of Tasmania, it offers a unique and essential experience for all visitors to the area and an open-air museum. It’s approximately 100 km south east of Hobart and allow about one and half hour’s drive.
Port Arthur is one of Australia’s most visited tourist sites due to the building of a penal colony which had the British Empire send its prisoners to the other end of the planet to pay their dues during the 18th and 19th centuries on fertile Australian coastal strips.
The Penitentiary was constructed in 1843 as a flour mill and granary. In 1857 it was converted into a penitentiary, capable of housing over 480 convicts in dormitory accommodation and separate apartments.
The buildings remain intact but careful consideration has been given to the upkeep and ongoing maintenance. Upon closer inspection, the walls have been preserved for any further decay as the architecture is some of the earliest as you’d expect in Australia from the British Empire.
The Church was destroyed by fire in 1884 and has undergone repeated conservation work throughout the 20th century. The outer walls are all that remain of the structure, making it a popular choice for weddings and community events.
The Government Gardens were reconstructed using an 1858 survey. Extensive research of historical photographs, soil analysis, geophysical and archaeological investigations helped establish the convict-period plant species, the type and location of paths, fences and other landscape features.
Further along is the Separate Prison which was built at Port Arthur in 1850. Cruciform-shaped, each of the four wings comprised a central corridor flanked by rows of solitary confinement cells. Separated by thick sandstone walls, it was hoped that the convicts would benefit from contemplative silence and separation.
Inside the prison From 1833 until 1853, it was the destination for the hardest of convicted British criminals, those who were secondary offenders having re-offended after their arrival in Australia. Rebellious personalities from other convict stations were also sent here.
Take a boat ride around the sheltered harbour. Heaps of cruise ships dock just outside of it. Situated on one of the most scenic harbours in Australia, it’s becoming a popular destination for cruise ships in its own right and tendering passengers across to visit. A courtesy buggy service is available for visitors who have limited mobility.
The facilities were being upgraded whilst I was there and due to the large number of tourists, millions of dollars are being spent to accommodate the growing numbers.
The Isle of the Dead tour takes you across the harbour to the cemetery island and gives you a fascinating insight into the lives and deaths of some of Port Arthur’s past residents. The tiny island cemetery holds the remains of over 1,000 people; convict and free.
A quiet place of reflection has been made for visitors to pay their respects. A shooting took place In 1996, it was the scene of the worst mass murder in post-colonial Australian history. 28–29 April 1996 was a massacre in which 35 people were killed and 23 wounded at this site.
Martin Bryant, a 28-year-old from New Town, a suburb of Hobart was found guilty of the shootings and given 35 life sentences without possibility of parole. Following the incident, it emerged in the media that Bryant had significant intellectual disabilities.
Following the spree, the Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard introduced strict gun control laws within Australia and formulated the National Firearms Programme Implementation Act 1996.
One of those rare opportunities where there’s car parking within Hobart CBD. Woolmers self-contained apartments are in Sandy Bay and the suburb is known as one of the city’s more prestigious areas. Once you’ve parked your car as a guest, it’s a breeze to walk to a myriad of restaurants, antique shops and craft stores in a trendy part of Hobart.
Double Studio with a kitchenette, Woolmers offers studio double, studio twin and two bedroom, self-contained apartment style accommodation in the habourside suburb. Maybe you’d prefer the idea of staying in and cooking for yourself; it’s handy if you’ve had a big day out like Port Arthur to relax and not worry about having to go out again. Turn on the TV, cook up a treat with kitchen facilities making it an easy night in. Just drop and flop, comfortable, clean and accessible to all amenities nearby.
End of the day and my trip – I’d covered 1,518 kms in total in a hire car. I’d only planned to stay in Tasmania for seven nights, but because the weather in April was so divine, the people so friendly and the ease of ‘getting around’ in such an incredible part of Australia had me stay on for a total of 14 days. The coastline shown here is only a glimpse of what you will enjoy if you follow the main highways around the perimeter of the state where possible.
My recommendation for anyone planning a trip to our southern-most state of Australia, is to take much longer than a fortnight as there were many more opportunities to visit and experience a plethora of other activities and local attractions – not to mention seeing the natural fauna and native wildlife in its own habitat. Will I be going back to Tassie? Without doubt!
The aircraft shown here will fly you into this remote area via the south west coast. Departing Cambridge Airport, we flew via the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, past the mouth of the Huon River and on to Recherche Bay.
At the start we’re looking out over the city of Hobart, Tasmania’s capital and as we gain altitude, we can see how spread out and far reaching the residents live in Australia’s smallest state and least populated state capital.
Founded in 1804 as a penal colony, Hobart is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney, New South Wales.
Beautiful clean coastal estuaries in a pristine part of the world can be seen from above, and thankfully it’s part of Tasmania’s Wilderness World Heritage area.The 85km South Coast Track runs between Melaleuca and Cockle Creek. There are no roads to Melaleuca, so walkers must either fly, sail or walk in and out.
Extremely rugged coastline as well – no pathways along this particular region of the state. It’s recommended you gain experience on other Tasmanian walking tracks before attempting the South Coast as you will be a long way from help should you need it.
This is not the warmest day in April, but then again, I don’t believe even in the Summer months the South East Cape would reach high temperatures. As long as we’re clear for take off later in the day, I’m happy to be here to view the majestic surroundings for the next couple of hours.
Welcome to Melaleuca in the Southwest National Park which is the southern most national parkland in Australia. The southern and western reaches of the region are far removed from any vehicular access and therefore the area is largely unaffected by humans.
Readying for our departure, we reboard our aircraft and return to Cambridge Airport via the spectacular Eastern Arthurs and Federation Peak, then continue down the Huon Valley and over Hobart city for an overall bird’s eye view.
At South Cape Bay, there is no track down to South East Cape (the southernmost point of the continent). There’s no point leaving the South Coast Track either to try and reach it as it’s an impassable coastline in most parts. Additionally, if you’re ever walking along narrow or rocky beaches at high tide, beware of large wave swells as they are treacherous.
For bookings with Par Avion services, visit http://www.paravion.com.au or telephone (03) 6248 5390 as you won’t be disappointed – especially if you’re short on time – there’s half and full day outings with weather permitting at different times of the year.
At the end of the day, you’d probably want to treat yourself to a cocktail and relax in the warmth of the very regal Lenna of Hobart Heritage Hotel and savour the day’s experience in having seen one of the world’s greatest national parks – both from the air and being on the ground.
And yes, the accommodation is beautifully appointed in a modern spacious room with spectacular views up to Mount Wellington. Plenty of bench space to work from if need with free wireless internet (WiFi). Individually controlled heating and cooling and a Nespresso coffee machine is just perfect. Complimentary onsite car parking is a big plus if you’ve been travelling around like me.
This landmark hotel is a 1874-built sandstone mansion which puts you right on the historic doorstep of Hobart’s vibrant waterfront. The Lenna Hotel Hobart is within walking distance to Salamanca Markets and the harbour whereby there’s a myriad of restaurants including fresh seafood and many other culinary regional delights.
For bookings check availability http://www.lenna.com.au/
Next stop Port Arthur.
Heading onto Cradle Mountain from Strahan as a self- drive itinerary, it crosses the Alpine Plateau which also passes through old mining towns that still produce silver, lead and zinc. Stopping at Black Bluff gave a magnificent overview of the forestation in the region.
Practically at the turnoff for Cradle Mountain National Park is the Cradle Mountain Hotel. No doubt easy to find and located in a quiet position. Noticeably the hotel has been designed to fit into the natural surrounds with subdued colours and low-height levels which make it an attractive consideration to stay within the area.
Loved the balcony whereby you had the ability to step out and enjoy the view. The smell of eucalyptus is one of my favourites. For bookings http://www.cradlemountainhotel.com.au
After settling in, it’s time to drive again and see Cradle Mountain for my very first time while the weather is still feasible. You can buy your National Park entrance at the hotel reception desk. At the time of writing this post the fee was A$16.00 per adult per day.
The road is quite narrow in different parts and if you’re driving your own vehicle then take it easy as it’s difficult to see what’s coming from the other direction. You will need to pull over, stop and at times allow the other vehicle to have precedence.
However, at a check point near the tourism office, there are shuttle buses which take visitors back and forth to alleviate the traffic congestion. They run over scheduled times and are quite frequent.
Your first time seeing a glimpse of Cradle Mountain makes you want to hurry around to the viewing platforms. But it’s best to go a bit slower and marvel at the scenery within the Lake St Clair National Park; itself is a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Speaking of walking tracks, there’s a myriad to choose from and each individual should take into account their level of fitness and the weather conditions. For all snow and road closure or condition advisories, please contact the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre: Phone (61) 03 6492 1110.
Cradle is the starting point for the world-famous Overland Track – a magnificent six-day walk that will take you through the heart of some of the finest mountain terrain, mirrored here in the still clear waters.
And yes, it is stunning to see first hand Cradle Mountain which has witnessed incredible changes to the landscape over centuries. Postcards and photos don’t do this area justice. Go and see it for yourself!
Well look who has turned up in its natural habitat! A wombat going about their daily business taking a stroll and checking out the food scene. As an Australian, I’ve never witnessed so many native animals out and about as what I’ve seen in Tasmania and in particular within the Lake St Clair National Park.
A little announcement today 15th June at 11:00 am my time Sydney EST Australia, I’m going to chat on air 2RRR 88.5 FM with a friend Maree who is a Flight Attendant and has some funny little stories to tell us. There’s a ‘Listen Online Now’ link on http://www.2rrr.org.au for the Travel Gracefully program on Thursday mornings over the next few weeks.
Listen in as Maree tells us what are some of the requirements these days for being a Flight Attendant.
I remember waiting to attend an interview in the lobby for a Flight Attendant position many, many years ago and whilst we were all nervous, a fellow returned from the men’s room and sat opposite me. As we smiled at each other, I went over and said quietly to him, “I think you’d better do up your fly”.