Port Arthur, TAS
Located just over 90km southeast of Hobart, Port Arthur is a small city of only 250 inhabitants. The real beauty and character of the town lie in the perfectly-preserved convict grounds that spread across the dramatic landscape of Port Arthur.
This World Heritage site includes eleven buildings and tells the story of a brutal past. Today, this open-air museum welcomes over 250,000 visitors every year and is one of the most significant historic sites in Australia. The Tasman Peninsula’s pristine natural charm creates the perfect backdrop for this historic site. Whether you are looking for an unspoiled location to gather your thoughts or you are here to explore the intense history of Tasmania, Port Arthur won’t disappoint you.
Port Arthur is entirely soaked in history in history and a visit to this World-Heritage site won’t leave any visitor untouched. The story of Port Arthur begins in 1830, when George Arthur, Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, started the first settlement in the area, originally a timber station.
This exile colony was home to the most feared convicted British criminals until 1953. Both the natural features of the area and the security systems implemented made the prison one of the most inescapable places in Tasmania.
After closing down and abandoned in 1877, the tourism influx started, making the outstanding beauty of the peninsula known to the world. Today, the UNESCO-inscribed site plays a crucial role in telling and remembering the colonial history of Australia.
With over 30 buildings and ruins spread across the 100 acres of the ground, in Port Arthur, you can follow the footprints of convicts, governors, and prison guards. The museums and gardens will allow you to learn all the details of a convoluted past. At the end of your visit, don’t miss out on a boat tour to toe Isle of the Dead to admire the beauty of the peninsula from a different viewpoint.
To take in all the aspects of your journey, aim at spending at least 4 to 6 hours wandering around the grounds. However, if you feel like you need more time, your ticket will be valid for two consecutive days.
As you lift your eyes from the austere, severe-looking buildings, you will marvel at the unspoiled and utterly dramatic beauty of the Tasman Peninsula. The rugged, spectacular coastline is bordered by towering cliffs and hills covered by a carpet of verdant forests. The 90 minutes drive from Hobart to Port Arthur is no less scenic than the destination itself.
While on the way, stop to enjoy the national park that protects the natural diversity of the peninsula. Here you can spot brush-tail possums, wallabies, bandicoots, and wallabies. Just off the coast, penguins, dolphins, whales, and Australian fur seals populate the pristine waters of the Tasman Sea. looking up towards the tree-tops, you might even get a glimpse of swift parrots, sea eagles, and endangered wedge-tailed eagles.
If you fancy marvelling at stunning rock formations rising from the sea, there is no need to go all the way to Port Campbell. Instead, head to the over 300 metres-high cliffs or to the Blow Hole, Tessellated pavement, Tasman Arch, Waterfall Bay, Devil’s Kitchen, or Remarkable Cave.
Activities and Experiences
As your two-days tour approaches the end, sign up for the next boat tour. Circumvalling the peninsula, such a trip will allow you to see Port Arthur from a different perspective and reflect on the history you have just finished absorbing. The eco-cruises will take you to explore waterfalls, cliffs, and deep-sea caves, all crowned by the bustling of local wildlife.
If you still have time to spare, the many hiking trails that surround Port Arthur will take you at the foothills of the verdant forests that are today the background of the complex. More family-friendly options are shorter and can be enjoyed in an afternoon. If you are an expert hiker, instead, you can find multi-day hikes that will take you atop some of the most scenic cliffs of the area. One of the unmissable ones is the Three Capes Track.
Dining/Eat and Drink
The area surrounding Port Arthur is sprinkled with seafront cafes, bubs, and idyllic wine bars. However, if you are coming from Hobart and looking for a more rustic option, here you can find BBQs and picnic areas to share a meal with your family. For a quick lunch break while on the move, check out Port Arthur’s kiosk and the on-site restaurant.
Port Arthur is certainly not famous for its endless shopping opportunities, yet you won’t be left short of groceries for your Tasman Peninsula camping trip or of a souvenir. The General Store and Takeaways is the perfect one-stop-shop to fill up your car or backpack with snacks before the next big adventure. For how unspoiled the peninsula can seem, here you will find chocolate, hardware, and bottle shops. For foodies, the Fat Beets Food Hub has everything from groceries to ingredients for a quick and healthy lunch.
Even though your tour of Port Arthur won’t take you more than a day or two, many visitors, struck by the beauty of the peninsula, decide to stay longer in the area. Bay lodges, villas, and retreats dot the grounds around the complex. They make the perfect starting point for your trip or the ideal place for a foot massage after a hard hiking day. The nearby Holiday Park, as well as the sea-front Fortescue Bay Camping Ground, are splendid budget overnight stops.
Port Arthur Map
- Soft Adventure
- Bush Walking
- National Park
- World Heritage
- Caravan and Camping
- Food and Wine
About Port Arthur
Accommodation In Port Arthur
Discover some of the accommodation in and around Port Arthur