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Stories from our backyard: Exploring Tasmania’s top destination

Feb 17, 2022 | Australia, Tasmania

Exploring Tasmania's top destination

Port Arthur Photo Credit: Alastair Bett

Shackles or Leg Irons. It’s a device that is not something we encounter much these days, but back in the 1830’s they were a tool to hinder the movement of the harshest of convicts. Fastened to the convicts legs or wrists the shackle or handcuffs were useful to facilitate submission, which was a high priority in one of hardest 19th century prisons in the world – the home of the outright worst offenders gathered from British and Australian prisons. It’s a strange concept to consider that in the 21st century, this former convict settlement and penitentiary is an absolute must-visit for your Tasmania holiday. The Port Arthur Historic Site is located on the Tasman Peninsula/Turrakana and was an ideal place to build a prison. Surrounded by deep cold oceans, thick forest and 300-metre high sea cliffs made Port Arthur a natural prison from which escape must have seemed impossible. Today, there is no doubt that by exploring Tasmania’s top destination you are discovering the real stories and living history of the Port Arthur Historic Site. Not only that, the location on a beautiful harbour on the southern tip of the Tasman Peninsula is one of Tasmania’s most spectacular landscapes and a perfect excuse to add Tasmania and Port Arthur to your Australia itinerary.

Tasmania is a small island with lots to offer. With over 40% of the land listed as World Heritage, it is an island that values its wilderness. It’s an ideal place to pause, reflect and simply, breathe. Take time to feast on the local produce, embrace the light and fresh air, and meet animals in their natural habitat. The Tasman Peninsula is no exception. Expect spectacular coastlines, blowholes, and caves. Only a 70-minute drive east of Hobart, there is much to explore. Don’t miss the chance to take in the scenery from a wilderness cruise or a heli flight. Set out on one of the numerous walking tracks for a short hike or an overnight trek. Meet the local residents whether on land or sea, including the brush tail possum, wallabies, wombats, bandicoots, Australian fur seals, penguins, dolphins and migrating whales. But of course, the Tasman Peninsula is best known for the famous Port Arthur Historic site, one of Tasmania’s five World Heritage listed convict sites. Most fascinating is the area’s beautiful bushland setting which stands in such bleak contrast with the harsh treatment of the convicts back in the 19th century.

Exploring Tasmania's top destination

Cape Hauy, Tasman Peninsula. Photo credit: Pierre Destribats

“The scenery there is incredible – beautiful nature and the historic site is fascinating, well restored, and the boat trip great fun… “

The Port Arthur Historic Site consists of 30 buildings situated on over 100 acres of beautiful gardens. It is one of 11 historic sites across Australia which form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage property. It is one of the best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the forced migration of thousands of convicts. There is no doubt that the Port Arthur Historic Site is well-justified for earning the mantle of the premier must-do in exploring Tasmania’s top destination. The site is very family-friendly with lots of space and lovely landscapes to explore. The entry ticket provides entry over two consecutive days and allows access to more than 30 historic buildings, ruins, restored houses, heritage gardens and walking trails. The ticket includes both a guided introductory tour as well as a 20-minute harbour cruise. You can then choose from a number of other interesting tours including: a cemetery tour where you get to know the stories of the local residents, the Escape from Port Arthur tour which covers cunning characters with ambitious plans, a Commandant’s tour and the Ghost Tour, which features stories of unexplained occurrences told by the light of a lantern.

Exploring Tasmania's top destination

Ghost Tour Inside the Convict Church. Photo credit Alastair Bett

Discover the Tasman like never before…

A visit to the Port Arthur Historic Site is to meet some of the people who have passed through this place, walk where their stories unfolded, and learn about Port Arthur’s evolution from a feared convict settlement to a World Heritage-listed Historic Site and world-class tourist destination. Over its long history, Port Arthur has been a place of hardship and punishment, a place of opportunity, and a place of leisure. Now it is one of Australia’s most important heritage destinations, where the story of Australia’s colonial history is written in stone and brick. The importance of the Port Arthur Historic Site extends to the entire Tasman Peninsula and has given rise to Tasman Unlocked, an initiative that not only features the Historic Site, but all of the businesses on the Tasman Peninsula. The website offers amazing deals on accommodation, experiences and more. It is recognition of the significance of the community in providing an exceptional experience for all.

Exploring Tasmania's top destination

Convict Church. Photo credit Alastair Bett

So, with the combination of the interesting & informative tours, the spectacular surrounds and supporting the local community, the Port Arthur Historic Site and the Tasman Peninsula are a perfect choice. Make sure to include a visit to Port Arthur on your next visit…. I know it will be the highlight of your Aussie adventure!

Exploring Tasmania's top destination

Port Arthur Historic Site harbour cruise


Tasmania is famous for four seasons in one day, so it is best to be prepared and pack accordingly! After all, this is the most southerly state of Australia and the last stop before you hit Antarctica. Ideally the best months to visit are between December – May. The summer months will deliver warm and dry weather with average temperatures 20-24 degrees Celsius. Autumn is when you can expect cool dry days & crisp nights. The bonus is there are not so many visitors at this time, and if you are a foodie then this is when produce is as its peak! Expect daytime average temperatures in Autumn of between 15-20 degrees Celsius.

Photo credit: Luke Tscharke

Good to know:

Hobart is easily accessed with direct flights from all Australian capital cities, with just over a 1-hour flight from Melbourne to 2:40-hour flight from Brisbane. Located a 70-minute drive east of Hobart on the Tasman Peninsula is one of the top destinations to visit in Australia, the Port Arthur Historic Site. The Tasman Peninsula/Turrakana not only hosts the magnificent Port Arthur Historic Site, but also boasts the Tasman National Park, which is famous for its soaring sea cliffs and rock formations. Make time to visit the Blowhole, Tasman Arch & the Tessellated Pavement. It’s an area of dramatic beauty and home to a wide range of both land & marine animals. A great way to experience it all is on the Three Capes Track walk which is an independent multi-day experience which covers 46km. If you are light on time, then do some shorter coastal treks or another great option is the 3-hour wilderness cruise with Tasman Island cruises. Other highlights of the region include the Port Arthur Lavender Farm for some fabulous Insta-worthy pictures and yummy ice-cream, visit the world’s southern-most family run distillery for some premium hand-made whisky or gin, meet some very special animals of the Tasmanian bush, including the famous Tasmanian devils at the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo. And to top it all off, take a ride of a lifetime on a helicopter scenic tour with Osborne Heli Tours . As you can tell from the activities it is absolutely worthwhile to stay a 2-3+ nights to soak up this dramatic coastline and experiences.

Tasmanian Devil. Photo Credit: Tourism Tasmania

And finally:

AET Travel (formerly Australia Expat Travel) specialises in exceptional holidays to Australia and New Zealand. We make it simple with our local knowledge, seamless logistics and trusted advice since 2004. Expect a bespoke itinerary curated with the big picture and the small details. Contact us

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