Touring Tasmania – Port Arthur Historic Site

Before heading to our next stop we took a detour down to Port Arthur. It’s a place I really wanted to see, hubby just says “where to next” and has no idea of the itinerary I have planned!

It takes around 90 minutes to drive from Hobart to Port Arthur, and you also have to book your time slot beforehand. We had booked a walking tour and boat trip and arrived around 12.30 pm. I have to say I was very disappointed with our tour guide as she didn’t move off her spot for 40 minutes, and I tuned out after a while as I watched the other tour groups walking around the many buildings on site. It felt rude to walk away. After she had finished her talk we had very little time left to explore before our boat trip.

The Penitentiary, formerly the flour mill, converted in 1854. This building had three floors. The ground floor was for the more dangerous prisoners and they were kept in heavy irons. The first floor housed men in lighter irons and the top floor accommodated up to 348 men in bunk beds. There was also a library, chapel and mess room. The prisoners were encouraged to read the thousands of books kept there, but after ten hours hard and gruelling physical labour I doubt they had the time.

This was the hospital where convicts were treated for respiratory or rheumatic ailments brought on by sleeping in cold and dank cells.

Looking back on the Penitentiary and surrounding buildings.

On the boat sailing away towards Carnarvon Bay.

There is a small island just off the site of Port Arthur that is the settlement’s cemetery. Between 1833 and 1877, 1100 people were buried here, convicts, military officers and their wives.

Some info on Port Arthur

Port Arthur was not just a prison but a complete community. It was home to convicts, military and civilian officers and their families. There is a church, school, cottages and law courts. The prisoners living and working here were repeat offenders from other penal colonies around Australia. Some prisoners survived and were by that time skilled and educated. Most did not and ended up in the asylum or the Isle of the Dead.

Port Arthur is also the place of the 1996 massacre, where 35 people lost their lives and 19 more were wounded. There is a memorial garden here commemorating them.

It is a very sobering place to visit but well worth your while. The grounds are beautifully well kept and also the buildings that are still intact. The boat trip is also worth going on.

We were pushed for time and didn’t really get to see as much as I would have liked, trying to fit everything in is not alway possible!


After leaving Port Arthur and driving onto our next stop, we headed further down to Eaglehawk Neck. Here we had a long awaited lunch/snack looking over Pirates Bay.

Another very busy day on our tour and we still had another hour and half’s drive to our next destination, Richmond.


  1. Port Arthur has a foreboding undercurrent of sorrow and tragedy. I feel the many souls who died there pepper the atmosphere. I was there the year after the massacre and there were still blood stains on the floortiles of the Broad arrow cafe. It was sobering indeed.
    Still I was excited to see it. I had no idea seeing the monument to the victims would affect me so much.

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  2. A sobering place but so important to be retained as part of our social history. It seemed ridiculous that your tour guide kept you in one spot for 40 minutes, that hardly constitutes a tour. Looking forward to the next instalment Alison. Marion.

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  3. This looks such an interesting place to visit and very photogenic too. Like you I would have been very annoyed at that ‘tour’ guide – tour implies looking all around, not standing still! I’m glad you got to see, and share with us, as much as you did.

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  4. What an interesting place- the prison. What brought about its demise? It looks like there might have been a fire? Pirates Bay seems to be the perfect name. I can easily imagine pirates there. It’s beautiful. What are the teal colored objects in the picture with the people walking?

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  5. Loved our many visits to Port Arthur, never had an organized tour. They are very family oriented and love the fact that you become a convict when buying a ticket and trace your steps through the system. Your photos make me want to go back.

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