Tassie Trip Day 5: Richmond

What a beautiful old town Richmond is, you can see why this is one of Tasmania’s most popular destinations for tourists.  This town is steeped in history and as you take a drive through the village your eyes can’t help but be drawn to the beautiful architecture of the old buildings, some dating back to the early 1820’s.


You’ll find Richmond about a 20 min drive from Hobart, in the Coal River Valley.  The town itself is home to many cafes, restaurants and galleries, each operating out of resorted Georgian buildings that line the streets.  Visiting this town is like taking a step back in time, there is so much to learn and the buildings are like a work of art.


Many of the homes are restored to their original standing, whilst the newer style homes are built to fit in with the surrounding architecture.  It’s hard to explain just how picture perfect Richmond is.  Even the surrounding towns are filled with beautiful wineries, it simply is one of the most spectacular areas of Tasmania.


In the 1820’s, the gaol and courthouse were built, as Richmond had become an important convict station and a military post.  Built in 1825, the Richmond Gaol is the oldest gaol in Australia.


Unfortunately both times we drove through Richmond were outside the opening hours of the gaol, so we were unable to stand inside the stone walls.


The most famous landmark of Richmond (and our initial main reason for visiting) is the Richmond Bridge.  Building of the bridge commenced in 1823 and the bridge was officially opened in April 1825.


This Heritage Listed sandstone bridge spans the Coal River and it is now the oldest bridge in Australia.  This amazing structure was built by convict labour and the design was an engineering achievement at the time.  In fact, for 10 years after it was built it had the longest span of any bridge in Australia.


Now I’m sure that this isn’t the only one in the area, but the ghost of George Grover reportedly haunts the bridge.  Legend has it that Mr Grover was not a nice man by any means and often whipped the convicts as they quarried sandstone from nearby Butchers Hill.  One night he was attacked by the work gang pushing the cart and they threw his body onto the rocks below the bridge and his ghost is said to have haunted the arches of the bridge ever since.


Never one to pass up the chance to visit a cemetery or photograph a church, next on our stop was St John’s Catholic Church.  Built in 1836, this is Australia’s oldest existing Catholic Church.


Should you pay a visit to Richmond?  ……. for sure!  This area is beautiful beyond words.  I don’t think either of us could live in Tasmania as we like our hot sunny days too much (definitely couldn’t survive a winter in Tasmania!), BUT if we were to move there, we both agreed that this was the perfect place.


Tassie Trip Day 5: Cataract Gorge

A visit to Launceston is not complete without a visit to Cataract Gorge.  Just a 15 minute walk from the city centre and you’ll be in this paradise known as Cataract Gorge.


The Gorge Scenic Chairlift, built in 1972, covers 457 meters, but the central span of 308 metres is believed to be the longest single chairlift span in the world.


As you travel slowly over the naturally formed basin below you can appreciate the magnificent views of this ancient rock gorge, plenty of time to take in the scenery and take photographs.




We were quite unaware of what to expect when arriving at Cataract Gorge, but it’s spectacular, there are long expanses of green grass to relax under a tree, there are many walking and hiking trails, the chairlift and a swimming pool, a cafe and a restaurant.


Of course there is also the wildlife that are wondering around, we saw plenty of birds and lizards, wallabies and peacocks.

The Alexandra Suspension bridge was first built in 1904, but was washed away by floods and subsequently later rebuilt.





The Main car park is at the First Basin.  Follow the signs from York or Frederick Streets. Entry is free to walk around, but there is a charge for the scenic chairlift.

Website:  www.launcestoncataractgorge.com.au 


Tassie Trip Day 5:  The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania

Both of us enjoy our cars, we both have differing views on what we like best but we can both appreciate our old cars, so a visit to The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania was a must for us.

The museum has plenty of vehicles from days gone by, as well as a mezzanine level packed with motorcycles.  All of these cars are privately owned and whilst some come with stories of their own, combined they all play an important part in our history of automobiles.  This is one of Australia’s most significant motoring collections.


These small air compressors were a common sight in garages in the early 1930’s.  In the 1920’s they were revolutionary, having made the hand pump obsolete.  This is the famous Michelin Rubber Man pump made in Paris in 1926.



Open 7 days a week.

Address:  Cnr Willis Street & Cimitiere Street, Launceston, Tasmania

Website:  http://www.namt.com.au

Telephone:  (03) 6334 888


Tassie Trip Day 4: Devils @ Cradle

‘Once in a lifetime opportunity’, you hear that phrase thrown around all the time, but we are about to use it again …. yes, this was another of those once in a lifetime experiences that was truly amazing.


Devils@cradle is a wildlife conservation facility located in the world heritage wilderness area of Cradle Mountain, Tasmania.  This great facility focuses on Tasmania’s three carnivorous marsupials, the Tasmanian Devil and the Eastern and Spotted-tail Quoll.

The sanctuary not only raises public awareness and much needed funds for these animals, but it forms part of a nation-wide captive breeding program for the Tasmanian Devil.


Their Field Monitoring Program collects data from within the Cradle Mountain area by use of remote cameras, road kill surveys, spotlight surveys and speaking with locals and visitors about their experiences and possible interactions.


The keepers at this facility are all very knowledgeable and passionate about the devils and are committed to ensuring the long-term survival of this unique species.


Both the Tasmanian Devil and the quoll are nocturnal creatures and quite shy and for this reason it’s actually quite uncommon to see one in the wild.


Tasmanian Devils are currently listed as a vulnerable species under the threatened species act.  There are numerous issues impacting the long-term outlook for the Devils, but one of the more severe factors is Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD).


A lot of you will be aware of Devil Facial Tumour Disease, but for those of you who have not heard of this (particularly our overseas followers), this is a debilitating cancer which is so wide-spread that it’s affecting up to 50% of wild Tasmanian Devils.  The disease is characterised by the development of ulcerated tumours which appear around the jaws and head of the devil.  The disease is fatal and an affected devil will generally starve to death within 3-5 months.


DFTD is such a complex issue and there is no treatment or vaccine.  It appears that each tumour that is found is identical, with the same genetic code, which means that environmental stimulants can be ruled out and these tumours are being transferred directly between the individual devils.


One reason for this could be inbreeding and lack of genetic diversity of the devil population and this is resulting in the tumours ‘transplanting’ from one devil to another.  At this stage it is near impossible to control this and this is why places like ‘Devils @ Cradle’ are so important for the future preservation of this species.


One thing to keep in mind if visiting the sanctuary is to take a warm jacket!  The day we visited it was summer and we had been in shorts and t-shirts all day, but by the time we reached the sanctuary (which is around 850m above sea level) it was absolutely freezing and our change of clothes and jackets we took with us were greatly appreciated!


The tour we took part in was called ‘Dine with the Devil’ and this was a chance to have an up close and personal interaction with the devils in a small group – in our case, it was a personal tour for just the two of us!


We were supplied with a beautiful platter of Tasmanian salmon, cheese and crackers, olives, dip, wine and beers.


After spending time watching these cute little guys playing we had the unforgettable experience of meeting one of the young devils up close and patting her.



After a walk around the sanctuary grounds and learning a little more about the devils and quolls, it was time to feed the hungry devils and roast some marshmallows around the campfire.


These devils may be small, but they are strong, you wouldn’t believe the weight pulling on that rope.  We were stunned at just how quickly the devils devoured their meal aswell, all completely gone … fur, bones and all!



The tour ran for around 1 hour and we had a little extra time to watch the devils playing before and after the tour.

InformationYou can choose from Day Keeper Tours, After Dark Feeding Tours and of course, the Dine with the Devil tour that we did.

Website:  www.devilsatcradle.com

Email: info@devilsatcradle.com

Phone: 03 6492 1491

Address: 3950 Cradle Mountain Road, Cradle Mountain, Tasmania


If you are interested in donating to this worthy cause, here is the link http://devilsatcradle.com/content.php?id=donations

Tassie Trip Day 4: Platypus House


Who doesn’t love a Platypus!  These elusive little creatures are very rarely seen in the wild and to be up close and personal with them was quite an experience.  Plus, then throw in some echidnas aswell and you are set for a truly unforgettable experience.

This place is likely to be as close as you’re ever going to get to either of these creatures and we absolutely loved it.  Unfortunately the playful little platypus turned out to be quite hard to photograph, so we didn’t get too many good pics.

The Platypus House was established to educate and provide public awareness and understanding of these two monotremes.   What is a monotreme you might ask?  Well, let us explain (as we are experts now!)  Don’t worry, we had no idea up until a few weeks ago either!


Monotremes are one of the three main groups of living mammals, along with placentals and marsupials and they are distinguished by the fact that they are egg laying mammals, rather than birthing live young.  There are only 2 egg-laying mammals left on the planet and they are the platypus and the echidna.

Platypus House is home to Tasmanian platypuses and Tasmanian echidnas, both of which are unique to Tasmania and not seen anywhere else in the world.


Once you enter the Platypus House you are shown a video about platypus and given a lot of information about them, before being taken on a guided tour of the facility, firstly starting with the platypus pools to see them playing and watch them feeding.  You then walk through the echidna garden to watch them feeding and wandering around.  Now this was a cool experience watching these cute little creatures wobble around the room, even climbing over people’s feet if you happened to be in the way!


img_3100So many words to describe the platypus … beautiful, mysterious, majestic, cute, odd, elusive, playful.

These unusual little things swim, but they have feet.  They have a duck like bill, a long flat body and a tail like a beaver or otter …. this is one strange-looking creature, but really, could they be any cuter!

Thousands of years of isolation have made the Tasmanian Platypus genetically discrete from other Australian Platypuses and makes them one of the most unique animals on earth.

Platypuses actually have two separate layers of fur, which help to keep them warm and dry.  They spend all day swimming around and hunting for their food but when they come back to land to eat, this two-layer fur feature keeps them warm as the second layer has basically kept their skin dry.

You see, when the platypus is on land, the two layers of fur trap air between them and help keep his body dry and make him more buoyant when swimming.  Once he enters the water, the little air pockets are released between the fur.


Did you know …..

Male platypus have spurs on their hind feet that can deliver venom into their victim.   

Yes they may look like these soft, cute, cuddly and playful creatures and you just want to pat them, but think again.  We were told that if you are injected the effects are immediate and long-lasting, the extreme pain can apparently last for 3 months!.  Initially the excruciating pain is so bad that even morphine doesn’t help alleviate it.  But that’s only the beginning, soon you can become nauseated and suffer from cold sweats and swelling starts.   img_3099

Now we were told that a human is not going to die from this, although they may feel like they would rather than deal with the pain they are feeling!, but if it were a baby or a small animal it’s highly likely the result would be fatal.

And in case you were wondering, yes it’s only the nasty males that want to harm you!  The females are born with a spur, but it does not have any venom and generally falls off before adulthood.


IMG_0407Echidnas are strange-looking too!  They have long beaks, are covered in spikes and are very awkward, but again, like the platypus, watch these little guys in action and they are just so adorable, you can’t help but love them.

Echidnas are very common across Australia, but, like their platypus mates, they are actually seldom seen by people in the wild.

Anyone who knows our little Gelly – or staffys in general, will know that they are little bulldozers and they won’t stop for anything, if you are in their way they are going through no matter what!  Well being in this garden was like being surrounded by little spikey Gelly’s who did what they wanted and walked where they wanted, whether you were in their way or not, one walked straight over the top of my foot!


Did you know …..

*The spikes on the Echidna are very strong and sharp and are used for defence.  When they are feeling threatened, they will curl up and leave only their sharp spines exposed.

*A baby Echidna is called a ‘Puggle’.

*Echidnas have no teeth.

Spend a few minutes watching these guys walking around your feet and you can’t help but fall in love.  


InformationPlatypus House is open 7 days a week and is a 45min drive north of Launceston.  Your entry to Platypus House includes a guided tour of the platypus pools to see them playing and feeding and also a walk through the echidna garden to watch them feeding.

* Platypus House and Seahorse World are located next to each other.  You can purchase a ‘Tamar Triple Pass’ which gives you access to Seahorse World, Platypus House and Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre and offers a large saving on entry fees.


Tassie Trip Day 4: Seahorse World


It is estimated that over 20 million seahorses are taken from the wild each year, predominantly for traditional Chinese medicine.

Seahorse Australia was initially created to farm seahorses to supply to the Traditional Chinese Medicine market to try to reduce the pressure on wild seahorses being fished.  Monetary issues came into play and over the years this has changed to breeding seahorses for aquariums and pet wholesalers around the world.  The focus is now on seahorse breeding, education and conservation.


Seahorses are basically a tiny fish.  They were named because of the shape of their head which looks like …..  well it’s pretty obvious isn’t it!  These really are the cutest little creatures around.

We had no idea there was even a place called Seahorse World until a week or so before we left for Tasmania when we saw one of our fellow Instagram followers post that they had visited.  Of course we were intrigued and asked for details and made it a must visit place on our trip.


When you enter Seahorse World you are taken on a guided tour around the facility and learn all about these amazing magical creatures.


The first room you enter has numerous different coloured seahorse and it is in here that you start to learn a little about the amazing little seahorse.


Next you enter the ‘working’ seahorse farm, where you see how they feed them and can see the seahorses in all stages of life.  The babies are so unbelievably tiny.


Yes they are baby seahorse!

The final room is a showcase of some of the other sea life found around Tasmanian waters, including a huge crab which George wanted to take home for dinner!  We even got to hold a little seahorse which was pretty cool.


Did you know….

  • Seahorses have a prehensile tail which is similar to that of a monkeys’ and can pick up or hold on to anything.
  • The fin on their back is called a dorsal fin and propels them forward and they maintain their balance with small pectoral fins situated on either side of the back of their head.
  • They have the ability to change colour to blend into their surroundings.


Did you know….

  • The male seahorse is the one that will carry the eggs. He will have them in his body for up to 45 days and then they will emerge full-grown.  These tiny baby seahorses will all then float together clinging to each by their tails as they try to find their food and hide from the many predators trying to eat them!
  • You can tell the difference from the males and females by looking at the abdominal area. The males have a smooth area with a pouch. That is where the eggs will be deposited. Females have a pointed stomach that is rough.
  • They are vertebrates due to the fact that all seahorses feature an internal skeleton.


Attraction Information:  Seahorse World is open 7 days a week and is a 45min drive north of Launceston.  Your entry fee includes a 45 minute guided tour where you see many, many seahorses and learn about these mysterious creatures.

Website: https://seahorseworld.com.au/

Address:  200 Flinders Street, Beauty Point

Telephone:  03 6383 4111

*Seahorse World and Platypus House are located next to each other.  You can purchase a ‘Tamar Triple Pass’ which gives you access to Seahorse World, Platypus House and Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre and offers a large saving on entry fees.


Tassie Trip Day 4: Beaconsfield Mine

The Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre in …. well, Beaconsfield! is a very interesting place with many stories to tell, machinery to see and plenty of interactive displays to allow you to immerse yourself into the surroundings.

Now the interactive side of things really appealed to us, Shelly is always touching things and this place just gave her the go-ahead to touch and play with everything!  I’m guessing actual ‘kids’ would really enjoy that side of it too!

A lot of work has gone in to preserving the history of Beaconsfield and the heritage of the region, by opening up this tourist attraction.

History of the mine

IMG_0375This area is where Australia’s first iron ore exports occurred in the very early 1800’s.  But it was the discovery of the Tasmania gold reef that really started the mining in the area and put Beaconsfield (then known as Brandy Creek) on the map.  From 1877 the area was filled with miners and their families and facilities were abundant to cater for everyone.

The gold rush was certainly an exciting and prosperous time.  At its height, the reef averaged 20 grams of gold per tonne.  Over the years the mine had constantly battled water problems and flooding and by 1914 the continuing costs of removing flood-water caused the mine to close and it remained this way for the next 80 or so years.  IMG_0374

In later years a museum was set up to show the history of the area, but by the early 1990’s, a joint venture was formed and the Tasmania Mine was reopened to again tap into the reef and it’s abundance of gold.  $1 – $1.5 million worth of gold was being extracted during this second opening.

In 2011 the mine’s owner announced that the Beaconsfield Mine would be closing, not because there was no gold left, but because the current gold prices didn’t make it viable to mine below the current depth of 1210 metres.


Tragedy strikes Beaconsfield

Any Australian would remember ANZAC Day 2006 when a 2.3 eathquake caused a rock fall to occur in the Beaconsfield mine.

img_0363.jpg17 miners were working underground that day, including Todd Russell and Brant Webb who were working 925 meters below ground in a cherry picker cage, which was being operated by the forklift driver Larry Knight.

Unfortunately Larry Knight was killed in the rock fall, but remarkably Todd and Brant survived, and in fact they survived trapped for the next 2 weeks before they were finally rescued.

The greatest misfortune of this whole incident is that Larry should have been in his grader smoothing the surface of the decline, but instead, as his grader was undergoing a mechanical service, he jumped into the telehandler (similar to a cherry picker) and headed into the mine.

News and pictures from Beaconsfield were beamed across the world and this once unknown little Tasmanian town was now the centre of a huge media story.


This helped to push air into the working face of the tunnel to give the rescuers clean, fresh air ….  if you look closely it’s a witches hat and bucket taped together.

They even have a simulation of the rock falls where you can climb in and experience where the miners were trapped for 2 weeks, waiting to be rescued ….. now this is the part that really puts it into perspective, wow, unbelievable the size of this area where they were both trapped.  We were there for about 10 seconds, not two weeks!


“At 5.59am Todd Russell and Brant Webb were brought to the surface after 13 days and 18 hours of being trapped underground.  From this very position the moment was beamed to television screens across the world”


These are the actual overalls worn by the miners during the ordeal

Attraction information:

There is an entry fee and you are given a map and can take yourself on a self-guided tour.  There is so much to see and you should really allow a couple of hours to see it all.  We could have easily spent longer there than we did, but unfortunately we were on a bit of a tight schedule that day.  There are plenty of volunteers around to help with any questions you may have – like the one that told George he wouldn’t be finding any gold if he kept panning the way he was and gave him a lesson!

Address: West Street, Beaconsfield

Telephone: (03) 6383 1473

Website: http://www.beaconsfieldheritage.com.au

You can purchase a ‘Tamar Triple Pass’ which gives you access to Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre, Seahorse World and Platypus House and offers a large saving on entry fees.


Tassie Trip Day 3: Woolmers Estate & Brickendon

Whilst driving to Launceston we passed a turnoff to Woolmers Estate & Brickendon and decided to go and check them out and we are so glad we did.

Both of these places are World Heritage Listed Convict Sites.

Four Archer brothers emigrated from Hertford, UK between 1811 and 1833 and all settled close to one another, in fact William and Thomas farmed side by side.  Thomas Archer settled on Woolmers Estate which was a pastoral operation running sheep and cattle, while William Archer settled on Brickendon, an agricultural property.  Both estates were run independently of each other, but they did share their assigned convicts.

Both Woolmers Estate and Brickendon took part in the convict Assignment System which operated in Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) until 1840.  Under the Assignment System, convicts were assigned to free settlers.  They were responsible for feeding, clothing and housing the convicts in return for their labour.  This helped convicts as they could then have skills or a trade when they received their ‘ticket of leave’ and were then free to leave and obtain paid employment anywhere.  It’s understood that they were so well looked after at these two properties that many stayed on for years or decades after receiving their ticket of leave.


Woolmers Estate


Woolmers was owned by six generations of Thomas Archers.  The first Thomas founded the property in 1817 and the final Thomas passed away in 1994.  He did not have any heirs and left the property and it’s contents to the Archer Historical Foundation.

The property has numerous buildings where convicts once worked and lived.  It’s the perfect place to reflect on colonial life and look back at the heritage that has been preserved over the years.







The Rose Garden was created in 2001 on the site of the original apple orchard.


Attraction Information:  There is an entry fee applicable and you are provided with a booklet that allows a self guided tour around the property, except the main house.  There is an extra fee if you would like to see and go on the tour of the main house.

Address:  658 Woolmers Lane, Longford

Telephone:  03 6391 2230

Website:  http://www.woolmers.com.au



Much like the Woolmers Estate, there are numerous buildings to view and walk through in the farm village area.  There is a lot of information on the history of the property and the convicts that lived and worked there.  After walking around the village, it’s then time to explore the estate garden which is beautiful.

Brickendon has remained the same 1150 acres (465 hectares) as originally granted in 1824.





It’s amazing to see the crimes that these poor souls were sentenced for …… 7 years for stealing some handkerchiefs or life for stealing a pair of trousers, wow!  It really starts to put things into perspective doesn’t it, we really do have it easy nowadays.


The photo below was taken in the estate garden.  There was a wedding just finishing up the day we were there and its no wonder they hold so many weddings here, the backdrop is spectacular.


Attraction Information:  There is an entry fee and you can take yourself on a self-guided tour, maps supplied.  This also gives you entry to the gardens which are across the road.

address:  Woolmers Lane, Longford

Telephone:  03 6391 1383

Website:  http://www.brickendon.com.au


Tassie Trip (Day 3):  Salamanca Markets to Launceston

img_3047Our Saturday started with an early morning visit to the world-famous ‘Salamanca Markets’.  What a coincidence that we just happened to be in Hobart on the day of the markets …. Ok, maybe a little bit of secret planning on Shelly’s part!

In 1974 local traders established the first Salamanca Market and this was taken over by Hobart City Council and really came into its own as a tourist attraction by the 1980’s.

Every Saturday morning, Salamanca Place comes alive with market stalls filled with fresh Tasmania produce and plenty of other goodies. The street is filled with about 300 stallholders setting up to sell their wares for the day.  There is so much variety on offer, including fresh fruit and vegetables, clothing & jewellery, toys, gifts & souvenirs and plenty of handmade arts of craft items.  Of course there is plenty of yummy food around for you to try as well.

Attraction InformationSalamanca Market is open every Saturday from 8am until 3pm at Salamanca Place, Hobart

After a morning at the markets it was time to head off to Launceston, our home for the next two nights.  We decided to head up the coastal road which took a little longer, but the views were definitely worth it.

On the way we called in to Bicheno.  This is a very picturesque town on the east cost of Tasmania, approximately half way between Hobart & Launceston, on the coast.  We called in here as everyone had told us how beautiful it was and how good the seafood was …… well the beautiful part we will agree with, but the seafood part we didn’t really find unfortunately.  Although George did enjoy an overpriced crayfish roll.


OK so now George was really wanting some decent seafood!  We asked at our hotel and we were recommended to go to Cataract on Paterson as it was probably the best restaurant in Launceston.  Luckily we were able to get a late booking for dinner, so off we went.  Wow, this place certainly didn’t disappoint …. the venue, the food and the staff and service was all impeccable, we couldn’t fault any part of our night.

Cataract on Paterson is located about 5min from the centre of the Launceston CBD.  The venue itself is slightly industrial inside, but still warm and welcoming with its quirky features.  The menu was a contemporary mix of Tasmanian produce with plenty of choice for all tastes.  They also offer their interactive dining experience that serves your meal cooking at your table on a 400 degree volcanic stone!  Neither of us had this, but our dessert did come on a frozen stone!

Attraction Information:  Cataract on Paterson is located at 135 Paterson Street, Launceston

Telephone:  03 6331 444

Website:  http://www.cataractonpaterson.com.au





Tassie Trip Day 2: Port Arthur

We were both excited to visit Port Arthur and what better way to spend our 5th wedding anniversary!

The story of the Port Arthur Historic Site is a story of many people, places and moments.  It wasn’t only a prison for convicts, over the years it was also home to military personal and free settlers.


It’s had a very long history and one of many hardships, but to be able to walk in a place with so much history and so many stories is a privilege.  It’s a testament to the amazing people who protect and restore our heritage like this for us to enjoy.

Britain started transporting convicts to Australia from about 1788.  Most were sent here for very minor crimes by today’s standards, and these included many woman and children as well.  It was very rare that any returned home after their sentence.


The Pydairrerme people were the traditional owners of the land that we now know as Port Arthur.  The Port Arthur penal settlement began life as a small timber station in 1830, using convict labour to produce sawn logs for government projects.

By 1840 more than 2000 convicts and soldiers lived at Port Arthur and it was now a major industrial settlement producing many things, predominately boats and ships.

The last convicts left and Port Arthur closed in 1877.  From then the site was renamed IMG_0158Carnarvon and land was divided up with people taking up residence in and around the old site.

Severe fires in 1895 and 1897 destroyed many of the old buildings and gutted the Penitentiary, Separate Prison and Hospital, but the new residents were determined to create a livable township for themselves. Subsequently they built more buildings and amenities such as a post office, cricket club and lawn tennis club.

With the settlement’s later closure came the first tourists.  By the 1920’s the Port Arthur area had three hotels, two museums and guides, they were definitely starting to cater for the many tourists, nothing has changed to this day.


Ship Building at Port Arthur

One of the greatest problems facing the authorities of Port Arthur was balancing the need to punish the convicts against needing to make the station a profitable enterprise. Convicts could not simply spend their days getting flogged and rotting in a cell, they needed to be reformed through a combination of religion, education and trade-training.IMG_0199

Ship building was introduced on a large-scale to Port Arthur in 1834 as a way of providing selected convicts with a useful skill they could take with them once freed. Only those convicts deemed well-behaved and receptive to training were allowed to work at the dockyard. Up to 70 convicts were employed at the yard at its height, with the majority engaged in the menial task of cutting and carrying timber. The remaining convicts were the carpenters, blacksmiths, caulkers, coopers and shipwrights who actually built the vessels.

Fifteen large ships and over 140 smaller vessels (from whale boats, to rowboats and punts) were launched from the two slipways. These ships were known for their craftsmanship and durability, with one, the 270-ton Lady Franklin, enjoying over 40 years of service. The hull for a steamer, the Derwent, was even constructed at the Port Arthur dockyards. The yard was also used as a regular servicing lay-by for ships plying the busy east coast route, vessels often hauling in for refit and repair.

Though successful, the ship building operations at Port Arthur ceased on a large-scale in 1848. A growing colonial economy, recovering after a severe depression in the early 1840s, meant that private ship builders did not want to compete against a government yard producing ships at a cheaper rate and lobbied for its closure.

Today the site of the dockyards is a short walk from the main settlement. The original Master Shipwright’s residence still stands, as does one of the original slipways. A later building, the Clerk of Works’ residence, also stands on the location of one of the original dockyard sawpits and a later blacksmith.

Source:  This section was taken from https://portarthur.org.au/history/history-timeline/


Isle of the Dead Cemetery Tour

IMG_0172We chose to do this optional tour as, well when has Shelly ever turned down the opportunity to visit a cemetery!

A short ferry ride and you arrive on this small island which was the final resting place of more than 1000 convicts, soldiers and civilians who were buried there between 1833 and 1877.  This is a guided tour and you get a great insight into the life and death of some of Port Arthur’s residents.


Once on the island you realise that there are two very distinct burial sections.  The convicts were buried in unmarked graves on the low southern end, while the military personnel and free civilians were buried in marked graves with quite elaborate headstones.  These are all located on the top of the island, on the high northern end.  The story is that convicts were the lowest of the low and looked down on in life so it was only fitting that they were looked down on in death.  I’m guessing the only positive thing from this is that after 1850, some of the convicts were allowed to have headstones.  We really do have a very sad history.

It was a very quiet place and quite haunting in many ways as you hear the stories of these poor people who were buried in unmarked graves without a future thought.  The fact that there were so many graves on the island meant that we would have actually been walking over the top of people’s graves.  Very interesting tour and highly recommended, but a very somber tour as well.



IMG_0272Unfortunately one of the first things many people think about when you hear Port Arthur is not the tortured past, but the more recent horrific massacre and Australia’s worst mass murder that occurred there on Sunday 28th April 1996.  The events from that day will forever remain in our memories as we think of the many lives that were lost.  Within the grounds they have a small plaque mentioning the names of the people who lost their lives.  This sits discretely within the Memorial Garden to honour these people and the tragic events that unfolded that day.


Port Arthur is one of eleven historical places that form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property.  These sites are spread throughout Australia and together they tell the story of Australia’s convict heritage.

Attraction Information:  Your entry ticket includes entry to the site for 2 consecutive days, a short walking tour, a harbour cruise and access to over 30 buildings across the 100 acres of grounds.  You can also purchase separate optional tours such as the Isle of the Dead Cemetery Tour, Point Puer Boys’ Prison Tour or Ghost Tour.

Port Arthur is open 7 days a week.

Telephone:  1800 659 101

Email:  reservations@portarthur.org.au

Website:  www.portarthur.org.au

The good thing is that proceeds from your entry fees contribute to the ongoing conservation and development of the Port Arthur sites.

When you purchase your tickets you are given a playing card.  You can then go and find your matching card to read the story about one of the convicts.

I think everyone will take something different from their visit to Port Arthur.  As you hear about and feel the stories of the convicts, soldiers and free people you can’t help but immerse yourself into their history and situation.  They say that Port Arthur’s tale is told in many ways and it will stay with you long after you leave, and that’s definitely true.