Port Arthur historic site is situated in the south east corner of Tasmania, roughly 95k drive from the capital Hobart. A former penal colony Port Arthur is infamous for its brutal regime when between 1830 to 1877 nearly 13000 convicts entered its eerie prisons. Access to the site is from the visitor centre. A selection of various passes can be bought here or from many local hotels & information centres. The bronze pass is perfect for a half day tour, the minimum time needed to do the site justice. All passes include a harbour cruise lasting about 20 minutes, others include tours to the unearthly cemetry on the Isle of the Dead, evening ghost tours & the Point Puer boys prison. They say if you don't like the weather in Tasmania wait 5 minutes & it will change. This is definetly the case here. Comfortable shoes & a waterproof are a big must. A courtesy buggy sevice is available for the not so mobile. These big 6 seat golf like buggys are good, very frequent & will take you anywhere on the site you wish. Just be prepared to wait a couple of minutes & one will pass, just flag it down, the drivers are great but will not supply a commentary. This site has world heritage status, is open 7 days a week from 08.30 to late. Walking tours operate by friendly & knowledgeable guides until 17.00. As expected from a world heritage site, amenities include a gift shop, cafe, audio tour hire, wheelchair & pram loan. The visitor centre housing the convict gallery is well worth an hour -a good place of refuge if the rain comes down. Along with the admission ticket comes a playing card. The card lets you trace the history of an individual convict in the gallery. After the gallery a good idea is a guided walking tour lasting 40 minutes . This enables everyone to get bearings, good ideas & where to spend most time later. The 20 minute cruise in a big catamaran from the ferry dock is a highlight. This cruise is wheelchair accessible, stopping at the Isle of the Dead & the Point Puer boys prison for optional tours. These two tours are not recommended for people with mobility problems.
Off the ferry & time to explore. The site contains more than 30 buildings, extensive ruins & beautiful grounds & gardens, Despite its harrowing past Port Arthur is very beautiful. It really is a chilling mix of beauty & terror, On such a big site a coffee & a sit down in the outstanding gardens is a must. Lots to do so please spare plenty of time, but make sure of a rest. Amongst the many buildings an excellent musuem & study centre incorporates computers so everyone can check surnames against the database of former cons. Port Arthur can be unnerving. Visiting the church, the penitentiary, the hospital can be daunting. Maybe the disquieting of all is the seperate prison. The seperate prison was designed to deliver brutal punishment by reforming convicts through isolation & contemplation. Prisoners were caged for 23 hours each day in single cells. Many ended up in the equally traumatic asylum. In April 1996 a new tragic chapter took its toil on Port Arthur. A crazed gunman slaughtered 35 people & wounded 19 others. A memorial garden remembers the massacre. Port Arthur is a great trip. Any visitor to Tasmania must not miss this one. Stunningly beautiful ,downright disconcerting- Port Arthur.