Port Arthur and Tasman Peninsula Day Tour

Tour Review

Our tour today has an early start, 7.30am, but we don’t have to walk anywhere as we are being picked up at the front door.

Today we are going to Port Arthur compliments of Mark from Adventure Island tours on this tour we decided not to add in the wildlife option to make it this tour.

But first order of the day was catching the bus, our ‘hotel’ is on a corner so which corner do we stand on? Needless to say I picked the wrong one, the bus stopped on the other corner and as we walked around the corner Mark, seeing we weren’t there headed around the block to the other corner. Meanwhile we headed around the corner to meet him and when we got there he wasn’t there, so we assumed he had pulled into the carpark so we headed down that alleyway. But after a bit of ‘keystone cops’ running around we finally met up. Since we were the first pick up of the day  we went off to collect all the other passengers. As each party joined the group we were all introduced and found out we weren’t the only people from Cairns on the tour, small world.

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After picking up the last of our group we headed off out of Hobart. First stop is the site of the Old Hobart Zoo famous for the last known Tasmanian Tiger which died in the 1930’s. Shortly after that the zoo closed, and nearly 100 years later this prime piece of real estate remains abandoned, an eerie legacy to the Tassie Tiger. We also went past the Governor’s mansion but she was a little too busy to pop out and say hello.

One of the great things about a guided tour is you get to find out little snippets of the local history. We crossed over the Tasman Bridge and went to Rosny Hill lookout. From here we could see across the Derwent River back to Hobart and learnt all about when the ship, the Lake Illawarra, crashed into the bridge over 40 years ago. I was happy that Mark decided not to tell us, till after we crossed over the bridge, that two of the support pylons were never replaced.

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The lookout has a wonderful view across the Derwent River to Hobart, and down the coast towards Bellerive, which was our next destination. We stopped at a beach near Bellerive Oval although none of us were game enough to even put a toe in the water. We left here to head to historic Richmond.

Richmond is the third oldest city in Australia with a myriad of colonial sandstone buildings and Australia’s oldest bridge still in use. The bridge, unlike most things in the area the bridge wasn’t built in 1836, construction started in 1821 and the convicts completed it in 1825! But who cares about bridges when you find an antique shop selling classic vinyl records and the famous Richmond Bakery. I had heard so much about the bakery and was not disappointed. I chose a healthy apple slice, it contained fruit and dairy, ok maybe the dairy was a big dollop of cream but it was divine.

It is funny how when you step back into time at a historic village time seems to slow down. We wandered around looking at old buildings and churches, the bakery, into antique shops, back to the bakery, souvenir shops and finally just in case I missed something the bakery. All of a sudden our time was almost up in Richmond and we had yet to stop and see the bridge. I suggested to Ann that maybe one more trip to the bakery was warranted but for some strange reason that wasn’t a popular decisions. By the way the bridge is amazing, but so was the bakery.

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We were now on our way to Port Arthur. Along the way we learnt more about the history of Port Arthur, some of it by video, some Mark told us and other places we stopped and saw for ourselves. At Dunalley we stopped to see the Dunalley Canal which surprisingly wasn’t built by convicts and can save boats a lot of time when heading to Hobart.

We also stopped at the dog line at the ‘neck’ one of the ways to keep the convicts from escaping. Across Eaglehawk Neck was a line of dogs extending out into the bay to alert the guards if someone attempted to pass.

Although to be honest once we arrived at Port Arthur Historic site, I am not sure why anyone would want to escape. Nice manicured lawns, beautiful buildings, no one allowed to talk to you, meals provided, sounds like an awesome hotel. Okay maybe when you were the one making the buildings or hand grinding the wheat for the bread it might not have been as rosy.

There are regular guided tours of this World Heritage listed site but we chose to grab a map of Port Arthur and head off at our own pace. Some of our group chose to join a guided walking tour and thoroughly recommended it.

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The size of the penal settlement is staggering, even more so when you see the old photos and drawings and realise that there are only a fraction of the original buildings remaining. To get more of an idea of the size of the site we took the included harbour cruise around the ‘Isle of the Dead’. There is a separate cruise that actually takes you on a tour into the cemetery and to Pont Puer Boys Prison but we are not doing that today. The pleasant view as you cruise back into Port Arthur would be a far cry from the visions that greeted convicts a few hundred years ago. The interesting part of the cruise for me was the commentary on how the aim of the site was to be self-contained and actually profitable for the British Empire.

Back on land we wandered around the shipbuilding yard and buildings. Surprisingly one of the buildings is now a private residence. We also spent some time in the Port Arthur Memorial Gardens which remembers the victims of the Port Arthur Massacre in 1996.

The sun was setting so we headed back to the main building for afternoon smoko before being picked up by Mark and heading further along the Tasman Peninsula to Remarkable Cave, a sea cave in the massive sandstone cliffs that line the coast in this area. What is remarkable is that I didn’t get a cramp walking back up all the stairs to the bus as we rushed to catch the sunset from the Maingon Bay Lookout.

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On the trip home Mark put on another video, this time focusing on someone who appeared to me to be a cross between Paul Hogan and Steve Irwin. His work with the Tassie Devils is amazing, might have to visit his sanctuary when we are in Cradle Mountain. We were dropped back at our hotel around 7 pm. It is certainly a long day but well worth the trip and thanks to Mark’s advice we planned an easier day the next day, a visit to Salamanca markets. Although, I could have spent more time at Port Arthur and Mark does run the Port Arthur Ghost tour most Saturdays……..

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