Port Arthur, Australia | Cruise port of call | CruiseBe
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Port Arthur, Australia

Port Arthur is a small town and former penal settlement on the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania, the island state of Australia. The town is about one and a half hours drive from the state capital Hobart.

The major attraction of Port Arthur is the Port Arthur Historic Site, the 40-hectare (100-acre) site of a former convict colony. Many highly recognizable ruins remain, including the penitentiary, the hospital, the insane asylum, and the church. Some portions of the site have been recreated but much is in the original condition. The Port Arthur Historic Site is Australia's best known historical site from the convict era, and one of eleven sites making up the UNESCO World Heritage listing "Australian Convict Sites."

Port Arthur was first established as a timber station in 1830, supporting the infant colony of Van Diemen's Land. It became the site of a major penal (prison) colony for... Read more

Port Arthur, Australia

Destination:

Port Arthur is a small town and former penal settlement on the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania, the island state of Australia. The town is about one and a half hours drive from the state capital Hobart.

The major attraction of Port Arthur is the Port Arthur Historic Site, the 40-hectare (100-acre) site of a former convict colony. Many highly recognizable ruins remain, including the penitentiary, the hospital, the insane asylum, and the church. Some portions of the site have been recreated but much is in the original condition. The Port Arthur Historic Site is Australia's best known historical site from the convict era, and one of eleven sites making up the UNESCO World Heritage listing "Australian Convict Sites."

Port Arthur was first established as a timber station in 1830, supporting the infant colony of Van Diemen's Land. It became the site of a major penal (prison) colony for male convicts from 1833, a place of secondary punishment for re-offenders, in the 19th-century era of convict transportation to Van Diemen's Land (the former name of Tasmania). It very quickly gained a reputation as a "hell on earth". At its peak in the late 1840s, Port Arthur became a near self-sufficient settlement, driven by the labor of its tormented inmates. Ultimately, after a couple of decades of decline in the 1850s and 1860s, Port Arthur finally ended its days as a penal settlement in 1877.


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Port Arthur, Australia: Port Information


Cruise ships anchor offshore, and passengers are transported ashore by tenders. Tenders dock at the historic site.

Get around Port Arthur, Australia


Having arrived at Port Arthur, most people view the ruins on foot. All tickets include a 30-minute ferry trip. Visitors who purchase guided tours of the Isle of the Dead or Point Puer take this ferry to the two locations: there are no self-tours of these locations.

For the less mobile traveler, Visitor Centre facilities allow for independent access, including the Café, Restaurant, Gift Shop, Interpretation Gallery and Rest Rooms. The remainder of the Historic Site comprises a variety of areas, some of which provide independent access, and others which require assisted access. Disabled parking is provided adjacent to the Visitor Centre entry. A courtesy buggy provides a regular drop off and pickup service around the site for disabled visitors. (Enquire on arrival, at the information counter, for times of operation).

What to see in Port Arthur, Australia


Port Arthur Historic Site

The Historic Site is open every day of the year from 8:30 AM. Visitors may tour the site until dusk, and those on a Ghost Tour remain until the conclusion of their tour in the late evening.

Some of the Site is ruined, less from neglect and more as a consequence of several severe bushfires in the 1890s. Ruins are partially restored but the Site does not intend to reconstruct them completely. The major points of interest inside the Historic Site are:

  • The ruins of the Penitentiary. This is the best-known ruin on the site and one of the largest. It is located around the bay from the Visitors Centre. It opened as a flour mill in 1843 with convicts in chains driving the wheels to mill the flour. This was never successful and it was converted into a prison housing the convicts from 1857.
  • The Commandant's Residence past the Penitentiary. The house was built in 1833 and extended several times. It is not ruined and has rooms reconstructed using furnishings of the time, illustrating both the daily lives of the Commandant and his family and the house's later use as a hotel and boarding house from 1877 to the 1930s.
  • The Government Gardens leading up the hill to the ruins of the Church. The Gardens are a reconstruction of the 19th-century gardens from seed analysis and descriptions from the time. In the 19th century, they were designed as a retreat for the ladies of the colony.
  • The Isle of the Dead. The colony's cemetery was placed on a small island about 200 meters into the bay from the colony proper. The Isle can only be visited on an escorted tour. The tour takes about 1 hour and runs several times a day except on Christmas Day.
  • The Point Puer Boys' Prison. The Boys' Prison, located on the other side of the bay from the main colony, housed boys between 1834 and 1849 and was established under the reformatory impulse that young offenders might do better separately from adult prisoners. It was renowned for harsh discipline. Point Puer can only be visited on an escorted tour (see Get in). The tour begins at 11:30 AM, takes about 2 hours and is available from September to July each year, excepting Christmas Day.
  • The Memorial Garden for those killed in the 1996 massacre. The Garden is on the walk between the Visitors Centre and the ferry terminal. It contains a native garden, a pool and a large cross underneath which flowers are placed for those who died (please see the Respect section below regarding visiting the Memorial Garden)
  • The Lottery of Life gallery inside the Visitors Centre. All visitors will receive a playing card on admission: their card corresponds to a particular convict whose life they can follow as they proceed through the gallery. Lottery of Life is a good introduction to the site for children but is not likely to be interesting for its own sake for adults, especially compared to the ruins themselves.

What to do in Port Arthur, Australia


  • Go on the Historic Ghost Tour of Port Arthur. It is a fantastic experience and one not to be missed. The tours are 90 minutes long. Each night except 24th and 25th December, departing from the Visitor Centre. Bookings are essential. A steady nerve is recommended and tours are not canceled for rain.
  • Just outside the historic site, you will find Tasman Island Cruises, Arthur Highway, Port Arthur, ☎ +61 3 6250 2200, e-mail: info@tasmancruises.com.au. The company operates 3-hour eco-cruises to Tasman Island from Port Arthur daily all year round. The tours cruise the stunning coastline of the Tasman Island National Park and boast seal sightings and have also had regular dolphin and whale sightings. The staff is excellent and it's not to be missed when in the area.

Shopping in Port Arthur, Australia


  • Gift Shop is in the visitor's center.

Safety in Port Arthur, Australia


This is an outdoor site with highly changeable weather. It can be quite cool even at the height of summer: prepare for daytime temperatures as low as 10–15℃ (50–60℉) in summer. Wearing comfortable walking shoes and being prepared for possible changes in weather will ensure you have an enjoyable time. Hat, sunscreen, and raincoat are strongly recommended.

Language spoken in Port Arthur, Australia


Australians speak English with an "Aussie" accent, and in Port Arthur, the language is much the same as you'll find anywhere else in the country. 

LOCAL TIME

1:48 pm
September 22, 2019
Australia/Hobart

CURRENT WEATHER

10.81 °C / 51.458 °F
light rain
Mon

10.21 °C/50 °F
light rain
Tue

9.35 °C/49 °F
light rain
Wed

11.45 °C/53 °F
light rain
Thu

13.45 °C/56 °F
broken clouds

LOCAL CURRENCY

AUD

1 USD = 0 AUD
1 EUR = 0 AUD
1 GBP = 0 AUD
1 CAD = 0 AUD

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