GUEST ARTICLE: We knew there was lots to see and do with just 5 nights during our self-drive tour of Tasmania so we decided to choose 4 highlights : Port Arthur, Hobart, Wine Glass Bay and Launceston
We arrived in Hobart, Tasmania (otherwise known as Van Diemen’s Land) and were greeted with a beautiful crisp clear February day. Since Tasmania is well known for its unruly weather, ruling more on the rainy side, we decided to make the most of it.
After picking up our rental car we decided to head to Port Arthur, one of Australia’s well known historic tourist destinations.
In the early 1800s it had started out as an industrial site, its main product being timber. Because of an ever growing convict population in 1848 they built a prison and a prison hospital. Not too long after they added on a penitentiary and later an asylum. After housing around 70,000 prisoners its last prisoner was shipped out in 1887 and the site was later renamed Carnarvon and became a tourist and settlement site.
The narrow road to Port Arthur wound through farmers fields, vineyards and the ever-present gnarly Australian Gum Trees. Beautiful creeks frequented the fields and signs of crossing Tasmanian Devils were spotted along the way.
About an hour and a half later we arrived at our destination at the Port Arthur Historic Site. After paying our entry fee of $28 which included a short Harbor cruise, we began our journey. The Port Arthur grounds are pretty impressive, beautiful skeletons of numerous sandstone buildings (due to two tragic fires) splayed out on an immense green field situated between an impressive garden and the deep azure waters of the Tasman Sea.
The Harbor cruise was a nice touch to the tour. We got to see a small island situated not too far out called the Isle of the Dead where about 1000 people were buried, the majority being convicts and ex convicts.
The views of Port Arthur and its rugged coastline were breathtaking. Later as we walked the grounds we were both intrigued and horrified at what once was. Remnants of the prison cells remain and show what a horrific existence it must have been for the occupants. Measuring only 2.2 meters by 1.3 meters they were among the smallest in Australia.
There are many tales of both brutal physical and mental torture. One cell we went into was called ‘The Punishment Cell’ it was terrifying, it was very small and completely devoid of any light. Some of the prisoners were even children, the youngest being 9 and their offence…stealing toys?!
There is another tragic site at Port Arthur – the site of The Port Arthur Massacre.
On April 28, 1996 a young man from Hobart (Martin Bryant) entered the grounds armed with a rifle. After eating at the Broad Arrow Café he opened fire at random and worked his way throughout the grounds. It was a horrific event that ended the next morning with 35 dead and 21 injured, he is currently serving 35 consecutive life sentences in Hobart’s Risdon Prison.
Now days the café is abandoned having been burned down by Bryant in an attempt to flee. Left in its place is the sandstone structure and some beautiful memorial plaques.
We really enjoyed our tour but we would highly recommend you give it a full day to take in all of the sights and history. And if you’re really keen you can go on one of their spooky ghost tours…
Hobart is a photographer’s dream; it’s a picturesque city teaming with 18th century architecture and heaps of charming little boutiques and cafe’s.
Fortunately we arrived in time take in the outdoor Salamanca Market that runs every Saturday in Salamanca Place. There were hundreds of friendly locals selling an array of fine Tasmanian arts, crafts and locally grown fruits and vegetables. Their delicious juicy raspberries are excellent and their cheeses – yum!
Afterwards we headed up to their famous Mount Nelson Lookout. The drive up the mountain was really scenic and the panoramic view from the top was absolutely breathtaking, another must do for sure!
The next day we headed up the coast to Bicheno. Along the way we stopped at Freycinet National Park and decided to go on a little hike to one of their tourist attractions – Wine Glass Bay.
Initially we had only intended on going to the lookout point but somehow we missed the sign, an hour or so later we found ourselves sitting among little Joeys on the beach at Wine Glass Bay. You couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day, the beautiful white sand beach and deep blue bay was incredible and having little Joeys hopping about made it just that much more special.
The hike wasn’t too difficult coming ‘down,’ but going up was a different story! It can get pretty steep in some places and was definitely a challenge on the ol’ knees! Although all in all, well worth it!
Our last Tassie destination was the lovely little city of Launceston. While we were there we went on a ride on the world’s longest single span chair lift across the Cataract Gorge and First Basin.
The views from the chair lift were fantastic with excellent walking trails on either side and at the end a big beautiful garden lush with green foliage, florals and meandering brilliant blue peacocks.
There are so many more wonderful sights to see in Tasmania, we really enjoyed our visit and we were extremely lucky with the weather. We hope to go back for another visit one of these days for another exploration!
This travel diary has been written by Rob Gower, a friend who enjoys taking the road less traveled!