Tag Archives: convicts

Port Arthur

I hadn’t planned on visiting Port Arthur on our trip as I’m not terribly familiar or interested in Australian history. I did however, want to see The Isle of the Dead in Port Arthur. Can’t see one without the other so we went for a day and I’m so glad we did.

I could go on about the history of Port Arthur in this blog; but, really you could research that in your spare time. There were a few things that did really fascinate me while we were here and so I will make mention.

The way the tourists are managed throughout Port Arthur is very well done. I have a degree in Tourism and Hospitality Management which really doesn’t get much of a workout. What I do like to check out while at tourist attractions is how the attraction manages the tourists and I thought Port Arthur did this very well. As part of the bronze ticket, the cheapest ticket you can buy, you get an ipod with a self guided tour so you can walk around on your own and have all the information at your finger tips. You are also entitled to participate in an introductory tour which goes every hour and a guide will walk you around and provide you with the information found on the ipod and other relevant stories.

I also found the tour guides and staff in general to be fantastic. They are obviously passionate and very knowledgable about Port Arthur and liked to share stories about the convicts, the jailers and their families to really make the experience come alive for us visitors.

As the main motivation for visiting Port Arthur was The Isle of the Dead tour we booked and went on it first. The Isle of the Dead is a small island off the Tasman peninsula. It was used as the graveyard for Port Arthur from 1833 to 1877. Around 1100 dead are buried here. Basically anyone who died was buried here so not only the convicts but  officials, soldiers and their families. On the lower side of the island the convicts were buried, mostly without headstones in mass graves. It was forbidden to place headstones on a convicts graves; however, there are a couple of exceptions to the rule. The soldiers, officials and their families were  buried on the higher north-western corner of the Island, class rules were strictly enforced in life and death for these people.

The tour guide was engaging and obviously loved her job, she told us stories of some of the dead, the grave keepers, families and interesting burial facts.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The other place I wanted to make mention of in this blog is the Coal Mines Historic Site. Port Arthur is on one side of the Tasman Peninsula and the Coal Mine is a drive to the other. It’s free to see, you just drive up and park. We didn’t know anything about the Coal Mine; but, a guy at the caravan park said that we had to go and see it so we did. We were the only people there at the time so had the whole place to ourselves and it was spectacular.

We had a detailed information brochure and map of the area so we self toured around. It was worth the short drive out to see it.

Port Arthur Coal Mine Ruins

Port Arthur Coal Mine Ruins

Cruising the Gordon River

Wharf_Sarah Island_A Girl A 4WD and A Trailer

Wharf at Sarah Island

Hubby and I splurged out on a river cruise as a “honeymoon” present to ourselves. We decided to book seats on the Gordon River Cruise in the Captains Premier Upper Deck seats, all inclusive with leather seating, a private viewing deck, a dedicated guide, chef-prepared gourmet lunch,  creamy Tasmanian cheeses and all you can drink Tasmanian wines and premium beers. At the normal price of $220pp, or if you have a RAC membership you are entitled to 20% off which brings the price down to $176/pp – thank you RACQ membership!

We had an amazing day which started out with a glass of bubbles at 8:30am, life can’t get much better than this!

We went through the Macquarie Harbour, past the man made training wall which took 3 years to build and acts as a funnel to increase tidal flow and therefore negates the needs for dredging to deepen the bay so ships can go through.

Heading towards Hell's Gate

Heading towards Hell’s Gate

We then went through Hell’s Gates. This is the entrance to the ocean from the bay. Convicts coming into Strahan named it Hell’s Gates because from their perspective they were going into hell and this was the entrance.

We quickly stopped and had a bit of a quick look at the local fish farms floating along in the ocean and learnt some interesting facts. Did you know that Rainbow Trout and Ocean Trout are the same? The only difference is that Ocean Trout are raised in water that is salt underneath with a layer of fresh water on top (salt water is heavier and sinks). Apparently this environment is perfect for raising very fat fish very quickly!

Sarah Island Ruins

Sarah Island Ruins

Turning back around, we headed down the Gordon River and after a while we stopped and walked through a section of rainforest where we learnt about Huon pine. Here is an interesting fact, Huon is older than birds.

Back on the boat, more wine thanks, lunch and then Sarah Island. Along the cruise I had been reading a short book on Sarah Island, the history in this place is absolutely amazing! Unfortunately due to the harsh climate and time, there isn’t much left of the original buildings, some bricks here and there. However, the guides on the tour managed to truly bring alive the history and engage the entire group with reenactments and tales of the times.

As we were leaving Sarah Island we were absolutely pelted by some of the strongest winds and rain I’ve ever experienced.

As it was near to 2pm by the time we left Sarah Island, the boat turned around and took us back to Strahan.

We thoroughly enjoyed the tour, the captain and the crew were amazing and the service we received was second to none. If ever you’re in this part of the world I highly recommend taking this tour, the Captain’s Premier Upper Deck Seats are very worth while!

Name: Gordon River Cruises
Website: http://www.gordonrivercruises.com.au 
Contact Details: 03 6471 4300
Date we sailed: 18th March 2014
Cost: $176 pp due to RACQ membership, all inclusive