A huge former British penal colony, Port Arthur is an impressive and well managed historic site with over 30 buildings ageing from 1833 to 1936. It packs a lot of history and interest into one place, amazing how much happened in it’s 44 years of operation as a penal settlement (1833-1877). It was purely for reoffending men, some of the toughest criminals in the Empire. It’s been a tourist attraction pretty much ever since and is now the most popular in Tasmania.
The obvious place to start is with the most famous building, the Penitentiary, originally built as a mill. Though partly ruined the scale is apparent, though the setting by a beautiful bay isn’t typical of most prisons.
The Asylum and the Separate Prison are near complete though and conveniently closely located as the Separate Prison with it’s focus on solitary confinement and silence tended to drive people insane. Even the chapel had dividers so the prisoners could only seen the chaplain and not each other. It represents the prison concept taken to an extreme, and ineffectively so.
Finally I made it out the dockyard, with houses for the Clerk of Works’ and Shipwright, and a 25m sculpture giving an idea of the scale of the ships built here during it’s 15 years of operation before it was closed as too much competition for private ship builders.
Visiting it was a complete contrast from the morning spent heading around Tasman Peninsula by boat, as part of a combined full day trip from Hobart. ADD LINKS