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Touring Port Arthur And The Tasman Peninsula

Port Arthur Historic Site
Port Arthur Historic Site
The Tasman Peninsula may seem like a world apart from Hobart, yet it takes less than an hour's drive from Hobart in your campervan. So close is it that you can explore most of the Peninsula in a day trip, but with so much to see and explore, we really recommend longer here. The contrast between the savage beauties of the coastal landscape and dreaming fields of the placid farmlands, and the little towns still living in a 19th century setting, make it not only photogenic, but a region rich in heritage and history.

The village of Port Arthur adjoins an historic site of the same name, a site that was once a penal colony built by convict labour in the early days of settlement. The site has been preserved as a cultural relic - a homage to our past that in some ways we would like to forget but in more ways it's important to remember. Thirty buildings and ruins of buildings sit in 40 hectares of beautiful and well maintained gardens. The penitentiary is the largest ruin, but the most chilling is the prison where convicts were punished with solitary confinement. Other relics include the hospital, dockyards, commandant's residence, the church and the old asylum which contains the museum.

There are a number of tours you can take around the historic site, but the most popular ones are the ghost tours that take place in the evenings. The buildings take on an eerie ominous feel in the dark, lit only by the lanterns carried by you and the other members of the tour, and one can almost feel the despair seeping out of the darkened walls. Tours are small and popular, so book in advance if you are interested. Another popular tour is a boat cruise out to the Isle of the Dead, a small island lying just offshore where 1100 free men and convicts lie buried. It's a fascinating insight into the past to go through the graves and read the various inscriptions and imagine what life was like for these people. Then there is the Point Puer Boys' Prison Tour, which held convict boys in harsh conditions, some as young as nine years old, between the years of 1834 and 1849.

Port Arthur Holiday Park is the place to base your campervan to explore the Peninsula. It's right in Port Arthur, and from it you can explore other nearby attractions. It has very private and spacious sites and campfires are allowed, with a dedicated fire pit provided on each site! The Port Arthur Lavender Farm offers some delectable meals as well as lavender products. The Remarkable Cave is 5km south of Port Arthur, on the coast. It is a cavernous hollow in the coastline into which the waves echo and crash. It's a favourite spot amongst surfers who walk through the cave and into the ocean behind it. There is also a stunning 4 hour hike that begins here and carries on down the coast to Crescent Bay, taking in some beautiful features along the way. The walk at Cape Raoul is an all-day affair, but worth it for the soaring dolomite columns standing above the crashing waves.

The narrow isthmus of land that connects the Peninsula to the rest of Tasmania is known as Eaglehawk Neck. Flanked on one side by Pirate Bay and on the other by Norfolk Bay, this little hamlet is the gateway to the riches of the Tasman National Park. The Tessellated Pavements lie close, which are fractured blocks of sedimentary rock forming jigsaw patterns. A few kilometres on you will find the Blow Hole, a cavernous feature in the side of the cliff face which shoots water up through the earth when the waves get too large. The Tasman Arch is also in this region, and is a naturally formed archway of resistant rock with the ocean beneath it. All up there are thirty five designated walks in the area that will take you past some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia. Adventure seekers will have lots to choose from - the surf is some of the most spectacular Tasmania has to offer and there are coves and inlets for kayakers and canoeists to explore. Rock climbers are well provided for with the steep mountain and cliff faces.

While you are on the peninsula, you should take the opportunity to check out the Dunalley Hotel in the hamlet of Dunalley. Apparently it has some of the best pub grub in the whole of Australia.

The Tasman Peninsula is a destination that won't let you get bored. The Port Arthur Holiday Park has camp and caravan sites that are powered, level and fringed with trees to ensure privacy. Some sites have private bathrooms, most are drive-through and all have fresh water and fireplaces.

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