Port Arthur Historic Site | Port Arthur

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Historic Georgian Convict Site in Port Arthur

Port Arthur Historic Site was established circa 1830 when Colonel Sir George Arthur KCH (Lieutenant-Governor) was the Governor of Tasmania, then known as Van Diemen’s Land.

The Port Arthur Historic Site is a UNESCO World Heritage listed Australian Convict Site. The historic buildings, grounds and ruins make up what is considered to be the most intact convict site in the country. In its time, Port Arthur claimed to be the third largest town in Tasmania, and was the ‘penal capital’ of the colony. Port Arthur was named after Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen’s Land George Arthur, and although best known as a penal colony, the settlement began in 1830 as a timber station. From 1833, however, Port Arthur became a convict station, and over its 47 years of operation, was home to over 10 000 convicts, many of whom were re-offenders who served more than one sentence at the site. Port Arthur quickly developed a reputation as being ‘hell on earth’, although some argue that in order to produce the quantities of timber, ships, boots and bricks exported from the settlement, convicts had to be kept in reasonable health, and no man was hanged at Port Arthur. However, life for the convicts was harsh, and Port Arthur implemented some of the strictest security measures in any penal colony, particularly after the development of the Separate Prison system, which used psychological, not just physical, punishment. The Tasman Peninsula was considered an ideal natural prison, due to its being only narrowly joined to the neighboring Forestier Peninsula by the sandy isthmus known as Eaglehawk Neck. This was therefore easily guarded, with a line of dogs chained across the Neck to raise the alarm should any convict try to escape. Stories of man-eating sharks were spread, in order to dissuade convicts from trying to escape by swimming across the bays. Visitors to the site can see convict buildings, ruins and extensive grounds and gardens, and can take tours to the nearby Port Puer and Isle of the Dead. Given its harsh history, Port Arthur is said to be haunted, and ghost tours also run at the site.

Find out more about Port Arthur Historic Site.

Address: 131 Point Puer Road
Town/Suburb: Port Arthur
Municipality: Tasman Council