Friday, 19 May 2017

Trip to Port Arthur

Events of Friday 19th May 2017

Friday was my last full day in Tasmania, and I'd accepted my travel agents suggestion to make a day trip to Port Arthur which had been pre-booked with 'Under Down Under Tours'.

I was picked up from my hotel at 7.30 a.m. by a charming Swiss driver/guide in a 15-seater Japanese minibus and, after more pick-ups, we set off for Port Arthur. We made our first stop at the pretty village of Richmond, stopped again for sea-views at Pirates' Lookout and finally stopped at Port Arthur Lavender Farm. I tried the lavender-flavoured chocolate shavings samples but didn't make a purchase.

Soon afterwards, we arrived at the Port Arthur Historic Site visitor centre which in in the process of being massively extended. Since becoming a World Heritage Site in 2010, visitor numbers have increased significantly.

I'm afraid I knew very little about the period of Transportation when large numbers of convicts from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the British Empire were sent to Australia for imprisonment (partly to ease chronic overcrowding in British Gaols). Sentences varied from seven years to life and those convicts who survived the harsh conditions and were released stood very little chance of ever being able to afford the passage back to their birthplace.

Port Arthur, Tasmania had what has been described as "the finest natural harbour in the southern hemisphere", making it a suitable destination for many of the convict ships. Accordingly, Port Arthur developed as a Men's Prison. Although many of the original buildings have been damaged (or destroyed), what remains has been carefully preserved to give an eerie insight into the prison regime. The large site had no external walls: the remote location was largely sufficient to deter escapes by land or water, particularly since the use of manacles and weights attached to prisoners was commonplace.

After a 40-minute orientation by an excellent guide, Andrew, we were free to explore. My party was booked on the 1.40 p.m. harbour cruise in a modern catamaran and I had to hustle to get to the boat in time - I could have spent much longer there.

The autumn sun shone benignly throughout and, seeing the site as a visitor remaining just a few hours, the site was beautiful. An unexpected comparison sprang to mind - I was reminded of the television series 'The Prisoner' (there's a Wikipedia article here) which was filmed in Portmerion, Wales.

On the long drive back to Hobart, we made various stops at natural sea-related land formations - the Tasman Arch, the Blowhole, the Devil's Kitchen. Interesting, but not the thought-provoking experience the Heritage Site at Port Arthur had furnished.

Related Posts on this Website

All Burma-2017 Trip posts.
All Australia-2017 posts.

My Pictures

The Henry Jones Art Hotel, Hobart.
Hobart, Tasmania.
Richmond, Tasmania.
Hobart to Port Arthur.
Port Arthur Historic Site. Port Arthur to Hobart.

[Links to pictures added 18-Aug-2017]