Port Arthur (Tasmania Day 2)

Today was probably one of the most incredible days I’ve spent in Australia! We took a three-hour wildlife cruise along the Tasman cliff faces, and later explored Port Arthur.

Pennicott Wilderness Journeys

Our day started with an hour’s drive from Hobart to Eaglehawk Neck. We enjoyed morning tea at a local café, then were transferred to the coast to board our boat. It was a 32-seat boat built like a giant inflatable raft with a roof.

Pennicott Wilderness Journey's cruise boat

Pennicott Wilderness Journey’s cruise boat

The Cruise

We soon set our to explore the incredible Tasman landscape by way of the ocean! We travelled along the eastern cliff edges of the Tasman Sea, down south and around that land section, and eventually into the water channel leading to Port Arthur. Stunned by the staggering cliffs and open sea caves, we soon stopped Waterfall bay, where you could see the marking of where a huge waterfall would flow with enough rain.

Cliff faces

Cliff faces

Sea caves

Sea caves

Our next stop was at a calm inland bay, where an old jetty and boat remains were sunken in the ocean. Years ago a ship ran aground there, and the story can still be envisioned today. Here we saw a flock of birds native to Tasmania that look remarkably similar to penguins. The main difference is they can fly. We also saw a nest of white-chested sea eagles, however did not see any of the actual birds themselves! This area is also a popular camping destination, and although it wasn’t the right season at the time, it can fill up to hold 1200 campers.

Shipwreck

Shipwreck

This was probably the most exciting boat ride I’ve been on, a bit adrenaline pumping but also awesome. As we cruised along the ciff edges, I was so impressed by their brutal beauty. The Southern ocean is not protected by any land masses prior to this point, so by the time Antarctic swells reach the edge of Tasmania, they are extremely powerful. Along the way, we also saw dolphins and seals lying along the cliff edges.

Seals along the cliff edges

Seals along the cliff edges

The Black Coast

Today the swell was a mere 3 meters (distance between the trough and peak of a wave), but next week they are predicting that the largest swell in 10 years is to pass through, at 20 meters. Glad we visited today! These massive swells make the ocean too powerful to take tours out in, and today was one of only 50 days of the year that the water was acceptable to take the tour down the entire coast to Port Arthur, along the most dangerous area called the Black Coast. Typically, a tour will go out at the same start spot, cruise, return to that spot, then be driven down to Port Arthur. However, we were lucky enough to explore the magic of the Southern Ocean and Black Coast!

Port Arthur

This small town started as a convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula, built during the 18th and 19th centuries. It is a beautiful property, but has a very dark past.

View of Port Arthur from the water

View of Port Arthur from the water

The English empire started sending convicts down to Tasmania because they were running out of room in their prisons. Due to Tasmania’s location and extreme landscaping, it created a natural prison because people literally could not leave the island. This penitentiary was actually built with the intention to help boost the economy by prisoners doing work to send supplies back to Europe and settle the area. In fact, most “prisoners” were not even imprisoned, but were expected to work various jobs around the area, such as fishing or cutting down trees.

Unfortunately, Port Arthur is also the location of Australia’s worst mass murder event, where 35 innocent people lost their lives. This in turn pushed the enactment of Australia’s very strict gun laws, which still exist today.

Inside a penitentiary wing

Inside a penitentiary wing

After two devastating fires among the years, Port Arthur ceased working. At the time, the Queen of England encouraged everyone to gather leftover supplies to rebuild the community, leaving just a shell of the original property. Some has been reconstructed, but you can still imagine its original look. Now, Port Arthur is Tasmania’s top tourist attraction.

View of Port Arthur on land

View of Port Arthur on land

Rosney Hill Lookout

On the bus ride home, our driver surprised us and drove to a beautiful hilltop lookout over Hobart (after sunset). With clusters of downtown areas and homes lit up on the hillside, it was an incredible view, and a perfect way to end such a fantastic day!

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