The Totem Pole
Cliffs near Shipstern Bluff
Statue of a dog used to keep the convicts from escaping from the peninsula
Tasman Island from The Blade lookout, Cape Pillar
Remarkable Cave sea entrance
At over 300 metres high, the cliffs at Cape Hauy are the highest sea cliffs in the southern hemisphere
Shipbuilding yard, Port Arthur
Koonya Convict Station buildings
Some of the signs in Doo Town
An extremely scenic part of Tasmania that dominated by rolling pastures and heavily timbered hills and surrounded by dramatic coastline of sheer cliffs, towering rocky outcrops, sheltered bays and sea caves. Walking tracks and kayaks give access to the area's more isolated corners. And if that isn't enough to entice you to jump on a plane to Tassie and go see it for yourself, there's the added bonus of the peninsula being steeped in Australia's convict history; it contains some of the country's most important convict heritage sites, the jewel in the crown being the Port Athur settlement.
Fortescue Bay lookout
Just over an hours drive to the south east of Hobart, Tasman Peninsula contains some of Australia's most interesting, rugged coastline with amazing rock formations, many of which are unique to this windswept end of the earth.
Eaglehawk Neck: as its name suggests, Eaglehawk Neck is a tie bar made of sand carried by currents and waves from the floor bed of Pirate's Bay to the east and Norfolk Bay to the west. It joins the Forestier Peninsula and Tasman Peninsula and the former Port Arthur Penal Settlement on which it stands in a narrow strip of land which is less than 100 metres wide. It was here, during the convict penal settlement days, that savage attack dogs were chained from one side of the neck to other within reach of each other to deter prisoners from attempting an escape by land. As a sombre reminder of the location's use, a bronze dog sculpture marks the spot where chained attack dogs were once stationed. Not far from Eaglehawk Neck is Doo Town, where the residents have become very creative - and funny - by incorporating the word "Doo" into the novel names of their properties.
Sealife Experience Tour: a two hour boat trip down the coast of the Peninsula and back. It departs from Pirates Bay and hugs the coast to Tasman Island before returning. Specially built craft take you in close to the base of towering dolerite cliffs to see Tasman's Arch from the ocean side, seal colonies, dolphins, a waterfall pouring down the cliff face and straight into the ocean, sea caves and lots so much more. In good weather the cruiser drives straight through a giant rock arch. April & May are the best months as the sea is calmest then. This is one of the best value coastal cruises available in Australia today, made all the better for showing off one of the most scenic stretches of our coastline. Tour details and Online Booking
Tessellated Pavement: this unusual geological formation gives the rocks the effect of having been rather neatly tiled by a giant. The pavement appears tessellated (tiled) because the rocks forming it were fractured by earth movements. The fractures are in three sets. One set runs almost north, another east north east, and the third discontinuous set north north west. It is the last two sets that produce the tiled appearance. This tessellated pavement is one of the largest in the world.
Tasman Arch: A natural arch which is an enlarged tunnel running from the coast along a zone of closely spaced cracks and extending inland to a second zone that is perpendicular to the first. The roof at the landward end of the tunnel has collapsed but the hole is too large and the sides are too high to form a blowhole. The tunnel was produced by wave action. The arch ceiling is 52.7 m above sea level. Most people only see the land-side view - a boat trip alongside the coastal cliffs offers a different perspective of the arch.
Devil's Kitchen: the 60 metres deep Devil's Kitchen has been formed by a similar process to that which has created Tasman's Arch. Basically, if an arch like Tasman's Arch collapsed, it would lead to the creation of a landform like the Devils Kitchen.
Tasman Blowhole: the largest blowhole on the Australian coastline, it takes the form of a long tunnel which opens out into a large collapsed cavern into which the waves of the ocean blow. On days where rough seas occur, the water can spurt over 10 metres high. It is best seen at high tide, but is attractive at any time. The Tasman Coastal Track, which begins at the Blowhole and leads to Cape Pillar, is considered one of the great bushwalks of Tasmania.
Pattersons Arch: Similar in size to Tasman Arch, this natural bridge is somewhat smaller but still quite dramatic. The arch is located near Waterfall Bay and can be viewed from the walking track from the Devils Kitchen carpark to Waterfall Bay.
Waterfall Bay & Little Waterfall Bay: Ten minutes south from Pirates Bay Jetty, Waterfall Bay and Waterfall Bluff is considered the best boat diving area in southern Tasmania as it offers a range of 10 separate dive sites depending on the level of experience of the diver. The most popular dive for open water certification and above is Cathedral Cave. The average depth during the dive is 21 metres. The Catacombs is an area of tunnels that are just big enough for one diver at time. Revelation Bend is one of Tasmania's most photographed underwater views. The walls below Cathedral Dome have some of the most spectacular displays of jewel anemones and zoanthids found anywhere. Other popular dive spots are around Waterfall bay are Patersons Arch, Suicide Cliffs, Studio Two, Dragon City, Horseshow Cave, Dogleg Cave, Knome Cave, The Bluff, Headbanger Cave and Dragons Lair.
Waterfall Bay can also be reached by road or by a clifftop walk from the Devil's Kitchen carpark. On its way south to Waterfall Bluff, the walk passes Waterfall Creek, which is the source of the huge cascade at Waterfall Bay. After it is crossed upstream, there is a sheltered area near a series of further cascades. These include Camp Falls and Shower Falls, where you can climb into a cave behind the curtain of water.
Whalewatching off the coast
Cape Raoul: a rugged cape offering panoramic views of spectacular cliffs and the dolerite spires at the end of the cape, views across Storm Bay to Bruny Island from the Storm Bay Lookout, and a seal colony on the rocks below. The walking path across the cape begins at the Nubeena Post Office.
Tunnel Bay: Tunnel Bay on Cape Raoul at the foot of Tasman Peninsula is just one of the numerous walking destinations on the peninsula. Tunnel Bay is named because of a natural rock tunnel there that has ben created by water erosion. Nearby, to the south, is Shipstern Bluff, a rugged headland jutting out into the sea. Suitable only for the most capable and experienced extreme surfer.
Shipstern Bluff: Below the bluff, heaving swells hit a reef head-on, causing a huge body of water to arc up seemingly out of nowhere. In recent years, this churning swell has become a major surfing spot that attracts elite surfers from around the world, dominating the surf media and setting the bar for extreme surfing in Australia.
Tasman Island: Located off the south eastern tip of the peninsula, Tasman Island stands defiantly beyond the tip of Cape Pillar. It is a rugged, desolate and windswept rock that was named after Dutch seaman Abel Tasman who cautiously skirted its thunderous shores in 1642. Like a fortress, the island's grey basalt columns rise 240 metres straight out of the sea. Above is a plateau of only 50 hectares, pock-marked with sink holes, caves and small clumps of windswept vegetation. Perched atop the island is Tasman Island Lighthouse, one of Australia's most inaccessible light stations, being posted there was so unpopular that it was likened to the infamous American island prison Alcatraz. There was a sense of isolation which sent numerous lightkeepers mad.
Cape Pillar: There are few more dramatic, scenic features on the Tasmanian coast than Cape Pillar. The sheer cliffs rise vertically to a height of 300m and are fluted like organ pipes - a common characteristic of the Jurassic dolerite from which they are formed. And if they are not enough to take one's breathe away, there is also Cathedral Rock, The Blade, the Chasm and Tasman Island just 500 metres away across a turbulent strait. A signposted walking track to this rugged corner of the continent begins off Fortescue Bay Road.
Cape Hauy: One of the most dramatic, distinctive looking capes on the Australian coastline, the end of which looks as if it has been sliced up like a loaf of bread to form the two rounded islands called The Lanterns. Next to them is The Candlestick and the famous Totem Pole (see below). The location provides views to Cape Pillar, Cathedral Rock and Schouten Island off the end of Freycinet Peninsula. A walking track to the end of the cape begins at the Fortescue Bay boat ramp.
The Totem Pole: one of the most spectacular pieces of rock on the planet. It is a free-standing dolerite pillar spearing straight out of the water in a gloomy chasm infested with sharks and subject to volatile swell patterns. It is over sixty metres tall, but only about four metres wide at the base. It sways in the wind and shudders with the crash of every wave. The prospect this piece of rock presents the climber is uncompromising and chilling. It demands you take at handful of bravery pills, as the challenge of the climb is psychological as much as technical.
Remarkable Cave: A truly remarkable work of nature, Remarkable Cave has been carved out of the rock of Safety Cove. The cave, which is actually a natural bridge with two entries from the sea, was created over millions of years by the raging seas which pound this isolated coastline. A staircase leads from the cliff top down right into the mouth of the cave.
descent to the caves | at the caves
Port Arthur penal settlement ruins
Port Arthur: the remnants of one of the most isolated and infamous penal establishments in the world, which operated between 1830 and 1877. Known for its harsh conditions, dark history and stark beauty, in 1996 Port Arthur was the scene of the worst mass murder event in Australian history. A small town that is a mix of restored buildings and stabilised ruins, Port Arthur is one of Australia's most significant heritage areas. The open air museum is today Tasmania's top tourist attraction. Interpretive and interactive presentations being the life the reality of the lost of Port Arthur's convicts 200 years ago. Harbour cruises leave at regular intervals for as tour of the bay itself, circling a small island once used as a graveyard. Allow plenty of time to fully experience the Port Arthur Historic Site. Ideally, give yourself a full day at the Site. An overnight stay allows time to experience the Historic Ghost Tour. Entry fee: $28 adult, $23 concession, $14 child, $62 Family (2 adults & up to six children). Boat trip and ghost tours not included.
Saltwater River Coal Mines: Port Arthur is not the only convict related relic on Tasman Peninsula. Convict-built outstations, from which convicts were hired out to local farmers, still stand at Koonya, Premaydena and Taranna. At Saltwater River is the remains of another large convict station and a coal mine, with numerous buildings an a few mine shafts still intact. Interpretive signage details the story of the site, which is about a 25 minute drive from Port Arthur. More information
How to get there: by car, take the Tasman Bridge and follow the signs to Tasman Peninsula after passing through Sorell. Port Arthur is about 100 km south-east of Hobart. By coach: Tasman Island Cruises offers a daily coach transfer to and from Hobart (Adults $85; Children under 17 years $55; Children under 3 travel free). By sea: cruise up the coast from Hobart to Port Arthur via Navigators Cruises (Sept to May).
The Best Time To Visit: November to April is the peak season in Tasmania. Summer brings warm days and mild evenings from December to February, while winter can be stormy with snow on the mountain peaks of central Tasmania between July and August. Rainfall occurs throughout the year. The weather is most stable from the end of summer to autumn (February to April). Some tour operators close for the off season (May to Sept.).
Cruise and tour options: The following are some of the options available - full day cruises depart daily from Hobart, and incorporate a 3 hour environmental cruise around the coast of Tasman Island and Peninsula, morning tea, lunch, entry to the Port Arthur Historic Site and return transfers to Hobart; Sealife Experience Tasmania operate a 3-hour eco-adventure tour along the coast of the Peninsula from Eaglehawk Neck, which is truly an unforgettable experience, and great value from $70 (see brochure PDF); Eaglehawk Dive Centre operates diving tours along the coast from Eaglehawk Neck.
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