An extremely scenic part of Tasmania that is 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.
Port Arthur houses 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.
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.
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. By sea: cruise up the coast from Hobart to Port Arthur via Navigators Cruises (Sept to May).
Best Time To Go: 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.).