A visit to the former convict settlement of Port Arthur offers harrowing insight into Australia’s convict history. The vast complex is now both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Tasmania’s most visited tourist attraction. Here are your options for Port Arthur tours from Hobart.
Things to do in Hobart
Welcome to Hobart
Hobart, the capital of the Australian island state of Tasmania, is enjoying a tourism renaissance. More and more visitors are discovering its maritime charm and surrounding natural beauty. Stroll the bustling streets perched on Sullivans Cove and the Derwent River, and those along the waterfront, lining one of the deepest natural ports in the world. Alive with shops, restaurants, cafes, and craft breweries—be sure to stop by Cascade Brewery—there is plenty to keep urbanites interested for days. City walking tours help navigate the scene, and some take travelers in search of outdoor pursuits up to kunanyi/Mt. Wellington, a basalt giant covered with scrubby vegetation. Mountain biking and bushwalking are the best ways to explore the mountain, and at 4,166 feet (1,270 meters), you’re in for a view of the surrounding landscape on clear days or an otherworldly feeling on foggy, cloud-shrouded days. Exploring Hobart proper can also include forays to the Richmond Historic Village for a dose of the past, and the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary to meet some native animal inhabitants—some of whom are endangered. Hobart is also a popular departure point for further exploration of Tasmania, and myriad full-day and longer tours hit the island’s highlights. Bruny Island offers wildlife encounters and gourmet delights amidst breathtaking scenery. Cruise among the rugged Tasman Peninsula’s towering coastal cliffs, sea caves, and native marine life. Or get a history lesson at Port Arthur’s UNESCO-listed convict colony ruins.
Top 10 attractions in Hobart
What was once a rundown warehouse and storage unit on the waterfront of Hobart has since become one of the most-visited destinations in the city. More than 600,000 people visit Salamanca Market for its fresh fruit, organic produce, and handmade craft stalls each year. Its trendy bars, quiet cafes and inventive restaurants attract food-lovers from around the area, making it a uniquely Tanzania experience. Salamanca’s popularity has caused it to grow rapidly from 12 vendors in 1972 to more than 300 in 2010. As a result, there’s something for everyone at this once-a-week market that brings the best of Hobart together....
For beer tastings and a glimpse inside a historic brewery, book a tour of the 180-year-old Cascade Brewery, the oldest in Australia. The 1.5-hour tours of this Gothic brewery include tastings and insights into the brewery process, plus lots of stair-climbing to work up a thirst. Dress comfortably but safely to tour the brewery, wearing long trousers and flat shoes, rather than sandals. After the tour, take a wander around the brewery’s large landscaped gardens or relax in the cafe. Cascade brews premium lager, barley blonde-style beer, stout and pale ale, and the label features the trademark Tasmanian tiger....
This all-female prison is one of 11 places that make up the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property. Between 1788 and 1853 approximately 25,000 women—and even some of their children—were held in one of Cascade’s five structures. High rates of illness and infant mortality, as well as grim conditions led to tragic ends for many of the inmates who were forced to sew and mend to repay their debts to society. Three of the five original buildings are open to the public, so visitors can see the heavy stone walls and thick metal bars that held so many women captive. The Matron’s Quarters in Yard 4 provides travelers with details about the lives of civilians who were charged with punishing and reforming Cascade’s wayward women. This female factory is a fascinating introduction to Tasmania’s role in convict transportation for Great Brittan....
The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens opened in 1818 and its impressive collection of indigenous plants, trees and unique Asian-inspired gardens span some 35 acres of scenic countryside. Perhaps the garden’s most unusual exhibit is the Subantarctic Plant House, which displays plants from the remote Macquarie Island. In addition to environmental conditions that mimic the wild, audio from the island—like sounds of Elephant seals and penguins—is also piped throughout the space, giving visitors a full sensory experience. After wandering the grounds, relaxing by the lily pond or exploring the French Memorial Garden and Fountain, stop by the Royal Tasmanian’s restaurant, which sources produce from its very own vegetable garden for a truly Tasmanian farm-to-table experience....
There’s plenty of history to soak up on a visit to Hobart, Australia’s second-oldest settlement. Get a lesson in history with a visit to Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG), established in 1843 by the Royal Society of Tasmania. You’ll see archaeological and colonial relics, Aboriginal artifacts, old photographs, ephemera and fine examples of colonial decorative arts....
This chapel, nicknamed "The Trench", designated for male convicts in Hobart Town was a less than holy place. With poor ventilation, 36 solitary confinement rooms and separate punishment chambers hidden beneath the chapel floor, it was truly a spot for torture and despair. The dark cells, referred to as “dust holes” were deemed inhumane and closed in 1849, but visitors can still catch a glimpse of the horrid conditions on a Penitentiary tour, where guides remind guests about the terrible sounds that could be heard coming from convicts chained beneath the floors. The grounds include a prison yard, barracks, punishment chambers and an execution yard, as well as the chapel, which was partially transformed into courtrooms in 1859. Visitors who opt for the ghost tour can wander the tunnels and gallows by lamplight while hearing stories of the more than 30 individuals who were executed here....
Hobart’s heart lies on the sea, and as an island Tasmania’s history is inextricably bound to the water. If you’d like to learn more about Tasmania’s maritime history, the Maritime Museum of Tasmania provides all the answers. You’ll see models of the ships that docked at Sullivans Cove, hear the stories of the men who sailed in them, learn about Australia’s first explorers and see the navigational instruments they used. The watercraft of Tasmania’s original inhabitants, the Aborigines, are also displayed, along with artifacts rescued from shipwrecks, photographs, paintings and whaling equipment....
Standing sentinel over Hobart, Mt. Wellington is known by locals simply as ‘the Mountain.’ A visit to the Pinnacle is an essential Hobart experience. At the Pinnacle you’ll find a glass lookout building and boardwalks. In every direction the views of Hobart, all the way to the sea, are incredible. The weather can change very abruptly up here, and it’s often freezing or can even be snowing when fair Hobart Town is experiencing mild weather. If you’re feeling active, come to Mt Wellington to go bushwalking, bike riding, horse riding or rock climbing, or pack some lunch to enjoy at the sheltered Springs picnic area....
This quiet suburb just south of Hobart was established in 1818, and while extravagant houses and luxury homes now dot the landscape of this prestigious town, a walk through its shaded streets offers visitors a look at how Tasmanians used to live. The old warehouses of Salamanca Place are still visible from atop Kelly’s Steps, a series of hand-carved stairs built in the 1800s. Travelers can explore Battery Point’s colonial past at the Narryna Heritage Museum, then trek to the town’s highest point at St. George’s Anglican Church, built in 1936. No trip to Battery Point is complete without a visit to Arthur Circus—one of the nation’s first official subdivisions. Today, visitors can wander around the original cottages, which are now some of the most expensive and sought-after homes in the area....
Towering over the Derwent River and dramatically illuminated at night, the Tasman Bridge has long been one of Hobart’s most memorable landmarks. Built in 1964, the five-lane bridge runs for 1.4km across the river, connecting the central business district with the eastern suburbs, and forming part of the long-distance Tasman Highway....
Top activities in Hobart
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- Bruny Island Day Tour, Includes Lunch and Exclusive Lighthouse Tour
- Day Trip to Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur Historic Site from Hobart
- 5-Day Best of Tasmania Tour from Hobart
- Day Tour in Mt. Field, Mt. Wellington, Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and Richmond
- Wineglass Bay and Freycinet National Park Active Day Trip from Hobart
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Things to do near Hobart
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