A moving reminder of Australia’s harrowing history, the former convict settlement of Port Arthur was a key part of often brutal convict discipline within the colonial system. Today, the Port Arthur historic site is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Tasmania’s most visited tourist attraction, with museums and memorials devoted to telling the area’s history.
Journey back in time on a tour of Port Arthur and explore the vast ruins of the penal settlement, including the Penitentiary, Separate Prison, Dockyard, Port Arthur gardens, Coal Mines Historic Site, Cascades Female Factory, and Gothic church. Prebook a 2-day pass or take a private or small-group tour that leaves from Hobart, often combined with other regional highlights, such as a scenic cruise around Tasman Peninsula, a cliff-top walk to Waterfall Bay, or a Hobart city tour. Two-day entrance tickets to Port Arthur include a guided walking tour, a harbour cruise, and access to all sites, except the Isle of the Dead and Point Puer, for which guided tours are extra.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Port Arthur historic site is spread across 100 acres (40 hectares), so plan at least a half-day visit.
- Facilities at Port Arthur include a visitor center, restrooms, gift shop, and cafe/restaurant.
- Cell phone coverage is limited at Port Arthur, but free Wi-Fi is available on-site.
- Bring sunscreen, comfortable shoes, a raincoat, and plenty of water if you plan on taking a walking tour—weather can change quickly at the open-air site.
- Most of the Port Arthur historic site is wheelchair accessible, and a shuttle buggy service is available for those with limited mobility.
How to Get There
Port Arthur is located on the Tasman Peninsula, 37 miles (60 kilometers) south of Hobart. Public buses run from the city, and it’s a 1.5-hour drive along the scenic Arthur Highway, crossing Eaglehawk Neck, the narrow isthmus that joins the peninsula to the mainland. The closest airport is in Hobart.
When to Get There
Port Arthur is open year-round, although hours are extended in summer. The summer season (December to February) is busy so it’s best to arrive early to avoid crowds. Visiting out of season is generally quieter, but be prepared for changeable weather and less frequent tours.
Port Arthur Tours
The stories of Port Arthur are told in different ways. Interactive displays tell the tragic story of the 12,500 convicts who served time from 1830 to 1877, while after-dark ghost tours explore the site’s haunted buildings. Optional guided tours visit the Isle of the Dead, the final resting place for many of the convicts, and the Point Puer boys’ prison, an experimental prison that housed around 3,000 young boys between 1834 and 1849.