The Convict Trail takes in 20 sites around the Tasman and Forestier peninsulas.
The trail is a wonderful introduction to the scenic splendour and heritage of the region.
The trail is identified by distinctive yellow markers with an arrow motif.
As you approach each site one of these markers will appear 200 metres from the interpretation panel.
Each site is marked with a taller marker in the same distinctive yellow.
Allow at least half a day for your explorations.
Originally known as East Bay Neck, this was the gateway to Governor Arthur’s ‘panopticon’ or open-air prison.
The canal was built in 1902.
The beach offers spectacular sunsets, but also provides a moment to pause and reflect on the fate of the first people here. At the time of the British invasion of Tasmania this area was the home of the Pydairrerme, the most southerly group of the Oyster Bay nation. Sealers and whalers brought violence, alcohol and disease and by 1830 the Pydairrerme were no longer in occupation of the peninsula.
During the convict era, a semaphore station and slaughterhouse was established at ‘The Sounds’ (now Murdunna). Stock was landed from NSW at Lagoon Bay, fattened by grazing and then walked to The Sounds for slaughter.
From the Eaglehawk Neck lookout there are views across Pirates Bay that take in The Lanterns, Hippolyte Rocks and Cape Hauy. The view includes amazing sea cliffs, the rolling surf and a beautiful white sandy beach.
At Eaglehawk Neck you can enjoy a walking track that takes in the ‘dog line’, the Officers’ Quarters and many other sites related to the convict era.
The track also loops through to the tessellated pavement and the Lufra Hotel.
The Norfolk Bay Convict Station was built by convicts in the 1830’s from bricks made at Port Arthur. The building of 18 rooms was originally the Commissariat Store. Food and other stores came from Hobart by steamer and were unloaded at the jetty. After the closure of the penal settlement in 1877 the Commissariat Store became the Tasman Hotel and later, a guest house.
After the closure of the penal settlement in 1877 Norfolk Bay became Taranna. Taking advantage of virgin forests in the surrounding hills sawmills, large and small, were built on the waterfront and in the bush. Serviced by tramways using ‘log locos’ the timber from these mills was transported to the local jetty. Ships called to freight the piles and squared beams to mainland Australia and England.
The first passenger railway in Australia was constructed here in 1836 to make it easier and safer to transport passengers and goods from Hobart Town to Port Arthur, by avoiding the sea route round Cape Raoul.
From Norfolk Bay (now Taranna) to Long Bay the wagons would run on timber rails and carry up to half a ton. The railway followed an ambitious route through the bush and on the downhill stretch the wagons could reach alarming speeds.
Long Bay was the terminus for the Convict Railway.
Passengers and goods would be offloaded and rowed around to Port Arthur in a whale boat. It was the site of a timber camp in the convict era, while after Port Arthur closed Chesterman’s and the Gathercole Brothers purchased the timber leases and set up mills. It was renamed Oakwood in 1892 when it became a Post Office district.
This is a World heritage site and the centre for convict history on the Tasman Peninsula. Guided tours, a harbour cruise and many house museums are featured. The visitor centre houses a gift shop and an interpretation gallery. Port Arthur is also the starting point for the Three Capes Walk.
Brick Point at Opossum Bay was the site of the Port Arthur settlement’s brick works and pottery from 1831. A building survey undertaken by Henry Laing in 1836 showed two structures: a substantial brick kiln and a large open sided brick drying shed.
From 1837 architectural ceramics such as flat gutter and paling tiles were made and by 1840 unglazed domestic pottery wares including flowerpots were being manufactured. The site is now private property, but some of the remains can be seen from the foreshore walk.
Since 1906 there has been a lighthouse on Tasman Island. It casts its signature light – a flash every 7.5 seconds over 1500 nautical square miles.
The tower was prefabricated in England and shipped out to the Island in cast iron sections each weighing over a ton.
The keepers and their families led a challenging and lonely existence until the light was automated in 1976.
Remarkable Cave offers a great place to observe the night sky (stars, southern lights) and learn about the geology and vegetation of the peninsula. The aptly named cave is the meeting point between the dolerite and the sandstone formations. This is also the beginning and end point for the walk to Crescent Bay - a fantastic walking track for all ages (allow 4 hours).
The peninsula’s suitability for growing apples and pears was established during the convict era
Following the closure of the penal settlements many settlers took up the land with a view to becoming orchardists. The industry reached its peak in the late 1950s by which time there were 35 orchards in the area. Large quantities of fruit were exported, and Premaydena was known as the ‘pear capital’ of Tasmania.
White Beach is a popular holiday destination with a magnificent white sandy beach. The Visitor Information boards at this location provide details of services and attractions.
In the convict era Nubeena was known as Wedge Bay (1843-46) and housed a probation station. When the convict system was scaled down the probation station was abandoned. Later, when the peninsula was opened for settlement the town of Nubeena (a local name for crayfish) was surveyed. Now Nubeena is the administrative and service centre for the district.
Saltwater River was settled in 1841, eleven years after Port Arthur. It was the first and largest of many probation stations established in Tasmania to deal with newly transported convicts.
Sited in an area recognised for its rich soil, Saltwater River was classed as an agricultural station. At its peak in 1846, close to 600 convicts laboured at the station, with 240 acres in crop.
The Coal Mines is a World Heritage site. Entry is free.
Maps and information are available at the Port Arthur Historic Site. The Coal mines first opened in 1833 and were used as a punishment station. A 90-metre shaft on top of Coal mine hill was completed in 1840. From the shaft there is a 700-metre inclined plane for wagons transferring coal to Plunkett Point. It took 7 hours to fill a ship with 200 tons of coal.
In the convict era Premaydena was called Impression Bay. A convict agricultural station was established here and by 1851 there were 445 convicts at the site.
The soil was largely unsuitable for agriculture and in 1857 the 238 invalids and 74 lunatics at Impression Bay were transferred to Port Arthur. Later that year the typhus ridden ship the ‘Persian’ had been refused entry to Hobart Town and the ‘Mimosa’ towed the stricken ship to Impression Bay. The 238 adults and 68 children on board were highland immigrants from Scotland who were coming to Tasmania under the ‘bounty scheme’.
The Cascades were named for the series of waterfalls in the rivulet. The name was later changed to Koonya (1887) meaning swan as part of a policy aimed at removing the ‘convict stain’. The Cascades was one of a number of probation stations established on the peninsula in the 1840’s. Numbers increased to 400 when convicts from Norfolk Island were resettled here in 1847. Convicts harvested giant eucalyptus trees, with the timber exported from the pier built at the settlement.