Tasman Peninsula travel guide - Rusty Compass

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Tasman Peninsula
travel guide

Tasman Peninsula Introduction

| 12 Jun 2021
Last updated 12 Jun 2021

The Tasman Peninsula is a 70 -  90 minute drive from Hobart and the location for some of Tasmania's most popular tourist sites. Named after Dutch seafarer and explorer Abel Tasman, the peninsula is the location of the World Heritage Listed Port Arthur convict history ruins. Tasman charted these parts in the 1600s, long before the British invasion of the 1800s. In addition to Port Arthur, there are other natural and historical sites in the area well worth exploring. The Tasman National Park and the multi-day Three Capes Walk are enjoying increasing popularity with hikers.


Port Arthur prison ruins

Most travellers pass through the Tasman Peninsula on their way to Port Arthur, one of Australia's most popular historical sites. Port Arthur was the site of a major convict-era penitentiary that operated from the 1830s till the 1870s. The ruins at Port Arthur are the best penal colony ruins in Australia and they are World Heritage listed.

If your main interest is Port Arthur, you should keep in mind some other interesting stops nearby. You can make these Tasman Peninsula stops brief with a quick look at each spot. You can also spend a day or more hiking in addition to visiting Port Arthur, for a better appreciation of the area's rugged beauty.

You can read about Port Arthur here.

Coal Mines Historic Site

30 kilometres from Port Arthur, the Coal Mines Historic Site is another remnant of Tasmania's harsh years as a penal colony. Convicts that were too unruly for Port Arthur were sent to the coal mines - said to be even more barbaric.

Coal Mines Historic Site ruins - where those too unruly for Port Arthur were sent
Photo: Mark Bowyer Coal Mines Historic Site ruins - where those too unruly for Port Arthur were sent

Tasman National Park

Tasman National Park is right by the ruins at Port Arthur and has become a popular hiking location in recent years. The Three Capes Walk is sensational (we haven't done it yet but plenty of friends have) and it's also possible to take shorter walks or just enjoy the park from the magnificent Fortescue Bay (we have visited Fortescue Bay and its immediate surrounds).

Fortescue Bay, Tasman National Park
Photo: Mark Bowyer Fortescue Bay, Tasman National Park


The Tasman Coast

As you drive towards Port Arthur, you'll come across a number of scenic and historic places worth stopping for. All are a short drive from one another and can be included in a day trip to Port Arthur. They won't take long - each stop can be less than 30 minutes unless you decide to explore further. There are bushwalking trails in this area for those wanting to spend a day or longer hiking and experiencing the best views of the rugged Tasman Peninsula coast.

Among the best-known stops are Pirates Bay Lookout, Tasman Arch, Eagle Hawk Neck and the Tesselated Pavement.

Pirates Bay Lookout: This is the lookout at the start of the Tasman Peninsula with dramatic views of the coastal cliffs and capes that create some of Tasmania's most spectacular natural scenes.

Pirates Bay Lookout - Eagle Hawke Neck
Photo: Mark Bowyer Pirates Bay Lookout - Eaglehawk Neck

Eaglehawk Neck Officer's Quarters: Eaglehawk Neck is the narrow strip of land connecting the Tasman Peninsula with Tasmania. At its most narrow it's just 30 metres wide. It provided an excellent natural means for containing escapees from Port Arthur. It didn't stop the escape attempts though. Port Arthur's prisoners took terrible risks to escape and many died trying to break free. During the years of Port Arthur's operation until the 1870s, the area was heavily patrolled by soldiers and dogs. The Officers' Quarters date from the 1830s and are open as a historical site from the Port Arthur prison period. The place was empty during my visit. It's an easy 20 - 30 minute stop.

Officers' Quarters, Eaglehawk Neck, Tasman Peninsula
Photo: Mark Bowyer Officers' Quarters, Eaglehawk Neck, Tasman Peninsula


Tessellated Pavement: This is an unusual geological formation on the Tasman Peninsula where natural erosion creates a patterned flat layer of coastal rock that looks like manmade blocks have been placed together. The pavement is a short walk from the carpark and can be visited in 30 - 45 minutes.

Tessellated Pavement, Tasman Peninsula
Photo: Mark Bowyer Tessellated Pavement, Tasman Peninsula


Tasman Arch and Devil's Kitchen: Two dramatic coastal formations a short walk from a nearby carpark.

Tasman Arch, Tasman Peninsula
Photo: Mark Bowyer Tasman Arch, Tasman Peninsula


Mark Bowyer
Mark Bowyer is the founder and publisher of Rusty Compass.
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