From the historic town of Richmond to Eaglehawk Neck, where savage dogs once guarded the narrow isthmus against escaping convicts, and on to Port Arthur, this journey is steeped in convict history and also rich in natural beauty.
The past and present intermingle at Australia’s premier historic site, Port Arthur, shedding light on the lives of over 12,000 convicts who passed through this prison system between 1830 and 1877.
Take a walk on the wild side to soaring cliffs, breathtaking seascapes, spectacular rock formations, sandy beaches, dense forests, and brilliant wildflowers in this incredibly rugged and beautiful region.
Active individuals will find the region a paradise – choose from sea kayaking, world-class cave and wreck diving (swim with the graceful seahorses among the huge kelp forests) and game fishing.
DAY 1: Richmond en route to Port Arthur (half to two days)
This could take anything from half a day to two days. If you have a passion for wines and/or fascination with authentic Georgian villages, make the time to enjoy the journey.
Twenty-five kilometres of country road and 100 years from Hobart city, is the town of Richmond which once served as a key convict outpost. With its historic bridge, gaol, cemetery and churches and relaxed lifestyle, this charming intact colonial village is a pleasure to explore on foot.
Period antique and craft shops, art galleries and tearooms of the village are of the highest quality, attracting Tasmanians as well as interstate and international visitors.
DAY 2: To Port Arthur via the Arthur Highway
Bloody bushranger battles were fought at Sorell in the colony's formative years, although the violent deeds are difficult to imagine behind the busy facade of today's friendly commercial township. A walk around the town reveals interesting heritage buildings plus several antique and collectible outlets.
Dunalley Fish Market offers the freshest seafood. From the tank, choose a crayfish caught by local fishermen and enjoy it cooked on the spot or opt for local fish and chips to take away.
Take the scenic road to Eaglehawk Neck, pausing to admire the spectacular vista at the Tasman National Park Lookout overlooking the narrow neck of land, Eaglehawk Neck. The views of 'the Neck' (as the locals call it), Pirates Bay, and coastline are simply breathtaking.
At sea level, walk the Tessellated Pavement, a natural floor of volcanic rock tiles tempered by the ocean over the ages. Just a short drive from Eaglehawk Neck along Blowhole Road, you'll be awed by the power of the sea where spectacular geological rock formations carved by the wind and tempestuous seas are easily accessed - The Devils Kitchen, the Blowhole and Tasman Arch are waiting for you!
While crossing the Neck, don't miss the sculptures of the mastiff hounds representing the infamous Dog Line, which prevented convicts escaping from the narrow isthmus at Eaglehawk Neck. A small Museum, The Officers Quarters, offers free entry and interpretation of the location's convict history.
Next stop? Watch the Tasmanian devils feed in their frightfully frenzied manner and birds of prey perform amazing feats at the Tasmanian Devil Park at Taranna, where night-time tours are a special experience.
DAY 3: Port Arthur Historic Site – World Heritage site
Spend a day immersed in the rich heritage of the Port Arthur Historic Site, one of Australia's most significant convict sites. The admission price provides access over two days and includes the interpretation gallery and the 'Lottery of Life' activities, a harbour cruise, a guided walking tour, the convict museum and access to the many restored buildings, ruins and beautiful gardens.
Choose from a leisurely cruise option at Port Arthur – take optional tours to the Point Puer Boys Prison or the Isle of the Dead Convict Cemetery; both tell inspiring and moving stories of the prison's past.
Don't miss the lantern-lit Ghost Tour of Port Arthur at night – a remarkably authentic experience that is sure to move even the greatest sceptic!
Allow time to drive to the convict ruins at the Convict Coalmines at Saltwater River, and the other convict sites marked by the yellow arrow signifying the Convict Trail. The Coal Mines Historic Site is a powerful experience revealing the conditions of life for the unfortunate human beings who lived and toiled in this memorable setting.
DAY 4, 5 and 6: There's so much more to do...
Cruising the waterways of the Tasman Peninsula gives a whole new perspective on the natural beauty of this part of Tasmania - the spectacular coastline of an island renowned as a highlight of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.
Experience an unforgettable sea journey - available on one of the small, high-speed vessels that hug the dramatic coastal cliffs and rock formations of the open Eastern side of the peninsula - and enjoy sighting Tasmania's exuberant marine mammals – fur seals and dolphins – up close.
Take the opportunity to indulge in some serious fishing – either game-fishing (tuna, shark and marlin), deep sea and reef (striped trumpeter, morwong and coral perch) or bay fishing (flathead, squid and salmon).
Vistas of some of the most magnificent rugged coastal scenery in Australia reward those who choose to walk in the Tasman National Park and walks of varying length are available. The glorious short walk from the Devils Kitchen to Waterfall Bay (1.5 – 2 hours return) gives a view of some of the area's most impressive coastline. Be exhilarated by this walk along the cliff-tops, with views of the cliffs plummeting straight into the sea!
Walks to Cape Hauy (4-5 hours return), Cape Raoul (5 hours return) and Mt Brown and Crescent Bay – (4-6 hours return) are some of the most popular and offer some of the most majestic coastal walking to be found anywhere in Australia.