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Port Arthur Historic Site

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Natural Wonders

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Amazing Walks

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Unique Wildlife

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Stunning Coastline

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Amazing Locations

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6.2 Saltwater River: Bond to Free

From Bond to Free – Convict Stones and Settler Society

For fifty years from 1830, the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulas were reserved for use by the government as a place to keep convicts. The first, and always the largest, settlement, was at Port Arthur, where men who had re-offended after being transported to Tasmania were kept. However, Port Arthur had many out-stations – the coal-mines near Saltwater River, the guard station at Eaglehawk Neck, Norfolk Bay which was the railhead of the convict-powered passenger tramway, some farms and many guard posts and signal stations. These were all established in the first decade of the convict era on the Peninsula.  

In the 1840s, the most intense period of convict activity, nine ‘Probation Stations’ were established on the two peninsulas. Hundreds of substantial buildings were constructed and some, less well-made, roads. However, as transport and communications with the capital, Hobart, were by sea, jetties and wharves were prominent features of convict construction on the two peninsulas. The Probation Stations amounted to quite large convict villages - the most prominent of which were Saltwater River (where grain and later sheep were farmed on the only basaltic soils on the Peninsula), the Cascades (now Koonya – timber and agriculture) and Impression Bay (Premaydena - agriculture). These were all on the very shallow Norfolk Bay, as was the Coal Mines settlement, and they required very long jetties to accommodate even small ships. At Saltwater River the stone foundations of the jetty are still visible going out 200 metres into the bay – the actual jetty ran out 400 metres.