Who Were The Convicts?
After the American War of Independence Britain could no longer send her convicts to America, so after 1788 they were transported to the Australian colonies.
These men and women were convicted of crimes that seem trivial today, mostly stealing small articles or livestock, but they had been convicted at least once before and Britain’s policy was to treat such re-offenders harshly.
The convicts sent to Van Diemen’s Land were most likely to be poor young people from rural areas or from the slums of big cities. One in five was a woman. Numbers of children were also transported with their parents. Few returned home.
From 1830 until 1877, Port Arthur was the place where convicts who reoffended after arriving in the British colonies of Van Diemen’s Land (now called Tasmania) or New South Wales were imprisoned. A key element of the colonial system of convict discipline, Port Arthur was located in a remote, harsh area that offered no chance of escape, the ideal destination for repeat offenders. In its time, it was a groundbreaking attempt to deal with issues of crime and punishment that all societies continue to address today.
Port Arthur was also much more than a prison. It was a complete community—home to the military personnel and free settlers who worked here, an industrial complex producing a huge range of resources and materials and a working farm. Towards the end of its use it also housed large numbers of the chronically mentally and physically ill, known as’ paupers’ and’ lunatics’.
Major Australian Heritage Tourism Attraction
Today the Port Arthur Historic Site is one of Australia’s most visited heritage attractions and has won many awards, including being named Best Heritage Tourism Experience in Australia by Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Spread over an extensive landscape of gardens, parkland and natural bush, the Site contains more than thirty historic buildings and ruins. Some of its structures were partially destroyed in bushfires in the late nineteenth century; their remains give the place an eerie, yet dignified, ambiance.
The Port Arthur Historic Site is one of eleven places including in the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property.
Beautiful Scenery and Amazing Stories
As you walk around the Site, the powerful personal stories of convicts, soldiers, free settlers and their families will reveal themselves to you. Port Arthur's tale is told in many ways. It will stay with you long after you have departed.
Even if you are not captivated by its history, the gardens, grounds and charismatic ruins of this beautiful place, on the edge of a magnificent harbour and surrounded by bush little changed since convict days, will enchant you.
Everyone should visit
Port Arthur is a place that every visitor to Australia should visit. The Historic Site is located on the Tasman Peninsula approximately 100km south-east of Hobart, capital city of the island state of Tasmania. The Site’s spectacular scenery combines with charismatic ruins and powerful storytelling to offer a unique and memorable insight into Australia’s history and culture.
Spending a night or two in the area will allow time to experience Port Arthur’s famous Ghost Tour, enjoy a meal of fresh local produce at Felons Bistro, visit the Coal Mines Historic Site at Saltwater River, (about 25 minutes drive from Port Arthur), and explore the stunning coastal scenery of the region.
What currency and banking facilities are available?
Tickets can be purchased by cash, credit card or travellers’ cheque.
An automatic teller machine is located in the Visitor Centre. Foreign
currency can be exchanged at the Ticketing Counter.
Payment can also be made using China UnionPay at any of our sales points, including at the Ticketing Counter, in the Gift Shop and at our cafes and Bistro.