Port Arthur Visitor Centre Upgrade

December 15, 2017

Formally opening Monday 18 December 2017

The multi award-winning Port Arthur Historic Site will be formally opening its newly developed Visitor Centre on Monday 18 December.

The new centre features a new restaurant – 1830, where diners can enjoy fresh local produce with views out over the World Heritage site.  The popular café has been expanded to include different styles of service with additional outdoor dining space.  There is a dedicated space for walkers embarking on the Three Capes Track to prepare for their adventure.  Even more exciting is the introduction of 52 new character cards in a state-of-the-art interactive gallery inviting you to delve deeper into the who, what and when of Port Arthur’s fascinating and layered history.

New Operations from 18 December:

  • Access to the Historic Site will be via the Visitor Centre main entrance.
  • Guided Tours will once again depart from the lower level of the Visitor Centre.
  • Ghost Tours will resume to their normal operations starting from the Visitor Centre.
  • Café will be open from 9am-8.30pm
  • Three Capes Track walkers will have a dedicated check in counter and luggage storage area in the lower level of the Visitor Centre
  • The NEW Port Arthur Gallery will be open for all visitors to explore the history and stories of Port Arthur

We will keep you updated in the coming weeks as 1830 opens with a new menu.

The entire team at Port Arthur Historic Site invites you to experience this exciting new development.  We would like to thank you again for your patience throughout this year’s construction works and we look forward to welcoming you again soon.

Click here for a sneak preview: http://bit.ly/2nW6eWS


Coach arrivals from Monday December 18 will be on Level 0, with access via a boom gate. Access codes will be granted to coach companies in due course as you visit the site. Click here for a map.

One of our friendly staff will meet arriving coaches at the drop off area to assist with managing passengers, if necessary.

All coaches are reminded to park long enough to collect tickets from inside our new building and issue them to the passengers before moving vehicles to the coach parking areas. Ideally the passengers can be dropped off and our attendant will stay with the group while the driver relocates the vehicle.

October 2017

The expanded Visitor Centre will provide an enhanced visitor experience including a larger café with extensive outdoor dining, a new separate restaurant with views over the Historic Site, and a new gift shop showcasing specialty products from around the Tasman region. There will be a brand new gallery and exhibition space within the Visitor Centre that will capture the imagination and share never-before seen artifacts from our collections with engaging displays such as:

  • the story of forced migration and Port Arthur’s link to other Australian Convict Sites;
  • a space to discover your own convict connections;
  • archaeological artefacts sure to intrigue young and old;
  • playful use of the traditional Nine Men’s Morris game; and
  • an introduction to the people of Port Arthur both past and present.

A new set of the ever popular ‘Lottery of Life’ deck of cards will also be introduced so that on arrival, every visitors will receive a card to follow the stories of the convicts, soldiers, maids and servants, dignitaries and even actors who have come and gone.

…meet James Lynch who arrived at Port Arthur’s Point Puer Boys’ Prison in 1844.  James was just nine years of age when he was transported for stealing three boxes of toys.  As an adult, between court appearances in Hobart for drunkenness, James occupied himself making and selling pegs, earning him the nickname “Jimmy the peg-man”.

PASHMA Deck of Cards ARTWORK22 PASHMA Deck of Cards ARTWORK54

Current changes to Visitor Arrivals and Tours

From 1 June 2017, the project moved into Stage 2 and the most critical part of the much-anticipated redevelopment of the Port Arthur Historic Site Visitor Centre.

What this means :

  • The Visitor Centre and Felons Restaurant closed. All access to the Historic Site is through a temporary ticketing concourse.
  • Ghost Tours still run every night departing from the Asylum building rather than the Visitor Centre. On arrival guests will be escorted from the ticketing concourse to the Asylum for refreshments or dinner before their ghost tour. We would therefore like to recommend that our guests plan to arrive 30 minutes prior to their tour departure time.
  • After Dark Packages are no longer available.

Importantly the guided tours, access to historic buildings, harbour cruises, Three Capes Track services and the availability of food and beverages in the Museum Café, Asylum Building and other places on Site will all continue unaffected. 

Visitors to the Historic Site over the last few months would have noticed the construction activity and some changes to the operations including adjustments to the car park and group arrivals, clearing of vegetation and the relocation of the Gift Shop and Lottery of Life to other locations on the historic site.

Maintaining a World Heritage experience for our visitors is paramount and our team has gone to extraordinary efforts to ensure that all our guests during this period continue to enjoy the same world-class interpretation of the Australian convict experience.

The newly redeveloped Visitor Centre, opening in December this year, will have a new restaurant, increased dining and retail space as well as a large scale exhibition designed to engage visitors with the many stories of Port Arthur.

The team at Port Arthur are all very excited about this important upgrade to our visitor experience and look forward to sharing the new improved facilities in December 2017!

Earlier this year

In January we began the much anticipated upgrade to our Visitor Centre at Port Arthur Historic Site and you will now notice a few changes when you next visit.  These changes are temporary during the redevelopment and would like to assure you that our Port Arthur team will continue to deliver a memorable experience.

The redevelopment project has been triggered by our need to expand operations and facilities to meet the needs of growing visitor numbers. The newly-designed extension and refurbishment will enhance our visitor experience and improve working space for our teams.

So that you are able to make the most of your visit, we would like to highlight a few of the initial changes:

  • For safety and to allow important works to commence, vehicle access to the front of the Visitor Centre (Level 0) has been closed.  We have relocated the coach and bus drop off and pick up points to the area at the top of the stairs at Level 1 and after delivering your guests, small bus and coach parking will be available in the Overflow Parking Area;
  • disabled parking and drop off (vehicles only) is available from Level 0 in front of the Visitor Centre;
  • visitors will be able to collect their tickets from temporary booths at the entrance to the site;
  • the Gift Shop has moved to two new locations on site – the Policeman’s Residence and the Asylum; and
  • the most popular parts of our Interpretation Gallery, the Lottery of Life and Convict Research Centre have moved to Farm Overseer’s Cottage (behind the Separate Prison).

Click here for a map for all coach and small bus arrivals to the Visitor Centre and Historic Site for your reference.

While there are some changes happening during construction, our team of guides and visitor services staff will continue to deliver a world class experience.  We would like to reassure you that the following services will remain unchanged during this period:

  • All visitors will continue to enjoy introductory tours and the harbour cruises, with tours departing from outside the Visitor Centre in the Government Gardens;
  • Ghost Tours will continue with departure from the Asylum building from 1 June;
  • Electric mobility carts are still available and will depart from the Visitor Centre;
  • Ticketing, TVIN and Three Capes will continue to operate from temporary ticketing booths at the entrance of the site;
  • the Tasmanian Government Free Wi-Fi is still available from the Museum Cafe and Asylum building; and
  • dining options post 31 May will include the Museum Cafe and the Visiting Magistrates House during the day. Light meals and refreshments will be served at the Museum Cafe of a evening for guests.


The Visitor Centre building currently houses various tourism operation functions ranging from ticketing and retail to food and refreshment for the more than 300,000 tourists who visit annually.

There has been little change to the tourism building facilities at the Port Arthur Historic Site since the Visitor Centre opened in 1998.  In the 17 year period since development of the facility, with the exception of Global Financial Crises (2009-2012) and their impact on both domestic and international travel, visitation to the site has grown exponentially.

Visitor Numbers

Port Arthur Visitor Numbers between 1998-2016

While the current Visitor Centre has served us admirably, the building building no-longer meets its key functions as the site’s entry and exit point, retail facility and food service outlet.

A period of broad consultation has highlighted the following:

  • the Visitor Centre plays a critical role in management of visitors and commercial operations;
  • there is significant dysfunction, congestion, and confusion for visitors at the site entry point due to the building’s capacity limit;
  • staff requirements have outgrown the capacity of the building;
  • that redevelopment will be responsive and sensitive to the site’s conservation principles while addressing the needs of the Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority’s (PAHSMA) tourism objectives.

The Project

Visitor Centre design

3D rendering of the proposed Visitor Centre extension.

In 2015 Grant funding was received from the Australian Government to support a master-planning exercise. This engagement was awarded to HPA Projects and Hobart-based architects Rosevear Stephenson.  In April 2016 the PAHSMA Board adopted a preferred design for a redevelopment of the existing Visitor Centre. The design, intended to address a lifecycle of 15-20 years (based on current visitation statistics) sees an extension of the existing facility together with large scale remodelling of the interior and exterior of the existing facility.

Visitor Centre design

3D rendering of the proposed Visitor Centre extension.

In order to do this large scale redevelopment within a World Heritage-listed site, considerable modelling as well as a detailed Heritage Impact Assessment (carried out by Mackay Strategic) have been carried out to address all of the local and national heritage legislation.

Construction is anticipated to be completed in December 2017. The project is to be programmed to constrain the major period of disruption to the winter months. The historic site will remain open throughout the duration of the construction period, with disrupted services being accommodated through alternate means. The project will see a new-look dining experience for both cafeteria and bistro offerings and updated interpretation and gallery space to better present the amazing stories that lie beyond the doors of the Visitor Centre building.

VC Project rear Nth

3D rendering of the proposed Visitor Centre extension.