Port Arthur Historic Site

Traversing Port Arthur Historic Site
The Penitentiary
The Penitentiary © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Nestled in a bay, between wild capes and raging seas, is a very significant part of Tasmania: Port Arthur Historic Site. The area is home to cultural sites of the Pydairrerme people and is surrounded by the beautiful scenery of the Tasman Peninsula. Originally, it was a penal station that played a vital role in the colony. More recently, it was the site of a heart-breaking event that lead to nationwide gun law reforms. Now World Heritage Listed, Port Arthur Historic Site is remarkable.

Port Arthur Historic Site
Port Arthur Historic Site © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The site is extremely picturesque. Ruins stand in sparse, grassed areas: a penitentiary, a hospital and a church. There are also more than thirty restored buildings, giving a glimpse of past elegance and ways of life. Each building and ruin contains information about the lives of individual convicts and workers.

Commandant's House
Commandant’s House © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

My favourite building is the Commandant’s House. The wallpaper, the multi-levelled hallway, the wood panelling… It is a very grand place! The restored buildings are opened from 9:30am, with a staff member on hand to answer your questions. Our host gave us an informative and fun insight into the house. Look for the time-travelling Commandant, the trapezium-shaped door and a letter written by a very accomplished five-year-old!

Gardens
Gardens © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

I’ve never visited Port Arthur Historic Site during Spring before. I’m very glad that I did this year! The gardens are beautiful. I particularly enjoyed the Commandant’s House garden – a secluded area that gave a hint at what the original garden may have looked like. The site is vastly different from my childhood visits – significant and tasteful landscaping has taken place, adding to the beauty of the site.

The Separate Prison
The Separate Prison © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The beauty of exploring Port Arthur Historic Site is that you can walk through the buildings and see what life was like for the convicts, soldiers, Commandants and other staff for yourself. It’s like being a child again, exploring imagined forts and dungeons… except that these buildings are real. There is a poignancy to walking through each building, to pulling closed the door to your church stall and to standing in the darkness of the solitary cell.

Getting There

View of the Penitentiary
View of the Penitentiary © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Port Arthur is about 1 hour and 45 minutes’ drive east from Hobart. Take your time travelling as there are many beautiful spots to stop at on the way, including Eaglehawk Neck and Tasmans Arch. There is ample parking at the site. Be aware that renovations are taking place; the visitor’s centre will look spectacular when these are completed though. You could easily spend an entire day at Port Arthur. The site is dotted with places to eat, shop and research, including small museums and cafes. The gift shop even sells last-minute supplies for those beginning their Three Capes Track experience. There are short walks to do in the area too.

Cost

Port Arthur Historic Site
Port Arthur Historic Site © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Tickets to the Port Arthur Historic Site cost $39 per adult, $32 per concession and $17 per child. There are optional extras to purchase too, such as a tour of the nearby Point Puer Boy’s Prison. Family tickets are available. Included in your ticket are a complementary 40-minute guided tour and a 20-minute harbour cruise. If you’re running short of time, or If you’ve visited Port Arthur Historic Site before, skip the tour but do the cruise! If you’re heading off to the Three Capes Track, entry to the site is complimentary for two years.

Staying on the Tasman Peninsula for a while? Read about my recent experience on the Three Capes Track or visiting the sea caves at Eaglehawk Neck. Alternatively, read about my adventures in Tasmania’s south.

Cataract Gorge Cruises

Traversing Cataract Gorge Cruises
Cataract Gorge Cruises
Cataract Gorge Cruises © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

After visiting Cataract Gorge last week and seeing the Lady Launceston cruising between the towering rock formations, I knew what I wanted to do this week! Fifty-minute Cataract Gorge Cruises depart Home Point several times each day and I highly recommend doing a cruise if you haven’t already. You’ll visit a small portion of kanamaluka (Tamar River), North Esk River and mangana lienta (South Esk River).

Seaport
Seaport © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Your first sight is the picturesque Seaport. Did you know that the marina at Seaport was built for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 and was originally located in Rushcutter’s Bay before retiring to Launceston? I didn’t! The yachts make for some great photos; our captain was also full of information about the surrounding buildings.

Silo Hotel under construction
Silo Hotel under construction © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As a local, I was thrilled to be able to see up close the new hotel being built inside the old grain silos. This imposing structure has been part of Launceston’s cityscape from 1960 and stands at 35 metres high. Hobart refurbished their grain silos some 15 year ago and I have been hanging out for someone in Launceston to do the same. Our captain says that the hotel will be ready for visitors in 18 months. Start saving for a trip to Launceston!

Ponrabbel II, Kings Wharf
Ponrabbel II, Kings Wharf © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Near the silos, Kings Wharf is an intriguing place. What at first appears to be a depository of utterly unloved ships and vehicles is in fact rich in history. The rusted shell of the Ponrabbel II, which dredged the Tamar River for about 40 years, is berthed here. The shiplift has had some rather famous boats built or repaired on it, including some of Victoria’s ferries.

Royal Park
Royal Park © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

After Kings Wharf, it’s time for the best part of your Cataract Gorge Cruises journey: sailing through The Gorge! On your way, you’ll have stunning views of Trevallyn’s stately Georgian and Victorian homes. You’ll also sail past local vessels as well as local landmarks: Royal Park, Ritchie’s Mill and the Penny Royal Complex with its distinctive blue stone quarry. Finally, you’ll sail underneath the West Tamar Highway and Kings Bridge. From here, you see the two bridges that form Kings Bridge more distinctly, as well as catching glimpses of the gatekeeper’s cottage (now leased to artists and musicians).

Abseiler
Abseiler © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Sailing up the South Esk River was stunning. Above us, the rock formations towered. An abseiler descended one of the many registered routes. Metal spikes projected from the rock, showing the path of the wooden aqueduct that used to carry Launceston’s water supply. Beside us, lines of foam ringed the rocks, signalling a recent rush of water. The Gorge floods regularly; the 2016 floods in Northern Tasmania were particularly momentous. You’ll also learn about the history of The Gorge, including the one penny fare that visitors paid to the family who gentrified the area (so that they could recoup some of the cost). The area is also very significant for Tasmanian Aborigines as a source of food, culture and spirituality.

Foam
Foam © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Getting There

Kyeema
Kyeema © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Cataract Gorge Cruises depart from Home Point, which is at the western end of Launceston’s Seaport. Paid parking is available at the Seaport or at Royal Park. Alternatively, walk approximately 15-minutes from the CBD. In winter, cruises depart at 11:30am, 12:30pm and 1:30pm. In the other three seasons, cruises operate on the hour from 9:30am, with the last cruise departing at 4:30pm.

Cost

Cataract Gorge and Kings Bridge
Cataract Gorge and Kings Bridge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At $29 per adult, this cruise was a good deal! You’ll pay $12 per child, $25 per concession and $70 per family. In summer, I recommend booking in advance with Cataract Gorge Cruises if you have a preferred departure time. The rivers are generally very calm (except when in flood, in which case you won’t be out there!) but you are exposed to the elements. Wear warm clothes and make sure that you have sun protection (sunscreen and hats are available for purchase from the booking office). I enjoyed learning a little bit more about Launceston’s history and seeing a different view of Launceston’s riverside sights.

Staying in Launceston for a while? Read about my visit to the Cataract Gorge Reserve (on foot) and my journeys in Tasmania’s nearby north and midlands.

Corinna

Traversing Corinna
Corinna
Corinna © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Who wouldn’t want to stay the night in a ghost town? How about one on the edge of the takayna/Tarkine? What if you could then spend the day traversing ancient rivers, forests and mountains and the evening snuggled up next to a gas heater in a pioneer-style hut? Welcome to Corinna, an ex-mining town on the north bank of the Pieman River on Tasmania’s wild West Coast.

Tarkine Hotel
Tarkine Hotel © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Corinna is the Tasmanian Aboriginal name for the Pieman River. The town was established during the gold rush of the late 1800s. Here, 2500 people lived and a 7.5kg gold nugget was discovered. This is still the largest gold nugget found in Tasmania. The town had a substantial two-storey pub, which was later dismantled and moved to the south side of the river before being moved to Zeehan and, unfortunately, burnt down. The area was also logged and the wood taken back to England for use as banisters, masts, and so on. Prior to this, the Tarkiner people (hence the name Tarkine) lived here. There are still giant middens on the coast: remnants of their lives and sacred sites.

Pademelon
Pademelon © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

All of the huts at Corinna (some original and some recently constructed) bear the name of a person associated with the town’s history. We stayed in Louise Lovely, named after the lady who produced and starred in the film Jewelled Nights shot partially on Tasmania’s West Coast. The town now has no permanent residents, except for a Tasmanian Devil (in the car park) and a large number of friendly pademelons.

Short Walks
Short Walks © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There are plenty of things to do at Corinna. You could easily spend three full days here. I recommend planning your trip around a cruise on the Arcadia II (a longer cruise to the Pieman Heads, which you can read about here) and the Sweetwater (an hour-long cruise to the wreck of the Croydon and to Lovers Falls, which you can read about here). You could do this during a day if you can manage to book a spot on both cruises. Your other two days could be spent walking, or even kayaking. It is possible to walk from Corinna to the summit of Mount Donaldson (yes, we did that too!) or you can take a series of shorter walks around Corinna. Kayaks are available for hire from the Tarkine Hotel.

What to Bring

Kayaks at the Savage River
Kayaks at the Savage River © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is untreated rainwater available at Corinna. You will also find complimentary bottled water in your fridge. I wish that I had brought my 20L drum of water with me though as the rain water tastes quite thick (that’s my best description!), even after you’ve boiled it for the required three minutes to treat it. I also wish that I had brought some insect repellent and eucalyptus spray (my preferred insect spray) as we were kept awake by mosquitoes on the second night. Even writing this is making me feel itchy!!

Replica Huts
Replica Huts © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You should also bring food. The Tarkine Hotel serves lunch and dinner (not in winter) but you do pay middle-of-nowhere prices. They can cater for dietary requirements if you book in advance. There are a few (mainly tinned) food supplies available at the “General Store” part of the Tarkine Hotel. However, you will need to provide breakfast and snacks for yourself. I’d also recommend bringing some food for bushwalking. We cooked a meal – a pasta dish – on the four-burner cook-top in our hut and enjoyed staying in to a homely meal. There are ample pans and utensils provided.

Last of all, bring warmth and a good book. You’ll have no mobile reception, so snuggle up in your slippers and travel rug and read. There are some coffee-table books on the takayna/Tarkine and Tasmania supplied. When you’re outdoors, having good shoes, waterproof clothing and appropriate layers is a must. Remember sun protection in summer and don’t forget your camera. The wilderness is breathtaking!

Getting There

Fatman Barge
Fatman Barge © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You can reach Corinna from several directions. Drive south from the North-West tip of Tasmania, following the unsealed Western Explorer. Alternatively, travel north from Zeehan, crossing the Pieman River via the Fatman Barge ($25 per voyage). This is an excellent way to travel as the barge is cable-driven, the only one of its kind in Tasmanian. Take note of operating hours though: 9am – 5pm during non-daylight savings hours, with hours extended to 7pm during summer.  Lastly, you could drive south from Burnie, via Waratah. This is a sealed road until you reach Savage River. From here, it’s 21kms of unsealed roads until you reach Corinna. Make sure that you fill up with petrol before you make the journey as there is no fuel available in Corinna.

Cost

Accommodation
Accommodation © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Accommodation in one of the recently constructed pioneer-style huts costs $220 per couple per night night. There are bigger huts available and also cheaper options: groups can stay in the original pub and couples can stay in the original Roadman’s Cottage. If you’re really pinching pennies (and it’s not too cold or wet), you can even camp at Corinna. Whatever option you choose, make sure that you book in advance. I happily paid for the luxury of having all the mod cons (an ensuite, lighting, a four-burner gas cook top and a lovely log-style gas heater) in the middle of nowhere. Corinna runs on solar power and a satellite phone link so enjoy your time in blissful isolation!

You can read more about my time in Corinna here. You can also read about my adventures on Tasmania’s West Coast here or North West here.

Sweetwater

Traversing Sweetwater
Stairs
Stairs © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

There is a wooden staircase on the edge of the Pieman River, accessible only via a kayak or small boat. You’ll pass it on your journey on the Arcadia II and you’ll want to climb it. Well, you can do just that if you board the Sweetwater!

Sweetwater
Sweetwater © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

From the dock at Corinna, climb aboard the blue boat with cushioned seats. Sit at the back, near the outboard motor. It’s noisier there, but you won’t have as much spray to contend with. Your guide will give you a brief history of the river (which is now much lower than it used to be… as in, many metres lower). You’ll also learn about the local flora. Our guide backed the boat up to the leatherwood so that we could see and smell the flowers closeup. Unbelievably, I didn’t know before my journey to Corinna that Huon Pine trees have male and female varieties, with distinct appearances. According to our guide, the male is ugly and the female looks like a gorgeous Christmas tree!

Wreck of the SS Croydon
Wreck of the SS Croydon © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Eventually, you’ll reach the Savage River. The Arcadia II cruise goes past this river but the extra treat of the Sweetwater is that you are in a boat that’s small enough to enter the river and glide over the wreck of the SS Croydon. We visited the site at high tide on a rainy afternoon so we couldn’t see much. However, what we could see was impressive: the twisted metal hull of a British steamer lying where it sank on 13th May 1919. The ship was supposed to take logs back to England but it never made it.

Lovers Falls
Lovers Falls © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

After viewing the wreck, you’ll travel downriver to the beautiful Lover’s Falls. This is the real highlight of the voyage: You get to walk off the back of the boat, up a set of stairs accessibly only by small watercraft, and walk on to view Lover’s Falls. The small falls that you can see from the Pieman River are nothing compared to the plunging falls that you see after a brief five minutes’ walk through the rainforest.

The walk to the falls is via duckboard covered in chicken-wire (so that you don’t slip). There are a few flights of stairs to climb but your guide is in no hurry so you can feel free to take your time. On the way, admire the large man-ferns and the towering myrtle. Once you’re at the top viewing platform, you’ll see the spectacular falls. Take note of the caves behind you.

What to bring

Cave
Cave © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll need warm clothes, sensible shoes, a spray jacket (for if you have no choice but to sit at the front of the boat) and your camera. It’s a short journey, so even if you get a bit wet or cold, it won’t be long until you’re back in the warmth of your hut or the Tarkine Hotel.

Getting There

Rainforest
Rainforest © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Sweetwater cruises need to be booked in advance as they don’t occur every day. This is particularly true in winter. Once you’ve booked your cruise, follow my instructions for getting to Corinna from my post here. When you reach Corinna, head down to the docks (straight ahead, near the Tarkine Hotel) and hop onto the blue boat when prompted to by your friendly guide.

Cost

Myrtle
Myrtle © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

To book tickets, contact Corinna Wilderness Experience. There are only nine places available on the cruise so you’ll need to get in early during the peak tourist season. A cruise on the Sweetwater costs $30 per person. For such a unique experience in such a remote place, it is worth every dollar.

You can read more about my time in Corinna here. You can also read about my adventures on Tasmania’s West Coast here or North West here.

The Julie Burgess

Traversing Julie Burgess
Julie Burgess
Julie Burgess © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

We have been watching the series Hornblower over the past few weeks. Today, we had the honour of stepping back in time aboard the Julie Burgess. The Julie Burgess is a beautifully and expertly restored fishing ketch who sails a short way out into Bass Strait, departing from East Devonport.

Sails
Sails © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Today was a sunny, calm day with just enough wind for us to sail out into Bass Strait. The Ancient Mariner (in that hat again!) joined us. Once we had motored out of the Mersey River, the crew raised all seven sails and showed us what the Julie Burgess can do without man power. She is a stately and solid lady. I didn’t feel sea-sick at all as she hardly moves in the water!

Lighthouse and Bluff
Lighthouse and Bluff © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The crew are all volunteers and are a very friendly bunch. They take you through a snap-shot of the boat’s history at the start of your journey. Later into our journey, we were given the opportunity to look at a book of photographs of the restoration process. Take the time to have a chat with the crew and you’ll find out some of the boat’s secrets, as well as a little bit about why they have chosen to give up their time to take you out into Bass Strait aboard a historic ketch.

Bass Strait
Bass Strait © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The scenery is a highlight. Tasmania is a magnificent island and you’ll get to see a few of her beautiful features. Your journey takes you out into Bass Strait and then back again. You’ll sail past the Bluff with its iconic lighthouse. The foreshore of Devonport as you sail out is very pretty. When you’re out at sea, you can look east towards Port Sorrell, west towards Ulverstone or directly behind you towards Devonport and the distinctive face of Mount Roland. Alternatively, you can kick back and look out at the horizon.

Devonport Foreshore
Devonport Foreshore © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

We didn’t see any wildlife on our journey but the crew report seeing whales, dolphins and even a seal every now and then. We saw a gull once we docked back in East Devonport. It didn’t worry me at all that we hadn’t seen any wildlife as I was content to take in the warmth of the sun and the beauty of the scenery and the Julie Burgess. The Ancient Mariner explored the engine room and even had his turn at the helm!

What to Bring

Devonport
Devonport © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

You’ll be on the water for two hours and it’s important that you make yourself comfortable. Remember that its always sunnier (due to glare) and colder out on the water. You’ll need a hat, sunscreen, layers (merino is my favourite!) and waterproof gear if the weather calls for it.

Getting There

Reg Hope Park
Reg Hope Park © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

The Julie Burgess sets sail from East Devonport. She is docked near the Reg Hope Park and you can park your car in the small carpark there. Devonport is a one-hour drive from Launceston and just over a three-hour drive from Hobart. When you reach Devonport, follow signs for the Spirit of Tasmania. Reg Hope Park is near the bridge, well before you reach the Spirit of Tasmania terminal.

Cost

Julie Burgess
Julie Burgess © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

A two-hour sail on the Julie Burgess is an absolute bargain at $40 per person. Bring some spare cash for on-board souvenirs. I also recommend visiting the Bass Strait Maritime Centre (you can read about my visit here). One of the rooms at the centre is devoted to ship restoration and you can view a short film about the restoration of the Julie Burgess. You can book your sailing through the Bass Strait Maritime Centre (pay by credit card, EFTPOS or cash) or you can pay via cash on the day from the dock in East Devonport. You can even book your own chartered voyage. The Julie Burgess sails on Wednesdays and Sundays at 10am and 1pm, subject to weather conditions, crew availability and passenger numbers. For more booking information, click here.

Step back into the past for a day on the high seas (or the calm seas!) aboard the Julie Burgess.

For more posts about places to visit on Tasmania’s North-West Coast, click here.

Bay of Fires Eco Tours

Lichen
Bay of Fires Eco Tours
Bay of Fires Eco Tours © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

On a sunny, calm day, we took to the seas in the exquisite Bay of Fires on Infurneaux. The sole ship in the Bay of Fires Eco Tours fleet, it is luxurious! The seats are very comfy, which doesn’t sound too important, but it will be once you’ve been sitting for three hours! We were provided with warm, waterproof jackets.

Bay of Fires Eco Tours
Bay of Fires Eco Tours © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

To prepare for your journey, limit your cups of tea beforehand! I had one too many and needed to use the loo on board. While I can now tick that off my bucket list, it’s probably best if you don’t need to use it at all! Another thing that you need to be aware of is that, while it might be a hot day on the sand, it’s always much colder out on the water. Wear layers (lovely Tasmanian merino is a great idea) but don’t wear a hat as it may end up overboard. If you think that your head might get cold, wear a hooded jacket or jumper. Even though the boat has a canopy, I would also recommend wearing sunscreen due to the sun, wind and spray. If you experience sea-sickness, see my Bruny Island Cruises post for tips from the Ancient Mariner (Dad).

Aboriginal Midden, Jeanneret Beach
Aboriginal Midden, Jeanneret Beach © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

Your journey through the Bay of Fires will take you up the coast, showing you a range of beaches and sites. The Aboriginal midden (bone and shell heap) at the end of Jeanneret Beach is enormous and it’s a privilege to see it from offshore. You’ll also have a few opportunities to take stellar photographs of the lichen-covered granite rocks from the sea. Our guide paused to show us various bird life, including a gorgeous sea eagle and several black-crested cormorants. We sailed very close to Sloop Rock (named so because it looks like a ship rising up out of the water). This rock plunges 18 metres down to the ocean floor and is quite a sight to behold. The best part of the tour, in my opinion, is seeing Mount William National Park. The park is quite hard to get to so it was very special to see Anson’s Bay, the Park’s pristine beaches, Bay of Fires Lodge, Eddystone Point Lighthouse and Mount William itself from the water.

 

Eddystone Point Lighthouse
Eddystone Point Lighthouse © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

At larapuna (the Aboriginal name for the area where Eddystone Point Lighthouse stands), you’ll have the opportunity for a complimentary biscuit and a fabulous photo of the Lighthouse and the Keeper’s Cottages. After this, you’ll take to the open waters in search of wildlife.

 

Shy Albatross
Shy Albatross © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

We saw three shy albatross (one of which wasn’t shy at all and posed for several pictures!) on the return journey. These birds are beautiful. We also encountered a lone seal who was a bit annoyed that we were interrupting his meal. Pufferfish, anyone? It was then a lovely boat-ride, with only a pot-hole or two, back to base.

Brown Fur Seal
Brown Fur Seal © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

 

Getting There

Titley's Shack, Binalong Bay
Titley’s Shack, Binalong Bay © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

For instructions on how to get to the Bay of Fires, read my post about the region. Once you’ve made it to St. Helens, follow signs for Binalong Bay and then drive along the coast, past Moresco Restaurant, until you reach Titley’s Shack on the left (look for Bay of Fires Eco Tours signage).

 

Cost

Sloop Rock
Sloop Rock © emily@traversingtasmania 2017

As for similar cruises in Tasmania such as Bruny Island Cruises (you can read about my experience here), adults cost $135, children (5-years-old and above) cost $85 and a family costs $380. There are two shorter afternoon cruises which cost slightly less. It would be fabulous to see the small seal colony at St. Helens Island and I am considering doing this tour in the future. I recommend doing the full Bay of Fires tour instead of The Gardens tour, if time permits. Seeing Eddystone Point Lighthouse is well worth it!

To read about my other journeys on Tasmania’s stunning east coast, click here.