The ruins of the 19th-century penitentiary building
Tasmania will move you. The island’s wild landscape of alpine ranges, vast rainforests and white-sand coves are intertwined with a complex history, from British colonisation to war with the aboriginals and the creation of a convict outpost. Nowhere better embodies this unique dichotomy than Port Arthur. Resting on the tip of the Tasman Peninsula, the former penal settlement is surrounded by an arresting natural beauty – dark sea, lush flora, rocky cape – which makes its strange ruins all the more affecting. The massive 17th-century prison was used to house British convicts, most of whom never returned home. Those who love a good story shouldn’t miss a ghost tour and a trip to Isle of the Dead, the gravesite of over 1000 prisoners and members of the military.
A sunny autumn day in Port Arthur
After a day or two absorbing the town’s heritage, strike out on the many walking paths and lookouts. The magnificent cliffs of Cape Raoul seem to plunge over the edge of the world, and Remarkable Cave has been carved out by the thunderous Southern Ocean over millennia. The hiking trails around Fortescue Bay offer humbling views of the coastline and the chance to see native wildlife, such as wallabies, echidnas and pademelons, which are perhaps three of cutest animals on Earth.
The clear waters of the Tasmanian Coastal Bay
When to go?
December and January bring sunshine and warmer temperatures. That being said, it’s when Aussies take their summer holiday, so you can save big by taking an autumn trip instead. Try February, when it’s still warm, or April when the harvest explodes statewide – just be sure to avoid the Easter rush.
Where to stay?
Burilda Waters – Port Arthur, Tasmania
This three-bedroom holiday home looks out on Carnarvon Bay and sleeps up to five people. You’ll get sea views from the big balcony, where you can BBQ as the sun sets. Extra touches like fishing rods, beach towels, and a cosy wood fireplace make this property stand out.
Stewarts Bay Lodge – Port Arthur, Tasmania
These log cabins are located in the bush, a 5-minute walk from the beach. The homely chalets range from one to three bedrooms, with balconies offering views of the water and the forest. You can cook your own meals or try the on-site seafood restaurant.
Sea Change Safety Cove – Port Arthur, Tasmania
Every room at Sea Change has a wraparound terrace looking out over the coast. You can choose between a Queen or a self-catering apartment, which spreads out over two floors and sleeps five people. You’re steps away from Sea Change Beach, which has views of Tasman Island and Cape Pillar.