Tasmania is the smallest state of Australia and is an island state. We were docked in Hobart, the capital of Tasmania and Australia’s second oldest city after Sydney. It is situated on the Derwent River and at the foot of Mount Wellington, about 4,000 feet above the city (and sometimes is covered in snow.) It is also the finish point for the world renowned Sydney Hobart Yacht Race which starts in Sydney and is one of the world’s most challenging races since its inception in 1945. Tasmania is also home to the animal, the Tasmanian Devil, which I described more in detail in my Sydney entry when we went to the zoo there and saw some. And finally, Hobart is the birthplace of Errol Flynn (sometimes also referred to as the Tasmanian devil!)
We were up really early because the “sail in” was supposed to be special because of the rock formation we were going to pass by. Unfortunately, we arrived while it was still dark and so we were not able to see this basalt rock formation, called Cape Raoul. The cliffs reach as high as 1320 feet and is home to Australian fur seals. The waters around Cape Raoul are one of Australia’s best surfing spots. So, while we missed seeing this interesting spot, we did at least enjoy the “Tasi” rolls as they were called today!
Doug and I had different excursions planned today. His 1/2 day tour centered in the area of Hobart and mine was an 8 hour tour that took us 1 1/2 hours outside of the city. Since my tour started at 7:30 a.m., we barely made it back in time for our 3:30 “all aboard” time. Doug will write about his day and I’ll write about mine.
My trip was to Port Arthur, a World Heritage Site, with great significance about how this country was settled. Originally the Pydairrerme people were the owners of this land. But in 1833 Port Arthur was used as a penal station for repeat offenders from all the Australian colonies. But it was more than just a penal colony. It was also a complete community to military personnel and free settlers as well as the convicts. This site now contains more than 39 historic buildings, extensive ruins and beautiful grounds and gardens. More about this as we come to it.
On the way to Port Arthur, we made a few scenic stops. We first crossed the Tasman Bridge to go to the Tasman Peninsula. We went through some pretty countryside and a few small towns, one of which was recently in the news – Dunalley. It was here that there were huge fires destroying many buildings, crops, and animals in and around this town. It was on national news and our bus driver was in the middle of it doing a tour with other cruise passengers at the time. He described how he got the passengers back to their ship and how the people in the area all pulled together to help each other. We passed by lots of burned trees and destroyed areas. We also passed through some rolling country-side with cattle and sheep. Here I saw my first black sheep. The contrast was striking between the beauty and what was destroyed by the fires.
We stopped at the Tasman National Park outlook which was so beautiful. The rock formation at the back of this picture in the far distance is also the back of the rock formation we were to see early this morning! This is Pirate’s Bay and Eaglehawk Neck is the narrow opening which was an escape path for the convicts. It was heavily guarded by dogs to try to prevent escapes. There was one famous convict who did escape by the name of Martin Cash. He actually escaped three times and later became a model citizen. There is a book about him that I think would make an interesting read!
We drove through the very small town of Doo where many people had signs on their houses containing the word Doo. For example, “Much A Doo.” We also passed Tasman Arch, where the water had taken away part of the rock structure to form an arch, plus the Devil’s Kitchen – another rock formation where big swirling water came into a cove. We weren’t able to get out of our bus to see these or take pictures, so the only ones I have are from the bus and not that great!
Along the way on the drive we learned a few interesting facts about Tasmania from both our guide and bus driver. Tasmania is about the size of W. Virginia. Opium poppies grow here and are used for pharmaceutical use only and are closely regulated. It is an island of great diversity with the west coast getting about 11” of rain per year while the east coast gets about 25.” Wasabi grows well here. The cattle are beef cattle, not dairy. Grapes are grown here for wine making and are very good, as are the olives they grow here as well. It is at the same latitude as France, so they can grow similar plants such as the grapes and olives. And, we heard about the demise of the Tasmanian devils because of the spreading cancer which is affecting their faces making it difficult for them to eat and thus they are starving.
We finally arrived at our major destination, Port Arthur. It covers 242 acres around the beautiful Mason Cove. We had a guided tour where we learned about the history of this site and then had free time to explore the buildings and the ruins. This was the first image we had of this place. The Penitentiary is in the fore ground.
We could also take a short harbor cruise to see site from a different perspective and to see Point Puer Boy’s Prison where the juvenile boys were separated from the adult convicts. Most of the boys were between the ages of 14 and 17, with one 9 year old. This prison was known for its stern discipline and severe punishment, but the boys did receive an education, some with trade training. The other site in the harbor was the “isle of the dead” where about 1100 people were buried – both convicts and the officers and their families.
Because the area was so large, and we had such limited time, I opted to just explore the ruins and buildings. The two most impressive sites were the Penitentiary and the Separate Prison. The penitentiary housed the majority of the convicts. The two lower floors had 136 cells for the “prisoners of bad character” while the top floor provided space for 480 better behaved convicts to sleep in bunks in a dormitory environment. The cells were considered to be the smallest in all of Australia. The men were in iron chains when they were in their cells – after a long day of working.
The Separate Prison was designed to deliver a new method of punishment – reforming convicts through isolation and contemplation. They were locked in their cells for 23 hours a day where they ate, slept and worked, with one hour a day for exercise (alone) in a high-walled yard. This is what their cell would have looked like and their exercise yard. The key was isolation. They were required to go to church on Sundays, but even then, they were led there with hoods over their heads and put in individual pew seats with high walls so they could not see anyone on either side of them. For severe punishment, the convict was put in a punishment room – a small room with only four doors and total darkness for 30 days – and given only bread and water.
The other important building was the church because the role of religion was so important in convict reform. Up to 1100 people attended compulsory services here each Sunday – both the convicts and the officers and their families. It was a beautiful stone building with much of the decorative stonework crafted by the juvenile boys.
The Commandant’s home showed the stark contrast between the life of the convict and the other officers living here. It was a beautifully furnished home surrounded by lovely gardens and overlooked the cove. It was also positioned between the penitentiary and the cove as a warning to the convicts that escape would be difficult. It also showed these men what a life of good behavior could be like.
When Port Arthur opened as a penal colony in 1833 it became an industrial settlement where a range of goods and materials were produced by the convicts – everything from worked stone and bricks to furniture and clothing, boats and ships. It was a productive place until the end of “convict transportation” to Van Diemen’s Land (as Tasmania was called then) in 1853. It then became an institution for the aging and physically and mentally ill convicts. They were a cost to the government then and as a result the penal settlement closed in 1877.
There is one added tragedy to this site. On April 28, 1996 a man was having his coffee in the café on the grounds when he unexpectedly stood up and began a shooting rampage killing 35 people and wounding 19 others. No one knows why he committed this massacre. There is a memorial garden on the grounds to honor those who were killed.
After our time at Port Arthur we were tired from all the walking and the 90 degree heat, so we were ready for some rest, food and drink. We stopped at the Fox and Hounds Inn for lunch. It was a delightful hour or relaxation and talking with fellow passengers.
We then made our way back to the ship by a slightly different route that took us through the charming little village of Richmond. We stopped here for about 20 minutes for some souvenir shopping, etc. I even found the Australian Lamington pastry I’ve been looking for in their local bakery. Richmond is also the home to the oldest Catholic church – St John’s Catholic Church built in 1836, and the oldest bridge built in 1823.
Doug joined three other Cruise Critic passengers for a City Tour of Hobart which turned out to be a Gray Line bus tour of the city. Before the official tour began, Doug walked around the downtown area and went into St. Davids Cathedral – a beautiful Anglican church. Also during his walk, he saw this high rise office building whose top had a wind turbine. Most of the wind turbines we’ve seen have used a propeller to turn the generator. This one rotated like a carousel because the building owners wanted to be energy efficient, but not with a propeller on their roof.
Once on the bus, one of the notable stops included the World Heritage Female Factory Penal Colony. It was called a “female factory” because female convicts were required to produce goods there. These women were forced to live in deplorable conditions – notably worse than their male convict counterparts. What is left today are a few of the stone walls – similar to the ones I saw in Port Arthur.
The bus then drove to the top of a hill where the Botanical Gardens were for an overview of the city. This is a pretty view with the Tasman Bridge from a different perspective than what we saw when we sailed in.
Next was the beautiful city Botanical Gardens, called the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. In the Japanese Garden section was this elaborate wooden fountain. It was most unusual, especially being made from old, weathered wood.
Doug’s impression of Hobart was that it was a clean, walkable, and livable community with great seafood and interesting boutique shopping, especially in the Salamanca district of town. Here he enjoyed fantastic chicken kabobs at a local pub. It is also a city of old and new with beautiful green areas in and around the downtown area.
Back on the ship for the “sail away” – hoping to see the cliffs we missed this morning. However, we went out a different way and so missed them again!
We had dinner with our tablemates and it was a lively discussion since we had all done different things today. But it had been a long day (at least for me with the early morning “sail-in”) and it was hard to stay awake – even at dinner! So, skipped the show and I was in bed and asleep before 9 p.m.!