Hobart, Port Arthur & the Tasman Penninsula

Gary & Carolyn’s Epic Australian Adventure (part 3)

Tasmania was Mom & Dad’s first taste of traveling Heather-style.  We had a 6:00 AM flight out of Melbourne on Thursday morning and came back in on the last flight Friday night, giving us two full days in Tassie but we only had to pay for one night in a hotel.  This did, however, mean a 3:15 AM alarm clock….

We were in our rental car by 7:30 AM and on the road to Richmond where our first stop was the Ashmore on Bridge for breakfast, very large long blacks and a flip through the visitor information we picked up at the airport.  As I read the menu at the center table of the bright but chilly dining room looking for something warm and hearty to eat, I came across Savory French Toast served with Field Mushrooms and Spinach.  I thought to myself, “Huh.  Savory french toast?  That seems weird and interesting all at the same time,” so I ordered it.  The others had the Eggs Benedict, which they really enjoyed, but I highly recommend you give the Savory French Toast a try!

After we were fed and coffeed, we headed for our first Richmond destination: the Richmond Bridge.  This bridge, along the Convict Trail, is the oldest bridge still in use in Australia, the oldest stone arch bridge in Australia, and was built using convict labor.  According to the historical marker on site, the sandstone for this bridge was hand-quarried and hand-hauled to the site of the bridge, where the jailer (or gaoler, in Australian English) was so cruel that the convicts pushed him off the bridged to his death while he slept in a drunken stupor.  None of them were convicted for his murder.

It was a beautiful, sunny and brisk autumn morning in Richmond, making for a very tranquil visit to the Richmond Bridge.  The ducks, geese and swans were happy to have us linger with them.  Did you know that Swans in Australia are natively Black Swans?  There are only approximately 80 living white Swans in all of Australia, and they all live along the Avon River in Western Australia.

As we stood along the bank of the river admiring the bridge, I looked up and saw the steeple of a church.  When I suggested to the group that we investigate, because it looked beautiful, they agreed.  Lucky for us we stumbled upon the St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, which is regarded as the oldest Catholic church in Australia, having been built in 1836.  The architect, Fredrick Thomas, was a rehabilitated transported convict that eventually became an architect.  The church and cemetery are open to the public for visitation, and I highly recommend visiting {and donating to} this spectacularly beautiful and historic site.

Since we were on a tour of Australia’s oldest, we also decided to visit the Richmond Gaol, which is the oldest intact jail in Australia.  No longer in operation, this is now a tourist site that remains largely unchanged since its closure in 1945.  As we toured, we were able to step into solitary confinement rooms, which measure 6 1/2 feet by 3 1/2 feet, where convicts could be held in complete darkness for 24 hours to 30 days eating just bread and water.  I couldn’t last 30 seconds with the door closed, which makes me think I’d have gone crazy if I had to stay in there for 24 hours or more…CREEPY!

Our goal for the day was Port Arthur, so we began our journey down the Tasman Peninsula.  Our first stop was along a scenic loop off of the main highway at Pirates Bay Drive Lookout on Eaglehawk Neck, which is “the gateway to the Tasman Peninsula.”  Here we learned about our next four scenic stops we would make on our way to Port Arthur.

The first of our 4 scenic stops was Tessellated Pavement.  {Geology nerd moment} These formations are formed when a relatively flat surface is cracked by contractions or small movements in the earth, forming fairly consistent and even rectangles in the surface.  The erosion then causes either pans or loaves, depending on how much time that portion of the rock spends under water.  The pans are concave formations formed where the rock is mostly out of water, allowing the salt crystals to develop and erosion to  occur more quickly.  Loaves, on the other hand, look more like the top of a loaf of bread, spending more time under water, thus not allowing the salt crystals to form or erosion to happen as quickly.  Either way, they’re a fascinating texture in the rock at the sea shore along the Tasman Peninsula. We all had fun admiring the little crabs, snails and fish trapped in the pools of water formed during low tide.

The Dog Line was created by Peyton Jones to prevent prisoners from escaping Port Arthur.  He placed half-starved ferocious dogs at regular intervals, including on rafts in the water, along with lamps to brightly illuminate the cockle shells, and a detachment of soldiers across the narrowest point of the peninsula.  This, along with the frigid cold water, prevented all but a few from escaping Port Arthur.

The Blowhole, formed by erosion from the sea, was pretty spectacular despite fairly calm seas on this beautiful autumn day.

From The Blowhole, we took a nice stroll out to the Fossil Bay Lookout.3WT 2016-03-17 Devils Kitchen  033

Next we moved onto the Tasman Arch and Devil’s Kitchen, which share a car park and are an easy stroll apart.  Standing at the lookout, looking down into Devil’s Kitchen could make you queasy in the knees if you have a fear of heights, because all you can do is look down into the frothing sea below.

Honestly, we could have spent the entire day enjoying the beauty of Eaglehawk Neck, but we decided to head for Port Arthur, a World Heritage listed site, that operated as a maximum security prison for repeat offenders after being sentenced to transportation in the British Penal system.  Included in our admission was a guided tour to get the lay of the land, a harbor cruise to see where the dead were buried and the location of the boys prison, and entry into all of the buildings and museums on site.

The convicts at Port Arthur were among the first to be subjected to psychological punishment in addition to physical punishment.  Depending up  the severity of their in-prison offense, they could be subjected to reduced rations, flogging, or separation.  Those sentenced to a flogging would be kept conscious for each lash issued by the cat-o-nine tails.  If the doctor deemed that they could be killed by proceeding, they would be sentenced to water duty, where they would work in shoulder deep freezing saltwater of the bay until the doctor decided they were well enough to continue with the punishment.

If they continued to repeat offend at Port Arthur, they could be sent to the Separate Prison, where they were hooded and forced to stay silent.  They were allowed no interaction with any of the guards or other prisoners, and the only time they were allowed to use their voice during the week was to sing hymns at the weekly church service.  As you tour the Separate Prison, you are asked to do so in complete silence to understand how loud and overbearing silence can be.  We were allowed inside of the chapel, and even into the separation cubbies that the prisoners attended the service from.  I can only imagine that solitary confinement would be worse than this, and those who did not behave in the Separate Prison would be sentenced to up to 30 days in solitary.  So many of the prisoners subjected to the Separate Prison developed mental illness, that a lunatic asylum had to be built at Port Arthur.

Some of the wardens at Port Arthur subscribed to the belief of reformation and rehabilitation, rather than punishment.  Prisoners were given training in a trade, such as ship building, shoe-making, metal/black smithing, timber and brick making, and flour milling.  A non-denomationational church was built for the prisoners by a warden that believed they would attend if the minister/priest/reverend/rabbi didn’t alienate them by preaching from specific sectors.  Historians say that this was a favorite time of week for many of the prisoners, so apparently this warden was right.

We also visited the memorial for the Port Arthur Massacre, which led to national gun-reform in Australia where Australians willingly and voluntarily turned over their arms.  As this is quite a sad and sensitive subject for my Australian friends, I will say no more on the subject.

Port Arthur was shut down in 1877, and for a time Tasmanians tried to forget.  When bush fires moved through in 1897, the mentality was to let it burn.  Many of the buildings were torn down in the late 1800s/early 1900s so that the stone could be used for other buildings, rather than quarrying stone.  Tourism began almost as soon as the prison closed, but it wasn’t until 1979 that this officially became a historic site.

The history and beauty of Port Arthur is so great that we walked until our feet hurt and the sun was gone before heading back to Hobart, where we stayed at the Quest Trinity House.  This was absolutely perfect for us, having two bedrooms, a full kitchen and spacious lounge.  We had dinner at Maldini Cafe Restaurant before finishing the evening with a whiskey tasting {for Ben, wine or beer for the rest of us} at Nant.  I’m not usually a whiskey girl, but Ben asked me to taste one that had been aged in a Pinot Noir barrel.  I did not enjoy the taste, but it smelled amazing!  By this point, we were exhausted!  We did get up at 3:15AM for our early morning flight to Hobart…

3WT 2016-03-17 Hobart Misc  498

Our second morning in Tasmania was a bit more relaxed than our first, allowing us to lounge around in our awesome hotel until check-out before heading up to the Cascade Brewery to take the tour.  Did you know that this is the oldest continuously operating brewery in Australia?  It was originally founded as a saw mill in 1825, and then converted into a brewery in 1831, surviving severe bush fires through the years.  In the beginning, the workers were allowed to drink beer all day long, every day, as the worked; at some point in the 1900s this was changed to allow the workers to only drink during their breaks.  Fun facts from the tour guide was that some of the workers could down ten pints on a tea break!  In 1993 Cascade Brewery was bought out by Carlton, eliminating the chance to drink on the job.  However, to keep some of the history, each employee gets a slab (for my American friends, a case) of beer with each paycheck and the bar hosts a free employee happy hour each Friday starting at 4PM.

Included with your tour, you get four 7-ounce beers, allowing us to try nearly all of their beers!  Consensus within our group was that we preferred the Cascade Draft and the Cascade Stout.  Because the Cascade Draft is not exported to the mainland of Australia, Ben and I decided to purchase a 6-pack of this, and, why not the stout too?  Mom and Dad learned that domestically within Australia, there are no limits of the liquid you can carry on when Ben and I carried these bad-boys right through security and onto the plane.

Though our first day in Tasmania was sunny and beautiful, our second day was more what you’d expect from mid-March: rainy and cold.  After our brewery tour, we stuck around for lunch and found ourselves still there for the 2PM Beer Pulling Competition.  Naturally, Dad and I both entered, and I won my round taking me into the grand finale, where sadly I spilled my beer and lost.  The Cascade Brewery is really an excellent way to spend half of your rainy day in Hobart!

After touring the brewery, we headed back into Hobart for a bit of shopping and sightseeing on foot before having dinner at Jack Greene Bar.  By this point, we were all so tired from our full-on two days in Tasmania, that we were ready to sit and glad to be heading back to Melbourne.

Tasmania is so uniquely beautiful and different from anywhere else in Australia, that it is a MUST SEE should you find yourself in Australia! {I know!  I end nearly every post about Australia with a must see comment, but this is an incredibly beautiful country!}

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