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On a Port Arthur cruise, you’ll find it hard to believe this sprawling complex was once the site of Australia’s most infamous penal colony. The immaculately preserved ruins are a sight to behold, and their strategic yet scenic location on a stunning peninsula only enhances the allure of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
The original Port Arthur site has enough history and landmarks, such as a 19th-century church and penitentiary, to keep you entertained throughout your day in port. However, for outdoor enthusiasts, there are natural treasures to discover on Port Arthur’s outskirts, including marine caves, spectacular bays, and rocky cliffs. Discover the fascinating history of Port Arthur on a luxury cruise to Australia with Celebrity Cruises.
Step inside one of the most infamous prisons in the world at the Port Arthur Historic Site, an impressively preserved prisoners complex situated by a beautiful bay. Learn about the site’s heavy history and infamous residents during a tour around the grounds, where you’ll stop by eerie locations like the Separate Prison, where inmates were sentenced to spend over 23 hours in isolation, and Point Puer, the first boy’s prison of the British empire.
The Remarkable Caves, a stunning rock bridge carved out of a sandstone cliff that opens out into the ocean, has more than earned its name. Marvel at this natural phenomenon by stepping down onto a convenient viewing platform, where you can watch the waves crash inside the tunnel. If you’re visiting during low tide, take a special stroll inside the caves until you reach the end of the two outlets that look out onto the ocean.
Gaze at the emerald-green waters of Crescent Bay, a scenic beach surrounded by tall sand dunes and lush wilderness. For an unforgettable view of this idyllic natural harbor, hike up Mt. Brown. After reaching the summit, you’ll be rewarded with a breathtaking backdrop perfect for a family vacation photo to remember your Port Arthur cruise.
Explore the final resting place of the more than 1,000 convicts that perished at the Port Arthur penal colony during a tour around its small cemetery, known as the Isle of the Dead. During a guided tour, you’ll learn some of the personal stories behind Port Arthur’s most notorious convicts, as well as the soldiers, officers, and family members that also called the prison home.
No trip to Tasmania is complete without a Tasmanian devil sighting. At a nearby sanctuary, you’ll be able to meet this small, endemic marsupial and learn all about the many initiatives that are underway to help protect and preserve this endangered species from extinction.
There aren’t many dining options within Port Arthur, aside from the restaurant and cafe available inside the Port Arthur Historic Site. At the cafe, expect to see standard items like sandwiches and salads on the menu, while at the restaurant, you’ll be able to order local specialties including Tasmanian craft beers, oysters, and lasagna made with cygnet mushrooms. If you venture further outside, you’ll find small restaurants serving other Tasmanian favorites such as venison pie and brewed cider.
Established in 1830 by Governor George Arthur, Port Arthur was a penal settlement where repeat criminal offenders from the British Empire were sent to serve their sentence. The site was originally used as a timber station, where inmates were taught to cut timber and build ships, so they could acquire a skill they could eventually use once they were released. In 1853, new convicts ceased to arrive at the prison, but even so, Port Arthur continued to operate until 1877. It is estimated that around 14,000 convicts were housed inside the walls of Port Arthur. Today, Port Arthur is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tasmania.
The Port Arthur cruise port is a tender port, so you’ll board a smaller tender boat that will take you to the shore when you arrive. From there, you’ll be within walking distance of the Port Arthur Historic Site.
The main highlight of Port Arthur is the historic site, which is easily reached by foot from the shore. Aside from that, there aren’t many other transportation options in Port Arthur. If you want to embark on an excursion outside of the historic site, your best bet is to do so via a private bus shuttle, car, or taxi. There is a public bus line that offers once-daily trips to Hobart, which is about an hour and a half away.
When visiting on a cruise to Port Arthur, shopping is limited. Aside from the gift store, you’ll find a few local shops specializing in specific treats like chocolate and lavender.
The local currency in Port Arthur is the Australian dollar. Major credit cards are accepted in most places, but it’s always a good idea to carry around some cash, which you can find at any ATM. Tipping is not common, but if you enjoyed great service, feel free to leave a little something extra.