Port Arthur Historic Site, Tasmania © Tourism Tasmania & Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority
Delve into the past on the Tasman Peninsula
Evocative convict history and the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest sea cliffs create a striking backdrop for any tour of the Tasman Peninsula.
The Tasman Peninsula is a destination that combines fascinating history, rugged coastal scenery and Aboriginal heritage. It’s the ideal self-drive destination, reached with a one-hour drive from Hobart.
With so much to discover, the Tasman Peninsula is best explored over several days. Follow this three-day itinerary to see the highlights.
Day 1: Hobart to the Tasman Peninsula
Make your way out of Hobart, hopping on the Arthur Highway. After about an hour, you’ll reach Eaglehawk Neck, a narrow isthmus that marks the start of the Tasman Peninsula. Stop at Cubed Espresso Bar, a darling coffee van serving up hot drinks and nibbles.
Next, descend to the coastline to explore the striking rock formations of the Tessellated Pavement, where flat rocks next to the sea have split into unique patterns. After, get your first dose of history at the Officers’ Quarters, a museum about life on the Tasman Peninsula dating back to 1832.
Drive about five minutes to pass through quirky Doo Town, where eclectic beach shacks have equally eclectic names like “Make Doo.” As you continue down Tasman Arch Road, you’ll have the chance to stop and marvel at the carved-out cliffs of the Devils Kitchen and Tasman Arch – among many unusual geological formations found in Tasman National Park. If you’re up for it, walk the 90-minute return clifftop track to Waterfall Bay.
Here, you’ll discover the well-preserved convict history of Tasmania. Join an after-dark ghost tour (purchase your tickets in advance) to hear truly haunting tales of previous inhabitants before dining on-site at 1830 Restaurant and Bar.
Stay nearby at Port Arthur Villas or Stewarts Bay Lodge, or book a safari tent at the NRMA Port Arthur Holiday Park. For a touch of luxury, return to Eaglehawk Neck for a night at the self-contained Eaglehawk Pavilions.
Day 2: Port Arthur
Ready those sea legs and start the day with a Pennicott Wilderness Journeys Tasman Island Cruise. Gaze up at the Southern Hemisphere’s tallest sea cliffs, explore sea caves and rock archways, and spot the abundant wildlife along the coast, including albatross, sea eagles, seals and migrating whales. Back on land, enjoy lunch in the calming and fragrant surrounds of Port Arthur Lavender Farm, or if you’re keen to keep the adrenaline pumping, take to the sky with Osborne Helitours for a breathtaking birds-eye snapshot of the region.
The Port Arthur Historic Site has so much to see and do, it’s worth another afternoon. Explore the site in more depth, searching the official records for lsurnames you may recognise, or head out on the water for the Isle of the Dead Cemetery Tour, where you’ll find the final resting place for more than 1,000 convicts, officers, women and children.
If there’s still daylight, drive about ten minutes south and take the short walk to marvel at the carved chasm of Remarkable Cave, where the power of the Southern Ocean has washed away the sandstone. Watch the swell roll in and, if conditions are right, appreciate the skill of the surfers braving the cold waters to take on the waves. Finish the day with a feast of local seafood at On the Bay, overlooking the water at Stewarts Bay.
Day 3: Port Arthur to Hobart
Tasman National Park is best known for its towering dolerite columns, rocky capes and clifftop walking tracks, including the multi-day Three Capes Track. Get a taste of the capes with a short hike through open forest to the Cape Raoul Lookout for views towards the cape’s rocky pillars and out across the seemingly endless expanse of Southern Ocean.
Energetic walkers can continue to Cape Raoul (five hours return) or take the trail to renowned big-wave surf break Shipsterns Bluff (four hours return) for dramatic coastal scenery from high atop the sea cliffs. Both walks start from the same trailhead at the end of Stormlea Road.
Before beginning your journey back to Hobart, it’s worth backtracking a little down Nubeena Road for a whisky, vodka or gin tasting and tour at McHenry Distillery (and to stock up on its range of spirits).
Enjoy the gently rolling hills and rural scenery through the towns of Nubeena and Premaydena before taking the Saltwater River turnoff to explore the Coal Mines Historic Site where, at its peak, about 600 convicts – along with their jailers and families – lived and worked the mines. Wander among the ruins of old buildings and feel the sense of isolation before returning to the road, continuing just under two hours back to Hobart and modern life.