If you're on your way to Port Arthur, be sure to stop and see the sights on the rugged Tasman Peninsula. And if even if you're not, it's still well worth a visit.
The Tasman Peninsula will appeal to those who like spectacular coastlines, blowholes and caves, not to mention world heritage listed convict sites.
An easy and very pretty 70 min drive from Hobart, the peninsula is best known for the famous Port Arthur Historic site, one of Tasmania's five World Heritage listed convict sites. Nearby, though not so well known, is the Coal Mines Historic Site – also world heritage listed – with over 25 substantial buildings and the remains of coal mining activities still evident.
Like Port Arthur, the harsh treatment of the convicts at the coal mines stands in bleak contrast with the site's beautiful bushland setting.
Much of the peninsula is protected as national park, given its beauty and natural diversity, and is home to many animals including the brush tail possum, wallabies, wombats, bandicoots, Australian fur seals, penguins, dolphins and migrating whales as well as the endangered swift parrot and many forest-dwelling birds. You may also see endangered wedge-tailed eagles and sea eagles overhead.
This spectacular coastal environment includes soaring 300 metre high sea cliffs and a number of fascinating coastal rock formations such as Tessellated Pavement, the Blow Hole, Tasman Arch, Devil's Kitchen, Remarkable Cave and Waterfall Bay, all easy to get to by car.
For a close up view of this amazing coastline you can take an eco-cruise to the tip of the peninsula exploring the waterfalls, deep sea caves, towering cliffs and amazing wildlife on the way.
Back on land, good walking can be found across the peninsula with some of Tasmania's best walks ranging from short and family-friendly to overnight multi-day walks for the more adventurous.
The most recent addition is the stunning Three Capes Track, an independent multiday-walk with exhilarating cliff top views.
Access to the Tasman Peninsula is via Eaglehawk Neck, a thin isthmus just 30 metres wide and once guarded by dogs to prevent convicts escaping. Any break of the scrub or slightest noise would set the hounds barking and alert the sentries. (Dogs were even placed on stages out in the water to detect absconders attempting a sea crossing.)
The Officers Quarters (1832), reputed to be the oldest wooden military building remaining in Australia, is the only structure left on the isthmus from the convict days, and is now a museum interpreting the history of Eaglehawk Neck.
There's accommodation outside the park to suit all budgets, from camping grounds and hostels to motels and self-contained accommodation.
Inside the park, Fortescue Bay is a popular camping ground with 40 sites and an amenities block.
For more on the Heritage Highway see our self-drive itinerary, Convict Trail.