In addition to Port Arthur we made sure to visit some of the number of other points of interest while we were on the Tasman Peninsula. A short drive north-west of Port Arthur is the Coal Mines Historic Site. Entry is free and you can take a self guided tour around what was Tasmania’s first operational mine. There are plenty of signs explaining the history of the area and a good couple of hours can be spent here exploring the whole site. Convict labour was used here and was generally made up of those from Port Arthur that continued to misbehave. It was a bit hard to reconcile the beauty of the surroundings with the harsh living conditions that would have been prevalent during the mine’s operation.
To the south of Port Arthur we visited Remarkable Cave. There is beach access to the cave but we took ourselves down to the viewing platform via some steps which were accessible from the Safety Cove Road car park. We spent some time watching the water flow through the cave and also took a number of photos. What we didn’t realise, until we later spoke to someone else staying out the back of the Dunalley Pub, that one of the remarkable features is that the opening at the beach end of the cave, when viewed on a particular angle, is actually shaped like Tasmania.
A short walk from the car park took us to the Maingon Bay Lookout which provided yet another glimpse of the awesome coastline. If you are into something a bit more extreme than our preferred low-speed amble apparently this is also a popular place for rock climbing.
During our time at Port Arthur we had learnt about Eaglehawk Neck. This is a small strip of land that use to be referred to as ‘the key to the peninsula’. This is because it connects the Tasman Peninsula to mainland Tasmania. It is basically a small strip of land around 400m long and in some places only 30m wide.
When Port Arthur was being used as a penal colony the neck was heavily patrolled by soldiers and also comprised the infamous Dog Line. This was made up of nine half-starved dogs chained in a line along the width of the neck. Their job was to detect and bring attention to any convicts that had managed to escape from Port Arthur and were trying to make it to the mainland. A number of dogs were even placed on pontoons on the water in case escapees tried to make a swim for it!
On the neck there is a statue of one of the dogs as well as some of the original soldiers quarters, which you can have a look through. In one part of the building there is an audio presentation explaining how a small group of convicts did actually make it across to the mainland. One of these was Martin Cash who managed to escape twice and is considered Tasmania’s best known bushranger. He eventually saw the error of his ways and after sometime became a free man.
Eaglehawk Neck is also the place from which to visit the Tessellated Pavement, Tasman Blowhole, Tasman Arch, Devil’s Kitchen and admire an awesome view over Pirate’s Bay.
The Tesselated Pavement can be viewed from above or you can actually go down and have a walk on it. There is some information which explains how the patterns have been formed over time due to a combination of erosion and chemical reactions. We went down and had a look and the kids tried their hand at catching some of the tiny crabs that were darting around.
The Tasman Arch and Devil’s Kitchen are spectacular coastal rock formations that are within walking distance of each other. By now the kids were a little walked out so we didn’t spend a very long time here. One place that we all enjoyed though was the lookout over Pirate’s Bay. It was just beautiful.
We managed to cram quite a lot into our time spent in this area but there were a number of other things that we didn’t quite get to before we had to head back to Hobart for school and work.
It seems to be that the more we do see of Australia, the more we realise we haven’t seen!
It was around this time that the kids and I actually flew home to Perth for a week. A number of housekeeping things had cropped up needing attention and having extended our stay in Tasmania, the 18 month stretch for the grandparents not seeing the grandkiddies just seemed a little too long.
We didn’t tell anyone we were coming and literally jumped on the plane within two days of making the decision. The look on my Mum’s face was priceless and even my no-nonsense Dad’s jaw dropped. As for Paul’s Dad, we caught him with his pants down, literally!
The week was a blur and over before we knew it. I now have more sympathy for people who live interstate or overseas and visit for holidays. Trying to see everyone was manic. Of course we couldn’t get round to everyone but it was nice to touch base with as many as we could. Realising that everything was the same old same old and that their friends hadn’t changed and did remember them, the kids were more than happy to jump on the plane back to Paul in Hobart.
I think they also wanted to escape my Dad as he had taken advantage of the extra hands and keen eyesight and put them to work!
I really should mention what champs the kids were and how easy they made it for me to travel with the three of them. We left Perth on the redeye to Melbourne and then hung around Tullamarine Airport in the early hours of the morning for the connecting flight to Hobart. They took everything in their stride and we were both very proud of their behaviour.
Of course after catching up on some sleep and being back to normal with Mum & Dad it was once again game on!
So, you ask. What did Paul do without us and when he wasn’t at work?