South East Tasmania

A visit to this region is a must for all visitors for scenery, wildlife, heritage and adventure. Northeast, and then south of Hobart is the Tasman Peninsula (90 minutes driving) and home to the historic and haunting Port Arthur penal settlement. There are charming towns along the way (including Richmond) and wildlife sanctuaries where you can get up close and personal with that famous ferocious marsupial at the Tasmanian Devil Park or reptiles at the World Tiger Snake Centre at Taranna. There are also many stunning sculptured rock formations and caves nearby - Tessellated Pavement, Blowhole, Devil's Kitchen, Pirates Bay Lookout, Tasman Arch and Remarkable Cave.

Things To Do in South East Tasmania

· Sorell is the gateway to the south east, about 30 minutes from Hobart and it's worth a stop to explore the heritage buildings and antique shops.
· 24km south of Sorell is Copping where there is an amazing collection of artifacts in the Colonial and Convict Exhibition.
· You can take The Convict Trail. At Eaglehawk Neck there is the Officer's Quarters and the Dog Line where savage dogs once guarded the isthmus.

A quick bit of history - The Tasman Peninsula was chosen as the place to put convicts because it was a natural penitentiary being almost surrounded by water that had its fair share of killer sharks. To prevent anyone trying to get out on foot, a line of savage dogs (mostly mastiffs) were chained at intervals across the narrow land bridge. Some were even stationed on platforms built out from the shore in case an escapee was to chance his luck in the coastal waters around the Neck.

One successful escapee however was a convict named Cripps. Cripps was employed as a dog-handler for a while before being taken back to Port Arthur to join a timber-cutting gang. His other job was to prepare the dog food but, being an entrepreneur, he stole flour from the recipe to sell on the black market. He was caught and, facing the lash, he took off. He made his way to Eaglehawk Neck and, because the dogs knew him, he was welcome. He stole two of the dogs (who were also more than happy to have some freedom) and took them into the bush.

Cripps built a large, comfortable bark hut and lived contentedly for 18 months, hunting game with the dogs and occasionally nipping back to Port Arthur to abscond with some flour, sugar, soap, salt and cabbages. He was discovered by chance when an officer (coincidentally the one who had previously owned the two dogs) stumbled on his hut. Apart from Cripps, he also found over 1800 kangaroo and wallaby skins, neatly tied in bundles. Cripps was packed off to Port Arthur again, for an extended stay and 100 lashes, but lived out his final years as a free man.

The skins he'd collected were auctioned in Hobart 'on behalf of the Imperial Government'.

· From Eaglehawk Neck you can also surf, go game fishing or scuba dive and there's an excellent chance of dolphin spotting.
· There are plenty of spots to stop and savour local produce including Bream Creek and Orani Vineyards, the Sorell Fruit Farm and restaurants offering local venison, quail, Pirates Bay octopus and Barilla Bay oysters. Tassie oysters are a gourmet's delight - large, plump and juicy.
· Near Port Arthur is the Bush Mill pioneer settlement, which has Australia's steepest steam railway.
· You will need to allow at least half a day for Port Arthur itself. This historic site is dramatic, haunting, yet eerily relaxing. It's a piece of living history where every hand-hewn, thumb-marked brick tells a story. You can take the Isle of the Dead cruise or an evening ghost tour (even some sceptics have heard the clinking of chains and the tap of hammer on stone). Away from the ruins, the rolling lawns and graceful, shady trees offer a great spot for a picnic. You can also explore the coast around Port Arthur in a sea kayak through the Baidarka Experience. There are also seaplane flights and horse rides nearby at Koonya.
· 25km further on (through Nubeena) are the convict ruins of Saltwater River.
· If you're planning to continue on to the east coast, or have time for a rewarding diversion or picnic, take the turnoff at Copping to the Wielangta Forest Drive to Orford. You may spot rare parrots among the tall eucalypts and Thumbs Lookout has sweeping ocean views.

Fox and Hounds Historical Building Port Arthur Historic Site Port Arthur View Port Arthur