Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tassie in 3 days - Part 2

Port Arthur Convict Settlement
Mr. H surprised me with his announcement that we were going to Port Arthur Convict Settlement. After our 3 hour eco-cruise (read about it here), I was ready to call it a day and wanted to start our 90 minute drive back to Hobart. Before I could protest, we had arrived at Port Arthur Convict Settlement site. Turns out it was only 100m away from the cruise operator's office.

It was about 6:15pm when we arrived. Fortunately for us, it does not close at 5:00pm during summer months. We purchased our entry tickets (it was cheaper since some of the services and tours were done for the day). The lady at the counter was most helpful - she marked our map for sites that close by 7:00pm and advised us to head there first. These are house museums. Other buildings are open until closing time.

We began our tour from Visitor Centre itself. As you enter the exhibit, you are given a "convict card". From then on, you need to follow the trail of your convict to find out what happens to him/her. Once done, we headed straight to Commandment's House because this was one of the 4 house museums that close by 7:00pm. Our strategy was to head to the house museums first and then visit the other buildings at leisure. Anyway to get there, we had to walk towards The Penitentiary. The view was just mesmerizing. One could just sit there and watch the world go by.
Such a perfect picture: Mason Cove on the left, The Penitentiary on the right and green grass in the middle. The weather was awesome too as you can see, blue skies and white clouds.
The Penitentiary is an "open" building today. The building has no roof. While most parts of the building are not accessible, there is a viewing platform that allows you view inside.
Another view of Mason Cove - probably zoomed in from Law Courts building.
Looking down from Senior Military Officer's Quarters.
Wooden bridge that connects one area to another.
It's quite a walk to get from one building to the other - better wear your most comfortable footwear as you will be walking uphill, downhill, on grass and gravel path. I suppose the place would be crowded during the day. We knew we were not the only ones as we bumped into an elderly couple and a family of 4 during our visit.
What's left of the Hospital - only two walls. The other parts of the building were damaged in two bush fires that took place in 1895 and 1897. Guess it was never rebuilt.
Hospital in the background.
We then made our way to Trentham, another house museum that close at 7:00pm. It is a house that belonged to the Trenthams. The house and garden has been restored and the public are allowed to wander through and have a glimpse of how life was back then.
Soldiers' Memorial Avenue - these trees are close to a 100 years old. Planted in 1918 to commemorate the men from this area who fought in the Great War, some of the trees were felled as part of the renewal project. Other trees although healthy, will be removed and replanted over the next 10 years.
The Separate Prison is located beside Soldiers' Memorial Avenue. Be sure to stop there. I do not have pictures of it, yet I can still remember the structure and layout of this building. Separate Prison was built to introduce a new method of punishment - through isolation and contemplation (as oppose to physical punishment). Those days, prisoners were placed in their cell for 23 hours a day. 1 hour was for exercise and even then within confines of a wall.They are not allowed to speak to anyone, even the guards. Today when visitors enter the building, we are asked to do the same - no talking, no communicating even in sign language to one another.

Walking through the building or walking by others to read materials on display in silence certainly brings your experience to another level. It was quite a challenge! At one point,it got too eerie as even the littlest of sound was echoed through the empty halls (it did not help that it was 7:00pm and getting dark inside). 

We then walked to The Church. Along the way, we made quick stops at Visiting Magistrate's House, Roman Catholic Chaplain's House, Junior Medical Officer's House, Accountant's House and Parsonage. We briefly entered Junior Medical Officer's house as it was still open when we arrived. Parsonage however was closed to visitors by the time we arrived.
Convict Church was destroyed in a fire and has undergone repeated conservation work. This is how it looks today. Inside part of the building are 7 bells. There is suppose to be an 8th bell that is still missing and have not been found.
Time capsule buried here on 2/10/1977. To open on 2/10/2077.
Making our way back to Visitor Centre, we walked through Government Gardens. This area was meant to be a place to go to be away from the unwanted presence of convicts (at that time of course). Today is it a beautiful spot to sit and enjoy the view.

Water fountain in Government Gardens.
If you are looking for added adventure, sign up for the nightly Ghost Tour. Places are limited and you need to book early. 

Visitors would need to leave the grounds by 8:30pm. It might be possible to cover every area one day if you breeze your way through. It is quite impossible to do so in 2 hours. We did not cover at least 8 attractions which included Memorial Garden, The Isle of Dead and Point Puer Boys' Prison. So it is great to know that the day passes are valid for 2 days. This means you can spend the night in Port Arthur or even Eagleneck's Historic site which is 30 minutes away and come back the next day to carry on from where you left off. In our case, after a quick dinner at Port Cafe, we made the 90 minute drive back to Hobart.

To be continued.. 

Click on the quick links to read about the other places we covered on our 3 day Tassie adventure: Day 1 - Part 1 & part 2Day 2 - Part 3 & part 4Day 3 - Part 5 & final

No comments:

Post a Comment