While we still had the car, Mr. Selfish and I visited Port Arthur, which is the former convict settlement on Tasmania. From 1833 until 1853, Port Arthur was a penal colony for the hardest of British criminals. In fact, in order to get into Port Arthur, you had to be a secondary offender that reoffended after coming to Australia.
Even though it was a penal colony, Port Arthur has a beautiful setting. It is set on a verdant peninsula, which is probably more cruel than anything.
Mr. Selfish and I lucked out and had very sunny weather during our visit at Port Arthur. Unfortunately, it had rained miserably the day before, and therefore, no one was allowed to visit the inside of the main structure due to safety reasons. As a result, we primarily meandered around the prison grounds. Below are photos of the officers’ quarters and the ruins of the church.
Port Arthur was a pioneer prison in terms of inflicting psychological punishment as opposed to merely physical punishment. Aside from using food as a means of punishment and reward, the prison also punished the convicts through the “Silent System.” As punishment, prisoners were forced to stand hooded and remain silent for extended periods of time. Apparently, some of the prisoners developed mental illness due to the lack of light and sound.
Port Arthur’s visitor center contains exhibits about the prison. Every visitor is given a playing card that correlates to a Port Arthur inmate. You are supposed to track your prisoner as you go through the exhibits. I found the exhibits to be quite informative.
Mr. Selfish and I purchased the “Bronze” pass into Port Arthur, which is the most basic pass and still cost $30 per person. However, this pass includes a basic 40 minute guided tour of Port Arthur, as well as a short 20 minute cruise. The cruise takes you past the Isle of the Dead, where those who passed away on Port Arthur were buried, and Point Puer, which was the site of the British Empire’s first boys’ reformatory.
I recommend Port Arthur if you are interested in British penal colonies or just want to see an attraction in a beautiful setting. It is only an hour and a half away from Hobart and takes only a couple of hours to see, so it’s an easy day trip.
As an aside, Mr. Selfish and I stopped at Pirate Bay on the way to Port Arthur and caught a beautiful rainbow.