Touring the Tasman Peninsula

Contributed By Gavin Wyatt

The wild cliffs, the sweeping views and the expansive farmlands of the Tasman Peninsula seem like a world apart from Tasmania, yet it takes less than an hours drive from Hobart in your campervan to reach them. So close is it that you can explore most of the Peninsula in a day trip, but the quality of the sights you see and the overall beauty of the landscapes will no doubt entice you to stay a little longer. The rocky cliff faces of the coastline here are in a constant battle with the raging waters of the ocean, and the result is some amazing geological features along the shore. So park the motorhome in a camping ground in one of the small villages here and enjoy some of the finest hiking and bushwalking the state has to offer.

Not only is it beautiful here, it is also rich in heritage and history. The village of Port Arthur adjoins an historic site of the same name, a site that was once a penal colony built by convict labour in the early days of settlement in Australia. The site has been preserved as a cultural relic- a homage to our past that in some ways we would like to forget but in more ways its important to remember. Thirty buildings and ruins of buildings sit in 40 hectares of beautiful and well maintained gardens. The penitentiary is the largest ruin, but the most chilling is the prison where convicts were punished with solitary confinement. Other relics include the hospital, dockyards, commandants residence, the church and the old asylum which contains the museum.

There are a number of tours you can take around the historic site, but the most popular ones are the 'ghost tours' that take place in the evenings. The buildings take on an eerie ominous feel in the dark, and one can almost feel the stories of treachery and despair seeping out of the darkened walls. Tours are small and popular, so book in advance if you are interested. Another popular tour is a boat cruise out to the Isle of the Dead, a small island lying just offshore where 1100 free men and convicts lie buried. Its a fascinating insight into the past to go through the graves and read the various inscriptions and imagine what life was like for these people.

The Port Arthur Caravan and Cabin Park is a good place to base yourself to explore the Peninsula. Its right in Port Arthur, and from it you can explore other near lying attractions such as Remarkable Cave, a cavernous hollow in the coastline into which the waves echo and crash. Its a favourite spot amongst surfers who walk through the cave and into the ocean behind it. There is also a stunning 4 hour hike that begins here and carries on down the coast to Crescent Bay, taking in some beautiful features along the way.

The narrow isthmus of land that connects the Peninsula to the rest of Tasmania is known as Eaglehawk Neck. Flanked on one side by Pirate Bay and on the other by Norfolk Bay, the tiny village is an extremely beautiful place that is often remembered for the remarkable geology nearby. The 'Tessellated Pavements' lie close, which are interesting fractured blocks of sedimentary rock. A few kilometres on form this you will find the Blow Hole, a cavernous feature in the side of the cliff face which shoots water up through the earth when the waves get too large. The Tasman Arch is also in this region, and is a naturally formed archway of resistant rock with the ocean beneath it.

All up there are thirty five designated walks in the area that will take you past some of the most spectacular scenery in Australia. Adventure seekers will have lots to choose from- the surf is some of the most spectacular Tasmania has to offer, and there are plenty of secluded coves and inlets for kayakers and canoeists to explore. Add to that the steep mountain and cliff faces that are a hit amongst rock climbers, and you have a very credible adventure holiday destination. Its a destination with everything really- a rich and meaningful heritage and history, beautiful landscapes and immeasurable activities. You certainly wont get bored on the Tasman Peninsula.

Gavin Wyatt is a journalist with a passion for travel. originally from Zambia he has traveled around the world to end up on the sunny shores of Australia. For more of his articles visit Discovery Campervans

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