National Heritage Places - Port Arthur Historic Site



Port Arthur was established in the 1830s as a penal settlement. It remains a physical chronicle of a dramatic part of Australia's history. Its 60 or so buildings and picturesque landscape offer visitors a challenging mix of both beauty and horror and have helped the site to become Tasmania's most popular tourist destination.

Port Arthur was included in the National Heritage List on 3 June 2005.


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 Jenelle McMahon  Jenelle McMahon  Jenelle McMahon  Jenelle McMahon  Jenelle McMahon

More information

At once beautiful and darkly tragic, Tasmania's Port Arthur Historic Site is a place of contradictions that has helped shape Australia's colonial past. A brutal penal colony located on the Tasman Peninsula, Port Arthur was home for many of Australia's early convicts. It was here that many transported and re-offending convicts spent their days. Its isolation and formidable geography gave it a feared reputation.

Use of the Port Arthur site

After transportation of convicts ended, the buildings were used for many years to accommodate convict invalids, paupers and 'lunatics'. The site has continued to evolve through phases of significant development, decline and change, bushfires, demolitions, constructions, major landscape alterations and restoration work.

The buildings, ruins and other site features that remain today are now a major tourist attraction and Australia's most vivid and well-known reminder of its convict beginnings.

Recent tragedy

The tragic death of 35 people at a gunman's hand in 1996 added another emotionally powerful layer to the history of the place and gave it a new national significance as the place that led to Australia's tightened gun laws.

The legacy of this place affects us all today via our convict heritage, and the lessons we have learnt from its eventful history. Port Arthur Historic Site will continue to enable future generations to experience, research and explore their inheritance. Hundreds of thousands of visitors each year are drawn to experience the once brutal penal settlement, which sits quietly on the Tasman Peninsula surrounded by verdant lawns and English oaks.

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