Are you searching for a brilliant day trip from Hobart? Continue reading for more information on Port Arthur for kids.
Port Arthur is a quaint village steeped in convict history. I was pleasantly surprised by Port Arthur. A place that holds much sadness and history, yet I was struck by the contrasting beauty of the spectacular coastline, natural scenery and serenity of this site.
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About Port Arthur
The World Heritage-listed Port Arthur site is a 90-minute drive from Hobart and dates back to 1830 as a penal settlement. A 90-minute drive from Hobart, the Port Arthur Site is regarded as one of the top places to visit in Tasmania.
Separated from Tasmania by a narrow neck of land, Port Arthur was known as the ‘inescapable prison’. It was the punishment centre for second-time offenders, housing over 12,500 convicts before it closed in 1877.
It hosts more than 30 buildings, ruins and restored period homes set in 40 hectares of stunning landscaped grounds and gardens.
What to Expect at Port Arthur For Kids
Upon arrival, you are given site entry valid for two consecutive days and including access to a 40-minute, introductory walking tour. You also receive a set time to meet at the ferry dock to take a 20-minute leisurely cruise on the harbour passing the Dockyard, Point Puer Boys’ Prison and the Isle of the Dead. All of which are landmarks in Port Arthur. You can access these sites and hear about their unique stories by joining a guided tour (at an additional cost).
A fun way for the children to immerse themselves in the fascinating history is by the playing cards. Each person receives a card upon entry, and in the visitor centre, you had to find your matching card depicting one of the Port Arthur Convicts. Open the door to find information on the life and identity of this person.
A day can easily be spent exploring, listening to the local guides on the walking tour, and reading the information through the ruins and buildings. Another aspect of Port Arthur is the activities available. During our visit, the kids could partake in making a Port Arthur peg doll, and afternoon performances were held around the grounds at various times for anyone who wanted to hear more about life in the settlement.
Practical Information: Port Arthur is open seven days a week from 10.00 am and 5.00 pm (closed Christmas Day)
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The Visitor Centre’s Port Café is open daily for breakfast and closes after dinner offering hot and cold meals, snacks, sandwiches, and sweet treats. We chose the takeaway option to allow us more time around the grounds.
- Arrive as early as possible if you plan to spend one day at the site. I was surprised how large the area was and how much there is to explore, see and do.
- Ensure you pack hats, sunscreen and comfortable walking shoes as you will be exposed to the elements for most of the time you are walking around the grounds.
- Pack a picnic lunch and enjoy the shade of the grand trees in the gardens.
- The activities are not available all day. Check the guide for what’s on so you can plan your day.
- Due to the Port Arthur site’s vastness, if you have young children pack a pram or hire one from the visitor centre.
If you have little time and want to experience the best of Port Arthur, the below is a suggested itinerary including the highlights.
- Take the 40-minute introductory walking tour and the 20-minute Harbour Cruise with the tour guides. These offer an excellent overview of Port Arthur’s history and starting point for what else you might like to explore.
- The Penitentiary is the main focal point on the grounds. Take a walk through stopping to read the information boards that share some of the prisoners’ lives.
- The separate prison is where unruly prisoners went to serve a sentence of solitary confinement.
- Take a step back in time and walk through the commandant’s house that sits on the hill overlooking the bay.
- Watching over the site of Port Arthur is the convict church. With only its outer stone walls intact, you can still appreciate the workmanship and labour that went into creating this magnificent building that held hope for prisoners to reform through religion.
- Admire the beautiful gardens and floral displays around the grounds.
Port Arthur Tickets
See all Port Arthur’s highlights with a two-consecutive day pass, including the Carnarvon Bay cruise and 40 minute guided tour. Buy your tickets in advance here.
Port Arthur Ghost Tour
With young children, we opted not to partake in the Port Arthur ghost tour. However, I have shared the information for those interested in this unique experience.
Port Arthurs 90-minute ghost tour is based around storytelling, and you will depart with your guide at 8.45 pm or 9.00 pm each evening with only a lantern and the moon to guide you around the grounds and buildings. Buy tickets for the unique experience here.
Tips on the Port Arthur Ghost Tour
- 50% of the tour is outdoors and with around 2kms of walking, wear comfortable footwear and something warm. Umbrellas are not allowed on tour, so they suggest ponchos if it is raining.
- An adult must accompany all children on the tours and even though there are no special effects used Port Arthur after dark is an eerie setting.
- Based on the popularity of the tours, it is recommended to purchase your tickets and book ahead.