Alright, alright, alright… Our favourite city has a bit of a chequered past. Safe in the relative luxury of the 21st century, it’s fascinating to delve into the darker elements of Old Hobart Town’s beginnings (what with all the transportation, convict labour, hangings, and whaling).
Discover captivating stories about Southern Tasmania’s colonial past (and appreciate modern life) at these five historic sites.
1. The Port Arthur Historic Site
The World Heritage-listed Port Arthur Historic Site is the most intact convict site in Australia, with over 30 buildings, ruins, and restored period homes set in 40 hectares of landscaped grounds. There’s a lot to see, so allow plenty of time (entry tickets are valid for two consecutive days). The site is family friendly, with some engaging kids activities on offer. And if your family involves fur-babies and they are well behaved, they too are welcome!
Learn about what life was like for those who lived here on the guided walking tour. Explore the ruins, stroll the beautiful gardens, and visit the Museum, Convict Study Centre and Interpretation Gallery. Cruise to the Isle of the Dead and tour the cemetery, or brave an evening ghost tour if you dare. You can also visit the nearby Coal Mines Historic Site (free entry).
2. The Cascades Female Factory Historic Site
The World Heritage-listed Cascades Female Factory Historic Site shines a light on the female convicts who were transported to Australia. The first women arrived at the site in South Hobart in December 1828, after it was converted from a distillery. The picturesque view of kunanyi is at odds with the harsh conditions these women faced.
The Cascades Female Factory is the most significant site associated with female convicts in Australia. Take a Heritage Tour to learn about convict life and ponder whether the women were sinners or sinned against. Join the ‘Her Story’ Dramatised Tour for an accurate and emotive roaming theatre show depicting life within the stone cold walls during 1833. You will walk away with a greater understanding and appreciation for the unfortunate women who ended up there.
3. The Callington Mill Historic Site
Callington Mill was built in 1837 via convict labour, and has been beautifully restored. The mill is located in the Georgian sandstone town of Oatlands and is one of the Heritage Highway’s best attractions. Callington Mill is pretty special—it’s the only working Lincolnshire mill in the Southern Hemisphere (it produces artisan flours).
Guided tours of the site are currently unavailable, but you are welcome to visit the Callington Mill Precinct and explore at your leisure. There are also fortnightly Come & Try Sessions on offer at the Blacksmith’s Forge, where you can have a go at learning a heritage trade.
4. The Hobart Convict Penitentiary
- Sit where the convicts sat and watch Tasmania’s dark past projected four metres tall on the chapel walls with Pandemonium — The Convict Film Experience.
- Brave the site on an after dark ghost tour. Hear chilling stories about the poor souls who were unlucky enough to be sentenced in the court rooms, pray in the chapel, get locked in the solitary confinement cells below (which were later declared inhumane), and have their lives end at the gallows.
- Walk in a convict’s shoes from grimy, dangerous Wapping to the terrifying gallows on the gritty Hobart Gallows Walk.
5. Runnymede National Trust House & Gardens
Runnymede (c. 1836) is a beautifully preserved colonial homestead in New Town. Whaling Captain Charles Bayley bought the house in 1864 and his family called it home for more than a century. Runnymede was named after the Captain’s favourite ship, and in a beautiful twist of fate is now dedicated to marine conservation. The property holds historic artworks and possessions, including a large collection of whaling and maritime items.
Guided tours are available (book here), and visitors are encouraged to speak to the friendly volunteers and take a leisurely stroll around the meticulously maintained 120 year old garden. The site hosts a variety of special events, including an annual High Tea, and can be booked for private functions.
We love it when you share your adventures with us! Share your snaps by tagging @hobartandbeyond and using #HobartandBeyond on Instagram and Facebook – we’ll share our favourite pics on social media and in the blog.
Whale Watching in Southern Tasmania
Hobart to Cockle Creek: An Adventurous Itinerary
Convict Ruins: Walk the Coal Mines Historic Site
Edge of the Earth: 5 Dramatic Walks in the Tasman Region
Step Back in Time: 6 Things to Do at Oatlands
The Port Arthur Historic Site | @blaze989/Instagram