Discover Port Arthur’s Hidden Stories with a Fun Family Excursion

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Do you have a little historian in the making? Or are you just keen to tear your tiny tech-maniacs away from their 17 screens for a day? A visit to Port Arthur Historic Site might just be in order! There are loads of fun things to do that will capture the imagination of the whole family, with extra activities on for the kids during school holidays. Explore the grounds, play in the gardens, and wander in and out of the ruins and buildings, learning about life in the 19th and 20th centuries. Here are our tips on taking the kids to the Port Arthur Historic Site.

Discover hidden stories

Everyone loves an interesting story, and Port Arthur has plenty of captivating real-life tales to uncover. Grab a kid’s activity book (free at the ticketing desk) and let your little detectives discover the site’s hidden stories as they explore, search for answers, complete puzzles and collect stamps. Get to know a real convict with the Lottery of Life game in the Convict Gallery. Each visitor receives a playing card depicting one convict, and as you move through the gallery, you’ll discover clues about the identity and life story of that person, including how they might have spent their time at Port Arthur.

Learn about old fashioned technology

It might come as a shock for the kids to learn that instant messaging via our old mate the internet hasn’t always been around! For an insight into how convicts communicated messages from Port Arthur to Hobart, have a look at the model semaphore in the Asylum Museum or the replicas installed above the Commandant’s and Accountant’s homes. You can also compare today’s technology and architecture with that from the 19th and 20th centuries with a visit to the furnished Museum Houses. We bet the little terrors will be extra excited to get back to their iPads at the end of the day!

Trace your convict ancestors

Do your kids partake in some questionable behaviour at times that you know can’t possibly come from you? (Looking at you, Timmy… we know you didn’t pay for that loaf of bread you came home from school with.) The answer might be found at Port Arthur – you could have some convict blood! Visit the Farm Overseers Cottage to search the Convict Study Centre database for your own links to Port Arthur’s 19th century inhabitants. You never know what you’ll discover!

Walk on (the history of) water

The Convict Water Supply trail is a lovely 30 minute bush walk. Expel some energy, get some fresh air and learn about the history of the settlement’s water supply, mill’s water wheel, and the recent stories of the land and network of transport routes. If there’s still energy to burn, walk a bit further along the Stewart’s Bay track to find the beaches where women and children bathed away from prying eyes.

School holiday activities

School holidays are the perfect time to visit Port Arthur, with extra activities scheduled throughout the break to keep kids (and adults) entertained! Activities on offer may include:

  • making your very own temporary tattoo and discovering the hidden meanings behind convict body art
  • creating a peg doll to take home and learning about costumes and toys for children in the Victoria era
  • writing a letter in copperplate calligraphy, folding it to keep it secret and applying a traditional wax seal
  • making a copper token and finding out about why many convicts made a token for their loved ones to remember them by.

To plan a lovely little getaway on the Tasman Peninsula, see our itinerary suggestions at Tasman Peninsula Journeys. See the Port Arthur Historic Site’s general information on visiting with children here, and check upcoming holiday activities on the School Holiday Program Schedule.

We love to see what you get up to on your Southern Tasmania adventures! Please share your photos with us by using #HobartandBeyond and tagging @hobartandbeyond on social media.

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