Free things to do on the Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur
The Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur are approximately an hours drive from Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. This area is a must see if exploring Tasmania and you should allow a few days to check everything out. You could easily spend longer here if you have the time to spare.
Why should you visit?
A lot of people visit the Tasman Peninsula on a tour from Hobart to see the famous Port Arthur historical site. However, there is so much more to do here!
If travelling on a budget, the Tasman Peninsula has some great free natural attractions and historic sites. The coastal landscape is both unique and beautiful and there are some very pretty beaches and bays to while away the day at.
Here is what you can do for FREE on the Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur
Hike the Cape Hauy track
The Cape Hauy track is a day hike out onto Cape Hauy for spectacular coastline views of the Tasman Peninsula. The last third of the hike is the hardest, but also the most rewarding. Once you reach the end, you can clearly see the awesome dolerite rock formations of the coastline as well as the iconic Candlestick and Totem Pole formations.
This hike is one of Tasmania’s 60 great short walks and the National Parks Brochure has the walk at 4 hours and 8.8 km. It took us 5 hours carrying a child in a carrier each (around 17kg) and my phone tracked us at nearly 11 km. I’m not sure why there is such a difference in km as we definitely did not go off track.
The trail is clearly marked for the duration of the walk and well maintained. It begins and ends next to the boat ramp at the far end of the Fortescue Bay campground.
Fortescue Bay is a very inviting stretch of white sand! There is camping available here as well as a day area with barbecues. Bring a picnic and enjoy the peaceful location!
Even if it’s too cold to swim when you visit, it’s still worth a trip to Fortescue Bay for the serene environment. You will need to travel 12 km down an unsealed road to reach the bay but it’s easily managed in a standard 2WD vehicle.
Coal Mines Historic Site
The Coal Mines Historic Site was the first operational mine in Tasmania. It was also a place to punish the most misbehaved convicts.
The stroll around the historic site is listed as one of Tasmania’s 60 great short walks and at only 1km one way, it’s manageable by most. If you don’t feel like walking, you can just stroll around the main site near the parking lot as it’s the most interesting anyway.
The ruins that remain today include the penitentiary, underground cells and mine cells. There is excellent signage throughout this self guided site.
This rare natural phenomenon is really interesting to see. However, make sure you visit at low tide otherwise it will be underwater!
Its an easy stroll from the parking lot down to the tessellated pavement. If you are into photography, check out all of the beautiful images of this attraction online taken at sunset and sunrise.
The Tasman Arch
The Tasman Arch is breathtaking and the best views are actually from right next to the main car park. You have to view this from behind a fence for safety reasons but its easy enough to get an Instagram worthy shot without the ugly fence in view still.
The Blow Hole
I’ve read some great reviews of this attraction, but it was actually fairly disappointing when I visited. I thought I had timed the tide right but clearly I didn’t because it certainly wasn’t acting like a blow hole. It was basically a pool of stinky seaweed water that was moving around with the swell of the ocean. Hopefully the conditions will be right next time I visit!
The Devils Kitchen
The Devils Kitchen is an amazing natural attraction. Maybe its because i’m short, but I could barely see the water below due to the overgrown foliage under the viewing platform blocking my view. The cliff walls are still fantastic to see but if you are short like me, you will most likely need to stand on tiptoes to get the full effect of the Devils Kitchen.
The Remarkable Cave is truly a sight to see when the incoming tide is thundering through the cave towards you. There is a short walk from the car park down some sturdy, steep stairs to reach the cave.
I couldn’t see a way down into the actual cave itself but you still get great views from the viewing platform. I would imagine it may be a little dull at low tide but if its high tide and there is a decent swell, the water comes rushing through the cave with force and splashes up on the rocks right in front of you. It reminds you that mother nature is a force to be reckoned with.
Adjoining the parking lot is also a lookout with fantastic views of the surrounding rugged cliff coastline.
The Dog Line
Eaglehawk Neck is a narrow 30 metre-wide isthmus that joins the Tasman Peninsula to the rest of Tasmania.
When the Port Arthur penitentiary was operational, this isthmus was guarded by a line of ferocious dogs to prevent convicts escaping. There were dogs not only on the platforms, but in the water as well and it is said that the slightest disturbance would set the dogs off and alert the guards. At one stage, the side included a guardhouse, store, jetty and military barracks.
These days you can visit and check out the museum inside the remaining officers quarters and get an idea of what life was like on the Tasman Peninsula in the 1800’s. The remains of the jetty can still be seen as well as a statue of the dogs.
Port Arthur Lavender
The Port Arthur Lavender farm is at it’s most photogenic from December through to February when the flowers are in bloom. It’s free to visit and wonder around and there is an onsite cafe and gift shop that are definitely worth checking out.
You will be surprised at the lavender infused cuisine on offer in the cafe which includes ice-cream, milkshakes, hot chocolate and fudge.
Visiting with kids?
The Tasman Peninsula is a fantastic place to visit with kids. They can’t possibly be bored with all the jaw dropping natural attractions and lovely beaches to play on. At the ages of 2 years and 4 years, my kids even enjoyed the historical sites providing they got a chance to explore on their own.
There are plenty of accommodation options to suit all families and budgets. We stayed at the Port Arthur Holiday Park and loved the natural environment, clean facilities and the cute little pademelons that visited every day at dusk.
If your budget allows it, there are a few paid attractions ideal for kids such as the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo. Even the popular Port Arthur Historical Site itself has some options for kids.
Want to learn about more awesome places?
For more blog posts, photographs and information on my travels through Tasmania, please check out this page: Tasmania
For more information on ALL of my travels, please check out this page: My travel destinations
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