The Top 10 Places to See in Tasmania
With Tasmania's 3.4-million acres of protected wilderness, this alluring isle feels close to heaven—Tasmanian devils included
- By Tony Perrottet
- Smithsonian.com, April 17, 2012
Historic prison hospital: Port Arthur Penal Colony, Tasmania, Australia. (© William Robinson / Alamy)
Tasmania’s grim convict past is encapsulated in the ruins of Port Arthur, which from 1833 to 1853 housed repeat offenders from Australia’s other prison camps. The idyllic pastoral setting on the Tasman Peninsula, with verdant bush and trimmed green grass, forms a striking contrast to the Gothic structural remains, with their sinister-looking cellblocks and bleak history. An extreme form of solitary confinement was instigated here, where prisoners were locked in total darkness and provided just bread and water for days on end, driving many to madness; to deter escapees, the peninsula’s narrowest point was guarded by half-starved dogs. Today Port Arthur’s serenity only seems to highlight its tragic past; the standard tour of the site contains many gruesome details and ghost stories. Spectral sightings at Port Arthur first began in the late 19th century, but true fans of the occult can now sign up for the Paranormal Investigations Experience, a four-hour search for late-night unnatural activity that uses the latest “professional” testing equipment.
Contributing writer Tony Perrottet, who was born in Australia and now lives in New York, has been visiting Tasmania since the 1980s; www.tonyperrottet.com.