Port Arthur is not an encounted location, but a deliberate journey to the Tasman Peninsula. Port Arthur though is a must visit location in Australia. Over time access has changed, but is still very much worth the effort.
This magnificently preserved penal colony is a powerful reminder of Australia's early history. For just a moment forget the beautiful English trees, the neat paths and the manicured lawns and try to imagine what it must have been like to have lived in the teeming slums of London's East End, to have stolen a bolt of cotton, or some foodstuffs or been involved in some petty crime and, having been sentenced to seven years transportation, to have found yourself at the other end of the world in this god-forsaken institution. The scale of the punishment seems so out of proportion to the crimes which were committed. It is extraordinary to contemplate that 12 500 convicts served their time at Port Arthur between 1830 and 1877.
Port Arthur was established in 1830 by Lieutenant-Governor Arthur (after whom it was named) to deal with secondary criminals. And, just to compound the misery in the area, from 1834 - 1849, a special prison for juveniles was established across the bay at Port Puer.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Port Arthur is that it reflects the changing attitudes to prisons and transportation. In the 47 years that it operated British notions of justice and equality went through radical changes. Port Arthur reflects those changes. In 1830 it was accepted that prisoners could be thrown together in mass cells. By the 1840s there was a movement towards separate cells and by the 1850s there was even a sense of dividing the prisoners according to a number of criteria - trustworthiness, health, sanity, and age.
When visiting, if for the first time allow a day and do most of the tours.