Port Arthur Historic Site

Between 1833 and 1877 Port Arthur was a large, self-sufficient and isolated industrial complex where convicts did iron work, bronze casting, leather work and ceramics, and also made bricks, small boats and ships for the colonial government. Gangs of convict labourers worked on surrounding farms as ‘beasts of burden’, ploughing, hauling logs and dragging carts. From the 1840s Port Arthur trialed successive penal philosophies, including systems of isolation, classification, separation of boys and men, and psychological terror. 


The Penitentiary

The four-storey Penitentiary accommodated 484 convicts; 136 in separate cells and 348 in two tiers of sleeping berths in dormitories. In the same area of the site are the Asylum, Farm Overseer’s Cottage and ruins of the Paupers’ Mess and Hospital.  Port Arthur is an example of the use of penal transportation to expand Britain’s geo-political spheres of influence, punish criminals, deter crime in Britain and reform criminals. The site is also associated with global developments in the punishment of crime during the 19th century including Lieutenant-Governor Arthur’s ‘open air panopticon’, a special prison for male juvenile convicts, and the ‘separate system’.


The Church

Elevated above the convict precinct are the Church, Parsonage and houses for the visiting Magistrate and Roman Catholic Chaplain. The location of the Church reflects the pivotal role of religion in reforming convicts.


Convict Buildings

Port Arthur comprises more than 30 convict-built structures and substantial ruins in a picturesque and relatively undisturbed landscape of 136 hectares. The extensive suite of structures and their layout reflect the importance of the penal station, its self-sufficiency and the evolution of penal practices over several decades. The civil and military buildings form two groups at either end of the station.


Port Arthur Historic Site

Address: 6973 Arthur Highway, Port Arthur, Tasmania 7182

Freecall: 1800 659 101

Telephone: (03) 6251 2310