The Tasman Peninsula is a 1½ hr drive from Hobart by taking the A3 to Sorell, turn right onto the Arthur Highway (A9), direction Port Arthur.
Tasman Island Cruises start and finish at our Tasman Island Cruises Booking Centre at 6961 Arthur Highway in Port Arthur. This is 100 metres before the entrance to the Port Arthur Historic Site. We have plenty of free parking available.
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The first sighting of the area by Europeans was in 1642 when the crew from Abel Tasman's historic voyage went ashore near Cape Frederick Henry on the Forestier Peninsula. In 1772, Marion Dufresne's crew also stepped ashore. Flinders in 1798 and Peron in 1802 both noted the spectacular dolerite columns of the Tasman Peninsula.
Initially there was little onshore development of the peninsulas, aside from bay whaling stations. When the government established the major penal settlement at Port Arthur, the entire peninsula was closed to all non-penal related activities, which saw the end of whaling and private timber milling in the area.
By 1833 Port Arthur had been established as a secondary penal settlement and sawing establishment, housing some 475 prisoners (and nearly double that number 2 years later). In 1840 transportation to New South Wales ceased and the assignment system of convict labour was abolished in Van Diemen's Land. In its place a probation system was established which brought a proliferation of Mines, Saltwater River, Wedge Bay, Impression Bay (now Premaydena) and Point Puer. All convict-related sites had ceased operating by 1877, with Port Arthur penal settlement being the last to close its doors. The peninsulas returned to free settlement.
By the turn of the twentieth century, Port Arthur had reopened, this time to curious tourists, providing them with accommodation and tours of the historic site – an industry that is at its strongest today.