Round Tasmania on the Hyperstrada — Day 5

Snug to Triabunna via Port Arthur

This was going to be the first fully dry day on the trip. While it rained heavily almost the entire night, it fortunately stopped in the morning so I didn’t have to ride in the rain. During the day I could occasionally see a few water drops on my visor, but not enough to call it rain. Air temperature was 11 degrees on the dashboard, but it felt more like 5 degrees, my hands were freezing on the first few kilometres.

I managed to leave early around 8.45am when my host José had to drop off his kids at school and everyone left the house. I filled up petrol in Margate and rode towards Hobart. There I ended up in slow moving ‘peak hour traffic’, but compared to the traffic chaos of epic proportions that Melbournians have to endure every day, Tasmanians can consider themselves very lucky and I was only delayed by a couple of minutes in the end.

I rode over the Tasman bridge to Sorell, at times it was incredibly windy, especially near Midway Point where the A3 crosses the water. From Sorell I rode down the Tasman peninsula to Port Arthur. Even though I had lived in Tasmania for several years, I never managed to visit Port Arthur and its historic site, so I tried to finally fit it into this trip. I’m not hugely interested in convict history, but it’s one of the most significant places in the history of European settlement in Australia, so I felt I should visit at least once and then I can cross if off the list.

Pirates Bay lookout
Pirates Bay lookout

On the way to Port Arthur my only stop was at the wonderful Pirate Bay lookout near Eaglehawk Neck, but otherwise it was full throttle and some of the roads down the Tasman Peninsula were fantastic to ride on. When I rode through towns like Dunalley I remembered the devastating bush fire in early 2013 where the town was in the news every day.

My first impression on arrival at the Port Arthur historic site visitor centre was a mixed one. After parking my bike and grabbing my camera gear and tripod I was happy to find lockers at the entrance, that allowed me to store my helmet and other stuff I didn’t want to carry around for hours. Inside however, for a brief moment I had second thoughts after finding out the cheapest entry fee was a steep $37. The friendly sales guy however explained to me that included in the entry fee is a guided tour and harbour cruise, so I gave it a go.

Port Arthur boat cruise
Port Arthur boat cruise

I was surprised how well organised the entire site is, clearly it’s a tourist magnet. I received my dockets for the tour and the harbour cruise and was instructed to take the next one, so I slowly walked down to the jetty where the boat was just returning.

The boat tour was great, it went on for about half an hour and staff did their best to explain otherwise boring history by mixing in funny anecdotes. It was mostly sunny weather too so I stood outside on the deck and enjoyed the sea breeze.

Port Arthur Historic Site
Port Arthur Historic Site

Shortly after the cruise I joined the guided walking tour. It again went for about half an hour and was quite entertaining, even though there was more talking than walking. The tour guide was very funny, but I sometimes wondered what it must be like to be a tour guide in Port Arthur and repeat the same jokes and anecdotes to different groups of people several times a day, 7 days a week, 12 months a year. To his credit though, I was impressed how he managed to remember countless historic dates and people’s names. For that, one must have a true interest in the subject I suppose. I would be hopeless in that job.

Port Arthur Historic Site
Port Arthur Historic Site

After the tour it was already past noon, but the weather was so good that I postponed lunch and walked a little more around the area by myself to check out the most important buildings, or what’s left of them. Later I had lunch at the café; by then it was quite late so it was no longer crowded.

Overall I probably spent four hours at Port Arthur, and I tried to keep it really short and skipped many buildings and features. People who are more interested in the history of the site could easily spend an entire day.

Eaglehawk Neck
Eaglehawk Neck

Instead of taking the long road to Orford via A3 I decided to take a shortcut through the Sandspit River Forest Reserve and left the main road in Copping. It soon turned into one of the bumpiest and rockiest gravel roads ever and I was worried about ruining the tyres and bike. It also started to get dark and I saw several wallabies hopping across the road right in front of my bike.

When I finally arrived in Orford it was dark and I couldn’t see any obvious campground signs from the main road, so I rode on to Triabunna where I knew my way around town because I had stayed there before in 2008 and 2010. I checked in at the campground, went to have a shower and then cooked dinner in the camp kitchen while watching the news on tv. The weather forecast predicted gale force winds for the next days, but at least it was meant to be dry and sunny.