National Trust Tasmania
National Trust Tasmania
Travel Tip

Tassie’s Top Ten History Lessons

Kathryn Leahy
Explore Tasmania's brutal convict past, maritime adventure, mining and early industrial development. Unlike most other places, Tasmania's rich cultural heritage is still well preserved today.

1. Port Arthur Historic Site

For more than 40 years until its closure in 1877, Port Arthur was a penal settlement as well as a military and industrial centre, encompassing mining, farming, timber cutting, boat building and many other trades. The Port Arthur Historic Site, one of five World Heritage listed convict sites in Tasmania, is the best-preserved convict settlement in Australia and among the most significant convict sites in the world.

a historic convict prison at Port Arthur in southern Tasmania
Hype TV
Port Arthur Historic Site - Separate Prison

2. West Coast Wilderness Railway

The West Coast Wilderness Railway is the world’s steepest steam-operated railway with original steam locomotives and a rare rack-and-pinion rail system used to climb hills and cross gorges. Passengers travel from Queenstown to Dubbil Barril on the same locomotives that started the trip back in 1896. The 16 km run passes through wilderness, traversing the deep chasm of the King River Gorge, with stops for gold panning and sightseeing on the way.

heritage train travelling through the rainforest
Nick Osborne
West Coast Wilderness Railway

3. The Wall in the Wilderness

The small town of Derwent Bridge in Tasmania’s central highlands is home to Australia’s most ambitious art project. Greg Duncan is carving the history of the highlands in 100 metres of timber. The beautifully carved work sets out in relief sculpture the history, hardship and perseverance of the people in the Central Highlands. There’s nothing like this anywhere else in Australia.

wall carving depicting Tasmanian heritage and history
Brian Dullaghan
The Wall in the Wilderness

4. Mawson Replica Huts

The Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum stands on the waterfront in Hobart, not far from where the Aurora sailed south to Antarctica with Douglas Mawson’s Australasian Antarctic Expedition of 1911-14. This world-class museum gives visitors an historic insight into the daily lives of the expeditioners who spent two winters living and working in the true ‘home of the blizzard’.

a life-size replica of Mawson Hut recreated on the Hobart waterfront
Dale Baldwin
Mawson Huts Replica Museum

5. Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre

Experience the excitement and realities of the elusive hunt for gold or learn about the mine rescue in 2006 of Brant Webb and Todd Russell. This is a place where you can lose yourself in history, play with treasures from the past and embark on a historical journey.

heritage centre complex and an old disused mine at Beaconsfield in the Tamar Valley
Dan Fellow
Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre

6. Bass and Flinders Centre

At George Town, go aboard a replica of Bass and Flinders’ sloop Norfolk at the  Bass and Flinders Centre. The Norfolk is berthed next to a wharf with a typical dockside warehouse, complete with crew waiting to go aboard. As you explore the Huon pine sloop, note there’s not a screw or nail in sight: trunnels or treenails hold the entire vessel together. See artefacts, watch movies and go on a tour to learn about Australian maritime history.

7. The Tench Penitentiary Chapel Historic Site

In the early 1830’s, a service in the chapel of the Van Diemen’s Land Prisoners’ Barracks Penitentiary (The Tench) was far from holy. Built in the shape of a cruciform, it included thirty-six solitary cells, later declared inhumane. When transportation ended, the site became Hobart Town Gaol for the next 100 years. Parts of the chapel were converted into Supreme Courts connected by tunnels to the gaol, and an execution yard and gallows were added. More than 50,000 convicts passed through here, their stories told through various guided tours.

Visitors walking through The Tench Penitentiary in Hobart Tasmania
National Trust Tasmania
The Tench Penitentiary

8. Waddamana Power Station

The Waddamana Power Station was the first hydro-electric power plant ever operated by the Tasmanian Hydro-Electric Department. The station, located almost in the geographical centre of Tasmania, is now a fascinating hydro-electric museum featuring machinery, memorabilia, and artefacts from the station and the people who worked there.

Interior of the historic Waddamana Power Station
Hydro Tasmania
The old turbines at Waddamana Power Station

9. Wooden Boat Centre

The Wooden Boat Centre in Franklin sits on the banks of the Huon River, and comprises the Wooden Boat Discovery Centre and Wooden Boat School. In the Discovery Centre you’ll find displays interpreting the history of wooden boat building and water transport along with maritime tools and artifacts.

man building a traditional timber boat
Nick Osborne
Wooden Boat Centre Tasmania

10. Furneaux Museum

Piece together the history of the Furneaux Group of islands through an assortment of artefacts, historical records, and natural history spread across six buildings that are exhibits in themselves. These include a replica of the birding huts used in the 1920’s during mutton bird season; a school and the residence of the first government subsidised ‘school master’ on the island; and the the sad history of the Wybalenna settlement.

a ship propeller from a shipwreck outside the Furneax Museum on Flinders Island
Supplied courtesy of Furneaux Museum
Furneaux Museum

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