Prettiest Prison on the Planet

It feels like we have been celebrating the Queen’s birthday FOREVER! When we left New Zealand, they were in the middle of the holiday weekend observing it on Monday June 3 and by the time we got out to Tasmania they were in the middle of their holiday weekend, celebrated on Monday, June 10. AND, in Queensland they apparently celebrate it in October!? (AND the woman’s birthday is actually in April!)

I had no intention of coming to Tasmania, but it was the part of Australia the boys were most PUMPED about because of Tasmanian Devils! We caved and I am glad so far. It’s my kind of chill out here and overall densely forested, not at all flat, with plenty of water views.

When we flew over to Hobart, the capital of the state, we immediately took a quick drive out to Port Arthur on the Tasman Peninsula. We stayed in a little lakeside cabin… except the water wasn’t actually a lake! Reminded me of Port Severn, Ontario or something similar; the water is so serene because it is in a very protected bay. Unfortunately it was too cold and wet to enjoy the water at all, but still beautiful to look out at and not much going on in the little homes surrounding.

This neat, eclectic little place is clearly a family’s vacation home and so there were many toys and games for the boys. Zachary and Quinn contentedly made it through an entire legit game of Australian Monopoly complete with local property names and updated purchase prices while Cam and I drove to find the nearest tiny IGA store 10 miles away. It reminded me of Central Butte’s IGA… but much smaller!

The primary practical challenges we have been having on this trip are probably heating and laundry. I don’t think we have stayed anywhere with central heating, which is fine, but in general you get some sort of hodge podge of various heating devices that you hope spread warmth around somewhat. Some have portable radiators which work okay, but there’s probably only two for a whole house. Many have these 2′ x 2′ plug in wall panels that are supposed to give off heat. Some do, some don’t. The house in Rotorua had both a wall heater that was pretty effective, as well as a fire place in the main room and really nothing else that worked. So you could have a sweat lodge in the living space but everyone chattered their way through sleeping.

At home, in my maximum-sized energy-guzzling machines I can complete a huge quantity of laundry in two hours from nasty to clean and dry. Here, clothes dryers are not very common. Clothes lines are, which is also great, but in Tauranga, for example, I couldn’t get one load of laundry completed in the three days we were there. Because of the rain, I often have to hang clothes inside on drying racks, rather than outside. But it was also very humid and frequently cold inside, so the load I did as soon as we arrived, was almost dry three days later. In Cowes, the wash machine cycle (about a third of the size of my “load” at home) took 2 and half hours! What the hell? But at least with some sun, the clothes line did the trick within a day! At this cute cabin, there is nothing.

And the toilets? … have eco-friendly half flush or full flush options, neither of which really take your shit away (unless I’m doing it wrong).

New road sign!

Anyways, the primary area we planned to check out here was the Port Arthur historic site – a convict destination for the British Empire in the 1800s. We explored the huge grounds, took a  short cruise past the two islands which were part of the penal system (one the first boys’ prison, the other a graveyard) and did an introductory walking tour.

The site is gigantic and includes several different prisons, a church, housing for officers, the commandant and other staff, a boatyard, hospital, asylum, etc etc. They needed to be a self sufficient community initially.

The story is a little overwhelming since there are so very many pieces to this particular puzzle. Zachary and Quinn had been enthralled by Alcatraz when they visited with Zaidy and Sophie a couple years ago, mostly because of individual stories of crime, escape, and mistreatment. Here, there was a bit of that, but the scope of the world history involved looms large: the facts around how Australia was originally settled, how Britain’s penal system developed, the “convict stain” that plagued the area after the site was closed, the treatment of the Aboriginal tribes that were already here (same story, different place), and how convicts could or couldn’t work their way out of the system. Add to that that this was the site of Australia’s worst mass murder event in 1996, and it’s some pretty heavy stuff.

Most of the buildings are a couple hundred years old, so definitely falling down even if they managed to survive both of the devastating bush fires in the late 1800s.

Obligatory prisoner shot

Running around the ruins, everyone did well. Listening to world history was a little more challenging for the youngest two, but it certainly is a fascinating place that I would recommend to anyone.

There is only a slight bit more to this Port Arthur excursion, and then on to the next adventure back in Hobart!


2 thoughts on “Prettiest Prison on the Planet”

  1. I feel your pain on the laundry story. In Queenstown I was up til midnight trying to get the tiny dryer to dry our stuff! And I seem to remember some toilet issues when we lived there! Great memories for you all. XO

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