We arrived at the Port Arthur Historic Sites at 9am just as they were opening, we like to get to some of these places earlier, to avoid the crowds. We had blue skies and light winds, perfect for a mornings exploring. Port Arthur involved LOTS of walking and plenty of historic buildings in various forms of collapse or rebuilding. There are a walking guided tour and a boat cruise around the bay included in the ticket price, but due to already excessive crowds (and the limited ability to hear everything anyway), we didn’t do either. We decided to grab a map and do our own tour, everything is signposted and there are signs with stories and explanations as well. Port Arthur has another sad history as well, back in 1996 there was a mass shooting, the only good thing that came out of this horrible incident was that it forever changed Australia’s Gun Laws, and cemented in history our most notable massacres in Australia. We did not dwell on this today, but you can read more about it here if you wish
It was exhausting trying to cover as much ground as we could, thankfully there was a courtesy shuttle bus travelling all over the site, and I ended up catching it from the further reaches, back to the visitors’ centre. We grabbed some lunch and then decided to leave about 1pm, as the crowds were really getting bad (school holidays). Instead of driving back up the East Coast of the peninsula (the way we had come) we opted to drive back via the West Coast and were so glad we did, we stumbled upon the Coal Mines Historic Site, such a fabulous hidden gem, really needs more advertising.
Then we drove onto Norfolk Bay and the stunning Shelley Beach, so named for the shells. We decided on the coastal route to Swansea, thinking it may have been a little like The Great Ocean Road, in Victoria, but sadly we barely saw the coast and drove mainly in gravel roads and dirt tracks through the Wielanta Forest. We found and booked into a hotel in Swansea and had dinner at a really quirky little restaurant called the Salt Shaker – great pizza and satay chicken!
We then headed back to the hotel for an early night, it really had been a long day.