Last stop in Hobart is the Salamanca Markets. It’s definitely one of those things on the must do list for your visit to this neck of the woods and you won’t be disappointed by the row after row of tents selling all sorts of goods. The perfect place to go shopping and the best bit is there are loads of places to stop for a coffee or a bite to eat while you ponder that purchase.
Leaving Hobart behind, I am on my way to historic Port Arthur. The drive only takes about one and a half hours, but I’ve decided to make a stop along the way to check out some cute little devils that can only be found in Tasmania. The Unzoo, the first of its kind in the world, is home to a number of devils and works hard at preserving this endangered species.
So what is an unzoo?
An unzoo is a concept born of John Coe. The philosophy behind it is to remove the cages and management of captive animals and focus instead of building relationships between the animals and visitors and in the case of the animals, let them act and roam as close as they would to when they were in nature. It’s basically a move away from the days when animals were simply kept in cages for our entertainment.
There are a number of devils at the park but your first stop should be to watch the video about them in the presentation shed. I was quite surprised to realise that they were so vicious and to learn that their jaws were strong enough to snap your bones into pieces. There is a video of a devil crunching some bones and I can assure you the sound is something from a horror movie.
Check out the devils den if you can get down on your hands and knees enough to crawl through the tube, and you’ll pop up in a dome where you might be lucky enough to be surprised by a devil or two scratching around. After seeing that video, I must admit I’m a little scared to see a devil’s mouth so close up – even if I am protected by a massive bubble.
But that’s nothing compared to seeing one eat in the flesh. At the unzoo you can have the opportunity to watch a devil being fed.
Of course, there are other animals here to see and you shouldn’t miss the bird shows.
Now it was on to the historic settlement of Port Arthur. Despite having been told the weather in Tassie can be pretty miserable at times, today – with its clear blue sky – was a perfect day to explore Port Arthur.
A small talk and guided walk kicked off the exploration before we were left to roam the grounds ourselves.
Between 1830 and 1877, Port Arthur operated as a penal settlement. Men and women convicts, most of whom would have been poor young people from rural areas or big city slums of Britain were sent here to be punished for crimes that most of us would call trivial.
Life was harsh here and there was little chance of escape.
Shipbuilding also took place here. It was introduced in 1834 to give the convicts a useful skill to take with them once their sentences had been finished, and only those who were well behaved or deemed to be receptive enough to take up the challenge, were allowed here.
When transportation ceased in 1853, the site saw several changes of usage – as an industrial prison, a welfare centre for aging, infirm and insane prisoners and a township, renamed Carnarvon. The name Port Arthur was reinstated after 1897 and Port Arthur was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2010.
Unfortunately, the historic settlement was the sight of Australia’s worst ever mass killing when intellectually disabled 28 year old Martin Bryant killed 35 people and wounded another 23 here in 1996. The tragic killing lead to the introduction of tougher gun laws in Australia.
That evening I stayed at Stewarts Lodge which was right on the edge of the Port Arthur site. I don’t normally wax lyrical about the accommodation I stay in because it’s more about the travel for me, but this? This was something wonderful. My little ‘hut’ was a spacious apartment with both the bedroom and lounge overlooking the beautiful forest. There was a gorgeous wooden deck off the lounge complete with local bird wildlife, a spa bath in the bathroom and a generous kitchen – I really should have stayed longer. Best of all, there was no internet or phone reception. Just like the old days!
And then when the sun started to set, OMG – how beautiful. I walked down to the bay, a short distance from my apartment to watch the sun setting over the water. Beautiful pinks and mauves washed the sky until the moon made its appearance over the water. It was so peaceful and heavenly.
I was going to enjoy my one night here – with the help of a little cheese, pate and sparkling wine and some amazing views – and then tomorrow, I’d be on the road again.