Port Arthur Day Tour Part I: Richmond

I opted for a day tour to Port Arthur & Tasman Peninsula from Hobart as the online pictures of coastal scenery from Tasman Peninsula looks stunning and at the same time, Tasmania’s rich convict history aroused my interest for Australia’s most famous penal settlement – Port Arthur. So I ended signing up Tours Tasmania‘s Port Arthur Day Tour since Tripadvisor reviews looked good and I had a discount coupon to join their tours.

The highlights of the tour include:

  • Richmond town
  • Pirates Bay Lookout
  • Tasman National Park – Devils Kitchen, Tasman Arch
  • Waterfall Bay Cliff Top Walk (easy grade)
  • Port Arthur Historic Site
  • Federation Chocolate Factory
  • Eaglehawk Neck & the Dogline
  • Hobart City lookout

The tour pick-up was at 7.30am at the hotel. When I got on the mini-bus I realised I was the last to be picked up hence had to take the front seat next to the tour guide cum driver (think his name was James). He gave a brief outline of what we would be doing for the day and within 30 min, we reached our first destination – Richmond town.

Richmond is a town in Tasmania about 25 km north-east of Hobart, in the Coal River region, between the Midland Highway and Tasman Highway, with a population of 880 as at 2006 population census. The town was initially part of the route between Hobart and Port Arthur until the Sorell Causeway, the second convict-built causeway in SE Tasmania, was constructed in 1872. Prior to Sorell Causeway’s completion, the Richmond Bridge, the first convict-built bridge had been the primary crossing point of the Coal River on the road from Hobart to Sorell and beyond to the Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur. Richmond somehow lost its importance after the Sorell Causeway, now a section of the Tasman Highway, was completed as the major route of access from Hobart to the east coast and Tasman Peninsula.

Originally named Bigge’s Bridge, Richmond Bridge is Australia’s oldest bridge, built by convicts from sandstone quarried from Butchers Hill and hauled by hand carts to the bridge site. Due to its rarity as Australia’s earliest large stone arch bridge and has survived few significant changes since 1825, it has outstanding heritage value, attracting almost 200,000 visitors annually to the town to learn about an important part of the convict heritage.

Richmond Bridge - the most famous landmark in the town

Richmond Bridge – the most famous landmark in the town

The bridge was actually our last stop in Richmond as we were dropped off near the Richmond Gaol’s visitor carpark and given about 45 min to explore the town. Pardon my poor shot of the bridge taken in a hurry. 😛 As you can see, the bridge is not very long.

Richmond is not a very big town, so besides the Richmond Bridge, its other landmarks are: St Johns Church, St Luke’s Church and Richmond Gaol. The main street in the town is Bridge Street. According to James, the Richmond Bakery located near Richmond Gaol serves very nice coffee, cakes and pastries, so I bought 2 scones (A$6, about S$7.10) for my “lunch” later at Port Arthur, as meals are not included in the tour. The scones were fluffy and yummy with the jam and whipped cream.

Check out my photos of the quiet little town on an early and misty morning where most of the shops and attractions were still closed. 🙂

Old Hobart Town Model Village - depicting life in Hobart as it was in the 1820s

Old Hobart Town Model Village – depicting life in Hobart as it was in the 1820s

Richmond Emporium - a family run jewellery boutique

Richmond Emporium – a family run jewellery boutique

Richmond Gaol Historic Site - Australia's best preserved & oldest existing gaol

Richmond Gaol Historic Site – Australia’s best preserved & oldest existing gaol

As mentioned above, Richmond Gaol is the oldest existing gaol in Australia and predates the penal colony at Port Arthur. The oldest part of the complex is the 1825 building which not only provided night and day quarters for the prisoners, but also housed the Gaoler. Too bad the historic site is only open from 9am to 5pm daily so we could not visit the site.

St Luke's Anglican Church - a Georgian stone church erected in 1834

St Luke’s Anglican Church – a Georgian stone church erected in 1834

This Anglican church was designed by Colonial Architect John Lee Archer. The foundation stone was laid by Governor Arthur and the clock was made in England in 1828. It was previously installed in the tower of St David’s, Hobart, then later installed in St Luke’s in 1922.

St Johns Church - the oldest Roman Catholic church in Australia

St Johns Church – the oldest Roman Catholic church in Australia

St Johns Church is located beside the Coal River and across the bridge from the town. It was designed by the ex-convict architect, Frederick Thomas, and was completed in 1836 and opened on 31 December 1837. The church was greatly enlarged in 1859 and the spire added in the early 20th century. Thomas Francis Meagher, an Irish rebel leader, is buried near the church’s doorway. After being convicted of sedition, he was first sentenced to death, but received transportation for life to Van Diemen’s Land (now known as Tasmania) in Australia. In 1852 he managed to escape to America where he later became the Governor of Montana.

Just a small town but it seems like this place is rich in history, isn’t it? Too bad we were too early and there was not much free time given here too. James did highlight that we would not be spending much time here as Port Arthur Historic Site is huge and we would have lots of time to catch up on Australia’s convict past there, so don’t need to overload on the convict history here in Richmond, haha.

I shall continue in the subsequent posts on the great views at Tasman Peninsula and more on Port Arthur. Stay tuned… 😉


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