Ongoing heritage and infrastructure works are part of a living conservation plan to protect the Port Arthur, Coal Mines and Cascades Female Factory Historic Site.

Fast facts

  • UNESCO World Heritage-listed as one of 11 convict settlements in Australia
  • Established in 1830 as a timber station, and 1833 as a site for secondary punishment
  • The site covers more than 40 hectares (100 acres), with 30 historic buildings & ruins
  • Conservation includes maintaining and educating on traditional skills
  • Its location is exposed to the ravages of coastal weather
  • More than 300,000 visitors annually


Port Arthur began as its name suggests, as a port and industrial settlement on turakanna/the Tasman Peninsula.

Three years later, it was designated as a site of secondary punishment. Today, the Port Arthur Historic Site is a place of universal interest for its 40-year history as a penal settlement during the imperial era where convict labour was key to colonisation. Its surviving buildings and landscape, bricks and stonework, records and preserved artefacts, show visitors an authentic picture of life at this Tasmanian penal settlement during the 19th century.

Sustaining History

Ongoing heritage and infrastructure works to protect the Port Arthur, Coal Mines and Cascades Female Factory Historic Sites are part of a living conservation plan. The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority (PAHSMA) follows the Charter for Places of Cultural Significance. The guiding principles of the Burra Charter are ‘as much as possible and as little as necessary, and reconstruction as a last resort’.

Keeping the convict experience alive

A key element of the visitor experience at Port Arthur is the storytelling. The vivid history of the penal settlement is shared through the stories of real people of times past. Visitors follow in the footsteps of commandants, convicts, soldiers, servants, and shipwrights, whose diverse experiences and their impacts bring the settlement to life. Sustaining this human history has profound relevance for current and future generations of Australians and British families with convict ancestry.

Keeping traditional skills

The conservation team is made up of people with specialist skills in building and object conservation, including gardeners, stonemasons, archaeologists, interpreters and collections specialists.

Maintaining a historic site also means sustaining traditional skills. The Port Arthur Historic site offers programs for university students from around Australia that encompass research opportunities for students of cultural heritage management, architecture, archaeology, history and interpretation.

Sustaining the local community

A small population of approximately 250 people, Port Arthur is intricately linked with the local community.  The site proactively sources local products:  77% food and beverage products are locally sourced, as well as 30% of  products sold in the gift shop. The largest employer in the Tasman Peninsula, 77% of staff live locally. Likewise, local suppliers and contractors are from within a 70 kilometre radius of the attraction.

Another initiative is the staff vegetable garden. All kitchen waste is composted and staff assist with the planting and growing. Produce is shared amongst staff.

Combating climate change

Embedded in the operations of the conservation team is the observation of the impact climate change has on the Port Arthur Historic site.  In particular,  implementing operational steps that ensure the ongoing protection of the irreplaceable World Heritage landscape. Recently, the sandbagging of Radcliff Creek was undertaken to prevent erosion from rising sea levels and increasingly frequent storm surge events.

Waste management

The team proactively seek sustainability commitment from external suppliers; all single use plastic is banned and has been replaced with biodegradable cutlery, napkins and takeaway containers. Waste bins encourage visitors to separate rubbish into recyclable and non-recyclable waste.

There is an active recycling program in food and beverage services. Used cooking oil is used for biofuel, the coffee grounds from 117,000 cups per annum are used as mulch on gardens, while on average 70 beverage and 140 wine bottles per week are broken down in the glass crusher machine,  the output of which is used in garden mulch, pathways or road base. In the Visitor Centre water coolers  have reduced the use of plastic water bottles.

Office management also includes environmentally focussed practices including paper and receipts, recycling of print cartridges recycled through Planet Ark while batteries are collected and recycled at Battery World in Hobart who donate proceeds to charity.

Managing water consumption

The site has a fully self-managed EPA-compliant wastewater treatment plant and its own managed water supply. Low flush toilets and restricted flow taps save 400,000 litres of water annually and 90 kl rainwater is reticulated for use in flushing toilets, irrigation and vehicle washing. The Visitor centre has an e-water unit used for sanitising food and cleaning, reducing overall chemical usage by 85%. In the gardens, mulch from composted leaves are reused to improve soil quality and water holding capacity and an air-spade is used to de-compact soil around heritage trees , increasing absorption of water. An e-water unit in the Visitor centre is used for sanitising food and cleaning,  reducing overall chemical usage by 85%

Energy efficiencies

A process of continuous improvement is in place to reduce energy use on the site. Improvements to the Visitor Centre, including the change to LED lighting has reduced energy usage by 14% and gas usage by 65%. Changes to vehicles on site include the introduction of an electric courtesy vehicle delivery van and cleaning vehicles, an initiative that has reduced fuel use by 20%. An all-terrain quad utility vehicle has replaced the utility vehicle, further reducing fuel consumption. A Monika fridge system monitors and raises alerts if not running optimally and power tools have been replaced with rechargeable battery tools for site maintenance. Policy is in place to ensure all staff flights are carbon offset.


The Port Arthur Historic Site is located on turakanna/the Tasman Peninsula, a 90-minute drive from nipaluna/Hobart. Visitors have the option to travel to Port Arthur via public transport or private car.


The immersive tours you experience at the Port Arthur Historic Site explore the buildings, ruins and gardens and uncover the history of the site. The Wheel of Fate tour can include engaging with a conservation specialist. Explore the site on Commandant’s Carriage Tour or the Escape from Port Arthur Tour.

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