Norfolk Bay is a large inlet off Frederick Henry Bay to the west of Forestier Peninsula and north west of Tasman Peninsula.
Where It Is?: Enter Tasman Peninsula via Eagelhawk Neck on the Arthur Highway.
Most visitors to the Tasman Peninsula are familiar with the role played by Port Arthur as a penal outstation in Van Diemen's Land, but few are aware of the numerous other convict stations in the area, most of which were on the shores of Norfolk Bay. Convict-built out-stations still stand at Saltwater River, Koonya, Premaydena and Taranna. At Saltwater River is the remains of another large convict station and a coal mine, with numerous buildings an a few mine shafts still intact. Interpretive signage details the story of the site, which is about a 25 minute drive from Port Arthur.
Saltwater River Coal Mine
This was Tasmania’s first operational mine, established as a much-needed local source of coal, but also as a place of punishment for the worst class of convicts. Along with the nearby Port Arthur Historic Site, the Coal Mines Historic Site is included in the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage listing.
At any one time, around 60 convicts were sent to work in the dark, hot damp tunnels of the mine which operated from 1833 to 1848. With its reputation for harshness and homosexual activity which was not always reciprocal, the mine contributed towards the failure of the probation system and its eventual demise.
At the site are remnants of the main settlement include the prisoners’ barracks, chapel, officers’ quarters and solitary cells. The ruins of the colliery, including the circular depressions of the mine shafts, can be viewed at close range. On the slopes above are the ruins of the military officers’ quarters and the remains of several stone cottages near Plunkett Point.
Many of the original roads and tramways have survived, including the formation of the incline plane, which extends from the 1845 shaft on Coal Mine Hill to remnants of jetties at Plunkett Point. Other remains include a lime kiln, which is largely intact, and a series of tan pits. The original adits and shafts are inaccessible, however the sites of the 1838, 1842 and 1845 main shafts and numerous minor shafts are readily apparent, as are the associated soil dumps and coal stockpiles. The extensive underground workings are inaccessible, but have interpretive signage.
Taranna is today a small sleepy settlement just north of Port Arthur Historic Site on the Tasman Peninsula. During the height of the Port Arthur penal settlement, Taranna was the terminus for a human railway which ran between the jetty at Little Norfolk Bay and the prison. It was designed to carry passengers and supplies unloaded at Norfolk Bay and saved the ships the hazardous journey around Cape Raoul. It was the first railway in Australia and probably the only one using human horsepower along its seven kilometre line.
Taranna is home to Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park and Federation Chocolate Factory and Heritage Museum. The conservation park is dedicated to wildlife protection and rescue, and also has extensive breeding programs. At the Chocolate Factory, visitors can watch through viewing windows as the fine handmade chocolates in a variety of flavours are made. Taranna convict out-station building is now used for Bed and Breakfast accommodation.
The out-station at Cascade (now Koonya) was neat and compact. From it, convicts were employed in felling timber, which was believed to be the best on the peninsula. Most of it was used for shipbuilding in Hobart. The many buildings which are still standing were arranged on either side of a main street in an area between two streams. The old road has vanished without trace; the current road runs inland between the hospital and penetentiary. The waterfall after which the settlement was named can be seen where the present road crosses the western of the two streams.
Known in convict times as Impression Bay, this was the most an important out-station on the peninsula after Port Arthur. It opened in 1841, initially growing vegetables, and by 1846, there were 445 convicts based at the station and four doctors were employed here. A long tramway ran through the middle of the settlement to a jetty on Premaydena Bay. The foundation logs of a trestle bridge that carried the railway across mud flats are still visible at low tide. Most buildings were situated on a hill on the north western side of the valley. A lage brick and stone prison was set into the side of the hill. Only a handful of the buildings remain.
Situated in a fertile valley, the station was a base for timber milling (primarily used at the Saltwater River coal mine) and wood manufacturing until the local timber ran out in 1857. For six months it became a quarantine station for 300 passengers from the migrant ship Persian affected by typhoid fever. The land was then sold and the area changed its name to Premaydena.
Located on Forestier Peninsula facing Norfolk Bay, Flinders Bay (8 km north west of Eaglehawk Neck) was once the site of a convict Probation Station which was established in 1841. The 200 convicts were involved in timber getting and land clearing. The station, beside the mouth of Flinders Creek, was short lived and closed within several years of establishment. The convicts were transferred to Port Arthur.
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Tasman Forest Drive
If you’d like to see some other interesting sights and don’t mind driving on gravel, take this drive, which begins at a turn-off on Arthur Highway between Eaglehawk Neck and Taranna. From Eaglehawk Neck, turn left and the Forestry Tasmania sign. Eaglehawk Lookout has the pick of the views. The road loops back onto Arthur Highway just south of Taranna.
Other Places of Interest
Slopen (aka Sloping) Island
This island, in Frederick Henry Bay, was established in 1841 as a Probation Station to house convicts arriving in Van Diemens Land. The convicts were involved in timber getting and land clearing. The station was forced to close only three years later, due to the lack of availability of fresh water. The convicts were assigned to Port Arthur. In 1824 the first whaling station in the water approaches to Hobart were established at Slopen Island by Walter Angus Bethune and John Grant.
The settlement at this locality was originally called Wedge Bay, and was on the opposite side of the bay to the present town. The remains of what was intended to be a flourishing settlement can be seen today – a weatherboard brick and stone police headqurters, a walled garden and the foundations for a hospital. trenches were dug for the foundations of a number of houses and streets were formed before orders came through to consolidate all out-stations at Port Arthur. An attempt was made to quickly finish the town, but it was unsuccessful.
Modern Nubeena is a sleepy little holiday and fishing village which looks like any one of a thousand sleepy little holiday villages in Australia. The township is located on the shores of Wedge Bay and further offshore is Wedge Island which is an important nesting habitat for the shearwater.
Located on the southern shores of Wedge Bay, White Beach is a small fishing and holiday community. It has a safe beach for children, with excellent surfing beaches a short drive away.
Palmers Lookout: just south of Port Arthur off the Remarkable Cave Road a dirt road leads to the top of a hill and a lookout over the town, port and the Isle of the Dead. There are binoculars there for close up viewing and a shelter and picnic area.