Visitor center opens at Tasmania's Port Arthur

HOBART, Australia -- A $2.7 million visitor center opened at Tasmania's Port Arthur Historic Site early this year.

The ruins of the Port Arthur penal settlement, east of Hobart on the Tasman Peninsula, constitute the island's best-known historic site.

The settlement is visited by 250,000 visitors a year.

Port Arthur housed convicts for 55 years until it closed in 1877. In the 1840s, the site was Tasmania's industrial center, with convicts providing the labor to produce items ranging from ships and clothing to furniture and vegetables.

Funded by state and federal governments, the two-story visitor center includes an interpretation gallery where visitors can follow the routine of an individual convict.

The center also includes a new restaurant and expanded retail facilities and parking.

On arrival, visitors are assigned a specific convict identity from the attraction's database of convict records.

In the interpretation gallery, visitors are sentenced under their newly assigned identity and then "experience" a day in the life of a convict at Port Arthur.

Visitors can then tour the 100-acre site, which has more than 30 buildings, including ruins and period-furnished homes.

The price of admission -- about $10 (children are admitted for half price) -- is valid for two days and includes guided walking tours and a 20-minute harbor cruise.

Also offered are 30-minute flights by Tasmanian Seaplanes, motorcoach tours to scenic sites and ghost tours.

According to the attraction, the new center will facilitate the handling of cruise ship passengers and meetings groups.

The visitor center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to dusk.

Port Arthur Historic Site, Phone: (011) 61-3 6250-2363, Fax: (011) 61-3 6250-2494

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