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History : Port Arthur

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Port Arthur is a small town and former convict settlement located on the Tasman Peninsula. It is a location drenched in grim history and is Tasmania’s post popular tourist attractions.



Established in 1830, Port Arthur started off as a timber camp that used convict labour. In 1833, it was promoted to a punishment station for repeat offenders.


The model for Port Arthur was taken from an English prison, which was described as ‘a machine for grinding rogues into honest men’. A combination of punishment, discipline, religion, instruction, separation and education either broke or rehabilitated the convicts, and turned many of them into skilled blacksmiths, shoemakers or shipbuilders.


A large penal colony requires military personnel and free people to run it, and the ones that lived at Port Arthur lived very different lives to the convicts. They had parties and picnics, played in the gardens and the children of the settlers went to school within the settlement. On the other hand, the convicts worked on farms and in industries to produce important resources and materials for the community.


By 1840, there were over 2000 residents at Port Arthur and it had turned into an industrial settlement. Convicts stopped arriving to Tasmania in 1853 so Port Arthur became a place for aging and ill convicts, and by 1877, the penal settlement was closed.


Over the following decades, many buildings were dismantled or burnt down in bushfires, but there was still a drawcard for tourism so any buildings that remained were transformed into museums, hotels or shops.


In 1996, Port Arthur gained another chapter in its grim history when gunman Martin Bryant opened fire at the historic site killing 35 people and injuring another 23 people. This is the biggest massacre by a lone gunman in Australia’s history. The site of the massacre has been turned into a memorial and now has its own place in the historical significance of the area.


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The Ghost Tour

The Port Arthur ghost tour has been running for over 20 years and starts after dark.


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Port Arthur is one of Australia’s most haunted places and it’s believed to be because of the violent and cruel history of the site, as it’s where some of the worst criminals ended up.


It was very dark during the tour and we only had a few torches to light the way, which made the tour that much creepier because the mind can be quite inventive in the dark. Our guide had a very deep and sombre voice, and by incorporating sudden volume increases, stomping on wooden floors or hiding in shadowed corners, he was able to create quite a reaction.


Our tour went through the Government Gardens to the Church, then onwards to the Parsonage house where the ghost of the settlement’s priest lived. This is apparently one of the most haunted buildings in Australia. We then made our way down to the basement of the Junior Medical Officer’s House, where autopsies were conducted on convicts to find out if there was an anatomical reason for their criminal inclinations.


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We were then taken to the Separate Prison, or Silent Prison, where the prisoners were isolated and locked away for 23 hours a day. The 24th hour was reserved for exercise in the yard – alone. Convicts that were sent to the Silent Prison were given numbers instead of names, and if they left the prison for whatever reason, they wore masks – so they were faceless and nameless.


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This was the last stop of our tour and thus the end of our time at Port Arthur.


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Coffee Works

Experience : The Coffee Works, Mareeba



Coffee-lovers and connoisseurs rejoice!  We have found the perfect place where you can get your gourmet caffeine and chocolate fix and immerse yourself in the fascinating history of coffee.


The Coffee Works is owned by Annie and Rob Webber, boutique roasters and chocolatiers who started off running a small market stall in 1988.  Nearly three decades later, the Coffee Works has exploded to include a café, colourful gift shop and the Coffee World Experience – the ultimate coffee extravaganza.  A ticket into Coffee World gives you unlimited all day tasting of various blends and single origin coffee, tea, decadent chocolates and liqueurs, as well as entry into the museum, where you can spend hours browsing through the massive collection of coffee history and paraphernalia.




The Museum

The Coffee World Museum displays over 2,000 items that were collected by Rob and Annie or purchased in 2005 from Ian Bernsten, an Aussie entrepreneur, writer and inventor with a serious passion for coffee.  The items on display include items that are one of a kind, the last of its kind or seriously rare stuff, making it the biggest and most significant collection in the world.


Learn about the discovery of coffee and how it evolved to become a beverage, the origins of percolators, plungers and espresso machines, and how coffee spread around the world to become one of the most favourite and influential beverages ever.




The Coffee

We had a big day ahead of us and were glad to have a huge variety of coffees on tap.  We started off with Coffee Work’s Aussie selection, from mildest to boldest, and then moved along to their Single Origins, blends and flavoured coffees.


Our favourites included Black Mountain, their smooth signature blend with lush chocolate flavours and a full mouth feel, as well as Annies blend, because of it’s delicious sweet smell and silky chocolate flavours.


We also sampled the coffee and chocolate liqueur.  All three flavours were lusciously sweet and perfect for drizzling over ice cream or cake.


Coffee Works


The Chocolate

Coffee Works caters to the chocolate freaks as well with an awesome range of yummy chocolates.  All of the flavours are gluten free and the dark varieties are dairy free as well.  You can even watch the chocolatiers in action.  What a sweet job!


Our favourites were the Caffeinator chocolate bark encrusted with coffee beans, the lemon myrtle flavoured chocolate for its fresh but mellow tang, the coconut bark for its textured sweetness and the lime and pepper chocolate for its balance of sweet, savoury and peppery smack.




The Essentials

Coffee Works is located at 136 Mason Street in Mareeba, but you can also find them at Rusty’s Market in Cairns, as well as the Yungaburra Markets and Port Douglas Markets.  If you can’t make it to those destinations, no matter – Coffee Works will roast and post to any destination in Australia, and the world!



1800 355 526





Our view of Dirk Hartog Island from Steep Point

Explorers : Dirk Hartog – the first European landing in Western Australia!

Our view of Dirk Hartog Island from Steep Point


Dirk, aka Dierick Hartochsz, was born in 1580 in Amsterdam to a seafaring family. He spent his early career as a private merchant, executing trading ventures in the Baltic and Mediterranean seas.


By the time he was appointed the master of the Eendracht (VOC ship) in 1615, a new sailing route from Cape York to Australia had been pioneered by Dutch explorer Hendrik Brouwer.  This new route used took advantage of powerful winds called the Roaring Forties, which halved the time of travel from South Africa to Java.


Dirk Hartog PlateIn 1616, Dirk and a fleet of VOC ships set sail for Batavia, aka Indonesia, to trade spices and goods, but on the way, Dirk’s ship was separated in a storm.  He arrived to South Africa behind the rest of the ships and set sail across the Indian Ocean by himself.  About 8 months later, he landed on a small island off the coast of Western Australia, which today is known as Dirk Hartog Island.  He left a pewter plate on the island, known as the Hartog Plate, with the following inscription:


“1616 25th October arrived here the ship Eendracht of Amsterdam; the supercargo Gilles Mebais of Luick; Skipper Dirk Hartog, of Amsterdam , the 27 ditto set sail for Bantam. Subcargo Jan Stins; Upper-steersman Pieter Doores of Bil. Dated 1616.”


He then headed north from Shark Bay, charting the coast as he went.  He named the land he explored as Landt van d’Eendracht, aka Eendracht’s Land.  This is a significant event because it’s the first recorded European Landing in Western Australia, but the second European landing on Australian soil.


Dirk Hartog Map



About 81 years later in 1697, another European landed on the same island.  Willem De Vlamingh found Hartog’s plate half buried in the sand.  He replaced it with a new plate that had Hartog’s original inscription, as well as his own.  He took the original plate back to Amsterdam and it now lives at the Dutch National Museum.  When Hartog finished his expedition, he quit the VOC and went back to private trading in the Baltic.



Pine Creek

Town Profile : Pine Creek

Pine Creek


Pine Creek was named by Sidney Herbert, a bloke who worked on the Overland Telegraph Line.  It was during the construction of this telegraph line that workers discovered gold, and thus the gold rush of 1871 began!  Pine Creek’s population exploded as Europeans and Chinese hurried over to find their fortune and during the brief lifespan of the gold rush, 764,000 ounces of gold were extracted.


These days, Pine Creek is a sleepy little town that provides basic services, and also has a few old buildings dotted around town, such as the Old Bakery.  While it has been closed for a long, long time, you can still have a look inside.  It opened in 1908 as a butchers shop and was re-erected in 1915 as a bakery and has an ant bed oven that dates back to 1922.  It operated as a bakery until World War II.


Mine Lookout & Miners Park

While we were in town, we also checked out the Mine Lookout and Miners Park, and learnt about the gold rush that birthed this town.


The Lookout is on the outskirts of town and offers panoramic views of the area, including Enterprise Pit.  This was an open cut mine that was worked from 1906 to 1985 but is now full of water to prevent acid build-up and is 135 meters deep.


The Miners Park is next to the railway station and exhibits old mining machinery.  There are heaps of displays that reveal the history of the goldfields.



Water Gardens

Running through the guts of town is a grassy strip with little ponds full of flowering lilies.  It’s right near the big windmill so you can’t miss it.  It was born from the closure of the railway line in 1976.


Lake Copperfield

A man-made dam that is perfect for a picnic.  Cool off in the water while you watch the rainbow bee-eaters flutter over the water.


Pine Creek


Umbrawarra Gorge

This place is well worth the 22km drive off the highway.  Once you park your car, it’s a short 15 minute walk to the swimming hole, with clear water and a sandy beach.  If you feel adventurous, continue on into the gorge to find a bizarre sight – the creek flowing upwards?


Umbrawarra Gorge


We thought this location was beautiful and it reminded us of the Kimberley.  We also saw a snake – possibly a golden tree snake – but it slithered away too quickly for a happy snap.




History : Darwin Military Museum


We heard a rumor that the Land Rover 110 that army Major Les Hiddins drove in the famous TV series The Bush Tucker Man had been handed over to the Darwin Military Museum and was on display.  While we originally didn’t plan to visit the museum before leaving Darwin, the idea of being so close to something that belonged to a man we admire so much and NOT paying a visit would have been almost disrespectful!


The plans were made in an instant.


Dave: “Hey Juz, did you know that Les Hiddins’ 4WD is at the Darwin Military Museum?”

Juz: “No!  Can we go after breakfast?”

Dave: “YES!”




The museum is located at out at East Point, which is apt because East Point served as the last major fortress on Australian soil.  The façade is the fancy Defence of Darwin Experience building that was added in 2012 and within the building is a fantastic display of interactive multimedia and artifacts from World War II, when Darwin was attacked by Japan in 1942.  There is even a booth where you can record your family’s story of their involvement in the war.


Outside is the original museum, which features old tanks, guns, trucks and pieces of old planes that have been preserved (not restored).  The rusty wreckages seemed a little eerie in the tropical gardens, with their bullet holes and disintegrated rubber tyres.


We found the shed that sheltered Les Hiddins’ Land Rover 110, took some pictures, then checked out the interior and Les’s butt imprint in the driver’s seat.  We learnt that after Les finished the Bush Tucker Man series, the vehicle was given back to the army for further use – so the butt print in the seat probably wasn’t Les’s.  For us, getting to see the Bush Tucker Man’s truck is almost as exciting as visiting the places he drove it to.




Mission accomplished

but we wanted to take the time to look around before we left…


There was a section dedicated to the Vietnam War that played great music from the period.  We saw samurai swords, various long arms and hand guns, and bicycles that fold in half so skydivers had a way to travel once they landed.  The medals on display were fascinating and we learnt that the 9.2 inch guns within the gun emplacements have a maximum firing range of around 26km – WOW!


The entry fee to the museum is fair and the gift shop has a ton of great stuff at reasonable prices.  We imagine that any war buffs that visit or live in Darwin would love this place.  It is soaked in history and knowing that each bullet hole in the vehicles is real makes the history real too.



The Darwin Military Museum is open 7 days a week, except for Good Friday, Christmas, Boxing, and New Year’s Days.


Email: info@darwinmilitarymuseum.com.au

Website: http://www.darwinmilitarymuseum.com.au/

Phone: 08 8981 9702



Dave & Juz with HRH Prince Leonard

Micronation : The Principality of Hutt River

There is a place in Australia that is not Australia.  It is an independent sovereign state 75 square kilometres in size, which is about the size of Hong Kong.  It is the oldest micronation in Australia and they seceded from Australia in 1970.  This place is called the Principality of Hutt River.


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The capital is called Nain, and there you can learn about how the Principality came about, get your passport stamped in the Government Office and send a postcard from the Hutt River Post Office using one of their official stamps.   After exploring the inter-denominational chapel, wander over to the souvenir shop and pick up a few mementos, like fabric patches, badges, spoons, desk flags or stubbie holders.  You can even pick up a set of Principality of Hutt River coins and currency notes – all of which have the same exchange rate as the Australian dollar.  The one thing that was noticeably absent was a pub.


The population of the Principality of Hutt River is 23 people, but there are 14,000 world-wide citizens, with some holding military and naval commissions even though the micronation is landlocked and the ocean is about 40km to the west.  Primary exports include wildflowers, stamps, coins and agricultural products like wheat, but they are also heavily involved in tourism as nearly 40,000 tourists visit every year.  While we were there, we had to wait for a huge group of Asian tourists to finish filling out their VISA forms and taking pictures with their massive DSLRs before we got a chance to meet the Prince.


The Australian Government does not recognise the secession of Hutt River Province.



The Casley Family

His Royal Highness Prince Leonard I of Hutt is married to Her Royal Highness Princess Shirley of Hutt, Dame of the Rose of Sharon.  Crown Prince Ian was born in 1947 and is the Prime Minister of the principality and the designated successor.  There is also Prince Wayne, Prince Richard and Prince Graeme.


Prince Leonard is a micronation trendsetter because after his success, dozens of micronations were established around the world.


The History of Succession

It all started in 1969 when the Western Australian Government imposed wheat production quotas.  The Casley farm had around 4,000 hectares of wheat ready to harvest but the quota only allowed the Casleys to sell approximately 40 hectares.


Leonard lodged a protest with the Governor of Western Australia and the reply was “no rectification of the Casley Quota would be allowed”. With the reasoning that the Governor acts on behalf of the Queen, Leonard found Her Majesty to be liable and lodged a huge $52 million claim under the Law of Tort.  The government’s response was to introduce a bill that allowed the WA government to resume the Casley farm.  After repeatedly requesting to have the bill reconsidered, Leonard had to resort to International Law applied for succession, declared independence and created the Hutt River Province.


Later on, Prime Minister William McMahon took it upon himself to deal with the Hutt River Province and persecute Leonard. Leonard became aware of this and knew that if the Province became a Principality, then the British Laws of Treason would protect them and their land.  The family voted to raise the status of the territory to a principality and they were safe once more.


During Malcolm Fraser’s time as Prime Minister, Prince Leonard was informed that Fraser had ordered the Taxation Department to come after him.  After three court cases (with the transcripts mysteriously lost), Leonard accused Malcolm Fraser of waging a State of Cold War on the Principality and took it a step further by declaring a State of War between the Principality and Australia.


When the Australian Government was notified of the declaration of war, they laughed and thought Prince Leonard had gone mad!  Three days later, Prince Leonard sent word to the Governor-General declaring the State of War over, which, under the Laws of War, gives Sovereignty to the Government that is undefeated in a State of War.  Leonard also notified the Swiss Federal Council, the Governor-General and Malcolm Fraser that the Principality has accepted and applied the Geneva Conventions of 1949 under Act 103 of Australia, which means that the conventions regarding prisoners of war apply to the Principality, even if one party does not recognise the other.  By doing this, Prince Leonard accepted Political Duty and if anyone tried to obstruct or interfere with his political duty, then under Act 103 of Australia they would be guilty of an offence under the Australian Crime Act of obstructing a person performing their political duty.


When the Australian Government got this news, they weren’t laughing anymore.


Camping in the Principality

Just ‘down the road’ from Nain is a camping ground with toilets and a shower, a shelter, dishwashing station, picnic benches and a fire place.  We decided to stay overnight at a fee of $5 each and cooked up the fish we caught in Kalbarri as we watched kangaroos graze in the distance.



In the morning, we went for a walk ‘into town’, checked out the chapel with the kooky blue windows and admired the interesting art pieces scattered around the country.


The Fremantle Prison

Experience : The Fremantle Prison

One of the things that we got heaps of recommendations for was to visit the Fremantle Prison.  It’s a historically rich gem that opened in 1855 and during its 136 years of operation, it housed over 350,000 convicts and prisoners.


The Fremantle Prison at night


The Gatehouse is where you enter and prior to the prison’s closure in 1991, it was all that the public knew of the maximum security prison. These days, visitors can wander in and out and check out the art gallery, gift shop, visitor centre and café, but the best way to see the prison is on one of the great tours they offer.


We did all the tours – each one telling a different story – and we learnt so much about the history and inhabitants of the prison, how it was built, the riots, the executions, and the daily life behind bars.  It was an amazing experience and we highly recommend a visit to the Fremantle Prison.



The history of the Fremantle Prison is the most fascinating thing about the prison – how it was built, how the prisoners lived, were punished, and died, the riots they started and the spooky stories from the night officers.


It all started with a severe labour shortage within the Swan River Colony in the early 1800s.  Because of the collapsing infrastructure, many were heading east to New South Wales and Tasmania for greener pastures and a better life and by 1840, only 6,000 settlers remained.  In the meantime, the British Government was dealing with overflowing prisons so a deal was made to send some convicts over to Australia.


During the 1850s, thousands of convicts arrived for labour to build the roads, bridges, buildings and helped to establish the colony as a permanent settlement. They also built their own house – The Convict Establishment – and it is the largest convict-built structure in Western Australia.  Carved out of a limestone hill, the establishment was completed in 7 years and in 1855, the first convicts moved in.  A few decades later, an onsite reservoir was built by convicts using around 200,000 bricks. It holds 1.5 million litres and fed the prison and half of Fremantle before a diesel spill in 1988 seeped into the reservoir and contaminated the water.



Over time, the Convict Establishment needed to start letting colonial offenders into the prison, particularly when the Gold Rush of the 1890s saw an influx of crime. During World War II, the prison acted as a military detention centre.


The prison was finally decommissioned in 1991 and reopened in 1992 as a cultural, historical and educational attraction.  The Fremantle Prison was added to the National Heritage List in 2005 and gained World Heritage status in 2010.



During the Doing Time Tour, they had set up a row of cells in one of the divisions to demonstrate the evolution of living conditions over 136 years.  We strolled from room to room, amazed by the simplicity and lack of space.  We definitely wouldn’t have wanted to be inmates in this prison.


From when the prison started in 1855, cells were 1.2 metres by 2.1 metres and included a hammock, stool, fold down table and a poo bucket.  By the 1860s, poor plumbing led to drippy pipes and insect infestations and in 1870 a Royal Commission recommended that the size of the cells be increased, so they doubled the size of all the cells by removing a shared wall between two cells.



Oil and kerosene lamps were replaced by electricity in 1907, and in the 1950s, hammocks were replaced by simple, metal frame beds, which were then replaced with bunk beds in the 1960s.  In the 1980s, power points were installed in cells so prisoners could plug in electrical goods like small TVs and radios.  Poo buckets were never replaced by flushing toilets… ever.


Painting and drawing on cell walls was strictly forbidden up until the final year of the prison’s operation.  There was one exception to this rule – Pegleg Pete, who was incarcerated for brutally violent crimes against women.  He was allowed to have the artistic outlet of painting on his cell walls because it made him noticeably calmer and more compliable.  Here are a few images of his cell, as well as another cell painted by another aboriginal inmate, and drawings from James Walsh’s cell.



Riots were a rare but furious occurrence and usually broke out over the poor conditions.  In 1968, prisoners were sick of food covered in maggots and grease so they made demands for a prison menu and sweets.  When the Superintendent refused, the prisoners rebelled, but the situation was diffused fairly quickly.


The last riot in the prison happened on a 42 degree day in 1988.  Two prisoners were carrying buckets of boiling water for afternoon tea when they suddenly poured the water over a few prison guards.  The guards were taken hostage and the prisoners started to burn things, which eventually set the jarrah wood roof on fire.  The fire brigade was stalled because their trucks couldn’t fit through the gates of the prison, and after 18 hours and $1.8 million worth of damage, the prisoners backed down and released the hostages.



Moondyne Joe

In 1848, Joseph Bolitho Johns was convicted for stealing bread, several cheeses and some bacon and was sentenced to 10 years.  After a few years in UK prisons, he was shipped over to Western Australia and arrived in Fremantle in 1853. He served two years before being released for good behaviour and he went to live in the rugged bush in the Darling Range, in an area the Aboriginals called Moondyne.


In 1861, Joseph was found guilty of stealing a horse and got locked up in jail, only to escape with the stolen horse using the magistrates bridle and saddle to ride off into the night.  He was caught the next day and sentenced to three years.


After a few more escapes and recaptures, Moondyne was transferred to Fremantle Prison where an inescapable cell was built especially for him – stone walls lined with jarrah sleepers secured with over 10 nails.  Funnily enough, he managed to escape again while doing stonework in the yard and disappeared for two years before being discovered, drunk as a skunk sipping stolen wine in the cellar of Houghton Winery in the Swan Valley.


After a few more escape attempts, he was finally given a conditional pardon in 1873 and became a respectable stockman and carpenter and married in 1879.  About 20 years later, he was admitted to the Fremantle Asylum for senile dementia and died in 1900.


James Walsh

Convicted in 1852 for forging a request for goods, he was sentenced to 15 years and transported to Australia, arriving in Fremantle in 1854.  After 5 years in the convict establishment, he was conditionally pardoned, but reconvicted four months later for forging a one pound note and got another eight years.


During this time, he decorated his cell with the most intricate drawings, covering them up with porridge and whitewash so he wouldn’t get punished for marking his cell walls.  His cell was on display and the drawings reminded us of those from Michelangelo and Leonardo – just beautiful!



There are four tours available – Doing Time, Great Escapes, Torchlight and Tunnels.


We loved the Doing Time Tour!  It gave us great insight into how the inmates lived their lives inside the prison.  From the initial processes of strip, shower and search which was jovially demonstrated on Dave (assume the position!), to living in the small cell, punishment and the final walk to the gallows, we were shown how the prisoners spent their days.  If you prefer break out stories, the Great Escapes Tour reveals all the grand plans and opportunistic escapes of both convicts and prisoners.  Learn about famous inmates like Moondyne Joe and the Fenian convicts, and marvel at the bravery and determination, or the foolishness and silly mistakes.



For a real spooky experience, come back after dark for the Torchlight Tour and walk around the prison grounds in the dark.  Probably not the best choice if you’re afraid of the dark, ghosts, scary stories, cold shivers running down your neck or unexpected surprises that make you scream.  The amount of times Juz jumped and grabbed onto Dave during this tour was just funny.


The Tunnels Tour is perfect for the adventurous types and goes 20 metres underground into 1000 metres worth of tunnels that were built by the prisoners.  Juz was a bit squeamish about going underground so Dave did this tour on his own and he loved it!  The tunnels are only accessible by boat and Dave got to share the lead boat with the tour guide, Karl.  At one stage during the tour (you’ll know when you get to it!) Dave and Karl heard a kafuffle behind them and stopped to allow the rest of the group to catch up.  A few seconds later, they appeared – one group ended up backwards while another group had lost their oar, which was later found in someone else’s boat.  One of the great features of this tour is a plaque that commemorates convict labour.  It is the only plaque that celebrates the hard work that the prisoners did, and it’s deep down in the tunnels.  This tour is best suited for the physically fit who aren’t afraid of heights or enclosed spaces.




The Fremantle Prison is on The Terrace and is open 7 days a week from 10am and it is an absolute MUST for anyone visiting Fremantle.


The space is also available for functions and events such as receptions, Halloween parties, art exhibitions, murder mystery nights and Christmas Parties.  It can also host weddings because the prison chapel is a bonafide, consecrated church – just in case you’re interested in starting your life sentence in at the Fremantle Prison.


Phone: 08 9336 9200

Website: www.fremantleprison.com.au

Read what other travelers have to say at TripAdvisor

We had the best time at the Fremantle Prison