Just about everyone in Australia knows about the historic ‘Port Arthur Historic (convict) Site’ and a bit about its history. Yet very few know about the convict ‘Historic Coal Mines’ just 30kms away at Little Norfolk Bay.
The Port Arthur Site is a BIG tourist attraction and you pay BIG money to enter and see the islands. Yet few go to the Coal Mines Site by the Parks and Wildlife Service. It is listed as one of the great short walks and inscribed into the Australian National Heritage List and UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Yes it has that much significance to history! the first operational Tasmanian coal mine and “serving as a place of punishment for the ‘worst class’ of convicts from Port Arthur.
It is certainly devoid of a mass of tourists – I only saw one other couple and a family of four in the many hours I was there. No entry fees and the interpretation of the area is subtle and very well done.
While exploring the ruins, you become torn about its harsh, cruel history. As you look out across Norfolk Bay glorious scenery, (yes it is summer when I visited) you think about the convicts, who probably never saw the light of day – working deep within the mines.
Interest turns to the incredible beauty of the warm earthy tones in the stones of the ruins also.
Reading the scattered plaques brings you back to the stark reality of the place.
Of course the mines are closed and filled in, with a small remnant to see.