Norfolk Bay, Tasmania

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. In years gone by the waters of this bay were infested with enormous sharks, which were regularly fed by the authorities, to prevent the possibility of convicts escaping by swimming from the peninsula to the mainland.

Norfolk Bay was first recorded by Jean-Baptiste Philibert Willaumez, an officer of French explorer Bruni D'Entrecasteaux, in 1792, who went there in search of provisions, but could only get as far as Primrose Point. He did not know then whether this new bay was connected to Abel Tasman's Frederick Hendrick Bay (now known as Blackman's, or Marion Bay) ; on D'Entrecasteaux's map of the Tasman Peninsula is called Tasman Island. Matthew Flinders in 1798 visited the Bay, giving it the name of Norfolk, after the small schooner in which he was sailing with George Bass during their famous circumnavigation of Tasmania. It was built by convicts on Norfolk Island.

In 1802 French explorer Nicolas Baudin examined the bay, and gave it the name of Port Buache, unaware of Flinders's nomenclature. The name honoured Jean Nicolas Buache, the French King's marine cartographer, who was uncle to D'Entrecasteaux's hydrographic engineer Charles Francois Beautemps-Beaupre, who is now regarded as the father of modern French hydrography. The bay was recorded on maps in 1841 and 1858 used both names, but today Norfolk Bay is the only name that survives. Baudin also gave the name 'Buache' to an island off Cockburn Sound to the south of Fremantle, Western Australia. The island was renamed Garden Island in 1827 by Captain James Stirling.

Saltwater River Coal Mine site

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.

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  • Lime Bay Nature Reserve

    The Lime Bay Nature Reserve is seldom visited, but contains a surprisingly large network of trails linking together some beautiful beaches and lagoons with some great convict history thrown in. The reserve is a popular spot for camping, boating and walking. Facilities include toilets, picnic tables and fire places. It is advisable to bring your own water and firewood. There are two tranquil beaches: Lime Bay is next to the camping area, while the picturesque Lagoon Beach lies in the lee of Sloping Island, an easy 40 min walk.

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    • Koonya

      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.

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      • Taranna

        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.

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        • Premaydena

          Known in convict times as Impression Bay, this was the most 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.

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          • Eaglehawk Neck

            As its name suggests, Eaglehawk Neck is a narrow bar between Pirates Bay to the east and Norfolk Bay to the west. It is made of sand carried by currents and waves from the floors of Pirate's Bay to the east and Norfolk Bay to the west. This isthmus joins the Forestier Peninsula and Tasman Peninsula and the former Port Arthur Penal Settlement on which it stands in a narrow strip of land which is less than 100 metres wide. It was here, during the convict penal settlement days, that savage attack dogs were chained from one side of the neck to other within reach of each other to deter prisoners from attempting an escape by land. As a sombre reminder of the location's use, a bronze dog sculpture marks the spot where chained attack dogs were once stationed.


Dunalley is a fishing village built around the man-made Denison Canal, which has a swing bridge over it for road traffic. Denison Canal disects East Bay Neck, a narrow isthmus connecting Forestier Peninsula to the Tasmanian mainland at Dunalley. It joins Blackman Bay to Frederick Henry Bay. Dunalley is on the narrow land neck that connects Forestier Peninsula with the rest of Tasmania. Blackman Bay lies to the norh east; Dunalley Bay on Norfolk Bay lies to the south west. It was near where Dunalley now stands that Dutch navigator Abel Tasman sent his carpenter, Peter Jacobsen, ashore on 3rd December 1642 to name the territory Van Diemen's Land after the Governor of Batavia and claim it for Holland.

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  • Flinders Bay

    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. Probation Stations at Salt Water River, Slopen Island and Impression Bay probation stations also opened that year. At that time, the Government stated no more convict assignments to settlers would be made; instead the Probation System was activated, whereby convicts were divided into gangs and sent to work in the under developed areas of the Colony. The 200 convicts at the Flinders Bay Probation Station 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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    • Murdunna

      With a population of around 320, Murdunna is the only town on the Forestier Peninsula. It is approximately halfway down the Peninsula on the Arthur Highway at the head of King George Sound, a narrow bay off Norfolk Bay. Murdunna's population increases in the summer months, and it is becoming increasingly popular with people from Hobart who are looking for weekend getaways. Many houses are owned by non-residents who use them as holiday homes. The name Murdunna is believed to come from a local indigenous word meaning "place of the stars".

      Smooth Island

      Smooth Island, on the western side of the Lime Bay State Reserve headland, is surrounded by a low profile reef. A region of gravel or hard sand extends from the reef on the eastern coast towards King George Island and King George Sound. The reef on the western coast is surrounded by sand and a body of silt approaches the south-west coast of the island. Between Smooth Island and King George Island lies a dense bed of seagrass (Halophila australis) and eelgrass (Zostera tasmanica) approximately 12.5 hectares in size. Smooth Island is privately owned with no public access. Unauthorised public access, including mooring of vessels, is prohibited.

      Recreational fishing restrictions: "All waters 200 metres seaward from the low water mark of Smooth Island: Shark Refuge Area. No taking of shark, skates or rays, except elephantfish. Where permitted, graball nets must not be set for more than 2 hours and can only be set from sunrise until one hour before sunset. No mullet nets. No set lines (long lines and drop lines)."

      Smooth island
      Pebble Beach, Smooth Island

      In 1793 Jean-Baptiste Philibert Willaumez (of the Antoine Bruni d'Entrecasteaux expedition) was the first recorded European to visit Smooth Island. The island is found on d'Entrecasteaux's maps, though it is unnamed. Matthew Flinders came across the island on 15 December 1798 and named it Smooth Island as it appears on his maps at the time, however the island did not appear on his subsequent map in 1814. Smooth Island 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.

      A formally commissioned survey of Smooth Island was completed on 14 July 1863. In particular, it reveals the presence of the original jetty, a spring and a guano excavation on the island. Until 2014, a lighthouse with the international marker identifier K 3621.2 was present on Smooth Island, however Marine and Safety Tasmania subsequently moved following demands by the island's private owners.

      Sommers Bay

      The settlement of Sommers Bay sits on a small peninsula between the bay of the same name and King George Sound to its north, at the eastern side of Norfolk Bay. It is a beachside holiday location where swimming and fishing are the most popular pass times. You can help yourself to the mussels and oysters on the rocks near the Sommers Bay jetty, in fact the fishing is so good that a huge fishing competition is held every February. At night you could try your luck with a flounder light and catch some tasty flounder for supper.

      King George Island

      King George Island is part of the Sloping Island Group, lying to the south of Bellettes Bay and guarding the entrance King George Sound. The island was once inhabited and farmed and contains the ruins of two buildings on its eastern side. A conservation covenant is in place on this island. Much of the island's original vegetation has been destroyed by clearing and burning, though there are remnant stands of allocasuarinas and eucalypts. Rabbits are present as well as the metallic skink and White's skink. The island has views across Norfolk Bay towards Mount Wellington and across King George Sound. King George Island is privately owned and public access is prohibited.

      The eighteen-hectare Island has also been referred to as Gull Island on maps of Bass and Flinders' voyage in 1798-1799 around the Tasman peninsula. It was still referred to Gull Island in 1836. Captain James Kelly applied to the government in 1841 for a lease for three acres of land on the island to operate a bay whaling station. On 15 June 1863 King George Island was put to public auction through a large sale of crown land. On the 15 November 1884 the island was sold by the owner John Clark. In 1914 a Mr G. Long, from Dunalley owned the island and grew potatoes on it. Hobart philanthropist Henry Baldwin bequeathed King George Island to non-profit conservation group Bush Heritage Australia in 2005 on condition it be protected.

      Fulham Island

      Fulham Island is a privately owned island with an area of 10 hectares (25 acres). It is part of the Sloping Island Group. In 2016, Fulham Island was purchased by the Singaporean Hotelier and property magnate Koh Wee Meng (Aka "James Koh") for just under $1 million, through his company JK Island Pty Ltd. James Koh is a billionaire and controls Singapore-listed Fragrance Group. The company has been in the spotlight over controversial plans to build skyscrapers on the Hobart waterfront, a move that's attracted mass opposition from residents, celebrities and prominent architects. Despite facing objections in a Tasmanian planning tribunal from local wildlife groups, James Koh's company constructed of a jetty on the island. Mr Koh also owns Waterhouse Island off the state's north-east.

      The island has been extensively grazed and the vegetation is dominated by introduced grasses, bracken, boxthorn and some remnant blackwoods. Recorded breeding seabird species are little penguin, short-tailed shearwater and kelp gull. Waldemar reef lies off the north-east end of Fulham island.

      Connellys Marsh

      Connellys Marsh is a bayside holiday and fishing settlement lying to the east of Dodges Ferry and Primrose Sands. Connellys Bay is a 1 km wide southwest-facing bay bordered by Dorman Point in the west and the lower slopes of 180 m high Thornes Hills. Its beach faces southwest out of the bay and extends for 950 m between the two bedrock highs. A row of beachfront homes back the small foredune and occupy the 100 m wide barrier. The barrier is backed by Connellys Marsh, which feeds into Connellys Creek and drains across the southern end of the beach. Houses also spread for 1 km along the western slopes of the bay.