Forestier Peninsula is one of the least known parts of Tasmania, even though everyone who goes by road to Port Arthur and the Tasman Peninsula drives through a corner of it. Nevertheless, it remains largely undeveloped. Forestier Peninsula is connected to mainland Tasmania at East Bay Neck, near the town of Dunalley at its northern end. At Eaglehawk Neck, the southern end of the Forestier Peninsula is connected to the Tasman Peninsula. It was at Blackman Bay on the shores of Forestier Peninsula that Dutch explorer Abel Tasman claimed formal possession of the land for Dutch Prince Frederick Henrijk on 3rd December 1642.
Hobart is the second-oldest city in Australia (after Sydney). Amid British concerns over the presence of French explorers, the first settlement was started in 1803 as a penal colony at Risdon Cove on the eastern shores of the Derwent River. In 1804 it was moved to a better location at the present site of Hobart at Sullivan's Cove. The area's original inhabitants were members of the semi-nomadic Mouheneer tribe. A series of bloody encounters with the Europeans and the effects of diseases brought by the settlers forced away the aboriginal population, which was rapidly replaced by free settlers and the convict population. Charles Darwin visited Hobart Town in February, 1836 as part of the Beagle expedition. He writes of Hobart and the Derwent estuary in his Voyage of the Beagle.
Of all the convict related historic sites around Australia, none so graphically tell the story of Australia's convict past that the ruins of the convict settlement at Port Arthur. The place is a window into modern Australia's beginnings, and paints a vivid picture of the lives and times of those poor wretches who were transported to Australia from Britain to start a new life on the other side of the world. Port Arthur is 95 km south east of Hobart. From Hobart, take the A3 to Sorell and then the Arthur Highway (A9) to Port Arthur.
The first reported sighting of Southern Tasmania by a European was on 24 November 1642 by the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who named the island Anthoonij van Diemenslandt, after his sponsor, the Governor of the Dutch East Indies. The name was later shortened to Van Diemen's Land by the British. In 1772, a French expedition led by Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne landed on the island. Captain James Cook also sighted the island in 1777, and numerous other European seafarers made landfalls, adding a colourful array to the names of topographical features.
The transportation of British convicts to Australia came about as a result of the poverty, social injustice, child labour, harsh and dirty living conditions and long working hours that were prevalent in 19th-century Britain. The first convicts arrived in Van diemen's Land in 1803 when Lieut-Gov Collins, dissatisfied with Port Phillip as a colony, transferred his group of 67 soldiers, 74 convicts and 40 free persons south to Van Diemen's Land. From 1818 until 1853, convict ships were sent direct to Van Diemens Land. In the 41 years of transportation, about 67,000 convicts (64,206 of which arrived direct from Britiain), around 22% of whom were Irish, arrived on over 300 transport ships. Over 89 wrecks occured around the island of Tasmania during that half century, many involving the transport of convicts.
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.
Forestier Peninsula is connected to the mainland at East Bay Neck, near the town of Dunalley at its northern end. At Eaglehawk Neck, the southern end of the Forestier Peninsula is connected to the Tasman Peninsula. The peninsula measures about 20 by 15 kilometres. One of the Tasman Peninsula's firest coastal lookouts is actually on the Forestier Peninsula, high on the hillsides above the Tesselated Pavement. Pirates Bay Lookout gives panoramic views down the east coast of Tasmania Peninsula and overs spectacular vistas towards Cape Hauy and Cape Pillar, which are both visible on a clear day.