In 1870 Port Arthur was popularized by Marcus Clarke's romantic tragedy, For the Term of his Natural Life. The public became fascinated by its buildings and the tragedy behind them, and soon after the prison closed, guided tours were offered by the same crumbling men who had been wrecked by the regime.
In the 1890s the town around the prison was devastated by bush fires that left most buildings in ruins. A major conservation and restoration project began in the 1970s and today the Port Arthur Historic Site covers a huge area (office and most buildings daily 9am-5pm; $13 for a 24hr pass, including 40min guided tour and 20min harbour cruise) and you're allowed to wander around the grounds until 11pm. There are more than sixty buildings, some of which - like the poignant prison chapel - are furnished and restored. Others, like the ivy-covered church, are picturesque ruins set in a landscape of green lawns, shady trees, and paths sloping down to the cove. The beautiful setting makes it look more like a serene, old-world university campus than a prison.
Tender Port - Wheelchair access limited and some mobility may be required to board tenders.