Monk Bay Circuit Walk (Incorporating Historic Convict Coal Mines)

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Introduction

The Monk Bay Circuit Walk is a 8.3km coastal walk within the Lime Bay State Reserve, Tasman Peninsula in south east Tasmania. It’s an easy 3 – 3.5 hour walk with constant views of the surrounding waterways. Monk Bay is reached after 1.5 – 2 hours and makes a nice spot for a picnic lunch before the track returns walkers to the starting point.

 monk bay

monk bay

The Tasman Peninsula is known for the Port Arthur Historic Site, Australia’s premier colonial convict site. The penal colony of Port Arthur was not the only place where convicts were housed and laboured on the peninsula. A large convict probation station operated in the Lime Bay region for the purposes of coal mining. Today there are well preserved ruins with good interpretative signs that provide insight into the brutal period of the convict coal mining. The site can easily be combined with the Monk Bay walk making for a varied and interesting day trip from Hobart. And it’s all free.

 coal mines historic site

coal mines historic site

We did the walk and coal mines combination in July 2018.

Monk Bay Circuit

We started our walk from the Lime Bay Campground inside the Lime Bay State Reserve, a one and a half hour drive from Hobart. The first 800m was along the white sands of Lime Bay Beach heading east towards a small headland.

 lime bay beach

lime bay beach

At the end of the beach we scrambled up to a walking track which had occasional tapes to mark the way.

 some pink tape marked the way

some pink tape marked the way

The trail was fairly clear and easy to follow. It skirted around the small headland to where we could see the larger form of Whitehouse Point.

 the track headed out along this small headland at the end of lime bay beach

the track headed out along this small headland at the end of lime bay beach

The track was a bit up and down but not overly arduous. There were some excellent cliff views to be enjoyed and photographed.

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The vegetation along the walk is largely coastal heathland, tea tree, eucalypt and casuarina. We continued on to Whitehouse Point.

 whitehouse point

whitehouse point

The track then turned south, following the coastline along the elevated cliffs.

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There were more good views across Norfolk Bay.

 views out to Norfolk bay (beyond the point)

views out to Norfolk bay (beyond the point)

After another 2kms we reached the northern end of Monk Bay.

 monk bay

monk bay

Until now the day had been a little gloomy and overcast but arriving at Monk Bay the sun came out making for a pleasant beach stroll followed by a lunch stop.

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After our break we scrambled up the slope to an old four-wheel drive track, which we followed back to Lime Bay Reserve and our car.

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Coal Mines Historic Site

Even though it was winter with short daylight hours, the walk had only taken around 3 hours so we still had time to check out the nearby Coal Mines Historic Site.

When we’d first visited the site 20 years earlier it appeared abandoned and forgotten with no signage or interpretation. It certainly wasn’t well known or part of the regular tourist circuit around Tassie. But in recent years considerable restoration work has been done and we wanted to see the results.

For starters there is now a small car park and signposted entrance.

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Interpretive signage and artefacts provide an introduction to what is to come.

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Coal Mining began here shortly after its discovery in 1833. At its peak the convict probation station, established on the site to provide the labour force for the coal extraction, held up to 600 prisoners. The mine operated until 1848 when the government closed it, though private operators continued to lease the area until 1877.  For more detailed information about the history click here to access the excellent Coal Mines Historic Site Website.

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We wandered around the ruins for some time. Entry is free and there are no staff so you can take as much time as you like.

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We checked out the remains of the living quarters.

 inside convict living quarters

inside convict living quarters

The punishment cells were of particular interest as we tried to imagine what life must have been like back in those dark days for anyone incarcerated here.

 punishment cells

punishment cells

We also visited the remains of the main shaft.

 main shaft

main shaft

There are several short walks that can be done around the area, all in the 1 – 2 hour range. See the Coal Mines website for more details.

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Today the Coal Mines Historic Site is one of 11 sites that together form the Australian Convict Sites World Heritage Property, inscribed on the World Heritage list in 2010.

Conclusion

We had originally planned to just do the Monk Bay circuit walk. This turned out to be a very pleasant walk, and we vowed to return to do it again in summer and to combine it with a swim.

 monk bay

monk bay

The real bonus for us was adding a visit to the Historic Coal Mines Site. The work that has been done to bring this site to life for visitors is excellent.

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It turned out to be a day of interest and variety. A good combo.

Ken and Cally

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