Convict Sydney Exhibition

Explore the fascinating history of the World Heritage listed Hyde Park Barracks where thousands of convicts lived between 1819 and 1848.

Learn about the daily lives of convicts and how they built the colony, try on some leg-irons, lie in a convict hammock, wander the streets of 1820s Sydney on our giant map. Bring your kids for dress-ups and our convicts Kids Trail.

Convict Sydney

Exhibition on now
Hyde Park Barracks Museum

Queens Square, Macquarie St, Sydney
Open daily 9.30am – 5pm
T 02 8239 2311

Image: Photography @ Penelope Clay

The Greater Blue Mountains celebrates a decade of World Heritage

November 2010 marks the 10th Anniversary of the inscription of the Greater Blue Mountains on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Hanging Rock in the Blue Mountains NSWTens of thousands of years of caring for the country by Aboriginal communities; the efforts of bushwalkers to save the Blue Gum Forest in the 1930’s; Myles Dunphy’s vision for a Greater Blue Mountains Park; contemporary campaigns of the Colong Foundation and other conservation groups, all lead to the inscription of the Greater Blue Mountains on the World Heritage list in November 2000 for its outstanding universal natural values.

The natural assets of this National Landscape are the core of what attracts visitors to the region, with the tourism industry working in harmony with major stakeholders including NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, Indigenous groups, conservation groups and the wider residential community to achieve sustainable outcomes.

The area represents an extraordinary story of natural antiquity, diversity, beauty and human attachment. This vast and beautiful area of upland reserves exemplifies the links between wild places and human aspirations,’ said Joan Domicelj, Chair of the Advisory Committee for the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

In celebration of the anniversary, the World Heritage Exhibition Centre is now permanently open at Mount Tomah Botanic Gardens.

Time stands still in the Daintree Rainforest

There’s nothing like a place that hasn’t changed in 130 million years. And why should it? The Daintree Rainforest is pretty much perfect as it is.

Described as the ‘land that time forgot’, the primeval World Heritage-listed Daintree forests are the world’s oldest at 135 million years as well as the largest continuous area of rainforest on the Australian mainland.

A lush tropical paradise that hosts more than 3000 plant species (many still being discovered); one-fifth of Australia’s known bird species, including the endangered Southern Cassowary (who number less in the wild than Giant Pandas) and around 60 percent of Australia’s butterfly species – all this diversity can be found an area that takes up just a tiny bit of the whole continent.

Daintree RainforestNo less than 13 different rainforest types have been identified here, many of which may well hold the secret to unanswered questions about the origins of flowering plants – plants on which we humans depend for life.

One in particular, commonly known as the Idiot Fruit (Idiospermum australiense) and thought extinct, was arguably Australia’s most significant botanical find. Then there’s the ‘Wait-A-While’ plant (Calamus Muelleri) (for obvious reasons also known as the Lawyer Plant) whose thorn-covered tendrils reach out to trap unsuspecting passers-by.

Boat tour Daintree RainforestCruise along the mysterious waterways of the crocodile-infested Daintree River, trek through a pure ecosystem or fly through the trees on flying fox zip lines for a bird’s-eye view.

If you’re game, arm yourself with a flashlight and talk a night walk through the jungle. That’s when the animals stir and the forest really comes to life.

So if you’ve ever wondered what the world looked like way back when, head to the Daintree Rainforest. You’d be an ‘Idiot’ to ‘Wait a While’ longer. It’s an Australian icon.

Old Great North Road: World Heritage

The Old Great North Road is a nationally significant example of major public infrastructure developed using convict labour. Situated in its unaltered natural bushland setting, the Old Great North Road is the best surviving example of an intact convict-built road with massive structural works, which remains undisturbed by later development.

Convict RelicIt demonstrates the isolated and harsh conditions in which the convict road building gangs lived and laboured for months at a time. The Old Great North Raod is listed as part of the Australian Convict Site on the World Heritage List.

The Great North Road, surveyed in 1825 and completed in 1836, was constructed using convict labour. Up to 720 convicts – some in chains – worked on the road, which spanned 264 km, connecting Sydney to the settlements of the Hunter Valley.

It features spectacular and beautifully preserved examples of stonework, including buttresses, culverts, bridges and twelve metre high retaining walls.

Unfortunately the road was not popular. It was isolated, had no permanent watercourses, and bypassed existing settlements. By 1836, as the few remaining convict gangs were completing the last northern sections of the road, it had been almost entirely abandoned as a route to the Hunter Valley. Coastal steamers became the preferred mode of travel and transportation.

The Great North RoadOnly 43 km of the road remains undeveloped and relatively intact. Running through and alongside Dharug National Park and Yengo National Park, this section has been named the Old Great North Road. It goes from Wisemans Ferry in the south to Mount Manning (near Bucketty) in the north, and includes the oldest surviving stone bridges in mainland Australia. The road is closed to motor vehicles, but makes a great walk over two or three days – or an exhilarating day’s cycle.

Relics such as stone retaining walls, wharves, culverts, bridges and buttresses can still be seen along the entire length of the Great North Road – in Sydney suburbs like Epping and Gladesville, at Wisemans Ferry or Wollombi, Bucketty or Broke, or when walking in Dharug and Yengo National Parks.

Although the road is closed to vehicles, it can be walked or cycled.

If you have a few hours up your sleeve, you can follow the original ascent of the Old Great North Road from Wisemans Ferry up Finchs Line. You can combine this with a walk up Devines Hill to complete a loop track of about 9 km, (including a 2 km walk along Wisemans Ferry Road). The track offers spectacular views over the Hawkesbury River, and allows you to compare the construction work on both ascents.

This walk really gives you a feel of the blood, sweat and tears that convict road gangs endured in constructing the road. Although some of these convicts were shackled in leg irons, escape was easy for many. The fact that the road was completed – and in only eight years – shows that these men were skilled, diligent and interested enough to stay on the job.

Full range of walking and cycling tracks

Australia Convict Sites: World Heritage

Australian Convict Sites
The properties includes a selection of 11 penal convict sites, among the thousands established by the British Empire on Australian soil in the 18th and 19th centuries.

They are located on the fertile coastal strip from which the Aboriginal peoples were then forced back, mainly around Sydney and in Tasmania, as well as on Norfolk Island and in Fremantle.

They housed tens of thousands of men, women and children condemned by British justice to transportation to the convict colonies. Each of the sites had a specific purpose, in terms both of punitive imprisonment and of rehabilitation through forced labour to help build the colony.

The Convict Sites presents the best surviving examples of large-scale convict transportation and the colonial expansion of European powers through the presence and labour of convicts.

The Convict sites are:

  • Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (Norfolk Island)
  • Old Government House and Domain (Parramatta New South Wales)
  • Hyde Park Barracks (Sydney New South Wales)
  • Brickendon–Woolmers Estates (Tasmania)
  • Darlington Probation Station, (Tasmania)
  • Old Great North Road (New South Wales)
  • Cascades Female Factory (Tasmania)
  • Port Arthur Historic Site (Tasmania)
  • Coal Mines Historic Site (Tasmania)
  • Cockatoo Island Convict Site (New South Wales)
  • Fremantle Prison (Western Australia)

Australia’s red centre

Encompassing the World Heritage-listed red rock monolith of Uluru and the mysterious shapes of Kata Tjuta and Uluru, the traditional custodians of this land, the Anangu, believe this Central Australian landscape was created at the beginning of time by their ancestors. The Anangu have been protecting these sacred lands for thousands of generations since.

Not only is the Red Centre steeped in human history; it contains distinctive desert fauna and many rare species of mammals, birds, and reptiles – a distinction that has earned it a place on Australia’s list of National Landscapes.

The pioneering town of Alice Springs is a great base from which to explore the Red Centre.  The town was originally called Stuart, however, the locals called it Alice Springs in honour of the wife of Charles Todd who supervised the building of Australia’s first overland telegraph line from Adelaide to Darwin.

The history of ‘The Alice’, as it is affectionately known, is populated by a colourful cast of characters that include gold-diggers, outback pioneers and Afghan cameleers.

Wander through Alice Springs and visit the numerous Indigenous art galleries – excellent places to pick up an authentic piece of unique Aboriginal art. Alice Springs is a good base from which to take to the skies on a sunrise hot-air balloon ride or scenic flight. For a taste of a romantic bygone era, join the 1500 kilometre train journey from Alice Springs to Darwin aboard The Ghan.

To the east and west of Alice Springs are the MacDonnell Ranges. This jagged and rocky spine stretches for hundreds of kilometres, harbouring gorges and permanent rock pools carved by prehistoric rivers. The traditional owners of this area, the Arrernte people, believe giant caterpillars called the Yeperenye became the MacDonnell Ranges – entering this world through one of the dramatic gaps in the escarpment.

The Larapinta Trail walking track extends more than 220 kilometres along the West MacDonnell Ranges, crossing steep ranges and deep chasms. Its changing perspectives are a humbling reminder of being a mere dot in space and time.

A 445km drive ‘down the track’ from Alice Springs on the Stuart Highway brings visitors to  Uluru – the largest monolith in the world. Almost 10km around and 600 million years old, this sandstone wonder is truly a magnificent sight.

The Anangu do not climb Uluru because of its great spiritual significance and they ask that others respect their law and culture by not climbing it.

A better way to experience Uluru is to see it at sunrise or sunset. The colours shift constantly, from pink to blood red to mauve. Each time you turn around there’s a different hue.

Other activities at Uluru include star-gazing and Harley-Davidson motorcycle tours. You can learn about Tjukurpa, the traditional law guiding the Anangu people, at the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre or you can follow in the footsteps of the ancestral beings and learn about sacred sites and bush tucker from an Aboriginal guide.

A nearby rock formation, Kata Tjuta (‘many heads’) offers an equally magic experience. This maze of 500 million year-old massive sandstone domes makes a very special early morning or late afternoon excursion.

Park rangers offer guided walks through the Valley of the Winds and Olga Gorge. Like Uluru, the towering sentinels of Kata Tjuta move through their own spectacular colour spectrum and show a different aspect from every angle.

At the Ayers Rock Resort, visitors can enjoy the Sounds of Silence experience. This unique outdoor dining experience takes place under a canopy of stars, with your very own storyteller who shares the tales from the night sky above.

A few hundred kilometres north-east of Uluru is the Watarrka National Park, best known as the home of Kings Canyon. The pale orange walls of the sandstone canyon were shaped thousands of years ago.

You can do the one-hour Creek Walk or the four-hour Canyon Walk at Kings Canyon. Waterholes such as the lush Garden of Eden, deep in the gorge, are perfect for a swim to escape the heat of the day. If you’re feeling adventurous, try your hand at becoming a jackaroo or jillaroo at Kings Creek Station, a 1,800 square kilometre cattle station near the park.

Both the World Heritage-listed Uluru-Kata Tjuta and Watarrka National Parks have a remarkable geological history. Five hundred million years ago, the entire area was covered by an inland sea. Over many centuries, a spectacular environment of inland lakes and tropical woodlands evolved. Cycad ferns dating back to the time of the dinosaurs thrive here, and its rock holes and gorges provide refuge for more than 600 species of plants and native animals. The Red Centre Way is a magnificent outback drive that links the national parks and many of the heartlands natural wonders.

To the east and west of Alice Springs are the MacDonnell Ranges. This jagged and rocky spine stretches for hundreds of kilometres, harbouring gorges and permanent rock pools carved by prehistoric rivers. The traditional owners of this area, the Arrernte people, believe giant caterpillars called the Yeperenye became the MacDonnell Ranges – entering this world through one of the dramatic gaps in the escarpment.

The Larapinta Trail walking track extends more than 220 kilometres along the West MacDonnell Ranges, crossing steep ranges and deep chasms. Its changing perspectives are a humbling reminder of being a mere dot in space and time.

From the early 1900s, fortune-seekers searched the Central Australia desert for rubies and gold, but treasures of a different kind exist in this ancient natural landscape: you just have to know where to look.

Alice Spring Accommodation

Up close and personal with Australian wildlife

Nature was inspired when it created Australia. There are animals you’ll see nowhere else and plants that will amaze you. Australia is one of the most diverse countries on the planet, home to more than one million species of plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.

Among the most well known of these are the koala, the wombat, the kangaroo, the laughing kookaburra, and the egg-laying platypus – a creature so odd-looking that sceptical European scientists thought it was several different animals sewn together.

Some of Australia’s unique animals and birds are easy to spot, even in the major capital cities. It’s not unusual to see a possum climbing up a city lamp post in the evening, or giant fruit bats taking off from their roosts in city parks. Pelicans, sacred ibis, colourful parrots, and cockatoos look right at home too.    

Within easy distance of every city are several national parks and wildlife reserves. This isn’t surprising when you consider that Australia boasts 516 national parks, 145 marine parks, 2,700 designated conservation areas, and 33 Indigenous Protected Areas. There are also 15 natural World Heritage Sites, ranging from the Great Barrier Reef to the Tasmanian Wilderness.

One of the most iconic Australian animals is the kangaroo. There are 63 species of kangaroo in Australia including different kinds of wallabies, tree-kangaroos, wallaroos, pademelons and the quokka – a cat-size marsupial that lives on some of the smaller islands off the coast of Western Australia.

While some of these animals are rare or elusive, others are quite common. It’s not unusual to see lots of powerful red kangaroos bounding besides your car as you travel through Australia’s Outback. You can often easily see big grey kangaroos in native grassland beside the road too.

In some places such as Booderee National Park, south of Sydney – they wander right up to you. While at Pebbly Beach, between Ulladulla and Batemans Bay on the New South Wales south coast, kangaroos graze on the grass edging the pristine beach and casually hop among the picnic rugs. 

One of the best places in Australia to see a large range of animals and birds up close is Kangaroo Island, in South Australia. While kangaroos may have given the island its name, in the space of one day, you can easily spot koalas, wallabies, goannas, echidnas, brush-tailed possums, and platypus. You can quickly tick off dozens of the 270 species of bird found here, including perhaps the rare glossy black cockatoo.

Other Kangaroo Island highlights include watching fairy penguins waddling home after a day out at sea, taking a swim with the Island’s resident pods of dolphins, and walking beside hundreds of rare Australian sealions as they laze on the sand.

While Kangaroo Island is the perfect spot for observing koalas in the wild, you might want to spare a thought for those that end up needing a caring hand. The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie is the world’s first hospital dedicated solely to the care and preservation of koalas.

Then there’s Phillip Island in Victoria, home to the Koala Conservation Centre. This was set up for research and breeding purposes, and you can get quite close to these cuddly creatures. Phillip Island is also world famous for its Penguin Parade.

Another great place to spot koalas in the wild is beside the Great Ocean Road, one of the most spectacular scenic drives in Australia. You can also see koalas in their natural habitat around Port Stephens, north of Sydney too.

Beautiful Port Stephens is also home to resident pods of dolphins, and several companies operate dolphin-watching tours and whale-watching tours.
The most prolific whales in our waters are the southern right whale and the humpback whale. These pass along the western, southern and eastern coastlines during their annual migration. Some of the most popular whale watching spots include Hervey Bay in Queensland, Warrnambool in south-western Victoria, Victor Harbour in South Australia, and Byron Bay, Eden, and Narooma in New South Wales.

From June to November you can see plenty of humpback whales migrating northwards along the Western Australian coastline to shelter in Camden Sound on the Kimberley coast. They also congregate off Broome, where the females give birth. In September you could head to Dunsborough to see blue whales and their calves in the calm waters of Geographe Bay.

Between early April and early July each year marine adventurers can try snorkelling with the world’s largest fish – the whale shark. Ningaloo Reef, on Western Australia’s Coral Coast, is one of only a few places in the world where this is possible.

Wild dolphins are common right along the Australian coast, and there are plenty of opportunities to swim with them at Port Phillip Bay in Victoria, Baird Bay on the South Australian coast, Port Stephens and Huskisson in New South Wales and at Rockingham near Perth.

One of the most famous dolphin habitats is Monkey Mia on the shores of World Heritage-listed Shark Bay, in Western Australia. The wild bottlenose dolphins around here have been swimming around the ankles of tourists every day for the past forty years.

If crocodiles are more your scene then head up to the Northern Territory to search for saltwater crocodiles in Kakadu National Park. Kakadu’s many habitats, which include lily-spotted wetlands and vast plains, support more than 280 species of birds, or about one-third of Australia’s bird species.

The most iconic of all Australia’s wildlife sanctuaries though is the Great Barrier Reef. Go snorkelling or diving in the tropical, clear waters and you’ll find yourself immersed in an environment shimmering of dazzling fish, colourful corals and sponges, dugongs, and green turtles.

Meanwhile, to get close to endangered Tasmanian Devils, make your way to Devils @ Cradle. At this sanctuary and breeding centre at Cradle Mountain, in north-west Tasmania, you can get up close to plenty of these noisy marsupial carnivores.

Heritage Destinations Australia

Australia has plenty of icon areas including Sydney Harbour, The Great Barrier Reef, and Uluru. But there are plenty of undiscovered places that will convince you to look further afield and that are sure to feature increasingly on tourist itineraries.

In Queensland, Mission Beach is a relaxed, tropical beachfront town with more than 14 kilometres of magnificent beaches. Two World Heritage areas, The Great Barrier Reef and the Wet Tropics Rainforest, come together here to form a tropical paradise.

In New South Wales, the historic inland city of Orange is making a big splash. Orange was the birthplace of one of Australia’s most famous poets, Banjo Patterson. These days it’s becoming increasingly well known for its gourmet produce and wineries.  Nearby Mudgee is a major wine producing area, and it also boasts classic architecture from the time of Queen Victoria.

The south coast of New South Wales is making waves too. Sydneysiders have been flocking south for years, but the pristine beaches, national parks and delightful coastal towns are now attracting international visitors in search of Australian beach culture and nature.

Make sure to stop off at Narooma, a scenic fishing town located 348km south of Sydney. Narooma is a good base to explore several local attractions, including nearby Montague Island Nature Reserve.

You can stay overnight in a lighthouse cottage here, or take a boat trip to see the State’s largest fairy penguin colony, and the State’s largest fur seal colony. Whales come very close to tour boats during their annual migration.

Close to Narooma are the heritage-classified villages of Tilba Tilba and Central Tilba. Visitors love the cafes, gardens, quaint wooden buildings, antique stores, art galleries, cheese factory, and old-fashioned stores.

Another up and coming area is the Tweed region of northern New South Wales. This area is nestled in the caldera of an ancient volcano, and offers World Heritage-listed rainforests, rolling green farmland, and unspoilt beaches.

In Victoria are The Goldfields, this region is made up of a series of historic towns and cities that prospered during the 1850s gold rush. Gold fever hit Victoria in 1851, three years after the Californian gold rush started in the USA.  The Goldfields area is known for its magnificent architecture and fresh regional produce. A key attraction is the Victorian Goldfields Railway.

Meanwhile, in South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula you can dive with the great white sharks, swim with sealions, and snorkel with giant cuttlefish.  The great white shark dive is the only one of its kind in Australia. A close encounter from the safety of a reinforced cage is almost guaranteed.

An eco-tourism operation with a difference allows visitors to swim with wild Australian Sea Lions, off the remote hamlet of Baird Bay. In addition to swimming with sea lions and sharks, visitors to the region can hand-feed tuna, visit an underwater viewing tunnel, or join them for a swim in a fish-farming pen.

Meanwhile, every year between the months of May and August, thousands of Giant Australian Cuttlefish converge along the rocky coastline near Whyalla.

In the Northern Territory head to the Barkly region, home to grassy plains, huge cattle stations, adventurous four-wheel drive tracks, and the precariously balanced Devils Marbles.

In the township of Tennant Creek, you can visit the Overland Telegraph Station, discover the history of Australia’s last gold rush, and drop in to the Nyinkka Nyunyu Art and Culture Centre. Here you can meet Indigenous artists, learn more about Aboriginal Australia, and buy Aboriginal art.

Tasmania’s Flinders Island is an emerging destination for tourists too. It’s one of 51 islands that make up the remains of a land bridge that once connected Tasmania to mainland Australia. The landscape ranges from dramatic pink and grey granite cliffs to gentle green farmland. More than 200 species of bird visit or live on the island, ranging from the tiny superb wren to the giant wandering albatross.

Australian Convict Sites

There are 11 convict sites (known as the Australian Convict Sites) that make up Australia’s World Heritage. The sites are:

  • New South Wales: Old Government House and Domain (Parramatta), Hyde Park Barracks (Sydney), Cockatoo Island Convict Site (Sydney) and Old Great North Road (near Wiseman’s Ferry).
  • Norfolk Island: Kingston and Arthur’s Vale Historic Area (KAVHA).
  • Tasmania: Port Arthur Historic Site (Tasman Peninsula), Cascades Female Factory (Hobart), Darlington Probation Station (Maria Island), Coal Mines Historic Site (via Premadeyna) and Brickendon-Woolmers Estates (near Longford).
  • Western Australia: Fremantle Prison.

The Australian Convict Sites were listed under criteria (iv) and (vi) under the UNESCO Operational Guidelines for the Implementation of the World Heritage Convention  for its outstanding global significance.

In July 2010 the World Heritage Convention’s announced that Kingston and Arthurs Vale on Norfolk Island and the other 10 Australian convict sites to be listed on the World Heritage List.

Contact Heritage Tourism for KAVHA tour details