Coming down out of the hills above Eaglehawk Neck, and stopping at the viewing points beside the road which offer dramatic views across Eaglehawk and Pirate's Bays, it is worth remembering that this was one of the most effective natural prison gates ever invented. For the convicts of Port Arthur, Eaglehawk Neck was as dangerous and as difficult to cross as the water's from Devil's Island or Alcatraz.
Today little is left of the convict history of Eaglehawk Neck. However this allows the visitor to focus on the remarkable natural formations in the area. The tessellated pavement, the Blowhole, the forests of huge elkhorn kelp which lap against the coast, Tasman's Arch and the Devil's Kitchen.
Located 79 km southeast of Hobart on the Arthur Highway, Eaglehawk Neck is now a series of tiny holiday retreats around a series of remarkable natural wonders.
Eaglehawk Neck itself is a tie bar made of sand carried by currents and waves from the floors of Pirate's Bay to the east and Norfolk Bay to the west. It ties Tasman to Forestier Peninsula in a narrow run of land which is less than 100 m wide.
The visitor entering Eaglehawk Neck from Hobart first sees the views of the two bays descends to the coast where at a car park opposite the Lufra Holiday Hotel the most famous escape across the Neck is recalled in a small monument which reads: 'To mark the centenary of the death of Martin Cash - Gentleman Bushranger 26th August 1877 and his escape from Port Arthur across the Neck in 1843 with two companions, Cavanagh and Jones. 27 August 1977'. The error of dating seems to have remained undetected.
The Tessellated Pavement
A short walk from the car park leads down to the remarkable tessellated pavement. This unusual geological formation, which gives the rocks the effect of being rather neatly tiled by a giant, is explained on a placard near the site.
'It is called the tessellated pavement. The pavement appears tessellated (it's tiled) because the rocks forming it were fractured by earth movements. The fractures are in three sets, one set runs almost north, another east north east, and a third discontinuous set north north west. These last two sets produce the tiled appearance. The flatness of the pavement is due to initial erosion by waves carrying sand and gravel and nearer to the cliff, to chemical action by sea water. The rocks which absorb sea water during high tide dry out during low tide causing salt crystals to grow and disintegrate the rocks - a process which produces shallow basins'.
Graphic sourced with thanks from Jonathanmao.com