Eaglehawk Neck is a small community found in southeast Tasmania. Eaglehawk Neck is built around a narrow bar of land, less than 30 meters wide, connecting the Tasman Peninsula to the Forester Peninsula approximately an hour’s southeast of Hobart. The isthmus itself is bordered by Pirates Bay on the east and Norfolk Bay on the west.
You’ll find Eaglehawk Neck an hour drive from the State’s capital of Hobart. A 77-kilometre drive from Hobart, you’ll begin your journey by driving east on the Tasman Highway, over the Tasman Bridge, past the airport to the town of Sorell. In Sorell, take a right turn towards the south onto the Arthur Highway before following this to Dunalley and further south to Eaglehawk Neck.
A favorite with Tasmanian families, Eaglehawk Neck is well known as a holiday destination in Tasmania with many family shacks located in the area. Easy to get to via the winding but gentle Arthur Highway you’ll be stunned by the amazing vistas and beautiful waters of Pirates Bay and the many activities in the area. You certainly won’t be bored if you’re taking a trip to Eaglehawk Neck.
If you’re travelling to Eaglehawk Neck and the Tasman Peninsula, you have to stop at the narrowest part of the neck to see what is known as the Dogline. It is here that you’ll learn about the important role this small land mass had in creating what was effectively a natural prison to all those incarcerated at Port Arthur. A ferocious line of dogs prevented any convicts escaping and you’ll really appreciate how tough life must have been in colonial times.
The other highlight of the Eaglehawk Neck area is the Tessellated Pavement, a natural rock formation that looks as if someone carefully laid a mass of tiles at the northern end of Eaglehawk Neck Beach. At low tide you’ll get the best view of the pavement and the forests of kelp in the water at its edge.
Eaglehawk Neck is a fantastic spot for those with an interest in adventure, history and nature. You’ll see plenty of animals around the area including wombats, pademelons and birds, and if you’re visiting during migration season, you may even see a whale in the waters of Pirates Bay.
A popular spot with surfers, the waters around Eaglehawk Neck offer both great waves and more gentle spots, where children can swim in the warmer months. Image Credit:Tourism Tasmania & Masaaki Aihara (Pademeous) and Tourism Tasmania & Nick Osborne (Dogline)
Hiring a car and driving around the Eaglehawk Neck area and the expansive Tasman Peninsula is arguably the easiest way for visitors to have time and freedom to see everything they would like. Alternatively, bus company Tassielink provides a public service to this area.
Eaglehawk Neck offers plenty of self-contained accommodation, hotel options and camping.
Just before you reach Eaglehawk Neck take the turnoff to the Pirates Bay Lookout. This lookout provides a stunning view of the Eaglehawk Neck area and an example of the fantastic sights you’ll see during your trip.
The tessellated pavement is a land formation on the shoreline at the northern end of Pirates Bay. The pavement was created by movements in the rocks which caused the rocks to be cracked in a tile patterned way. It is thought that prior to the cracks appearing, the rock was slowly eroded into a flat area by the sea and earth movements then caused the area to move and create such a remarkable formation. Try to see the tessellated pavement in low tide and you’ll also be rewarded with great views of the Elkhorn kelp that grows just in front of the pavement.
Clydes Island also sits at the northern end of Pirates Bay. For the adventurous visitor, you can climb across the rocks of the shore to get to the small outcrop of Clydes Island. You’ll need reasonable fitness and sturdy shoes to climb along here. If you’re a diver, this area is great for exploring and catching crayfish and abalone (licences required).
Eaglehawk Neck is famous for being the point that prevented convicts from escaping Port Arthur. The small sandbar connecting the Tasman Peninsula is only 30 metres wide and was protected by a pack of dogs stationed in a line who would bark and alert the guards to any movement, thus preventing anyone crossing the line. Today, a statue of a dog marks the spot where the line was cut out of the dunes and you can find more information about the site within the Officer’s Quarters Museum.
The Officer’s Quarters is claimed as the oldest timber built military building in Australia. At the busiest point in its colonial history, the Eaglehawk Neck station had an officer, sergeant and 25 soldiers stationed in the area. Today, the Officer’s Quarters houses a museum that tells the history of the area, the importance of the semaphores in conveying information about convict escapees and of course tales of those who made it past or attempted to pass the dog line.
To the south of Eaglehawk Neck is the settlement of Doo Town. A cute area of mostly shacks and holiday homes that have all been named with “Doo” included in their names, for example Doo Nothing, Love Me Doo etc. It’s a fun little drive to point out all of the creative names and dream of having your own holiday escape shack in the region.
While you’re heading south of Eaglehawk Neck you’ll be awestruck by the beautiful cliffs and coastline along this way. Make sure to check out the Blow Hole, Tasman Arch, and Devils Kitchen. These attractions that are reasonably close together and have all been formed by the ocean that pummels this coastline to the south of Eaglehawk Neck. Image credit: Tourism Tasmania & Lee Henley (Tessellated Pavement) and Tourism Tasmania & Adrian Cook (Doo Town)
The plans for creating a military station at Eaglehawk Neck were begun in 1831 and the next year, in 1832, the Dogline was implemented, creating an impenetrable border to the rest of the state. By 1837, the Eaglehawk Neck Station had grown to a community which included women and children along with the officer, sergeant and 25 soldiers. The small town included a military barracks, Officer’s Quarters, a store and a jetty.
Eaglehawk Neck was included in the important communication system of semaphores. These stations were used to send coded messages between Port Arthur and Hobart, although the semaphore station in Eaglehawk Neck was mostly used when the station needed to be notified of escapee convicts.
The most famous Tasmanian bushranger, Martin Cash, was one of the only convicts (along with his co-conspirators Lawrence Kavanagh and George Jones) to successfully cross the Dogline and escape the Tasman Peninsula. By crossing through the water (which was rumoured at the time to be full of sharks) they were able to evade the dogs and slip quietly past the border. Given there were dogs also stationed out in the water it is interesting to imagine how far they would have needed to swim to avoid being captured!
Eaglehawk Neck was abandoned in 1877 when Port Arthur was closed, and the Eaglehawk Neck settlement was taken over as private land. It was not until 1991 that the site was bought by the Tasmanian Government and changed into a historic site.
The area of Eaglehawk Neck is brimming with spectacular scenery and incredible geological formations. You’ll find a large range of wildlife around this area including Pademelons, Echidnas, penguins and if you’re lucky, a Wedge Tailed Eagle (eaglehawk) or two, which is where the name of the town comes from.
The environment of Eaglehawk Neck is a combination of beach, rocky hills and amazing cliff rock formations along the shorelines. Image Credit: Tourism Tasmania & Kathryn Leahy (beach side)
The historic site of Port Arthur is a 25-minute drive from Eaglehawk Neck and is a World Heritage attraction showing the history of Tasmania as a penal colony. It is the biggest draw card for tourists in the area and is well worth visiting for the history and spectacular scenery.