An artist and freelance writer, I enjoy exploring the city with my children and the never ending quest for great coffee.
Published June 27th 2012
I guess going to jail wouldn't really be a laughing matter, especially if it was 1867 and you were being sent to an island in the shark infested waters of Moreton Bay. We did however, laugh a lot on our very entertaining day tour to St Helena Island.
The tour started at 10am when we boarded the Cat o' Nine Tails at Manly jetty for the thirty minute cruise out to the island. It was a bit of a hike when we reached the island, but the old cemetery, lime kilns, and prison buildings were worth the walk. Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and entertaining. He talked at a very fast pace, but I found this was a great way to take in all the things there were to learn about this fascinating island and the part it played in Brisbane's history. At times, we felt like we were being treated to a stand up comedy routine and this certainly made it most enjoyable.
Lunch was provided, a simple cold meat and salad lunch followed by delicious home made blueberry muffins that we ate in the old gardens with a beautiful view of Brisbane across the bay. During the lunch break we were treated to an entertaining talk and re-enactment of some of the punishments used at the prison. While this is a obviously a somewhat grisly topic, it was handled in a way that provided a lot of laughs, while still being thought provoking.
The walk back to the boat follows the route of the first passenger tram in QLD and passes the kitchens and the solitary confinement area. It is hard to imagine the wretched lives that some of these prisoners lived.
St Helena Island was a prison for 60 years. During this time they produced lime, sugar, cattle, flax, and olive oil and were very productive and profitable. As well as the prisoners there was a little community of warders and their families living on the island for some of that time.
Day Tours and evening ghost tours are run weekly by A B Sea cruises. I took my children aad some older visitors along when we did the tour and it was thoroughly enjoyed by young and old. There is a bit of walking over uneven, grassy ground, so a reasonable level of mobility is required.
This tour has everything going for it. It is interesting, educational and a lot of fun and I highly recommend it for anyone who is up to the walk.
We went on the same day you did. My teenage children found the history very interesting. We felt a bit ignorant living in Brisbane all our lives and never seeing the island so it was definitely worth the trip. Thank God they got rid of the cat o' nine tails as punishment though - what those men must have gone through! Good review, I'll back it 100%