The Cat o Nine Tails Cruises offers daily historical tours to St Helena Island National Park.
The Cat o Nine-Tails is a purpose-built, 130 seat, 17-metre catamaran, that takes 30 minutes to reach the island. It departs from the William Gunn Jetty, Wyvernleigh Close, Manly at 9:15 am on weekdays and 10 am on Saturdays, Sundays and Public Holidays. The tour lasts approximately 5 hours. Performers from the St Helena Theatre Troupe accompany visitors on a historical adventure. From Aboriginal beginnings to the Nineteenth Century prison settlement they entertain by a number of sometimes sad, but often funny, stories.
The company was established in 1982 and operates from Manly because of the short protected crossing which makes the trip ideal for those who are not the best of sailors. In 1997 they established the St Helena Theatre Troupe, a multi-talented group of actors and singers, who interpret St Helena’s history by using drama which is unique for a historic site in Australia and has been highly acclaimed. In 1999, another unique achievement was the collaboration with the Wildlife Preservation Society of Qld (Bayside Branch) in establishing authoritative and educational eco-tours of the Island.
St Helena has a fascinating history. Originally intended for a quarantine station, the overcrowding in Brisbane’s gaols resulted in the conversion of the buildings into accommodation for prisoners. Its most significant period was when it functioned as a high-security colonial prison from 1867 until 1921 when it became a prison farm for low-security offenders. The prison officially closed in 1932. After serving as a dairy farm from 1939 to 1973 it became a gazetted National Park in 1979 and a Gazetted Historic Area (the first in QLD) in 1980. In 1986 a new jetty was opened and in 2000 the establishment of a museum was completed.
On Sunday 4th August the weather couldn’t have been better. The bay was as smooth as a millpond and the Cat o Nine Tails reached St Helena in the promised half-hour.
Upon disembarking members of the St Helena Theatre Troupe, who had also been very entertaining on the trip over, took visitors on a walking tour to visit the various historic sites on the island. Their history was explained as was that of the island.
The walk takes visitors up a moderately steep rise, across flat grassland to the penal colony and museum, then downhill back to the vessel. (For those who need it, there is a courtesy bus available at all times)
There were opportunities to take photos of the buildings and breathtaking views of the mainland. Before a picnic lunch, provided by the tour company, under venerable mango trees there was plenty of time allowed to visit the museum and public toilets. After lunch, the Troupe once more entertained with the dark and light aspects of life in a penal colony much to the visitors’ amusement.
Then it was time to make the downhill walk back to the Cat o Nine Tails for an equally smooth and enjoyable crossing back to Manly.
A truly marvellous day out and well worth a visit.
Learn some local history in a most enjoyable fashion.
Take lots of photos, leave only footprints!