TBS’ latest Travelogue sees Katherine Quinn exploring the wonders of Bruny Island. Beauty, serenity, history…oh, and such relief from the bedlam of Tasmania!
Tired of the hustle and bustle of Hobart?
Sick of peak hour Launceston traffic?
If mainland Tasmania is just too hectic, escape to Bruny Island!
When French explorer Bruni d’Entrecasteaux visited the island in 1792-93, life was probably as frenetic on the island as it is now. It was home to the Nuenonne people, the most well-known of which was Truganini.
But there’s nothing like a boatload of convicts to ruin your serenity. Add a busy whaling station into the mix and you have all the makings of a colourful colonial history. These days, the inhabitants may be more law-abiding and the industries less violent, but the natural beauty remains as spectacular as ever.
Bruny Island is accessible by ferry from the very charming harbour in Kettering, which is a 40-minute drive south of Hobart. The “Fresh Cherries” sign that greeted me as soon as I was off the boat was a portent of a fantastic holiday. If you don’t think cherries are exciting, it’s probably because you’ve only eaten the second-rate ones the Tassie farmers ship up north. Trust me, they keep the biggest, juiciest, sweetest ones down here.
Of course, it wouldn’t be wise to eat just cherries, and that’s when a trip to the Bruny Island Cheese Company becomes timely. You can watch them make the cheese if you’re particularly interested in how it gets from the cow to your plate. But a stick of their wood-fired sourdough bread and a selection of cheeses was all that was needed to keep this tourist happy and nutritionally balanced.
This is also a destination for seafood lovers. I missed out on the fishing trip in Adventure Bay, although my companion returned with some very tasty Australian salmon. However I did get to throw a line out in a creek and brought in a couple of black bream – not bad for an absolute rookie fisher – and they made a sensational dinner.
Bruny Island has an odd shape – it’s divided into North and South Bruny by a narrow strip of land (the neck). When dusk falls at the neck, scores of little penguins perform their daily march up the beach to the rookery in the sand dunes. The sight of a juvenile penguin waiting outside its burrow for its parents to return is almost off the cuteness scale.
Other wildlife like wallabies, potoroos and sea eagles can be spotted on the numerous walks within the national park and state forest reserves. I set out on the Fluted Cape walk, which runs along the high sea cliffs, hoping to spot the rare white wallaby, but I had to settle for a large tiger snake.
The Labillardiere Peninsula walk, a five-hour circuit within the South Bruny National Park, was a real highlight in spite of the intermittent bursts of freezing horizontal rain. This track takes you through coastal heathland and dry sclerophyll forests, and provides stunning views over the d’Entrecasteaux channel. This is a great place for echidna-spotting, and they seem happy to pose for photos.
While on this southern end of the Island, the Cape Bruny lighthouse and museum provides an insight into the harsh existence experienced by the former lighthousekeepers. Constructed by convict labour in 1838, it was the oldest continually-manned lighthouse in Australia, decommissioned only in 1996. It really does feel like you’re at the end of the world, and when the wind whips up from the south, it’s a chilling reminder that there’s not much between you and Antarctica.
There are plenty of other activities on offer here – scenic boat trips, surfing, diving and kayaking to name but a few. So if deserted beaches, abundant wildlife, laid back locals and unspoilt scenery are on your holiday list, a visit to Bruny Island will be very rewarding.